Yes, this is about the old debate in hiking circles about synthetic versus down sleeping bags, though I’m not going to rehash all of the arguments here. Obviously down is an animal product, made from the soft feathers of various bird species. As a vegan I try to avoid using animal products, and luckily in this case there are excellent alternatives. Synthetic sleeping bag insulation (such as Primaloft brand) is very light, incredibly warm, and ubiquitous. On my thru-hike I carried an REI ten degree bag that weighed just over three pounds. I’m sure I could have done better but was limited by my budget at the time. At Trail Days I switched to a Lafuma forty-five degree synthetic bag that weighed one pound.
During your hike you’ll probably encounter a lot of people using ultralight down sleeping bags. Western Mountaineering is in a lot of the gear stores along the AT and has twenty degree bags that are around two pounds. Many people (who have money…) shell out for these. But down is not the only ultralight option. Two of my hiking partners made their own ultralight synthetic hiking quilts from a kit by Ray Jardine. They put them together with no sewing experience, and seemed to be quite happy.
New developments in hiking technology have led to a lot of really great vegan alternatives to the old traditional gear. There are plenty of ultralight synthetic sleeping bags that are just as warm as down.
Protip: line your sleeping bag stuff sack with a light trash bag for an extra layer of protection to be sure it never gets wet.
What is your sleeping bag set-up? Leave it in the comments!