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Is 600-650 down worth it?
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Phillip Asby
(PGAsby) - M

Locale: North Carolina
Is 600-650 down worth it? on 01/03/2013 11:37:51 MST Print View

I have a 40 degree Marmot Aspen ultralight bag for spring early fall trips which is fantastic mostly due to being light and packing really small (and I got it for a really good price).

I have an REI Lumen 25 for shoulder season and in our case southern winter trips - which is a fine bag albeit a bit dicey into the low 30s (with midweight base layers, socks and a thin helmet liner - I can add some more clothing to the equation and get into the mid 20s I believe which in NC where I'm camping with scouts is typically as cold as it will get on average) ... and it is not very compact. I have been pondering a down 15 or 20 degree bag but my budget won't support a WM or the like - really need to be $200 or below which more or less means 600-650 down.

So the question is whether it is worth it to go with down in a lower temp bag at with that budget? Weight wise a Kelty Cosmic down weighs as much as my REI or a NF Cats Meow (I believe) - so the question is whether they compact down any better? Based on specs I'm not sure they do really so I'm wondering if I ought to just stick with a synthetic bag for those temps given my budget limits...

George Davis
(nsiderbam) - F - M

Locale: mid-Atlantic
Re: Is 600-650 down worth it? on 01/03/2013 12:05:07 MST Print View

At first I didn't realize that you neededa 15-20 degree bag and was going to suggest a number of affordable 30-40 degree down bags with high-loft down. I honestly can't think of any colder bags in your price range that wouldn't sacrifice weight and quality, though.

However, I'm pretty sure that the 20 degree Kelty will pack down smaller than any synthetic bag you have. I'd also check out the North Face Aleutian 3S -- it's a few ounces lighter and can be had for under $200.

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Is 600-650 down worth it? on 01/03/2013 12:27:38 MST Print View

I need a little clarification -- the Lumen is EN-rated to 27*. Are you looking for something that's significantly warmer than the Lumen, i.e. EN-rated to 15-20 degrees? If so, a 600-650 down bag is going to be in the 3+ lb range but it will compress smaller than a synthetic bag.

You might take a look at the REI Halo 25. 750-fill down, EN-rated to 23*, 2lb. They've had it in the Outlet for a while at $199 and periodic sales have taken the price down to as low as $160 or so. It's my son's 3-season bag and I think it's a very good bag for the price. It's as warm as my 30* Feathered Friends Grouse.

Phillip Asby
(PGAsby) - M

Locale: North Carolina
Clarification on 01/03/2013 12:45:19 MST Print View

Almost all my camping is with my son's Boy Scout troop - so it's 12 months a year... Generally they plan the December, January and February trips to low country locations rather than going up to the Smokies or Blue Ridge - so winter temps mostly aren't going below 20... The Lumen is fine I think if I am thoughtful about other clothes - my only real issue is the size/compactness. But if I'm looking at a replacement I would go to a true 15-20 bag under the add 10 degrees mantra assuming it can compact down more.

I was reading a review of a Marmot Sawtooth 15 and saw someone mention 600 down wasn't really worth it - something like a Cat's Meow or Ultralamina etc... would work as well, weigh about the same, compact about the same and be more weatherproof than 600 fill bags of the same temp rating... which inspired the question.

Bradley Attaway
(AttaboyBrad) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
If you can wait a few months... on 01/03/2013 13:16:57 MST Print View

GoLite is refreshing their sleeping bag line. Their 3-season (20 degree) 800 fill bag runs for $200 right now (though they're sold out). Not sure what the pricing on the new bags will be, but they might be worth the wait.

I got my Stoic Somnus 15 (15F, 800 fill, 2lb) for under $200 on SteepAndCheap. Frequently goods on steep and cheap will end up at DepartmentOfGoods.com for nearly the same price. Nothing that would interest you there right now though.

Finally, if you'd consider a quilt the UndergroundQuilts 20 degree top quilt starts at $220. It's 850 fill, well reviewed, very close to budget, and available right now.

If you keep an eye out for a few months I feel confident you can come across an 800+ fill 20 degree bag for under two bens.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Campor on 01/03/2013 13:42:26 MST Print View

I have one of the old Campmor 20 degree down bags. I belive it has 600 down.
It was one of the best deals around for a while.

I keep it around for friends to use.
It is far lighter and packs a lot smaller than any equivelant synthetic bag and I have had it for many years.

I know quite a few people that have this bag, a few used them for AT and other thru-hikes.

It may not compare to 800 rated down, but much better than synthetic.
So yes 600/650 rate down is worth it.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Is 600-650 down worth it? on 01/03/2013 14:25:33 MST Print View

Geartrade.com will be your friend. They have a few 700+fp down sleeping bags between 160 and 250 for sale from backcountry.com. Basically these are used bags that were returned and can't be resold at retail prices (similar to the REI garage sales).

I've had great success buying from geartrade, especially the backcountry seller, and you'll likely find a steal on the site.

A quick search shows a few 800fp marmot and big agnes bags in the 2.25 to 2.75lb range for under $200 and a rab 750fp bag that is EN comfort rated to 25F for 2lbs and $160.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Is 600-650 down worth it? on 01/03/2013 17:36:13 MST Print View

Generally, 600-650FP down only has a slight advantage over top quality synthetics. Because it is down, the cost is usually quite a bit higher.

Insulation for the 600 down is slightly better than synthetics when dry.
Insulation for synthetics is slightly better if it is damp.
Insulation for either is poor if they are wet but far better than good 800+fill down. Synthetics will dry quicker, though.

Cost is significantly higher to purchase down.
Cost per year (prorated over 20 years) is significantly less per year for down.

600FP down will pack no smaller than good synthetics, but suffer less damage than synthetics.

It is difficult to compare 600FP down and synthetics because they each have different characteristics that can be usefull under differing conditions. For example, I use a good down, 1#11 bag here in the NE. It has a good pertex shell for shedding occasional spindrift, but requires some experience with campsite selection, a good tarp and pad to maintain itself over a couple or three continuous days/nights of rain. Being lax for even 20 minutes over 72 hours will leave you miserable if it gets wet.

600FP down is neither really warm, light, or very compressible. But, it is far more forgiving. Wet is never fun, but 600fp down will retain some warmth, unlike good 800fp down, which will simply mat into an 1/4" of wetness. Synthetics are slightly better.

Overall, I would say to save your dollars, buy a synthetic for a year or two. These can be had for $30-$50 at Wally World. Use it for two years to get experience with avoiding wet gear in wet campsites. Put the savings with some extra dollars at the end of that time (about the time the synthetics start breaking down-about 30 usefull nights) and then get a good 800fp bag.

A dry bag in any wet conditions is nearly manditory. If you need to sleep on wet ground (not forest duff) you need a good ground cloth. Watch out for the sides of hills, dips that can collect water and other low lying areas. Look for slight mounds and areas that clearly have good water run-off. (Overhead hazards, far enough off a trail, few or no people "sign", good bear-bag trees, etc.)

If you don't plan to do that much camping, maybe 3 weekends a year, then go ahead and get the 600FP down. It will easily last 20 years and the occasional use doesn't really justify a $400 bag.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Is 600-650 down worth it? on 01/03/2013 17:57:58 MST Print View

I recall this post a few weeks back. If you buy it, you should tell him he owes me commission. ;) I have 3 Sub Kilo bags and that's a decent price. Been happy with it except when my son isn't careful with the zipper and tore a hole in the outer fabric. Oops. I must admit I did the same but not as bad. That was before I started using it as a quilt 99% of the time. He does now, too. I'm 5'10" 165 and it fits OK. Wish it were a bit roomier since I'm a tosser and turner but doesn't matter much now that I use it as a quilt. I have taken it down to -2 F when wearing a bunch of other clothes. I'd say it's more of a 25 F bag.

Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
Revelation X is under $200 and has 850fp down..... on 01/03/2013 18:16:40 MST Print View

Enlightened equipment revelation X 20 degree, even with 30% overfill its still only 190-200, and if you got the wide you could layer it over your summer bag for serious cold.

Edited by Tjaard on 01/03/2013 18:17:57 MST.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
650 down vs synthetic on 01/03/2013 19:18:34 MST Print View

I have a Marmot sawtooth 15 degree 650 fill down bag, and a north face cats meow 20 degree polarguard delta bag.

I believe my 650 down bag is 10-15 degrees warmer, and squishes down to about 1/2 the size of my synthetic bag. I believe the warmth difference is partially due to the way down drapes better, so there is less air space between me and the insulation.

I'm in MD / N. VA. The humidity in the spring and fall is high enough that both bags well absorb moisture from the air if left out to loft for a few hours. Down works fine in high humidity if you are inside though.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
works on 01/04/2013 11:02:38 MST Print View

i generally prefer a synthetic over lower quality down ...

it tends to be substantially cheaper, and it resists moisture better

the flip side is that it will degrade over time, and doesnt pack as light ... weight tends to be similar

it all depends on the price youre looking at and the conditions youll be in

note that 600 fill down resists moisture BETTER than 800 fill down generally

also the new cats meow uses APEX (and prism) insulation ... the same stuff used by MLD and some other cottages ... yet you never hear of "problems" with cottage synthetic quilts on BPL do ya ... i suspect that they get a free pass ;)

Edited by bearbreeder on 01/04/2013 11:06:20 MST.

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
Is 600-650 down worth it? on 01/04/2013 12:33:55 MST Print View

Yes, good quality 600-650 down gear is worth it. The only advantages of the synthetics remain better wet performance and cost.

I think in the olden days the down in sleeping bags and clothes that were generally available was around 600. That was a lot warmer for the same weight than synthetics and compressed a lot better than synthetics.

I have a 1970s Alpine Design down sweater that I think is about 600 down and a fairly new Patagonia Nanopuff pullover. The down has full zip, insulated pockets and is probably made from 1.9 oz ripstop. The nanopuff has a half zip that is lighter, no hand pockets, and is made from 1 oz fabric. The down jacket would be 4 to 6 oz lighter with a half zip, no pockets, and lighter fabric. From memory the down jacket is about 16 oz and the nanopuff is about 12 oz in my size. So, update the down jacket and it's about the same weight as the nanopuff but is MUCH warmer.

You could also calculate from a 850 sleeping bag that shows fill weight (e.g., FF Swift, 20F), and assuming that it takes 850/600 times more down for the same insulation, 600 fill down would increase the weight from 2lb to 2lb 7 oz and reduce the compressability a bit.

The caveat in all this is that my old down gear used good quality down, with a low per centage of feathers. Perhaps current 600 fill down is of poorer quality than it used to be.

Jeff Hollis
(hyperslug) - MLife
Lasts a long time on 01/04/2013 13:58:45 MST Print View

I will just repeat what others have said, down will last much longer than synthetic, probably a lifetime or more. So maybe a cheap synthetic for now and if you decide to keep doing this forever than invest in 800+ down for a lifetime. Or invest in 600 down now for a lifetime if you don't mind dealing with the weight penalty.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Lasts a long time on 01/04/2013 14:10:14 MST Print View

The Down will last a lifetime but not the shell material, inevitably you will get some nicks and tears. The beauty of it is the Down is recyclable in either a MYOG project or hopefully with the a company like Patagonia that does that sort of thing.