Vegan Sleeping Bags: Any Hikers or Touring Cyclists Here? - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 08-22-2009, 12:50 PM
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Short Version:

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?

Long Version:

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.
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#2 Old 08-22-2009, 03:55 PM
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I just bought a 100% fleece sleeping bag ($10). It was surprisingly very warm and it was SO small when it was rolled up (the size of a lunchbox) that I've decided to buy 3 more of them (put one inside the other) to use during the late fall.

I am not a professional camper, so you may be horrified by this idea, LOL. I wish I could help you more.
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#3 Old 08-22-2009, 05:48 PM
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When I did the Pacific Northwest trail, and the Pacific Crest trail, I used a synthetic fleece sleeping bag, worked wonderfully. There were times i shoved a comfy blanket in there with me, but it worked.

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#4 Old 08-22-2009, 05:50 PM
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Posts: 19,134 might try sending a PM to VB member Funkified. She's very into outdoor type stuff like that, and may have some good ideas.

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#5 Old 08-23-2009, 06:41 PM
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Thanks for the replies, folks.

This question's a bit of a tricky one, as while it's surely better suited to an outdoors-oriented forum, I've not been impressed with the responses I've had in the past from that crowd on the matter of sticking to vegan gear. Hence, my asking here.

I've researched it further, and it seems that North Face is the best or at least the biggest brand around when it comes to high quality synthetic bags.

It seems they make a couple of synthetic bags which come in at just over a kilo and fit a 7.5"x13" stuff sack while being perfectly good in freezing weather. And that's about all you could ever ask for. The prices are $200ish. The "Fission" and "Orion" are the ones I'm looking seriously at.

Here, for example:
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#6 Old 08-23-2009, 07:01 PM
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I have a Slumberjack sleeping bag I don't think is filled with down, but I'm not sure because the tags were cut off before I acquired it. $5 at a garage sale five years ago, and since I only use it a few times a year, it's held up very well.

If you were able to acquire a non-vegan sleeping bag second-hand, that might alleviate your supporting-the-industry concerns, but it wouldn't do anything if you are squeamish about actually using animal products.

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#7 Old 08-24-2009, 02:36 AM
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I bought a three season synthetic sleeping bag for tramping. Or hiking as you call it.

It was reasonably priced... in the 200's I think (NZ dollars) and because I want it for tramping I too wanted it compact.

I had trouble finding one that went as small as the down ones so in the end I had to sacrifice space for my ethics.... but not too much. Its about 30x20cm. Which is a lot larger than good down bags sadly. However it is 3 season and had a temp range down to -10C so thats what I went for. And it has a compression bag so if I squish it tightly I can get it a bit smaller than that.

Its the brand Doite if that helps. I bought it over the internet from a local company but its German in origin so might be widely available I'm not really sure.

Good luck.

My next out door challenge is going to be boots..... I want a good pair of tramping boots but they are all leather. Havent seen a single pair that is decent quality that is synthetic. Cross that bridge another day I guess
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#8 Old 08-24-2009, 07:56 PM
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In addition to North Face, you might want to look at Marmot (the Pounder Plus for example) and Mountain Hardwear. Also, have you considered a sleeping quilt like Ray Jardine uses? I haven't tried one, but a lot of ultralight backpackers like them. Here's a quilt kit. Or, if you don't want to make one yourself you could get a quilt from Mountain Laurel Designs.

If you haven't heard of camping quilts, the idea is that the bottom of the sleeping bag doesn't provide much insulation since it gets compressed by your body weight. So, eliminating the bottom of the bag and sleeping directly on top of your sleeping pad saves a bit of weight with no real penalty in terms of temperature rating. (The quilt has straps which can secure it to the pad and prevent drafts, btw.)

Whatever you end up choosing, I hope you'll let us know how it works out. Best of luck.

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#9 Old 08-25-2009, 11:05 PM
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That looks like a decent bag. I am using an REI sahara bag that is rated to 30 degrees F. I will eventually replace it for a synthetic quilt. My bag is down. Though I am ok with that since I got it well before I ever had the thought of becoming vegan.

You should look into a synthetic quilt. They won't pack down as much as a down bag but they are relatively light compared to a mummy bag since there are no zippers. Check out this site if you don't mind making it yourself.

I hope this helps.

EDIT: It looks like Nessus beat me to it.

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#10 Old 09-01-2009, 09:40 AM
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The mountain hardwear Ultralamina bags do indeed seem like a great option, when it comes to synthetic bags, if they pack as small as they claim. And they come in a few different temperature ratings to suit any typical need. Quilts sound like quite a project, but one I might take on at some point in the future.

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#11 Old 09-04-2009, 09:38 AM
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If you are bicycling touring, look at the hammocks & overquilt options.
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