Yin or Yang: When choosing a sleeping bag you’ve got two choices – down or synthetic. Down is lighter, more compressible, more durable, and in my opinion, more comfortable; but it’s slow to dry if it gets saturated wet. Synthetic bags, by contrast, are heavier, bulkier, more fragile and lose their loft sooner than down; but when wet, they’ll dry faster. Synthetic bags are less expensive than down, but since down bags last two-three times longer, they offer the best value in the long run.
In the last three or four years, sleeping bag manufacturers have figured out how to put a waterproof treatment on down. So, now there is something of the best of both worlds. An example of this would be the Big Agnes Boot Jack 24 sleeping bag. This bag weighs 2 pounds, 3 ounces; is rated at 24 degrees to handle our shoulder seasons (or a cold sleeper in summer), and costs $179.99. There is also the Women’s version called the Mirror Lake 22, which weighs 2 pounds, 7 ounces; is rated to 22 degrees, and costs $199.99.
Some tips on sleeping better can help you extend the temperature range of your sleeping bag farther. Wear a hat, an insulation layer, and warm socks to bed. Fill a water bottle with hot water, slip a sock over it, and throw it in your bag to snuggle with.
Chris Gerston owns Backcountry Essentials, an outdoor specialty shop located at 214 W. Holly in Bellingham, WA.