Is there such a thing as a good, light-weight, cold-weather synthetic bag that packs compact? Initial Google searching makes the outlook appear bleak. If there aren't vegan bags competitive with their non-vegan equivalents, can anyone suggest what the most favourable options (among vegan bags) are?
After nearly a decade of veganism, I'm currently encountering perhaps the first situation where there seems *no* satisfactory vegan alternative to a non-vegan product I depend on: sleeping bags appropriate for bike touring.
I've been an occasional touring cyclist for some time, but I've (inevitably) gotten steadily more serious about my cycling as time has passed, and where I used to ride just any old bike with whatever gear I had on hand, these days, I'm getting to know more about my bike (i.e., repair and maintenance) and my gear (tools and camping supplies), and getting to be a little less dangerously oblivious when I go touring.
The Present Predicament:
Getting vegan gear for cycling itself is mostly easy: There are good non-leather seats. There are satisfactory non-leather riding gloves. Many of the best cycling shoes money can buy are 100% synthetic. And bike clothing is virtually all synthetic. Which makes that part easy.
But as for the camping aspect of touring, there's one sticking point: Sleeping Bags.
I've been using an old thinsulate (i.e., synthetic) bag for years, and while it packs reasonably small and light for the warmth it provides, it's losing its loft with age, and at any rate, it just can't stand up to genuinely cold temperatures.
And so I've looked into buying a new synthetic bag. And I've been extremely disappointed by what I've found. The situation seems to be that there's simply no such thing as a good three season (i.e., spring, summer, fall) bag which packs light and small enough to be reasonable gear for long-distance cycling (where absolutely everything needs to share room on the bike). Particularly on my and my partner's tandem, where the one bike has to carry gear for two. But even on solo rides, the idea of packing a bag larger than all my other gear combined is pretty painful.
When it comes to good, light bags which pack small, most experts seem to offer only one option: down bags. They're smaller by far, lighter by far, and able to deal with much lower temperatures. Oh yeah: they're also very emphatically not vegan, and raise serious animal cruelty and welfare concerns. Or so it seems, though I'm no expert.
Cost is really no object here. I'm going to get enough mileage out of my bag that typical prices are all within the acceptable range. But that doesn't help much if there's no such thing as a synthetic bag which can do the job of a down bag. PETA naturally argues in favour of the virtues of synthetic bags. But the experts seem to tell it differently. And the weights and packing volumes for equivalent temperature rating bags in synthetic and down categories (browsing them on some of the major vendors' sites) make it look like they simply don't compare at all.
But I would love it if someone could show me I'm wrong and that there's a synthetic fill out there which can beat my badly aged old thinsulate bag without sacrificing weight and bulk in a big, big way vis-a-vis down bags.