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  1. #1
    Senior Member Gravity's Avatar
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    Post Synthetics for AT?

    I am preparing to section-hike the Appalachian Trail, and because of the wet weather, I am thinking about using TQs and UQs with synthetic insulation. I understand that synthetics perform better under wet conditions, although with enough moisture their thermal capacity will also decrease.

    I also understand that they are heavier and don't compress as much as down. I will be carrying a large pack, but am aiming at a maximum weight of 25-30 pounds. I think that the lack of compression won't be a problem, but I do have concerns about the additional weight.

    Any advice? Other pros and cons of synthetics?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Slo's Avatar
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    Maybe instead of synthetics spend the extra weight on a nice large tarp?

    Ideally you're not sleeping in a wet synthetic top quilt either. Get a storm proof tarp then nothing gets wet, you save the space and probably a lot of weight as well.

    Just a thought, HYOH
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    never had issues with down on the AT or anywhere else, even when kayaking/canoeing.

    to me synthetics tend to make me sweat more, and i do not like that just my $.02 worth
    Peanuts

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    Senior Member Mountnman's Avatar
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    The big thing is you just have to protect the down and let it air out every chance you get dry weather. Don't let the down hit the ground at all even if its dry is my approach.
    "I love not man the less, but Nature more."
    Byron

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    Senior Member Gravity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peanuts View Post
    never had issues with down on the AT or anywhere else, even when kayaking/canoeing.

    to me synthetics tend to make me sweat more, and i do not like that
    Thank you for sharing your specific experience in the AT, as well as the sweat issue. I am definitely abandoning the idea of synthetics now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo View Post
    Maybe instead of synthetics spend the extra weight on a nice large tarp?

    Ideally you're not sleeping in a wet synthetic top quilt either. Get a storm proof tarp then nothing gets wet, you save the space and probably a lot of weight as well.

    Just a thought, HYOH
    I like the way you think outside the box. This is great advice, thank you.

  7. #7
    Senior Member AaronAlso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo View Post
    Get a storm proof tarp then nothing gets wet, you save the space and probably a lot of weight as well.

    Just a thought, HYOH
    I just want to second this. Even the Warbonet Edge with doors kit and an UQ protector. Will be enough for most weather. Spend the big bucks on the magical goosey goodness. Saves more room in the pack for food.
    "The more laws that are written, the more criminals are produced." - "The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be." - Lao Tze

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  8. #8
    hutzelbein's Avatar
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    I'm torn a bit myself on this question. I also noticed that down provides a lot nicer "climate". Although it is very warm, I don't have the feeling to sweat a lot. With synthetic blankets, I often have the problem that I'm too cold or too hot. Down seems to work better over a much wider temperature range.

    However, while I never really had problems with my down equipment getting wet, I noticed that the down in my sleeping bag lost loft and is clumping slightly after an estimated 1 year use (= adding the nights of use). Even after about half a year of nightly use I started noticing cold spots. I'm now about to send the bag off for professional cleaning, after which I expect it will be as good as new. But this would be a problem if I were to use the bag for longer without having the chance to have it cleaned.

    I haven't used my under quilts as extensively as my sleeping bag, and I also think that the bag is a lot more stressed than the under quilts, since it's closer to the body and probably also absorbs a lot more evaporated water. But it's something to think about.

    Depending on how long you will be hiking on the AT and how cold or warm you sleep, I would think about using a SPE and a pad under me, and a mix of a down and synthetic bag/quilt on top. The pad will come in handy if you are forced to go to ground, and you won't have problems with humidity. Personally, I like the feeling of a pad in the hammock. It's easier to keep warm, and it gives the hammock some structure. I also found that calf ridges are not an issue as much with a pad as with an under quilt. But I know that other people hate the feeling of a pad in the hammock.

    With regards to the top quilt or sleeping bag: I have read quite a few posts from hikers who are using both. The down quilt or bag goes next to the body, and the synthetic quilt or bag goes over the down. You would have the best of both worlds: the synthetic material keeps condensation away from the down, and provides a safety net should your down get wet (although I'm not sure how warm you would be in a wet sythetic sleeping bag). The down will give you great warmth and provide a nicer climate. Here is a great post on this topic.

    But all that said, mountaineers are still using down, as far as I know. And reading the books on the topic, wet down sleeping bags don't really seem to be a huge problem.

  9. #9
    Senior Member breyman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hutzelbein View Post
    However, while I never really had problems with my down equipment getting wet, I noticed that the down in my sleeping bag lost loft and is clumping slightly after an estimated 1 year use (= adding the nights of use). Even after about half a year of nightly use I started noticing cold spots. I'm now about to send the bag off for professional cleaning, after which I expect it will be as good as new. But this would be a problem if I were to use the bag for longer without having the chance to have it cleaned.
    Yes, a good washing should restore it back to its full loft. If you ever want to wash one yourself, there's lots of good instructions on the web. Pretty easy as long as you have a front-loading washer (or top-loading without an agitator), some down soap and the time to run it for a while in the dryer on low/no heat.
    Brian
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  10. #10
    hutzelbein's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by breyman View Post
    Yes, a good washing should restore it back to its full loft. If you ever want to wash one yourself, there's lots of good instructions on the web. Pretty easy as long as you have a front-loading washer (or top-loading without an agitator), some down soap and the time to run it for a while in the dryer on low/no heat.
    Yes, I checked Western Mountaineering's instructions. They don't see a problem to washing it at home. However, I don't want to do it in the bath tub, and the washing machine is only normal household size. I had problems washing a synthetic comforter due to its size, which makes me hesitant to use it for the down bag. Also, it seems the best thing you can do is, wash down and bag separately. Down is best washed at high temperatures; the synthetic shell doesn't allow this. So the sleeping bag cleaning services offer to wash down and shell separately. They also refill lost down. The price is not that bad, considering what I paid for the bag, and how many times it kept me warm and cozy

    I'd probably wash a down under quilt in the washing machine, though. It's only a faction of the size of the sleeping bag.

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