What type of sleeping bag shall I take?
Before each expedition, the discussion about down versus fiber always comes to the table.
Some personal insights below…
It is fine to do mistakes on a few days trip and not choosing the right filling of a sleeping bag. However, on a longer journey or on a demanding expedition, the room for mistakes is extremely reduced. Suddenly, the decision of choosing the right bag becomes crucial as it can turn an enjoyable journey into a nightmare. Without good sleep, we become weak. Quickly. Our desire to explore decreases and the warmth of a house kicks in.
I like trusting the product that I bring on expeditions. A synthetic bag is reliable and tolerates a lot of situations. Not only does it react good in wet conditions, a synthetic bag is rugged, dries fast and can take hard beatings. No need to be careful so to speak. If it’s raining or if you spill an early morning coffee, no worries! Even if the bag is damaged with holes, it will still work.
Exploring places like Alaska, Patagonia or the Arctic Ocean, where the rate of the moisture is very high, means fiber. I was part of an expedition where I spent 83 days on a small 23 footer catamaran. On this trip, I felt that I was very close to the elements. The first month, the weather was fairly good. July. The next couple of months were tough with some rain and melted snow. It became too hard to dry my sleeping bag. The moisture started to accumulate. Next, the bottom of my bag was wet. It stayed wet for the last month! I still manage to sleep at night and get some rest. It was tough! However, I don’t even want to imagine the state of my sleeping bag if I had taken a down bag. At this point, we are talking about important moments where it is a matter of staying warm, getting some rest and moving forward.
Another moment where I thought “Geezzzzz! Glad I took a fiber bag” was in wild Patagonia on the Southern icecap. This piece of ice is located pretty close to the Pacific Ocean. All the strong low pressures turning around Antarctica frequently travel North and hit the icecap. Sometimes on the ice, it rains. I was actually thinking to bring a poncho for skiing during the day! At the end of a hard day, I was only thinking about being inside of my sleeping bag. I would end up stressed if I were to use a down bag. A synthetic bag is the way to go on this kind of trip. Again.
When I look back, I realize that I use more synthetic bags than down ones. Since I enjoy trips close to the water (skiing on the Arctic Ocean, rafting on rivers, open ocean sailing…), the synthetic insulation makes sense.