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jtljohnson

Down vs. Synthetic sleeping bags

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I am heading to Alaska for a Denali climb in May. Does anyone have thoughts or actual experiences on Denali with down or sythetic bags. Also what temp/manufacturer bag was used.

Thanks

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I went in 2nd and 3rd weeks of May 1998, with a down dryloft -25 'F bag (REI). It was fine, the temps never got below -35'C at night and were usually warmer. I would suggest against synthetic only because Alaska is so dry you will not need to worry too much about getting the bag wet.

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A Western Mountaineering -20 degree down & Gore-Tex bag was my choice on McKinley when I went on an early May trip. Too much bag, even when it dipped below -20 !!

Poly is bulky and heavy, but more importantly to me: it only lasts a few short years. Down will give you possibly decades of service. And don't even think of compressing that poly bag if you want it to last. Good climbing!

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I agree with Alex, down is a better choice in drier/colder climates. I was on Denali in May of 94', I had a Western Mountaineering Gore-Tex -30 down bag which performed excellent. Also, synthetic cannot touch down bags ability to compress, making it easier to stuff in you already bulging pack! Unless you want to sleep in your clothes I would not get a bag much warmer than -30, it got close to -30 many nights while we were there and it can get colder.

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Guest

As the other guys have already said, down is the way to go. I use a 15 year old -20 down REI bag and was plenty warm in it even at 17,000 on Denali. It also depends on if you are a warm or cold sleeper.

As for your vapor barrier question, I don't ever use mine because I can't stand the feeling. Unless you are the most unlucky soul on the planet, you should have at least some chances to dry your bag over the course of any expedition (unless you are in Patagonia).

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jtljohnson,

hey, when are you going? I am going to depart Seattle on 9 May (maybe earlier) and we have a Talkeetna air reservation for 10 May and will have to return on 7-8 May to Seattle. I have already run into a National Geographic Explorer writer who is going to be up there doing a story starting around May 23rd so don't be a stranger(I met the writer, David Brill, in North Conway, NH. He is doing an article on the 'common man climbing Denali'. Should be interesting.)

Dave

------------------

 

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I personally don't like vapor barriers, maybe they do work, but the thought of sleeping in a wet plastic bag does not appeal to me. I used VB socks (neoprene) in NH once and I almost froze my feet, they were fine until I stopped and then they got cold, really cold. When I was on Denali we had several storms, but when the sun comes out you can dry your bag in an few hours.

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I used a Western Mountaineering Bison DL bag on Denali in '99. It had a Gore Dryloft shell. It was plenty warm and man, was I glad I had spent the money! It compresses like a dream, is warm as hell and is still going strong even after being used several times in the Cascades. Overkill but WTF? I got it I might as well use it.

Forget about a VBL unless you plan on going in the winter. Its overkill.

My $.02. YMMV

Rob

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Go with down because it is lighter, compresses better, it is more durable. Stay away from Dryloft as it traps the moisture in the down more than a nylon shell. Also why NOT breathing into a bag while sleeping is very important. No need for Dryloft unless you are careless with pee or water bottle tops or you are sleeping in the open. Dryloft is also slightly heavier.

-20 degree bag should be fine anything else is overkill. If you get cold at 17,200, sleep in you expedition wt underwear and balaclava. Still cold, throw on your fleece jacket. Sleeping bags are rated with 1 1/2" of insulation under them. Every half inch less is at least 10 degrees. Take a ridge rest and a light weight thermarest. Shaving weight? ditch the thermarest and sleep on you rope and ridge rest. Like the others said, dry your bag out on a sunny day by stetching it accross the tent for a couple hours but clip a carabinner to it and anchor it so the wind does not take it away. I have a black bag (F.F's) so the sun will heat it up fast and dry it faster. The sun will heat you tent up to very warm temps at 14K so leaving you bag open also promotes drying. All bags absorb moisture but down more so than syn. Get good down. You can get 800+ fill with some companys. The higher the number, the more durable the down is. You also have higher loft with less down,which equals less weight. Hope this helps.

 

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I went in April '95 and -20 downbag will have you covered, if you get cold in that bag put more clothes on. No need for a VBL.

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