/ Keeping a down sleeping bag dry, during a multi day winter trip

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neil9216 - on 17 Jun 2014
Hi
I'm planning a multi day backpacking trip this winter.
At the minute I use a mountain equipment helium 800 down bag.


When I use the bag in cold conditions it never fails to keep me warm however I can't keep the thing dry for more than 2 days.
I've tried using a bivvy bag but that seems to make matters worse.
It gets really condensated then when I put the bag away and bring it out again it's damp.


I'm pretty sure I'm just using the wrong bag.
What kind of bags do other people use.
Does any one have any tips.

Cheers

Neil

CurlyStevo - on 17 Jun 2014
In reply to neil9216:
A bivy bag will keep condensation in. One thing that does stop dew etc condensing on the outside as well as adding warmth is putting a synthetic bag on the outside but obviously adds weight.

I tried using down proof on my down bag and tbh if it gets quite damp with dew it's still no where near as good.

If it's really cold I find condensation less of a problem. The worst time of year is spring and autumn I find.
Post edited at 21:15
Webster - on 17 Jun 2014
In reply to neil9216:

if your camping in a tent then how is it getting damp? or are you on about bivvying? ether way maybe you have a bag which is too warm for your usage? what bivvy bag do you have? event is much more breathable than goretex and therefore you get less condensation.
top cat - on 18 Jun 2014
In reply to neil9216:

I've been using a down bag for 35 years [not the same one!] for all camping and bivving, including canoe and kayak trips, snow holing, Arctic trips etc and have never got it wet, or anything passed very slighly damp.

I use a bivvi bag for the non-tent stuff and obviously use a dry bag for transporting.

Not sure what to suggest other than be fastidious about how you operate in camp................and don't get into the bag in wet clothes; that's a bag killer for sure, as demonstrated by my partner some years ago!
NottsRich on 18 Jun 2014
In reply to neil9216:

As soon as you get out of your bag, squeeze all the warm air out of it before it condenses on the down. Won't solve your problem but will help a bit.
In reply to neil9216:

As others are asking - what do you mean by 'winter' and 'damp'? English lowland winter will differ from Scottish Highland winter conditions (well, sometimes at least!) and of course that's very different from winter where I live (Finland). So what problems you're facing will depend a lot on that.

I do know what you mean though about bags slowly degrading over lots of nights of use, bags always seem the warmest on the first night or two of a trip. Sea to Summit did some interesting engineering to try and combat this effect. I wrote a review of the rather good bag that resulted from this new approach. http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=3747
Rigid Raider - on 18 Jun 2014
In reply to neil9216:

Let's face it, down is great in cold, bone dry conditions when it can be well aerated but in average UK conditions it's hopeless; any moisture just turns it into something like wet bog paper, which clumps up leaving bare patches. Shine a torch through your down bag and you'll see what I mean.

Definitely better to suffer the extra weight and bulk of synthetic in less than very dry conditions.

And yes, I once made the mistake of getting into a down bag in wet britches after spending two hours digging out a snowhole. I mistakenly thought my body heat would dry them out!
SteveD - on 18 Jun 2014
In reply to neil9216:
Never had a serious problem with down, if I am expecting bad condensation I take a very light fleece blanket to lay over the top. I think it stops the damp air condensing on the cold outer of the bag. ventilate the tent properly, don't breathe inside the bag, keep your nose and mouth outside. squash warm damp air out of the bag asap after getting up.

steve


PS, just read Toby's review, what I do with a fleece blanket seems to have the same effect in moving the dew point outwards. The dew point issue is a known problem with house insulation, hence vapour barriers on the inside, the use of air-con has led to the opposite problem of condensation from the outside wetting out insulation in summer.
Post edited at 11:43
Carolyn - on 18 Jun 2014
In reply to TobyA:

Plus (and I know it's already been mentioned, but I'm not sure which is the problem) - do you think it's getting wet from the inside (condensation from your sweat) or the outside (bringing wet clothing into tent, leaks/drips) - or both?
neil9216 - on 18 Jun 2014
In reply to neil9216:

Hi folks thanks for the advice. Been busy today not had a chance to reply.

I should have been a bit clearer.
I'm talking about a wet Winter in Scotland.

Wether I'm under a tarp or in a tent,using a bivvy bag or not.
My bag is always covered in a layer of condensation.
after a couple of days the bag is useless.

I'm a warm sleeper and think that the bag may be too warm for me.
Carolyn - on 18 Jun 2014
In reply to neil9216:

Sounds fairly likely - I'm a pretty cold sleeper, and I've never had a problem - admittedly I've rarely done more than two or three days in a row, and always in a tent or snowhole, but neither have I noticed any signs that the bag's beginning to get wet.
OwenM - on 18 Jun 2014
In reply to neil9216:

I'm not sure if these are still made but vapour barrier sleeping bag liners were tried for just this problem back in the late eighties early ninties. They never caught on, to uncomfortable. The idea was that your outer shell kept the bag dry from the environment and the VB liner kept it dry from you so you always had an insulated layer. As I said didn't catch on.
BAdhoc - on 18 Jun 2014
In reply to neil9216:

We've just got the new waterproof down bag from montane at work and they told us to turn it inside out when you put it in the stuff sack to let the bag breath better. Might help?
gethin_allen on 18 Jun 2014
In reply to TobyA:

I'm surprised more manufacturers don't do the mixed down/synthetic sleeping bags, and not just as a method to avoid moisture condensing in the bag. I have a really old sleeping bag by Gelert of all cheapo manufacturers where the base is synthetic and the top is down. This works great because down in the base of a bag just gets squashed and in my experience the base is normally the first bit to get damp. I only noticed how good this was when I bought a full down bag and noticed how inadequate my sleeping mat was.
Hannes on 19 Jun 2014
In reply to neil9216:

Like others have said, Scotland and a down bag is a bad combination. It is just too damp unless you get a fantastic cold spell with -10 and blue sky it just won't work very well. Especially not under a tarp
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top cat - on 19 Jun 2014
In reply to Hannes:
> (In reply to neil9216)
>
> Like others have said, Scotland and a down bag is a bad combination. It is just too damp unless you get a fantastic cold spell with -10 and blue sky it just won't work very well. Especially not under a tarp

Most of my [pretty extensive] winter camping and snow holing has been in Scotland. Always used a down bag, never got it too damp to be effective, including 5 consecutive nights snowholing x3 trips, though most of my snow hole trips are 1 or 2 nights: the bag just needs airing afterwards.

I got a bit damp last year on an open air bivvi on a cold snowy night, but that was due to snow being driven in the top of the bag. Tents / snowholes shouldn't be a problem.

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