There are a few things to consider when choosing the ideal sleeping bag for your camping trips. From weight to compression, price, insulation and much more – all these factors will help you pick the right choice according to your needs.But to do this, you’ll have to first choose between a synthetic and a down sleeping bag.
The fill of the bag will make all the difference in almost all factors. Not only it changes the effectiveness of the insulation, but also many other things such as durability & price.
If you are looking for a dependable and useful sleeping bag, then you’ll want to know what they can offer depending on their filling.
In this article, we’re going to help you learn the differences between down and synthetic sleeping bags, so you can eventually pick the ideal one for you. Come and find out more!
Down Sleeping Vs Synthetic Sleeping Bag Know Before You GO OutDoor
When you want to go Outdoor for champing and Hiking you must know about down sleeping vs synthetic sleeping bag.
Down Sleeping Bags
While many people think down is a bunch of feathers, it is actually the plumage or fluffy part that separates the feathers from the skin of the goose or duck.
This part of the feathers is the one that provides insulation to the bird, using small filaments that come off the plume and trap air producing a warming effect.
This means down is a natural material that demands a lot of work and time to develop. But this also means it is one of the most effective to keep warm and fight cold.
Down is measured by fill power. This refers to the ability of the down to insulate. Fill power often goes from 450 to 900. The higher this fill power is, the more insulation the product will offer.
Fill power could be explained as cubic inches per ounce of warmth. When you have a 700 fill power down, you have a product that warms up 700 cubic inches per ounce.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that a 900 fill power sleeping bag heats up more than a 700, it’s just that the 900 fill power down will need less material to warm up the same way.
So, a product with more fill power not only will be better at insulating but also have less weight, which eventually helps to get an even better product.
The only problem with this is that down is expensive. Especially if you pick an option with over 800 down, you’ll find yourself spending a lot of money. Down is the preferred choice for campers or hikers in cold areas precisely for this.
It is hugely useful and usually very light. The only two downsides, it can be pretty expensive and doesn’t work when wet.
Synthetic Sleeping Bags
You could say that synthetic tries to do the same as down, but instead of using natural fluffy material from plumage, it uses threads of plastic.
You’ll find two basic options here, the short staple fibers that mimic the 3D structure of down with excellent compression and durability, and the small long filaments that trap air well but don’t have much compressibility.
So in synthetic sleeping bags, you’ll find the options that look and feel like down with a similar warming effect but with low durability. You’ll also see the threaded plastic that instead of looking like down feels less lofty but retains warm better than staple fibers.
The ability to keep moisture away, to dry fast and provide a hypoallergenic effect is unique of synthetic. And what’s even better, it tends to have a relatively decent cost, so you’ll have a product that’s resistant and durable that doesn’t break your wallet.
The downside is that synthetic needs a lot of material to provide the same kind of warmth as a natural insulating product, which means synthetic sleeping bags are often heavy.
But this gives it an advantage when it comes to hot places, making it ideal for people using a sleeping bag in tropical & deserted environments, for example.
Differences: Down vs. Synthetic
So you already have an idea of what each type of sleeping offers, now you’ll learn with more specificity what you’ll get in various critical factors. Take a look;
As long as you get a sleeping bag that keeps you warm, there’s nothing else you need. But for that, insulation is critical.
Down is better than synthetic when it comes to insulation. That’s what you need to know first. But it offers more than just being better at attracting warmth and maintaining it.
When you have a down sleeping bag, you’ll have a product that offers outstanding fill power. The fluffier the down, the more effective it will be to warm you up. It does this exceptionally well, especially for options oriented towards snow use, for example.
In contrast, a synthetic bag will not be as practical. Most of the time they are heavier and larger to pack, and the warming power won’t be the same.
You’ll find synthetic bags ideal for situations where you don’t need something that warms you up too much, but instead something that compresses your body perfectly. But also, synthetic works for hot seasons too, especially the lighter & thinner models.
Still, synthetic is not precisely a cooling option. It is pretty warming nonetheless, and many synthetic sleeping bags will work wonders for temperatures under 10ºF.
The only problem is that they won’t offer the same loftiness as down, and instead will feel heavy and compressive when using. If they get wet or moist though, they will perform better than down.
Everyone wants a product that’s easy to travel with and carry, that’s why portability is critical for the ideal choice.
With the ability to retain heat more effectively than synthetic sleeping bags, down usually packs smaller and much lighter.
You can also compress a down sleeping bag much better than a synthetic one, which will make much better if you have less backpack space. For hikers and campers in cold environments, a down sleeping bag will be a great choice.
But despite needing less material than synthetic bags to warm up, down, options tend to be a little heavier due to their usual cold-environment constructions. This is where you’ll find synthetic a little more portable if you are going to use it on a summer trip or somewhere hot.
When you get a synthetic sleeping bag, you are probably getting something lighter, as it is meant not to be used in a cold environment but hot ones instead. This adds a lot to the portability, which makes it a perfect choice.
The compression tells all about how easy the bag is to store and how much it keeps the body against the insulation.
Even though synthetic is known for compressing well in hot environments, it is down that offers the best compression in the market. With the ability to compress smaller and fit backpacks without a problem, they also retain loft even after unpacking.
Synthetic does the work well of trying to match the natural lofting of down, but even in hybrid models and expensive options, synthetic doesn’t match the compression of down. You’ll have to buy a synthetic twice as expensive as a down sleeping bag for it to offer a similar type of compression.
Probably nothing as important as comfort when using a sleeping bag – it will tell how much you eventually like the product.
With compression, you also get a product that may or not be more comfortable. Compressive sleeping bags are not the most comfortable out there, but will probably offer the best insulation, such as down.
But the loft of down is also unbeatable, which means you get excellent compression without leaving behind fluffiness and comfort.
An expensive synthetic sleeping bag can be more comfortable than a cheap down one. But down offers more comfort with less material, which means it is way better in this factor.
The whole capacity of the sleeping bag to last is extremely important, here both perform similarly.
If you take care of a down sleeping bag, it will last many years without problems. You just need to wash it regularly and never rip the protective fabric. But with time, down tends to degrade and lose its power.
As a natural product, a down sleeping bag may not offer the same warming capacity as it did when it was new. When down rips, also, it tends to lose a lot of plumage fast and work deficiently as well.
But if you pick a tear-resistant down sleeping bag, for example, you will get a reliable product. It will not only last more years than a standard option, but it may eventually work well even with a ripped fabric.
And even if it loses its stuffing, a tear-resistant refillable sleeping bag can last more than 10 years with constant re-stuffing.
Synthetic, on the other hand, doesn’t degrade with time as down does. It actually offers the ability to prevent damage from moisture as well, and body oil doesn’t mean any problem either.
If you are in a hot environment, for example, sweat in the different layers of a synthetic sleeping bag will stay less time and don’t cause damage. This also means you won’t have to clean a synthetic sleeping bag as much.
It is important to always consider the waterproof capacity of the product. Here, synthetic is the first choice for most people.
When people say they prefer synthetic options, it’s mostly because it is way better when it comes to water resistance. And it’s totally correct, synthetic sleeping bags offer a way more effective waterproof capacity due to their ability to retain less liquid and still keep heat in the process.
Due to their plastic construction, they are more water repellent and dry quicker than down.If you are going to use a sleeping bag in a humid situation, go for a synthetic choice.
They even insulate when they are wet, losing less warm when the moisture attacks.
Down, in contrast, loses all its insulation power as soon as it gets wet. Even new technologies used in the construction of a more water-resistant down won’t match the quick-drying ability of synthetic sleeping bags. Down can't repel water as plastic sleeping bags do. So they eventually end up saturated with moisture.
So, if you are going to a wet place or somewhere where humidity reins, then you’ll be better with a synthetic option.
If you are camping or hiking on a budget, you'll want to pick the product that offers the best price. When it comes to choosing between a synthetic and a down bag, there's an obvious winner in price: synthetic.
Even though down has a way better insulation and feels more comfortable most of the time, it is way more expensive. This mostly happens because down, as you know, comes from geese or ducks. And the process of getting down from the animals, the production, and the manufacturing takes more time and more effort.
Another thing to consider is that the fabric of down sleeping bags tends to be denier nylon, which is a way more expensive option for the cover. This means they can be up to 50% or even more costly than synthetic alternatives.
Synthetic, on the other hand, is produced in ordinary factories without the use of animals. The process takes little time and can be done by machines. It won’t have the same advantages as down, but the overall cost will be far better.
It is important to note, however, that duck down is now very common and it is far cheaper than goose down. The price is still nowhere close to a synthetic bag that would be the ideal choice if you are on a budget.
Comparison Chart: Down vs. Synthetic
Exceptional Sub-Zero Capacity
Ideal for Hot/Fresh Places
Weighs Little and Squeezes Really Well
Tends to Be Light but Hard to Compress
Superb Compressive Capacity
Not too Effective
Very Lofty and Soft
Expensive Options are Very Fluffy
Needs Constant Cleaning & Re-Stuffing
Doesn’t Rip Much and Demands Little Cleaning
Gets Wets Easily and Loses Insulation Power
Repels Water Well & Dries Quickly
Natural Materials Tend To Be Very Expensive
Often Cheap & Accessible
Which One to Go For Synthetic or Down?
So it is time to know what type of sleeping bag will work better for you. Here's a summary to learn all about them before choosing;
Synthetic insulation for a sleeping bag is a better choice if you are going to wet places. Backpacking in a tropical area, on a coast or beach, close to swamps or rivers, or in rainy places – then a synthetic will be your best idea.
If the bag gets wet, the synthetic will make it easy to dry it off. And still, it will keep some of the warmth even when soaked. All of that for a very inexpensive cost.
But a synthetic sleeping bag won’t keep you warm in the coldest environments and takes more space in your backpack.
Here is where you can go for the best option when it comes to heat per weight ratio, a down sleeping bag. They offer the best insulation out there, not only because they retain heat effectively but because they warm up faster than any other option. And its compression is unbeatable.
The only problem with down bags is that they eventually retain a lot of moisture. So if you get a down bag wet, it will take not only more time to dry it out, it will also lose all of its insulation properties.
As soon as you get it dry, though, you will get the best performance. Of course, you will have to spend more if you want a down sleeping bag – mainly if it is oriented towards sub-zero environments.
Which One is Better?
In short, a synthetic bag is the perfect choice for anyone going to a fresh or wet place where you don’t need much insulation but instead something that protects against moisture.
If you are on a very low budget, then a synthetic is a more attractive choice too. Otherwise, if you are looking for the best insulation, comfort, and overall experience – then go for a down sleeping bag.
Now that you are clear on the differences, it is time to choose the right one. And here it all comes down to preferences but also requirements and needs.
Before picking the ideal sleeping bag insulation, make sure you know exactly where and when you’re going to use it, plus how much you expect from it. Eventually, you’ll pick the right choice.