Sleeping bag HELP!

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Sleeping bag HELP!

Postby Big Jim Mac » Mon Aug 18, 2008 9:54 pm

Set out to buy a new bag to get ready for fall on the OT. I've spent the last week on every Web site I can find trying to figure out what bag to get, even made a trip to Columbia where I stopped off at the Alpine Shop. Guess what I really need to know is how much bag do I really need for the OT in fall and possibly winter? And how reliable are those bag temperature ratings? I just got an REI sale catalog, they have The North Face Cat's Meow for $99, that's a steal because everyone else sells that bag for $145. They also have a 20 degree down REI brand bag for $164, it's the Sub Kilo +20. I'm thinking I would really like the down bag, but I'm worried about getting too hot and I also read that down bags are worthless when they get wet (so not good for Current River floats, but I have other bags for that.) Let's hear what others are using! Thanks
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Re: Sleeping bag HELP!

Postby aroth87 » Wed Aug 20, 2008 11:07 am

Don't know how I missed this post. So I'll make up for it now.

I made myself a dandy down quilt about a year and half ago and its definitely my go-to bag. I used 9 oz of 800 FP down which gives me around 2" of loft. I've used it from temperatures ranging in the upper 50's to mid-to-upper 20's. Its hard to give sleeping bags a rating since it depends heavily on things like your metabolism and what you wear to bed. I've used my 15* rated bag during the summer by unzipping it and using it as a quilt. You can also push your bag lower than its rating by wearing your insulating clothing or rain gear to bed. The time I used my quilt down into the 20's I was wearing upper and lower base layers, my hiking clothes, two pairs of socks, liner gloves, a fleece hat, and my rain gear. Basically all of the clothes I had with me.

To answer your temperature rating question more directly, most manufacturers fudge their ratings, just as they fudge the weights. If you want a bag that delivers to its rating, buy from a company like Western Mountaineering or Mont-Bell. Overall they tend to be the most honest in terms of temperature and weight. I take any stated specs from The North Face, Marmot, Mountain Hardware, etc with a grain of salt. Take a scale with you the next time you go gear shopping and compare the actual weight with the advertised one.

And for down vs synthetic, I still contest that neither will keep you very warm if it gets wet. Synthetic may take a little longer to wet out but when it does it won't keep you warm either. In the year and a half I've had my down quilt I have never had a problem with it getting wet. That includes last week, which I spent hiking in Colorado and got rained on for the first 3 days. Including an all night thunderstorm in which my tent decided to develop a leak right above my face. There was a little moisture on the foot end of my quilt in the morning but not enough that it saturated the shell or made the down collapse.

How late into the winter are you planning on camping? A 20* bag would probably be a good compromise if you plan on camping into the really cold months. What I've done with my quilt is pick something that is middle of the road and supplement it with extra clothing (which I already bring) if the temperature dips rather than having a bag for the absolute coldest temps I can imagine using it in and just dealing with the extra warmth (and weight) the other 80-90% of the time I use it.

I hope there's something in my ramblings that helps you make your decision :).

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Re: Sleeping bag HELP!

Postby Big Jim Mac » Wed Aug 20, 2008 7:35 pm

Good stuff, I figured an end user would give better advice than someone selling gear for a living. You never know when they need to get that certain bag off the shelf! I've been looking at Western Mountaineering, haven't looked into Mont-Bell. I don't mind paying for quality but ouch! I've also considered a 20 degree bag and a liner, which I understand can add another 10 degrees of warmth when needed. Would like to experience waking up under some snow. In the end I think I will order from REI as they have a liberal return policy.
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Re: Sleeping bag HELP!

Postby Lightweight Bob » Thu Aug 21, 2008 12:42 am

For my requirements in the Ozarks, I've found:
20 degree bag is best for spring and fall, but is too hot for most summer nights. A 20-30 degree bag plus a lightweight down jacket or vest is the most comfortable, though
0 degree bag is best for deep winter, but you can "fudge it" with a 20 degree bag on all but the coldest winter nights by doubling up with extra warm sleeping pads, by sleeping in a tent with windproof nylon (rather than noseeum mesh) on the inner walls, and by wearing a warm down jacket.
40-50 degree bag or quilt, or even just a silk sleeping bag liner plus a sleeping bag cover (UL bivy bag) is best for carrying minimal bulk and weight in the heat of the summer

That said, like Adam pointed out, most manufacturers aren't honest with their temperature ratings so sometimes you've either got to assume that they are being optimistic by 10-15 degrees and buy the warmer bag, test a bunch of sleeping bags yourself, or else just buy the expensive Western Mountaineering bag because WM bags tend to have accurate temperature ratings and are really lightweight. I have used a Kilo Plus, which is a down bag rated to 0 degrees and I'd tend to disagree with REI that this is an accurate 0 degree bag since I was quite cold at 25 degrees. The problem was that they were too greedy with the down. All the baffles were underfilled and what resulted was a bag with many cold spots, due to uneven down distribution, so if you get the Sub Kilo, make sure you are satisfied that the bag has enough down in it because if it looks like there's any empty space in the baffles for the down to spread out unevenly, it will.
Last edited by Lightweight Bob on Thu Aug 28, 2008 11:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sleeping bag HELP!

Postby Only Jack » Tue Aug 26, 2008 9:03 am

Another option would be to rent a bag to see if it works for you.
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Re: Sleeping bag HELP!

Postby John » Wed Aug 27, 2008 7:05 pm

I've use a Western Mountaineering down-filled bag rated to 20 degrees. It's a great bag, very lightweight, but a bit pricey. It's served me well as a 3-season bag (I sleep on top during the warmer months, as my TarpTent has a built-in fly so I don't get bugs). If it gets a bit chilly I augment the bag by throwing a Nalgene bottle or two in the bottom filled with hot water. I don't use the bag from mid-December through February, but I rarely sleep outside during that period. The bag has served me very well.
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Re: Sleeping bag HELP!

Postby Matt_Atnip » Wed Sep 10, 2008 4:29 pm

Hi Jim,

I don't know if we have met but with the Big Jim in the name, be sure to pick a bag that will not be tight across your chest. If you stretch the bag, it will flatten out the loft = chilly. If you are called Big because you are 6'5" and 175 pounds, forget the rest of this post! Most bags will have a measurement called "girth". The Long versions of bags also offer more room (and girth) than the standard bags. I have a Kelty Light Year down bag in the long version. It is rated to 25*. I'd say it is good above freezing. Adding a fleece jacket adds some warmth. I've had it about 3 years and it is holding up great and was in the lower quarter of the market pricewise.
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Re: Sleeping bag HELP!

Postby Bobcat » Wed Sep 10, 2008 6:10 pm

If you can afford a down Montbell U.L. Super Stretch bag, I don't think you can get much better. Western Mountaineering bags are probably a little higher quality, but not much, and they don't have the super stretch system that contours to your body. Shortcuts always end up being the hard way.
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Re: Sleeping bag HELP!

Postby Jim » Thu Sep 11, 2008 8:07 am

Always prepare for colder than the weatherman posts. 2 years ago, at the Roth farm October 16 I believe....I camped down near the river....Tarp tent and was chilly to start, by morning John reported 18* up on the hill....I can tell you the estimated 3* lower in the valley...was down right frigid...I am ever so thankful for whom ever it was that shared the hot water bottle in the bag...or I would be dead. Well maybe not dead, but I sure would not have slept as toasty warm...
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Re: Sleeping bag HELP!

Postby Big Jim Mac » Fri Sep 12, 2008 6:14 am

Is a nice warm wife better than a water bottle? ;-) She will soon figure out why I invited her along!

We bought a couple NF Cat's Meow bags, but I'll probably get myself a Western Mountaineering 0 degree as my goal is to wake up in the woods with some snow on the tent this year.

I see this cooler weather has everyone thinking about backpacking. Can't wait myself!
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Re: Sleeping bag HELP!

Postby thebagman » Mon Mar 13, 2017 2:26 am

Hi, new from Australia and looking for the down quilt, any best brand for it?
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Re: Sleeping bag HELP!

Postby Big Jim Mac » Mon Mar 13, 2017 12:43 pm

Welcome to Missouri!

Are you wanting a quilt or a sleeping bag? I know these terms don't translate between our forms of English! I've aways thought Western Mountaineering made the best bags if you can afford them.

Since I use a hammock to camp in mostly I bought a top quilt from Mid-Atlantic Mountain Works,

Also not cheap but a beautiful quilt that you can design yourself.
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Re: Sleeping bag HELP!

Postby steve l » Mon Mar 13, 2017 7:00 pm

Big Jim Mac wrote:Welcome to Missouri!

Are you wanting a quilt or a sleeping bag? I know these terms don't translate between our forms of English! I've aways thought Western Mountaineering made the best bags if you can afford them.

Since I use a hammock to camp in mostly I bought a top quilt from Mid-Atlantic Mountain Works,

Also not cheap but a beautiful quilt that you can design yourself.

Ditto on the Western Mountaineering. I have an Alpinelite and give way thumbs up.
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Re: Sleeping bag HELP!

Postby jyancey » Mon Mar 13, 2017 8:00 pm

+1 on WM bags. I have accumulated a bunch of bags over the years, but my current go-to bags are a Summerlite for fall and spring, a Versalite for winter, and I can even nest them for really cold. I use a homemade synthetic quilt for summer (>50 deg F) or for really hot humid nights I just use a silk liner or very thin fleece blanket. I sometimes take my synthetic NF bags for car camping or floating.
If you want the highest quality, and lightest warmth-to-weight, and you aren't subject to sticker shock, go with Western Mountaineering.
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Re: Sleeping bag HELP!

Postby Homespun » Fri Mar 17, 2017 10:04 am

I take the down sleeping bag rating and add 20 degrees to it, sleep in what extra wear I got with me and that works pretty well. Sleeping warm varies a lot, I always remember a cold night where my mind set right and I wasn't uncomfortable, other times I got cold for no good reason. First night or two out are going to be colder, not thinking tougher yet. Down supposedly loses a lot of warmth as it gets wet, I haven't found this to be true, a little for sure. How long a bag will last can be reflected in the purchase price, my 100 dollar down bag was failing me after a few years, failing more and more each year. Just a note, I've got a good expensive summer bag from Zpacks and I'm really favorably impressed with how its done wet.
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