When durability and value trump low weight and the best efficiency, or if damp conditions are a certainty at night, a synthetic sleeping bag may well be the most sensible option for a good night’s sleep outdoors. Reliably warm, easy to maintain and quick to dry if the moisture does hit, they may not be the lightest or most compact but they’re a load off your mind when listening to the rain pounding your tent.
There are situations where minimalism is just not the way to go for a sleeping bag, when having the lightest of lightweight sleep kit might cause serious problems. We’re not just meaning Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expeditions, but anytime you’re likely to end up sleeping in damp or wet conditions. Whereas down requires careful management to keep it dry and optimally lofted, a synthetic bag won’t lose its insulating value in a steamy tent or drippy bothy so you’ll sleep more soundly without worrying what’s happening to your loft.
Family camping is another situation where synthetic sleeping bags are ideal. Low cost and easy care are definite bonuses and the heavier weight is much less of an issue in a car rather than a backpack. Looked after, a good bag could see your offspring from first camping trip to leaving home, so is a worthwhile investment in their camping comfort. Plus of course they’re not going to aggravate a feather allergy. There are different sizes of sleeping bags available to suit men, women and even tall sleepers and smaller campers. If you can’t see the size you need, just let us know and we’ll do our best to get it for you.
For maximum thermal efficiency, look out for wave construction, where sheets of synthetic insulation are arranged in s-shapes between the inner and outer fabrics to completely avoid cold spots. Other options include shingle construction, where sheets are overlapped, and simple stitch-through construction, which offers least efficiency. There are also different synthetic fills offering variations in efficiency, durability and cost, so there’s a synthetic sleeping bag for everyone.
Other than the fill, there’s little practical difference in design between good quality synthetic and down bags. You still get the hooded mummy taper shape for efficiency and draught tubes round the neck and down the zip, which is two-way to allow opening from the bottom. Fibre-filled sleeping bags often come with hanging loops to aid airing or drying and sometimes a pocket inside for electronics and other valuables too.
A feather-free sleeping bag is also easier to deal with between trips, particularly if it gets dirty since it can be washed in a standard washing machine with a little care and pure soap flakes. As with any sleeping bag, we’d still recommend a liner inside though, as this will prolong the life of your bag plus it adds a little extra warmth. Storage should be in a loose stuffsack to minimise compression – if it remains cinched down over long periods you’ll find the fibres tend to stick closer together, damaging the loft – so you need less space than a down bag takes up at home.
Far from being just ‘the cheap option’, synthetically-insulated sleeping bags have their own place in the outdoors; when weight is a small consideration but reliable warmth is a must, you can’t do much better than a quality synthetically sleeping bag.