The Best Budget Sleeping Bags: Down vs Synthetic

6th February 2020

It’s no secret that sleeping bag technology has improved considerably over the last few decades. Old and outdated materials and technologies have been replaced with state of the art updates, making modern sleeping bags lighter, warmer, and more comfortable than they have ever been before.

Unfortunately, these new advances have come with a cost, and it has been up to the consumer to cover to foot the bill. Fortunately, a new class of low-cost, high-performance sleeping bags has arrived to change the tide. The best budget sleeping bags are not only warmer than you’d expect, but they are loaded with the kind of features that, until now, you have only seen in the most expensive models.

(Check this review to see more comparison of ultralight down & synthetic sleeping bags)

Best Fill – Down vs. Synthetic


Ah, the eternal debate. There might not be a clear answer for which kind of fill is more advantageous to the discerning outdoors person, but with a little bit of research it is possible to decide which kind of fill is best for you, or at the very least, which kind if best for your next adventure.

Down Fill is well-known for its weight to warmth ratio. The natural loft and insulation capabilities inherent in down feathers has yet to be matched by synthetic materials, though many have tried. Natural down fill is generally more expensive on account of the fact that it is a material produced by living animals, which presents a number of complications. It also does not fare well with moisture, and will quickly lose its best characteristics when wet.

Synthetic Fill, usually a blend of polyester-based fibers, has been advancing rapidly in recent years. New synthetics have led to sleeping bags that are lighter and cheaper than their predecessors, some of which have actually managed to replicate the feel of down fill. While heavier and less compressible, synthetic fill sleeping bags are tremendously popular because of how much more affordable they can be than down. In addition, synthetic polyester can retain its insulation properties when wet, something the Down simply cannot do.

How Fill Power Influences Weight, Comfort, & Cost of a Sleeping Bag

To put it scientifically, the Fill Power of down is a measurement of the number of cubic inches of loft per ounce of down feathers. Therefore, the higher the fill power rating, the greater loft that is present, or rather, the higher quality of down feathers. As fill power goes up, so does insulation capacity. However, a higher fill power does not necessarily mean a warmer bag.

There are many factors that come together to determine a bag’s overall warmth, and loft is only one of them.

Higher fill power down is generally more expensive for the reasons stated above.

Ultimate ShowDOWN: Goose Down vs. Duck Down


There are a few differences between Duck down and Goose down that are worth mentioning.

Duck down is far more prevalent, simply because ducks are both easier and cheaper to raise than geese. Duck down performs admirably in sleeping bags, however, cannot match the fill power of goose down. It is however significantly cheaper.

Goose down has the benefit of more loft, and therefore, more insulation capacity. The flip side of this coin is that it is noticeably more expensive.

How to Choose the Best Budget Sleeping Bag

Looking for a budget sleeping bag? One of the first decisions you are going to have to make is down vs. synthetic. Choose synthetic and relish in the benefits of a more affordable product and one with more water resistance. Choose down and you are presented with yet another decision, duck down vs. goose down.

Here’s the bottom line: adventurers who are looking to save a bit of money on a sleeping bag would probably want to look for a bag with synthetic fill, as it tends to be significantly more affordable than down fill. There is some trade off in both insulation and compatibility, but in recent years synthetic materials have advanced to the point where they almost rival down bags in every way. 

We hope we provided you with the tools you need to choose the best budget sleeping bag for you. 

And if you have already decided what bag fill you probably need. We introduce 3 best sleeping bags of each type reviewed:

The 3 Best Down and Synthetic Sleeping Bags Today


#1 – ALPS Mountaineering Crescent Lake 20 – Best Budget Synthetic Sleeping Bag

The ALPS Mountaineering Crescent Lake +20F is very warm and comfortable, relatively roomy, and retains its loft very well. We would mind this bag being wider in shoulders and weigh less. It’s about 3.5 lbs – which is okay, as for a synthetic sleeping bag. But is doesn’t pack very small and a bit bigger than a basketball. That means it’s perfect for camping rather than backpacking.

This bag also has a lot of space in the bottom which gives you roomy footbox but it’s enough to maintain cold air at your feet from the other side. You should wear warm sock in case you are planning to sleep in 25-30 F or less temperature.

Despite all the cons it’s one of the best unisex synthetic US-made sleeping bags for the money.

#2 – Marmot Teton 15 Duck Down Sleeping Bag – Best Cold Weather Duck Down Sleeping Bag

This Sleeping Bag is a best choice for cold weather trips. Some experts at TrailSpace reported to test it even during a 3-week expedition in Greenland! The bag is upgraded with extra insulation with Down Defender that helps duck down fill keep warmth and loft even when wet – which is the biggest con for all down sleeping bags.

One more important feature is weight of this bag, the long option for this product weights about 3lb 10 oz which isn’t the best among other down sleeping bags but certainly a big hint for cold weather sleeping bags in the industry.

As for the negatives for Marmot Teton, we might consider it is not going to feel you comfortable in summer. It is 15F sleeping bag after all.

#3 – Therm-a-Rest Parsec 20F – Top-10 Unisex 3-season Goose Down Sleeping Bag

Parsec 20F weighs only 1 lbs (small) and 2 lbs (long) which makes it perfect for backpacking. We do not mean this sleeping bag is Top-1 considering weight, there are lighter option you can find: the lightest sleeping bag ever is WM Summerlite, but is costs about 150$ more.

It is for you to decide to get some extra 0.5 lbs into your backpack or pay 150$ more for a sleeping bag. 

PRO TIP: There is only 3 oz and 30$ difference between regular and small models of the bag. So we strongly recommend to consider a regular option. 

The only failure for this sleeping bag is its white-yellow material that may show grime over time. We suggest to not to consider bright colors for a sleeping bag at all even if you are going to use it in a tent.

Cheers, & Happy Camping!

Related reading:
Check out our Camping Tips for Setting Up A Great Campsite and follow our Key Tips on Saving Money While Camping!

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Down Vs Synthetic - What's the better fill for sleeping bags? We provide you with the tools you need to choose the best budget sleeping bag for you.

Down Vs Synthetic - What's the better fill for sleeping bags? We provide you with the tools you need to choose the best budget sleeping bag for you.

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