I have a reader, named Randy, who contacted me recently seeking advice on 3 season synthetic sleeping bags. He's adopted a vegan lifestyle and doesn't want to use a goose down bag. This will be his first sleeping bag so I volunteered to suggest some alternatives for him. He's selected a tent from Six Moon Designs (a great choice), and just needs a sleeping bag and pad to complete his sleep system.
I wanted to see if I could find him some synthetic sleeping bags to choose from that are both lightweight and high quality. I guess I was surprised by how little choice there is in the US market for synthetic bags. If you ignore the store-branded bags from REI and EMS, the manufacturers that provide synthetic bags are The North Face, Mountain Hardware, Kelty, Marmot, and Montbell. Big Agnes also makes a few synthetic models, but they are giant.
When it comes to synthetic bags, size and compressibility are almost as important as weight, because you don't want a bag that is so large that it will use up all of the space in your backpack. For example, I own a Polarguard filled, 0 Degree North Face Snowshoe sleeping bag (3lbs. 8 oz.), which I am quite happy with, but it's simply too big for 3 season use, even in a compression sack.
I started my search by looking at 15-20 degree F bags with the goal of staying under or close to 3 lbs in weight. For lightweight hiking, it's good to try to keep your big three (sleeping bag, shelter and backpack) under 3 lbs each or 9 lbs total. I also wanted to find a mummy bag with a full length zipper, as it adds to the flexibility of a sleeping bag in warmer weather because you can open it up and use it as a quilt. Half zips, dual zips, center zips, and zippered foot boxes all have their place, but not on your first 3 season sleeping bag.
One of the lightest and most compressible bags I found was the Kelty Taku, a 15 F bag weighing 3 lbs. 5 oz. available at Altrec.com for $129, but on sale while supplies last for $89. It is filled with Polarguard and is lined with very cozy polyester fleece. It also has a neck baffle and draft tube which are nice features for colder weather and that you find on higher end goose down bags. Personally, I like the hoods of Kelty mummy bags quite a lot, and think this bag is worth a try.
Can you recommend any other synthetic sleeping bags for Randy to look at?
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