Saturday, September 27, 2008

It's in the (sleeping) bag

I love my sleeping bag. It has kept me warm and cozy every night that I've ventured outside of the civilized world and slept in a tent or hut, or without either. It has been with me for about 8 years, and shows no real signs of wear and tear. My sleeping bag is an MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop, a Canadian retailer) Cygnet down bag, like the one pictured above except that it's purple. But my wonderful sleeping bag has one drawback - sometimes it's just too darn warm!

Having a sleeping bag rated to -10C seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, better to be too warm than too cold. But now that I stay in backcountry huts a lot, and tend to do most of my camping in the summer, I'm thinking I could use something not quite so cosy.

Yesterday we popped into a few outdoors shops to see what was on offer by way or summer-weight bags. Some were ridiculously expensive ($400? I don't think so!) Others were ridiculously heavy. But a few are real contenders for becoming my next bit of gear.

One that I quite liked was the Marmot Trestles women's bag. It's a synthetic, which means it's cheaper than down but not quite as light. It comes in a delightful 2-tone green look as you can see from the photo below.

But in the long run, I'm thinking that another down bag may be worth the extra expense. Not just to save weight, but also because they pack down so much smaller. This would leave more space in my back for important things like another bar of chocolate, or the mini-tripod for my camera. (I also have to buy a new camera, but that's a whole other story!)

So now the great down vs synthetic debate is occupying my thoughts. In case you haven't had the debate yet, this is how it goes:

The down bags are so much smaller and lighter - and what's the point of getting a summer-weight bag that's just as big and heavy as my warm bag?

Yeah, but the down is expensive, and I already have one. Plus, it's no good if I get it wet. I can get a decent synthetic one for like, $100. Down will cost at least double that.

Sure, but my other down bag has lasted for years - probably way longer than a synthetic fill would last. So that makes up for the extra cost.

I dunno - let me think about it...

And so here I am, thinking about it. What I can say is that it's nice to see more sleeping bags available in a "women's" size, not just standard or long. Of course, they could have just called it "small" instead. Either way, it beats carrying around twice the bag I need for my size.

Stay tuned to find out if I eventually make a decision! (I can waffle for a surprisingly long time about these things. Don't be surprised if the decision takes a while!)


jay said...

If I don't get exactly the item i want the first time, I regret it and end up getting what I wanted at some point anyway. So I end up spending twice, and more overall.

I say if you want the down summer bag, get the down summer bag. :D

dogscratcher said...

"Sure, but my other down bag has lasted for years - probably way longer than a synthetic fill would last."

I can't speak for all synthetics, but I have an old "Holofil II" bag made by Slumberjack in 1978 that still works fine. I don't know if it insulates as well as it did when new, but I still use it almost exclusively when backpacking.

Mike said...

"Plus, it's no good if I get it wet."

I was thinking about finding a new sleeping bag a few months ago, and this was one of the things I wondered about. I noticed that many of the down bags on the market seem to advertise these days that they're "waterproof", but I'm not sure what that means.

Is a waterproof down bag just one with an extra seal to keep out a little moisture that might be on the ground or in the air, or would it survive a dunking, keep the water away from the down inside and remain warm?

Ron Bloomquist said...

When you get around to buying a camera I would recommend you check out the Canon S5-IS. I have the S3-IS and it is perfect for hiking, not too heavy, yet it takes great photos and has a 12 power zoom and macro features. Anyway, I like mine.

I don't sell them. I just buy one, now and then!! :-)

Juice said...

What i would give to have your problem with being to warm! i use a -5 Down bag in a moderate temperate (Got to about 3 degree's the other night) and I'm still cold.

But being in this climate I think I could say the synthetic is probably what you want given that it is a "Summer bag", and if it's going to get cold pack the Down bag. Why spend the extra dosh on something you already have??

Just a thought

As for the water proof down, god how would it sweat on a warm night?

Maple Kiwi said...

Hmmm. Lots of good comments here.

I wouldn't expect a "waterproof" down bag to survive a dunking. Maybe just resist some seepage from the ground. I've only had my bag get damp once, even inside a "waterproof" compression sack AND a plastic bag. I was on the Milford Track during a flood. 'nuff said.

Not sure I'm any closer to a decision, but I appreciate all of the input!

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