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I am gonna have to agree with the " If you can't keep a down bag dry, you don't belong in the backcountry " Stick to car camping or traveling well-trod, safe and short loops that are close to said car.
That said, know YOUR gear and its limitations and you shouldn't have a problem. Having sold lots of sleeping bags of all sorts in a past profession, I've heard massive amounts of feedback from 'customers' who had success or failure with any and all sorts of bags. The consensus? Satisfactory results can be had with either synthetic or down but no one who is 'serious' about being in the back country uses synthetics. This has been my experience from picking lots of brains and YMMV.
Oh and IME Wiggys is worth the admission cost. Solid as all get-out if thats what you seek.
You don't want to die? Thats easy. Don't fail
But. I'll start a battle here! When it comes to " If you can't keep a down bag dry, you don't belong in the backcountry ", then there is not a dang man/woman here who belongs in the backcountry! And when I say backcountry, I mean a place that- if it really hits the fan and all goes wrong and Murphy's law is having a hey day, you can't just walk out to your car or a town in a few hours. Or I suppose an equivalent would be: if you are too sick or injured to walk out- even though only 6 miles from your car or a town- odds are nobody is going to come upon you and rescue you.
Why don't you belong in the backcountry based on the above rule? Cause there ain't a man among you who can guarantee keeping your insulation dry. There, I said it and I feel better!
Do the instructors at NOLS belong in the backcountry? OK, it has been 27 years and things might have changed. But on the Wind River Mountaineering course of June 85, they would not allow down bags or clothing. Now this was specific circumstances: 30 days in, with no coming out until trip complete, with some noobies to the outdoors, in weather cold/wet enough for hypothermia but not usually cold enough to guarantee frozen precip. Lot's of 30s to 40s, occasional 20s ( 24F on June 27th after 1+ foot of wet snow following a night of rain was the coldest). And always moving, it would have taken a truly major blizzard for us not to travel. We had palces to be on a given schedule. OTOH, down Parkas were allowed on the winter courses, where minus 40 was expected and temps above freezing would be really rare.
But for a long summer trip, it was assumed that some of us would get wet from sweat, condensation, blowing rain/snow/fog or falling in a creek- all of which happened to a few folks out of 20 folks over a 30 day period.
One good friend of mine- after we had been on or near the Rocky Mountains Continental Divide trail for 27 days ( IOW, we were well experienced by then) set up his tarp in the snow storm, and he and his 2 tarp mates- already exhausted and a bit cold from an all day hike in blowing snow plus a Travolean Traverse across a raging snow melt river- settled in for the night. About midnight, a snow loaded branch broke and ripped a hole through there tarp, dumping a nice load of wet snow(and pine needles) right into his face and bag. Now he had a huge hole in his tarp, a load of snow down into the neck area of his bag, and a night of wet snowfall ahead of him. His insulation was wet. Does he not belong in the backcountry?
Another friend was hammocking on a rainy night in SC- luckily when hypothermia was very unlikely ( in fact he had no insulation to keep dry) when his name brand factory seam sealed tarp sprung a leak and poured water on him all night.
I'd like to ask all of the highly skilled outdoor adventurers here: can you guarantee nothing of that nature will ever happen to you? No? (never happened to me yet, the above examples are just people I know). If no, then how you gonna keep your insulation dry in those circumstances? I don't think you can.
Even worse: search the threads here about soaking fog. The consensus on those threads is that you are not staying dry in those conditions, especially if you must pack up every day with no sun for drying. And certainly not staying dry without the extra weight of hammock socks . So now you are right back to extra weight and bulk of extra gear, decreasing any advantage of down over synthetics.
And as bad as that under some conditions? Condensation ( or sweat ). Especially for folks who want nothing to do with vapor barriers. I have friends who have reported significant loss of down loft after one week in the humid woods even when there was never any apparent moisture contacting their bags or PeaPods. And listen to this quote from Cryofthe wild, the only man I know of who has used a base HH Super Shelter way below zero. This guy spends extended periods of time on frequent week plus long trips in severe cold. He knows how to get er done. He was pointing out his very unusual technique of placing his space blanket under his HH pad rather than on top, but he said something interesting about his down bag:
Chunks of ice in his down, all without ever getting any rain or other external moisture on his bag. Does he not belong in the backcountry? If you are against VBs, like most folks seem to be, how are you going to prevent that? For a day or 3, with a hike out to a town for a zero day and drying out always a possibility, probably no problem. Several days hike to your car or any other human contact? It might be a bad problem.If anything the space blanket seems to do best under the pad that way you still get all the trapped air insulation and the moister that radiates out from below you condenses into the pad instead of the hammock and sleeping bag. Then in the morning the pad can just be shaken and all the ice will just fall off. I started hanging the pad, sleeping bag, and space blanket on the ridge line to dry on sunny days as the space blanket radiates the suns energy towards the other things helping them dry as well even below freezing temps. I did notice after a week in the 10 to -20 weather that I had chunks of ice within the feather of my down bag most likely from condensation formed during sleeping
So here is my admittedly obnoxious opinion: none of you can guarantee you can always avoid the above situations. To me it does not matter if you spent 6 months on the AT with no problems, because maybe you were just lucky. But with enough people on the trail for enough days, stuff can happen. Your tarp can spring a bad leak, getting things real wet before you can fix it. Soaking fog and condensation can happen. Short distance from bail out, probably does not matter barring injury and not even then so much if on a well traveled trail. Long trip with no breaks for civilization and mant days hike from trailheads or your car, it might become very important.
So it all just kind of depends! IMO.
Apparently, signature that I used from 2006 no longer tolerated so now deleted.
re: wet down - you forgot to add in places with high rainfall so minimal drying time. As you also pointed out fog is a major issue for paddlers. You see those fishermen in their wool sweaters and fleece, not a down puffy, for a reason. ;-)
After extensive waddling through this thread and others, it's going to be synthetic UQ ~ Down OQ for me.
I'm either hopelessly confused or just want the best of both worlds
Has anyone sucked it up, and bought one of Wiggy,s poncho liners? Super PLUQ?
It may not be rocket science, but it's still science.
All along this thread I have noticed a change in the lining material, it is not Black any more ?
It used to be a 70 Denier Black Taffeta, but the pics shown here by you folks, show a colour slightly different, can't figure out what it is, dark grey or green maybe ??
Colour has it part to play in the drying time, it was not supposed to be a fancy choice by Wiggys,
the darker the better ! Sun rays are caught much better this way, but since the shell is still black, that is not much a problem I think
Maybe Wiggys might have run out of black liner or it can also be a permanent choice ?
Can anyone tell me if this lining still feels like the shell ?
I owned an Ultra Light previous generation, and both lining and shell were feeling 70 denier (just touching with the hand tells you the difference and the accuracy)
Despite Manufacturer's claim, I can see minor changes nowadays, not standing on the website (not much updated as it used to be)
Now the mid grey looks like to be a ripstop, that was not the case before,
Hence my question