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Getting "down" with insulation

Stone Glacier Grumman Goose Down Jacket

The Stone Glacier Grumman Goose Down Jacket in their new color option, Coyote. Photo credit: Brady Miller

Synthetic vs. down jackets

Synthetic or down-filled? That is a common question that's going to come down to your preferences. If you're the hunter who prefers light-weight gear, extreme warmth and have a few more pennies to spend, then go with the goose down. However, synthetic insulation is great for day trips when weight isn't a factor or if your hunting style is a little more active. After owning both, I decided to opt for the Stone Glacier Grumman Goose Down Jacket because of its warmth to weight ratio. In the past, I have used synthetic insulation for more "on the move" hunting or when I knew I was going through dense areas. In these situations, goose down could make you overheat if you're too active; whereas, synthetic breathes better and, typically, has a more durable face fabric for times when you rub up against rough brush or trees. In comparison, all of the goose down jackets I've owned have lighter face fabric to shed overall weight since you're typically wearing it while glassing or sleeping when abrasion isn't a major factor. No matter the type of fill material you pick, both will keep you warm if you buy a jacket from a reputable company! 

Sleeping setups

Stone Glacier sleeping bag and tent

Stone Glacier SkyAir ULT Tarp and Chilkoot sleeping bag. Photo credit: Chris Neville

Your sleeping setup completely depends upon your needs as a hunter. A goose-down-filled bag is light and packs small. If you're a hunter who sleeps in the truck, off the road or hikes in a mile or so for a day or two, then a quality synthetic bag would work well, too. Synthetic bags tend to be slightly more water-resistant (not waterproof) than the down-filled counterparts, which is nice when it comes to condensation or bad weather. The down-filled bags really excel, once again, in the weight to warmth ratio. Although they will cost you in price—almost double that of a synthetic bag—they are worth it. If properly taken care of, a down-filled bag can last you nearly a lifetime, which helps make the sticker shock a little less painful. Think of it as an investment; your return on investment is a pleasant snuggle sack when weather rears its nasty head. Just be sure that whatever bag you decide to go with meets your needs whether synthetic or down. There was a time when I settled for a cheaper bag and regretted it as soon as the weather decided to throw a curveball. Since then, I purchased a high-quality down-filled bag, which cost quite a bit more than synthetic; however, I've been very happy and warm!


Here's my current sleep setup, depending on the weather: 

Anthony Wright in his SG Grumman Goose Down Jacket

Photo credit: Anthony Wright

Warm weather (40 degrees and above)

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This setup is awesome and surprisingly warm for how light it is. I will typically sleep with my pants, midweight hoodie, beanie and socks on. If needed, I add the Stone Glacier Grumman; it’s light and good insurance against any unforeseeable weather changes. 

Colder Weather (40 degrees and below or inclement weather)

Brady Miller Stone Glacier Grumman Goose Down Jacket

Once again, I sleep with pants on with a midweight top and almost all of the above, depending on temperatures. I personally like to have a lower rated bag for the versatility in various temperature ranges. Better to have more and not need it then to need it and not have it! 

Insulated accessories

Brady Miller Stone Glacier Grumman Goose Down Jacket

Sleeping bags and jackets aren't the only stars of the show. There are other accessories that you should consider, especially when it comes to cold, late-season hunts. One item I use from late-season into my winter coyote/wolf hunting is synthetic-filled mittens. There are also down-filled ones, but the synthetic ones are awesome when it comes to keeping your digits safe from the frigid cold. Check out this article on late-season handwear options here.

Another interesting article of clothing to consider would a pair of down-filled puffy pants like the Stone Glacier Grumman Goose Down Pants. These will keep you nice and warm when glassing or sleeping. Lastly, is an item that I didn't know about until I saw a picture of hunters using them in British Columbia on a late season archery mountain goat hunt: down-filled slippers. I will be grabbing a pair in the future! 

Tip: If you really want to cut weight for a sleep setup on a mid to late season hunt, then consider using a higher temperature rated sleeping bag paired up with a down-filled jacket and down bottom set. This is not only a warm setup, but can pack down into almost nothing. 

Be sure to leave a comment below to share what setups you use for which seasons! 

Stay safe and hunt hard! 

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7 Comments

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Christopher S. - posted 3 days ago on 02-12-2020 09:50:19 pm
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Cameron, properly cared for down bags outlast synthetic bags by a wide margin. Synthetic loses loft much quicker over time, especially when compressed and uncompressed over and over. It has its place, but it isn't a cure all.

Anthony W. - posted 1 week ago on 02-07-2020 11:09:03 am
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Cameron- thanks for commenting, and I dont mean to say synthetic doesnt have its place. It definitely dries faster no doubt, I personally never owned a synthetic bag, only jackets.

Cameron F. - posted 1 week ago on 02-07-2020 11:03:15 am

I don't think you are giving enough credit to synthetic sleeping bags. The have more qualities over down than just being more water resistant. They stay warm when wet and don't lose loft like down, also on wet hunts you can either wear your wet clothes dry or put them in the bottom of the bag to dry them out.

Anthony W. - posted 1 week ago on 02-06-2020 07:52:21 pm
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Andrew- yeah I feel ya there, there's about 10 pieces I would like to try from the Arteryx lineup!

Andrew G. - posted 1 week ago on 02-06-2020 02:29:27 pm
Santa Fe, NM

My go-to insulation for the last 3 years has been the Arcteryx atom lt. It always served me well but was always bordering on not warm enough for inactive periods in temps around freezing. I picked up the SG Grumman this Xmas and it definitely hits that niche for extra warmth on inactive long sits. It does feel a bit more "stuffy" than the arcteryx, and I definitely have to take it off more often to cool off when I do start moving. I had thought I would ditch the Arcteryx after picking up the SG Grumman, but now that I have both I think both have their place in your closet and wouldn't discredit either. If you want a "do-it-all" piece, then honestly something like the Arc'teryx Atom AR might check the most boxes, but if you can afford two pieces, a mid-wight synthetic and heavy superlight puffy can't be beat in my opinion. Great article!

Anthony W. - posted 1 week ago on 02-05-2020 09:45:05 pm
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Randy- that's a good point about the bag doing the work. I normally already have the layers with me in my pack so I figure it's easier to remove them in the middle of the night then try to put more on. But, typically I dont NEED to wear all of them.

Randy E. - posted 1 week ago on 02-05-2020 08:35:38 pm
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Title could've said "sponsored by stone glacier". Good basic info but what about the old don't sleep in extra layers so your bag can "do the work"?