Down vs Synthetic Sleeping Bags: Which is the Best for Backpacking and Camping?

A good night’s sleep in the backcountry will go a long way. So what's the best sleeping bag for camping and backpacking? Well, it depends on a number of factors.

Start by checking the coldest temperatures where you plan to go camping or backpacking. Remember that even in the summer, many places drop as much as 40-50 degrees in the evenings. You will want to choose a sleeping bag that has a low enough temperature rating, and if you run cold, consider a sleeping bag with an even lower temperature rating (think about 15 degrees lower).

There are two general types of sleeping bags: down and synthetic. Each has benefits and downsides, so let’s explore a little more.

Down Sleeping Bags

Down material is sourced from the plumage of birds (which is found underneath the top feathers), like geese and ducks. The benefits of down are enormous:

  • it’s incredibly insulating
  • lightweight
  • durable
  • can easily be compressed—which makes it more versatile when packing
  • it’s really breathable
  • great for backpacking in an extremely cold climates when conditions will be dry
  • Not great in wet conditions—they can take a really long time to dry out, and won’t keep you nearly as warm while it’s wet.
  • They’re more expensive than their synthetic counterparts

 Synthetic Sleeping Bags

Synthetic sleeping bags are:

  • typically made of polyester
  • usually heavier than down
  • will insulate you even if it’s wet, so if you’re planning on backpacking in a climate than is frequently wet, this is a great option for you
  • dry quickly
  • tend to be less expensive than their down counterparts
  • less compressible than down
  • weighs quite a bit more than down
  • less durable over time

Short-Staple or Continuous Filament

There are two types of synthetic insulations: short-staple or continuous filament.

Short-staple insulations are, like the name suggests, shorter strands of fine-denier filaments. This allows the strands to be packed closer together, which minimizes the amount of heat that escapes, and makes it more compressible when packing. However, short-staple filament does tend to be less durable, and can sometimes create cold spots, so you may need to move the insulation around a bit.

Continuous-filament insulations are the opposite of short-staple: the filament is thicker, which also allows them to be more durable, but less compressible for packing. Cold spots are less of a concern, as it tends to stay in place more.

Which Sleeping Bag is Right For You?

So which one should you choose? The one that fits your needs and your budget! Take into consideration where you want to go, the climate, and what time of year, and use the information above help guide your decision.

One more thing to note about sleeping bags: sleeping bags for women and men are designed differently, and even come in different lengths. They will insulate you differently, so take that into consideration. Although, having too much extra space at the bottom of your feet can be remedied by packing clothes down at the bottom, but if you have the option for a shorter bag, it's nice to have!

While we don't sell sleeping bags just yet, take a look at our Curated Backpacking Gear Collection for your next camping or backpacking adventure!

Happy trails!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published