Gear Talk

Sleeping Bags – Down vs. Synthetic

November 16, 2010

eurekaAt Duluth Pack, we get asked this question a lot!  Should I buy a down sleeping bag or a synthetic one?

Both have advantages and disadvantages. Hopefully the pros and cons listed below will help you make that decision a little easier.


Pros: Down sleeping bags are warmer ounce per ounce.  Down is lighter weight and easily compressed. However, when storing your down bag, store it open as possible. Down filled bags are great at wicking away moisture. With the proper care down bags can last for many years, even a lifetime, so the heftier price tag is often worth it for the longevity. Down bags are ideal for all aspects of camping except wet/damp areas like for example the Olympic National Forest in Washington.

Cons: It does have a few cons. It does not function well at all when wet, and takes a long time to dry. They are also more expensive and need more care.


Pros: Synthetic bags then make sense when used in wet/damp camping situations.  It works well for folks new to camping, kids, and the fiscally conservative. It dries quickly and is very easy to care for.  After your trip you can toss your synthetic bag right into the washing machine.

Cons: Synthetics are heavier than down and they are also not as comfortable. They do not pack down as small as down bags can. Synthetics bags are also not as warm as natural down.

I would love to hear your thoughts! Which fill do you prefer?


  • Jon November 17, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Why not both?! I actually use both for different occasions. Granted I end up taking my synth bag more places because I am less concerned about it getting wet or dirty. I also throw it in the trunk a lot on weekend excursions where the destination is still up in the air.

    For long, cool weather paddling or hiking trips though, I would definitely take the down bag in a compression dry bag. Unless the forecast is all rain, or it is any time in July.

  • Corey L November 25, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    I agree with Jon. Both materials have pro’s/con’s and I pack the bag best suited to anticipated conditions. My down bag always gets the nod for winter camping often accompanied by a highly breathable bivy sack. Because I can get away with a higher temp rating on canoe/fishing trips the synthetic bag gets packed as even a bag with a 35deg rating is still very compact and compressible enough. Taking up very little space and adding marginal weight a set of base layer wool socks, long underwear and beanie will add considerable warmth and moisture management if you are concerned about the rating of your bag for a specific trip/region.

  • Leave a Reply