Down vs Synthetic Sleeping Bags

What We Think About Using Down For Sleeping Bags

Most of the time, when someone says they want to purchase a down product, they really mean that they want something light and effective at retaining heat. In fact, down has been a sort of status symbol to those who understand that it is the most expensive material for a sleeping bag.

But who needs status symbols when there is so much to be said for the utility of an object? Here is a list of reasons to use a down sleeping bag.


  • Price and durability: Purchasing down products is expensive but down will last over a decade with proper care. For many people, this justifies the cost.
  • Keeps your backpack light: For any backpacker who will be trekking in the cold, having the ability to pack light is a great advantage. One of the main reasons why people love down-based sleeping bags is the fact that it can be compressed to a much smaller size than synthetic sleeping bags. Also, since the material is not as thick, it weighs less than synthetics. Light backpackers love down sleeping bags, as they can squeeze them into the bottom sleeping bag compartment of a hiking backpack.
  • Better warmth-to-weight ratio: Off all of the gear that you bring along on a camping trip, the most important in terms of temperature control will be your sleeping bag. It gets much colder at night than in the day, even surprisingly so for new campers. While synthetic material can be just as warm, it does not offer the same amount of warmth for the weight. Can stuff it in a bag and pack it tight without compromising its integrity. It’s great if you want to camp in less than 0 degrees without needing to haul a very heavy sleeping bag.

After going over the main advantages, we should also discuss the main disadvantages of using down as your sleeping bag material.


  • Ineffective when wet: Like all down products, warmth is not retained when it gets wet. It also takes a long time for down to dry. So unless you have a plan for not getting it wet, it can be cumbersome to include down as part of your camping gear list. Plan to use a rain guard over your sleeping bag while it’s raining, as well as a tarp underneath while you are sleeping.
  • Requires maintenance: Another downside of down is that it needs to be washed with specials detergents. You cannot simply put it in the washer and dryer.
  • Ethical issues: Down comes from the fowl that is used in the food industry. Some people take issue with the meat processing industry and prefer to stay away from down for ethical reasons.

What We Think About Synthetic Sleeping Bags

Synthetic sleeping bags have their own set of qualities that set them apart for their down counterparts. Here are the major pros and cons when it comes to choosing synthetic sleeping bags.


  • Advances in technology: There have been many advances in synthetic fiber technology over the past decade. This may be partly in response to the increasing prices associated with down products. The advances have provided us with synthetic materials that have fibers mimicking down fibers. They are most often seen in high-end synthetic materials, and are more expensive than their traditional counterparts.
  • Cheaper: Synthetics are significantly cheaper than down. With the latest advances in synthetic technology, you get a good bang for your buck.
  • Will stay warm when wet: One of the main advantages of synthetic sleeping bags is that they will not lose their warmth retaining power when wet. This is great for those who are planning an extended stay in the outdoors and can expect at least some wetness.


  • Bulky and do not compress very well: Synthetic sleeping bags for temperatures 0 Celcius and under will not fit easily into your hiking backpack. It does not compress very well and takes up a lot of space. This is not ideal for the light backpacker.
  • Lower warmth-to-weight ratio: Synthetic sleeping bags will not keep you as warm as their similar-sized down counterparts. You will need a bulkier sleeping bag to do the same job at keeping you warm as a significantly smaller down sleeping bag.

The Verdict

While there is no right or wrong answer to which is better, a decision needs to be made based on your own particular requirements. Can you foot the bill of an expensive, down-filled sleeping bag? Even if you can, are you willing to maintain it and are you ok with any apparent ethical issues? If you will be camping in what you know is likely to be rainy weather, synthetic sleeping bags may be the better choice. Given the pros and cons above for each, what do you feel is your preference? is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Some links may be affiliate links. We may get paid if you buy something or take an action after clicking one of these

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