At 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?
Amazing. That’s one word, to sum up my night winter camping under a full moon and 30 dog sled teams. I should (and will) let the photos do most of the “talking”.
New to the Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon this year, was a Winter Camping Village. Fans could bring their own winter tent (or rent one) and experience traditional winter camping at the Sawbill checkpoint.
We heard the first dog sled team swoosh by our tent at 6:25 AM Monday morning. Other teams soon followed suit, with distant barking alerting us that the next team was soon to arrive. (click here for video)Our spot on the Sawbill Trail, was a mandatory 4 hour layover in the race, in which mushers were required to handle their teams without any assistance, (as a pre-qualifier for the Iditarod). Each musher had a spot with hay for the dogs to warm up and sleep in. Once nestled in, dog booties were removed, food was served, and sleep was top priority.
In the checkpoint mix, was our winter camping village, and it brought many curious onlookers. How are the tents made and how are they set up? How do the stoves work? What should you pack for winter camping? And are you warm?! (I have addressed most of these questions in my previous winter camping blog). Yes, we were warm! Warm from shoveling snow for our tent site and warm again once the stove was lit.
In between answering camping questions, and taking in the sights and sounds of the Beargrease, we were enlisted to help out on a few occasions, leading dog teams back onto the trail after their break. The dogs were definitely ready to get back on the trail! (watch the video, click here)
It was an exciting day, but unfortunately we had to pack it all up and head back to Duluth. The teams have to pass through the Sawbill checkpoint again, and how fun it would have been to be able to watch them come back through the next day!
A big thank you to the Beargrease staff and volunteers. As I stated above, it was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to do it again next year! I hope some folks out there will join us!
I am headed off this weeked to watch the John Beargrease Sled Dog Race. I will be winter camping in the Sawbill Winter Camping Village. I hope to bring back memories, photos, and tips to share with you! Have a great weekend and stay warm!
When I mention winter campingto folks I get a myriad of responses from “that’s crazy” to “sounds like an adventure!’ I will try to cover the basics so you, too, can have a winter wonderland adventure!
First thing you need to do is find a buddy or two to go with you! (Preferably one with gear!) Then map and plan a route and buy the appropriate maps. Also, call up to folks in the area to check out ice conditions.
Here is a basic list of items to pack. CLOTHING - A complete change of clothes including extra wool pants and ice breaker long underwear. Extra smartwool socks. Waterproof shell. Balaclava (to keep condensation off your face while sleeping).
GEAR – Sled, which is easier than a backpack, (and a dog to pull it!) X-C skis or snowshoes. Ground cloth (to create waterproof barrier to sleep on). Wool Blanket. Closed cell sleeping pad(self inflating ones tend to lose air). Mittens are warmer then gloves. A cooler (to keep items from freezing, sits well in a sled). Bees wax candles for light. Thermos. Head lamp. Ice chisel or auger for water (see photo). Cold weather camping stove.
FOOD – Pack a lot of high calorie food for all the energy you will be exerting. Pre-made or just add water meals. Almond butter (doesn’t freeze like peanut butter). No alcohol or caffeine, they will only dehydrate you.
SAFETY – Ice picks. Throw rope. Sunglass or goggles. Emergency Blanket. Lotion and Suntan Lotion. Matches, firestarter (lighters don’t like the cold weather).
When you are ready to set up camp, find a level spot and stomp down the area where your tent will go with your skis or snowshoes. Allow time (average 1-3 hrs) for the snow to settle and pack down before putting up your tent. While the area is settling you can gather downed firewood and chip an ice hole for water. Set up tent (usually a two person job). Nearest to the door, dig out a section for the stove and cooking area. This will create a nice higher platform to sleep on and a cold air sink near the door. Next assemble the stove while the other folks gather more firewood. Next set-up your sleeping platform. Lay down your ground cloth first, then a wool blanket, your closed cell foam sleeping pad, and sleeping bag. (We offen lay another wool blanket on top of our sleeping bags for the dogs to lay on and wrap them up in). Another night time tip is to fill your water bottle with hot water before you go to sleep to have unfrozen water in the morning. If you turn your water bottle upside down the water will make the cap easier to unscrew.
So now that you know some of the winter camping basics, get out there and enjoy winter!