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[cdt-l] synthetic versus down... at/pct/cdt stuff

Monsieur Toe:
Don't sweat the profit level on fleece - I use it cause I did the research 
and the heat transfer coefficient is much better than cotton, equivalent to 
wool - and it doesn't load up with water (and get heavy) when wet.  In other 
words, it's warmer than anything else around under any conditions.  Don't 
care what it costs - it does the job.

Aaahh - down vs synthetic - a perennial question.  And for my answer - the 
standard caveats apply.

First, the esteemed Mr. Meese is not wrong.  He says:

> > I says, "DON'T LET IT GET WET." It ain't that hard (see below).

And for some people - and in some situations - and on some trails - that's 
absolutely true.  Some people have a knack for keeping themselves dry - or 
clean - or well-fed while all around them others are soaked, dirty, and 

Then there's the rest of us.

Anyway, beyond the 'philosophy' - we used down (two 20* bags) on the PCT - 
and for one of them for part of the CDT.  Let's take the PCT first - we had 
no problem at all until we got into Washington.  We had a little rain, a 
little snow and a lot of sunshine up to the Oregon/Washington border.  Then 
the rain gods caught up with us and we had 8 clear days out of 28 - and some 
of those were 'town days'.  Between the rain and 2 people in a single wall 
tent (condensation and perspiration), the bags DID get wet - and I've been 
using Mr Meese's techniques since before he learned them (no brag, just 
fact).  So we changed to a double wall tent and synthetic bags (one 15* and 
one 10*) at Stevens Pass.  And it didn't make enough difference to 
compensate for the extra weight that it added to our packs. We were still 
wet and cold. Synthetic IS somewhat heavier than down - and a double wall 
tent IS heavier than silnylon.  Did the synthetic bags stay drier?  
Marginally. What DID make a difference was that one of our down bags was a 
dryloft bag, the other was just taffeta. (We bought that one from Mr Meese's 
shop - but that's not a complaint - it was just my 'cheap streak' coming 
out). Neither of the synthetic bags was water resistent, and the dryloft 
worked much better when condensation was the main source of moisture.

The CDT - we started with one 15* synthetic bag and one 20* down dryloft 
bag.  Northern Montana was constantly wet and cold - and the down bag got 
damp (but not really 'wet'). So we used the down bag on the bottom and the 
synthetic on top.  Yeah - we zip them together - it works for us.  We used 
the same technique on the PCT - with the taffeta bag on bottom and the dry 
loft on top when they got wet (the taffeta bag was invariably wetter than 
the dry loft).  We traded the 20* down bag for a 10* synthetic in Colorado - 
after spending 22 hours in the tent and
getting blown off the Divide by a blizzard, it was time to change to 'winter 
gear'.  We also used a small double wall tent all the way on the CDT.  Our 
packs were heavy, but we never really regretted that - the CDT is a lot 
colder trail than the PCT.

Bottom line(s) - (1) if you're one of those people who can consistently keep 
your gear dry, then down will work fine.  If not, then figure out where 
you'll have problems and make sure you have your synth bag for those 
sections.  TRADE equipment to fit the situation.  That means you'll have to 
do some research to figure out the 'normal' weather patterns on the trail - 
and then pray that 'your' year will be something close to 'normal'. The PCT 
is easy - the CDT is different bucket of worms.  One of the advantages of 
going North to South on the CDT was that we avoided thunderstorm season (at 
least most of it) in Colorado and New Mexico.  The downside was that we 
caught the 'wet season' in Montana.
(2) If you're gonna use down, go for the extra expense (and weight) of 
dryloft or something similar.  It's worth it.

Last point - don't get too freaked about the 'crowds' on the PCT.  We hiked 
with Sly for 500 miles and with Steve Kral and Bugbite for 4 days.  Other 
than that we saw people either in town or when they passed us (or we passed 
them) on the trail.  The 'social scene' on the PCT is entirely different 
from that on the AT.

Hiking solo on the CDT is another, totally different world - unless you 
REALLY want SOLITUDE it might not be a lot of fun cause it'll get REALLY 
lonely.  But it is beauuuuuutiful.  :-)

We'll see you at the Ruck.

Walk softly,
Jim and Ginny

***  "Cutting the space budget really restores my faith in humanity.
***  It eliminates dreams, goals, and ideals and lets us get straight
***  to the business of hate, debauchery, and self-annihilation."
***           -- Johnny Hart

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