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QUESTION

What are the best conditions to use a synthetic sleeping bag vs a down one? Can you always use a down sleeping bag as long as you keep it in a dry waterproof bag?

{ asked by Ross }

ANSWER

The answer is very dependent on the prevailing weather conditions where you are active, and what your budget is

Synthetic

Advantages:

  1. Lower overall price.
  2. Maintains thermal properties when wet.
  3. Does not reduce loft in high-humidity/ sweaty sleeping conditions.
  4. Easier to clean.

Disadvantages:

  1. The loft does not last as long as down (3-5yrs vs 8-10yrs)
  2. Does not compress as small as down.
  3. Higher weight to loft ratio. (Compared to 650+ down fill)
  4. Retains smells more than down.
Down

Advantages:

  1. Very warm for the weight.
  2. Long life of product.
  3. Compressibility.
  4. Distribution of insulation is near equal over the bag surface.

Disadvantages:

  1. Price is higher than synthetic (50-100% for same temperature rating)
  2. Cleaning and maintenance. (Special soap, washing, and drying)
  3. When wet the loft is practically useless.
  4. Absorbs some moisture from the body during sleep.
Overall

Given that I have used both styles, and love them both in different conditions I would say make your decision after considering the above and speaking with local experts who have used the product in your climate area. Knowledge from a local makes all the difference.

{ answered by Dangeranger }
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