Last week we talked all about the different types of down: duck, goose and new waterproof down. But this new waterproof down is not fool proof, if you get soaked those feathers might dry faster but until then you will be cold. So what is an adventurer to do if rain is in the forecast?
There are many types of synthetic insulation available in clothing and sleeping bags. As of yet, no one has matched down, it is still the most light and warm fiber out there. Synthetic manufactures like Primaloft are close, and working every year to reduce the weight of their fibers. So when should you choose synthetics over down?
Synthetic fibers do not absorb moisture, they do not change their shape or lose loft when wet. A wet sleeping bag might not be the most fun to sleep in, but with synthetic insulation your bag will still be able to trap heat and keep you warm. With down, you will be up a creek without a paddle on a wet trip. A synthetic jacket or sleeping bag will also dry out much, much faster than anything made with down. Down is very slow to dry, on a trip it could take days! Another little know fact about synthetic insulation, is that is can be great for people with allergies.
One of the greatest benefits of synthetic insulation is cost. Gear for fast growing kids and teens can put a serious dent in your budget. Since synthetic is so much less expensive, it is a great choice for your growing family. A jacket will be easy to care for and last through a few hand me downs. You can machine wash and dry most synthetic filled gear with ease. Synthetics are super easy to care for, compared to dry-cleaning or spending a whole day cleaning your down gear. I always recommend synthetic for gear that will be worn out quickly by rough users like kids. Kids outgrow clothes so quickly; even with a pass off to younger brothers or cousins, synthetic kids sleeping bag and jackets are a great bang for your buck. Additionally having a tiny bit more weight is not going to matter for most sleepovers and ski lessons.
So what are the downsides to synthetics? Like I have said over and over, it is going to be heavier than down.
- Not quite as warm or lightweight
- Won’t have the soft luxe feel of down – slightly stiffer
- Shorter life – synthetic fibers will break down a little faster than down
The Final Score
So which is better? The answer really depends on what your trip entails. Down is going to last longer, keep you warmer and pack up smaller. But if you have a chance of getting wet, or you are buying for kids synthetic insulation is your best bet!