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Down in the PNW
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Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: re: down in the PNW on 01/26/2011 16:05:13 MST Print View

@Rhonda: I think you'll be fine. A double walled tent makes things much easier. With the Capilene, I would probably go with the 32 degree bag. Then again, the weight difference is probably fairly small between the bags, so maybe the bigger bag is better. Maybe it depends on the pad you use (a warmer pad can be the difference). Regardless, I certainly wouldn't buy anything else. Even if you use the lighter bag, at worse you will be a little chilly the last night. If it was a really long trip, then I would go with the bigger bag. Of course, the weather can vary quite a bit that time of year so maybe the best thing is to check the forecast before going and then pick a bag. Four day forecasts are usually pretty reliable (8 day forecasts are a whole different story).

This is best source that I know of for weather prediction in the area: and
The first is a standard report (which plenty of other people will repeat). The second is the discussion of the report. Basically, the meteorologists look at a bunch of computer models and then make their official prediction. By reading the discussion, you get a good idea of the confidence. Often times, they feel like changing their mind, but don't want to do it yet, because they think they might have to change their mind again. Anyway, knowing their confidence level can make a big difference.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Single Walls in the PNW on 01/26/2011 18:25:25 MST Print View

Regarding single wall tents in the PNW:

I live in Washington and spend 90% of my backpacking here. I spend about 75% of those nights in single wall tents (Gossamer Gear/Tarptent Squall Classic, Tarptent Sublite Tyvek, Tarptent RAinshadow 2, Golite Shangri La 5) and it works just fine. You have to keep condensation in mind and exercise caution but I've had great luck. Even using a Tarptent in a downpour on the Olympic coast has been fine.

Sure, a double wall tent is a bit easier in the condensation realm, but I've had no issues big enough that would make me switch to double wall.

It's probably similar to the down conversation. Anything works here- it's just how you use it and what you're comfortable with. Personally, I mitigate condensation concerns by using synthetic insulation with my single wall tents. If I brush against the side of the tent, it doesn't matter as much. Works for me but there are certainly lots of ways to deal with it.

That said, I once owned a Black Diamond single wall with Epic fabric. I found that to be a very poor performer in constant sprinkles with no relief. I've not found this to be the same with eVent, silnylon, cuben, spinnaker, Tyvek, or Gore Tex single walls. I used to be the shelter editor here at BPL so I got to try many, many shelters in our worst conditions and while I loved the Epic for southwestern thunderstorms, I parted ways with the tent quickly after living with it on the coast for a week.

That said, a double wall tent with a mesh inner and no vents can be worse than a well vented single wall tent, as the rain drips through the mesh onto your bag...


John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Down in the PNW or rather single wall on 01/26/2011 18:34:53 MST Print View

I notice you mention an eVent tent. What tent would that be rather than a bivy? How would you rate current breathable single wall "tents" against something like the Sierra Designs Divine Lightning , an early goretex model?

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re; Down in the PNWq on 01/27/2011 00:23:17 MST Print View

Doug - thanks for posting some pics of your sleeping bags and description of your setup. Much appreciated. I find this a really interesting thread - I am glad there is a distinction made between the climate of the PNW and say of California.

On the double wall with the mesh inner (e.g. The Hubba) - I have had better success with this in rain than I've had with say, a single wall tarpent. Yeah, you get a few drips, but the sag factor of silnylon has probably been the bigger issue for me personally and the fact I end up moving around so much at night. I am eager to try some other tent materials that don't sag as much when wet. I do restake before conking out, but generally by morning the once taut tent looks a bit sad....

Ross, thanks for that link, very helpul. I enjoy your posts very much, always quite informative.

Finally, I am glad to see so many passionate backpackers from the PNW. Happy Trails to you all, I hope we get to meet on the trail sometime soon.


(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Down in the PNW on 01/27/2011 00:29:01 MST Print View

[RAB HAS 2 Event “shelters” tall enough that you can sit up inside]:
[TENT 1]: Summit Mountain Bivi: Single skin, 2 person mountaineering shelter with increased headroom
Weight:2000g/71oz (+1000g/35oz with optional porch)
• Highly breathable Exchange Lite™ fabric [Event]
• 10000mm laminated nylon waterproof bathtub base
• Internally pitched DAC 8.84mm Aluminium poles
• 2 sealed ‘donut link’ tie in point, located at top and side
• 4 internal pockets
• Mosquito net door
• Glow in the dark zip pullers
• Available with removable porch adding 140cm length for gear storage
size: 2220 x 1200mm base, 1000mm height
[TENT 2]:
Summit Superlite BiviSingle skin, 2 person lightweight, low profile mountaineering shelter Weight:1500g/53oz
• Highly breathable Exchange Lite™ eVent® fabric
• 10000mm laminated lightweight ripstop nylon waterproof bathtub base
• Internally pitched DAC 8.84mm Aluminium poles
• 1 sealed ‘donut link’ tie in point, located at top
• Rear snow collection drawcord porthole
• 1 internal pocket
• Glow in the dark zip pullers
• Aluminium pegs
size: 2220 x 1200mm base, 700mm height

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
silnylon sagging on 01/27/2011 08:22:43 MST Print View

I agree - silnylon - in the morning it's all droopy

I think maybe it droops as it gets cold also

Polyester or Cuben would be better

Stretchy guy lines help

Kevin Haskins
(kevperro) - F

Locale: Washington State
Doug Nailed it on 01/27/2011 12:02:31 MST Print View

I couldn't add much more except that I don't even own a synthetic bag or puffy and I almost exclusively hike in the Olympics. Summer is pretty dry and transitional seasons I'm not out for more than a weekend anyway so I've never even considered buying synthetic. Down works great and it isn't that hard to keep it dry.

If I were to heavy duty mountaineering or plan extended trips for weeks where I knew it was going to be wet and cold.... I'd consider buying a synthetic bag for that trip.

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Down in the PNW or rather single wall- Thanks Robert Tangen on 01/27/2011 17:11:51 MST Print View

Thanks to ROBERT TANGEN for the heads up on the Rab eVent "bivys" . This article discusses them and has good photos and specs and a fair review of the legal issues involved with them. Without the vestibule they look risky in terms of the doors letting moisture in. And the cost is nothing to sneeze at. The Sierra Designs Divine Light I have has a nicer entrance better suited to cooking , but it's fabric isn't as good as the eVent.

Edited by Meander on 01/27/2011 17:34:17 MST.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
down in rain, single wall tents for longer excursions on 01/27/2011 17:17:38 MST Print View

Having spent weeks in the rain with down; having spent said weeks in a single wall tent, I have many experiences.

There is rain, and then there is RAIN. Others have gone over and over keeping your pack dry and said clothes in said pack dry. Ditto on what they said.

Regarding Down, you NEVER actually wear down while walking/hiking as its WAY too hot unless you are WAY up somewhere high where its 0 or below, and even then... Your options are either move fast and strip down to keep cool, or move slow and DON't Sweat.

So, Down as a camping option, and keeping warm at belay. Is what we are really talking about. On belay, its simple, either you are running off the mountain because its raining which is damned dangerous as the rocks will be flying or its no raining and you are just throwing on said down jacket to stay warm. Generally while sitting at belay you won't be steaming your down coat. If you do open it up, and use jacket as a "bellows" to pump said water vapor out. If you plan on doing this in the snow, make sure its outter shell fabric is "waterproof" or breathable. Don't care which. One side breathable is fine by me. Turn it inside out to "dry".

Ok, Camping with down during extended RAIN. If its warm rain, we don't have a problem as drying out your clothes from sweat inside said sleeping bag is fairly straight forward as you won't have been wearing hardly any to start with. NOW, DON't GET TOO WARM as you will then SWEAT ADDING water to said sleeping bag.

Hiking in Cold rain, well to start with, hike fast, keeps you warm, wear not much, otherwise hike slow, don't sweat, because drying out is difficult. As others have said, if you are warm, YOU ARE WEARING TOO MUCH! At these high humidity cold temperature conditions, drying anything is difficult.

The worst I ever had with down was we had to pitch our squal2 on a 30% slope in the pickets in high humidity cold conditions and huddled for 2 days while it Poured, sleeted, snowed on us. Because of the awkward position of said tent our bags would slide down and we would contact the sides of the single wall tent. This got the toes of our bags wet, but otherwise wasn't too bad. One night on a regular flat spot after 2 nights of horrid conditions and they were dried out again by our body heat.

Likewise I have been in Coastal British Columbia in a modified Tarptent Cloudburst 2 for a week straight of solid rain. Our down bags remained perfectly warm and puffy. If you are too warm, open the bag if you are waiting out the rain.

If we are talking snow conditions, Down is fine as well. Get in sleeping bag with wet clothes, take wet clothes from sweat off put dry on. Put Vapor Barrier clothes on if they aren't already. BIG DEAL. Then warm said bag up, place wet clothes on top of your chest/around your chest and by morning they will be dry. Now, if your sleeping system is a "barely" this won't really work as well at temperatures close to freezing.

Temperatures close to freezing are the worse as the humidity can be extremely high. Low temps are far easier to deal with than near freezing and high humidity.

Been in a double wall tent once in a rainstorm, but only because someone else brought it along.

If you plan on wearing clothes while it rains, or sweating while hiking/climbing can't say enough about fleece/polyester and vapor barrier socks/gloves liners and even VB shirt/pants. VB you can overheat in so be careful. Fleece/polyester hold their loft while soaked because they don't absorb water like a natural fiber. Likewise they are not as warm as a natural fiber when they are dry though some of the new fibers are darned close!

Everything is Fleece/Polyester except my sleeping bag and Belay jacket. I see no reason to change this. Only reason I see for anyone to buy something like a Synthetic fiber BBag or Belay Jacket is because of cost.

For bombing around on the weekend? Can't beat the cost of synthetic sleeping bags. They are practically free. Heavy, but near free. As a kid, I took a big ol' tarp, twine, and a synthetic sleeping bag in a black garbage sack. I still carry a tarp quite often as its far more enjoyable to use in winter as it gives more area to spread out in during bad weather. Bring groundsheet as well along with a snowshovel for a snowcave.

PS. Diane, don't who "taught" your course, but they are utterly clueless. Probably pulling a giant CYA mentality that is so prevalent in today's lawyer environment as synthetic will dry out "slightly" faster than down. Claiming they are warmier when wet is Bull Pucky. Only thing warmer when wet is WOOL. CYA... Just like every damned hammer comes with a warning sticker on that claims, that you need to wear eye protection to nail a nail... Sure... Said instructors all have down bags I betcha as well.

Edited by footeab on 01/27/2011 17:23:23 MST.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Down in the PNW on 01/27/2011 17:39:01 MST Print View

"Likewise I have been in Coastal British Columbia in a modified Tarptent Cloudburst 2 for a week straight of solid rain. Our down bags remained perfectly warm and puffy. If you are too warm, open the bag if you are waiting out the rain. "

Mine didn't. No rain leaked in, but the sheer humidity associated with a week of rain will collapse any down sleep 'system' unless you are able to have some sort of reprieve in the weather to dry the items out.

rhonda rouyer
(rrouyer) - F

Locale: deep south
down in PNW on 01/27/2011 17:54:07 MST Print View

Great post guys. I am learning so much that will be helpful on my hike. would a silk liner inside my down bag affect the moisture? would it work like a vapor barrier?

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: down in PNW on 01/27/2011 18:02:36 MST Print View

> would a silk liner inside my down bag affect the moisture? would it work like a vapor barrier?

Unfortunately not at all. You need something that is completely impenetrable by water and water vapor.

There is potential that a silk liner will add to the problem by upping the temp rating for the bag by a few degrees, possibly making you sleep warmer, thus creating more sweat---but that's pure speculation on my part.

A great (and cheap) way to see if you'd like a VBL: You'll need two large garbage bags. Cut the end out of one of them, and duct tape them together to create one long bag that you can sleep in.

Edited by T.L. on 01/27/2011 18:09:26 MST.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Down in the PNW on 01/27/2011 18:07:09 MST Print View

Lots of people do use down in wet climates and it works fine most of the time. However, if I was doing a longer trip, esp in a single wall tent, and expecting many days of solid rain then I would give serious consideration to synthetics. Not because you can't keep down gear dry, but because of moisture build up in the bag.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Down in the PNW on 01/27/2011 18:07:39 MST Print View

Bags/sleep system in coastal BC if going mountain climbing up high have to be good for 0F. So a little loss of loft is no big deal. We were right on the line between snow/rain as well(worst possible conditions). Biggest deal for such conditions is like I said, make sure you are not too warm in your sleeping bag as you will sweat out your sleeping bag if you are waiting out the rain. If its warmer, you probably jumped into your bag with wet clothes and chilled your body by wearing wet socks and your metabolism dropped creating little body heat? Likewise when you stop and are drying out, you must do so carefully. Get all that thermal mass warm, yourself included and pump said water out. heat it up, pump bag creating large drafts, close bag, heat up all that water vapor, pump.

Likewise erect your tent, keep your bags compressed and dry out your gear by simply wearing it inside the tent. Keep warm by sit ups/push ups if you have to. Then wear to bed. Very important to change to dry clothes so your body stays warm and keeps pumping heat out, but not sweating.

We had no reprieve at all for the several times I have waited out a week of rain. Coastal BC reprieves in rain are about 3 hours long, not nearly long enough for the brush to dry out. In those conditions either you stay in camp, or strip down to your shorts and either go for it, getting no clothes wet, or put on rain gear over this soaking said raingear but getting nothing else wet. Now, if you go for it, one is likely to get your PACK soaked and in this case your sleeping bag even if its in a standard stuff sack sold with said sleeping bags, will get wet from transfer of humidity if not outright liquid water from openings such as zippers etc. In this instance, Vapor Barrier socks/shirt etc work well as well as pack liners. Feels rather funny for the first 5 minutes worn till things even out. I have only recently started using VB, and the above experiences are without said VB.

typical rain garb for brushy areas, are boots, no socks, gaitors, No pants, or rainshell if its brushy, no underwear, swimtrunks, undershirt tightfitting, wool as its wet when warm, though dries slower, or polypro, rainshell, no hat, or hat, if on trail one can think about an umbrella. With VB always wear VB socks...

Does this help at all?

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: down in PNW on 01/27/2011 18:22:38 MST Print View

Rhonda- no the silk is not a vb- in fact it's quite breathable. To imagine a vapor barrier think silnylon, cuben, or plastic bag. All silk does from what I understand is keep your bag clean and give a more comfy feeling. Not much in insulation there and no vb for sure.

RE: sagging silnylon. Yes, par for the course. My spinnaker GGear/Tarprent Squall Classic sags less, as have cuben tents/tarps. Adjustable guylines are good and adding a bungee at the attachment helps too. Attaching the guyline to a springy tree branch and putting some spring in the system also helps avoid this.

Really nice single wall in the heavy rain is the Tarptent Rainshadow 2 for 2 people. It's well sized for 3 people and with 2 you have the space to sit out a long storm in comfort. No chance of hitting the walls and at 2.5 pounds it's still much lighter than most double walls with half the space. Oh- you can jack up the front with extend-able trekking poles too to make a palace. :-)

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Single Walls in the PNW on 01/27/2011 18:23:46 MST Print View

Re: eVent "tent"- yes, bivy is the correct term. But these are very "tent-like":

Rab eVent bivy:

Integral Designs eVent bivy:

No longer available Nemo Tenshi eVent- a true full-height tent:

I never owned an older Gore-Tex tent. But I did review this and it was great, but not quite as great as eVent in breathability:

rhonda rouyer
(rrouyer) - F

Locale: deep south
Re: Re: down in PNW on 01/27/2011 19:24:22 MST Print View

Rhonda- no the silk is not a vb- in fact it's quite breathable. To imagine a vapor barrier think silnylon, cuben, or plastic bag

Thanks for the comment. So I could make a VB out of my old silnylon tarp? Might be a good project. I guess it is helpful that my 32 degree bag has a zipper at the foot box that acts as a vent. Better to sleep cooler than warmer is what I am hearing.

Edited by rrouyer on 01/27/2011 19:27:26 MST.

Samuel C Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
"Down in the PNW" on 01/27/2011 21:09:10 MST Print View

>"Down is suitable for any environment"

Guess I should admit up front that some of the posts really frosted me.
Note that the OP asked only about "outerwear."

Once on a Long Trail hike for 7 days in the early spring in northern Vermont, it rained constantly. So much that after a few days, even with rain pants over my boot tops, every half hour or so I had to empty my boots and wring out my sox just to be able to hike. The rain just did not stop for day after night after day. There often were no dry places to step. Were it not for the many shelters on the Trail, I would not have been able to continue. Fortunately, I had a bag and jacket with synthetic insulation, well protected in my pack. It was not so cold as to make the jacket a must while hiking, despite some shivering, so it and the bag just got a little damp. And there are lots of quick exits off the Long Trail. I was lucky.

Previously, on another cold hike on the AT in Maine in similar but not quite so rainy circumstances, my down bag got about the same amount of damp, and became worthless; dangerous actually, because it made me even more vulnerable to the cold.
If unfamiliar with the science, just wrap up in something wet with no insulative value, and see how you feel when exposed to the cold for only a few minutes.

Fortunately, that early AT experience taught me to bring along synthetic insulation, and the later LT hike, while not much fun, was safe and reasonably comfortable. I fully understand why the instructors in Diane's class said what they did, in the interest of the class being safe rather than sorry in wet, exposed mountain environments.

Now that we have much more reliable DWR treatments and WPB materials, if you PAY for them and maintain them, and if you are very experienced and careful, it is possible to keep down sleepwear usable in cold, torrential weather, even when tenting. But while skiing, or hiking mostly in the open, exposed all day to whatever mother nature can throw at you? There are much better insulation alternatives.

Even if you have developed the expertise to use down effectively in such situations, it is not responsible to encourage others, who may be inexperienced, to do so. Especially in our sport, where backcountry huts and shelters are often absent, and an exit may take quite a while.
That's MO, folks.

P.S. Forgot to mention, "hypothermia." If I had not seen hikers with it, and learned how to detect the symptoms in myself, and respond quickly, I doubt very much I'd still be alive today.

Edited by scfhome on 01/27/2011 21:16:59 MST.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: "Down in the PNW" on 01/27/2011 21:51:57 MST Print View

>It was not so cold as to make the jacket a must while hiking, despite some shivering, so it and the bag just got a little damp.

How were they packed in your pack? Were they wet from rain, or just the ambient humidity?

> it is possible to keep down sleepwear usable in cold, torrential weather, even when tenting. But while skiing, or hiking mostly in the open, exposed all day to whatever mother nature can throw at you? There are much better insulation alternatives.

Down sleepwear and garments worn in high-energy applications are (or should be) two very different things. Unless I missed it above, I don't think anyone was arguing to wear down clothing while hiking or skiing.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
humidity on 01/27/2011 22:07:42 MST Print View

one point most people dont consider is that 900 fill down isnt 900 fill with humidity

it could easily be 700 fill or so with 50% humidity ... with the 90%+ humidity how much insulation is it providing?


either way many people will either use down like a religion regardless of what others think ... and many others wont ... same with merino vs. synthetics

like i said its telling that some of the BPL staff (or former staff) do use synthetic in certain situations ... if anyone has the skill to not mess up, itll be them

Ryan Jordan
( ryan - BPL STAFF - M)

Greater Yellowstone

NEW Re: Re: Re: Introduction to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2008 on 08/10/2008 08:04:56 MDT

Bill et al.,

I spoke at length with IDFL yesterday about down testing.

None of their tests stimulate real world testing. 900 fp in a test is going to be a pipe dream in the field, because they steam wash and dry the down to nearly zero humidity before doing the test. Ironically, this most recent iteration of test methods was designed to determine the maximum possible fill power for down rather than what it will look like in the field.

Interestingly as a side note, we did some 900 fp testing of down a few years ago on two manufacturer's 900 bags. We cut the bags open and sent them to IDFL. Neither made the claimed 900 spec (they tested 830-870 using the steam method). What was more dramatic was that when each down (which clearly came from different sources as evidenced by visual inspection) was subjected to 50% humidity, the differences were pretty dramatic. One bag tested at 770 fp, the other at 680 fp. It seems that at least these two sources of 900 down had feathers in it that were not resilient in response to humidity.

The kicker is that we ran the same test next to down taken from a manufacturer's 750 fp bag. at 50% humidity, the fp was 720. Why? It had more feathers that were stiff enough to preserve the loft in moist conditions.