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#114566 - 12/03/07 12:35 AM Re: Sleeping bag - how to choose? [Re: Am_Fear_Liath_Mor]

Originally Posted By: Am_Fear_Liath_Mor
Hi ame

There are some excellent down sleeping bags from companies like Rab, PHDesigns, Marmot, Western Mountaineering and Mountain Equipment etc. They are all excellent manufacturers.

I can vouch for this sleeping bag from MEC. Great bag which I have used with temps hovering around -20C...YMMV on the warmth as we are all different when it comes to cold tolerance.

MEC also has some good info on sleeping bags here. Look for the links in the top right corner.

#114568 - 12/03/07 12:47 AM Re: Sleeping bag - how to choose? [Re: ame]
falcon5000 Offline

Registered: 09/08/05
Posts: 662
I'll second the western mountaineering bags. I use to have a North face bag that was rated to 10 below zero and when it got down in the 20's (above zero) on a pad I was freezing my donkey off. Don't get me wrong it is a comfortable bag but when the temps dropped it is very lacking. After some long researching and talking with people out in the field I bought a Western Mountaineering Bristlecone Super MF. Man, I could not believe the difference, it's like comparing a neon to a Cadillac. Western Mountaineering rates there bags very conservatively, the rule of thumb is you can push there bags 10 degrees more than there rating. Yes, they are very expensive, but with a lifetime warranty and a killer reputation it was worth every cent. Definitely the last bag I would ever need. The one I got you can use as a blanket or a mummy bag, extra room for me inside plus cloths space at the feet. It's like an oven in it and has plenty of zippers to regulate the temps down to 10 below. There is no question I could easily take it to 20 below zero with some long johns and socks. It is by far the most comfortable bag I've ever had and I can unzip it and use it for a blanket for the misses on trips. These are as hardcore as you can get IMHO. Did I mention it is expensive and hot, but I looked as it as in my house I have a good mattress that I sleep on that helps on the back and makes me get a good night sleep, so I look at any out doors the same, I use it every where I go and put it in a watershed pack (http://www.drybags.com/home.html) and it's all but fireproof. All my bob and equipment is in watershed packs. They are rated at 300 feet of total water submersion and are currently used by Navy seals. My buddy who is a seal had recommended these bags. I ordered one and loved it then I started retrofitting my bob to be Katrina proof. The bag is black and has a purge valve on it and holds 6400 cubic in of space and has a backpack harness on it.


Failure is not an option!
USMC Jungle Environmental Survival Training PI 1985

#114572 - 12/03/07 01:15 AM Re: Sleeping bag - how to choose? [Re: falcon5000]
RobertRogers Offline

Registered: 12/12/06
Posts: 198
The area I live in is very wet for much of the year and down just doesn't cut it - in fact I feel it is downright (pun intended) dangerous. Synthetic is a safer option and a couple of pounds with a little bulk is worth the tradeoff to my safety.

#114575 - 12/03/07 01:30 AM Re: Sleeping bag - how to choose? [Re: falcon5000]
Be_Prepared Offline

Registered: 12/07/04
Posts: 530
Loc: Massachusetts
Another brand to consider that I've used heavily is Eastern Mountain Sports. EMS has several bags called the "Mountain Light" series. They have everything from 40 degree to -40 degree (F) bags. They are made with 750 or 800-fill down, with a Pertex waterproof outer layer. I know EMS makes some synthetic bags also, but, I happen to prefer the packability of the down. I've slept comfortably in one of the 20 degree bags with a Reactor Liner bag at about -5. I had a fleece union suite on, with another fleece pullover and a watch cap, and heavy wool socks.


I've camped/hiked with folks using other gear that people mentioned, and they seemed comfortable in Mountain Hardware, very popular. North Face is a "name", but, maybe not the first choice. It seems like it's living on reputation more than performance these days. Even their tents aren't built as well, see the lack of reinforcement around the pole attachments, and some of the plastic fittings.

Make sure you invest in a good 4 season pad. I use a Thermarest ProLite 4. Sometimes I've just used a closed cell foam roll, they can't develop a leak, and actually are more versatile than the self inflating pads, but, I don't find them as comfortable.

- Ron

#114579 - 12/03/07 02:19 AM Re: Sleeping bag - how to choose? [Re: RobertRogers]
falcon5000 Offline

Registered: 09/08/05
Posts: 662
I also live in a wet area (Florida) and the down has worked great here and also when we travel up north as well. I use the watershed bag to keep it dry when traveling, camping, etc.. and it's overkill but if we ever had any floods or a Katrina type disaster all the gear will remain dry. I can even dive down to 300 feet in salt water with that bag and still have a nice warm bag. I see what you are saying about the syn vs down but I've been in the synthetic bags here as well wet and the bag was just as useless.

Here's a good comparison how down vs synthetic when it gets wet.
(The down bag was under water for 4 hours and was used)

Failure is not an option!
USMC Jungle Environmental Survival Training PI 1985

#114649 - 12/03/07 07:10 PM Re: Sleeping bag - how to choose? [Re: falcon5000]

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 1852

i gave up on down some years ago when the poly bags became more
advanced..down is fine for mountain-dry cold but i found that
a couple weeks in canoe country would reduce them to flat
soggy mats..you can never stay in a camp long enought to get them really dry and around the lakes the air is damp all the time..for cold weather camps i put a poly mummy inside a poly
rectangle bag and sleep in soxs and long johns..i know the
folks putting a BOB together will want the lightest warm bag
they can find,but thats my take on sleeping bags..

#114681 - 12/04/07 12:14 AM Re: Sleeping bag - how to choose? [Re: CANOEDOGS]
ducktapeguy Offline

Registered: 03/28/06
Posts: 358
It would be hard to recommend a bag because a lot of it really is personal preference. I think any high quality sleeping bag will probably work for your application.

1) Down vs Synthetic - You probably know the pros and cons of each in terms of weight, size, and performance. I personally like down, it's still the best insulator out there, and I'm willing to sacrifice the wet weather performance for lighter weight and smaller size. I'm still using the same down bag I bought 14 years ago, and it's still as good as any of the new sleeping bags on the market. A similar 14 year old synthetic bag would be considered be an old blanket by now. Synthetics are getting closer, and will continue to improve every year.

How much wet weather do you deal with? An ocasional rain shower in the mountains or are you out on in ocean storms for extended periods? Down is useless when wet, but I've had to sleep in a wet synthetic bag and it's not much better. If you think there's a high likelyhood of it getting wet, then synthetics are the logical choice, because it at least has some chance of drying in your lifetime. A down bag will perform well in damp conditions as long as you take reasonable care. The microfiber shells on the bag do a pretty good job of repelling accidental spills and or dunks. I found out while trying to wash my bag, I had a really hard time getting the insulation wet because the bag just wanted to float on top of the water. You really have to try hard to get it completely soaked though. Using the bag in humid conditions for long term is a differnet story.

Feathered Friends still make some of the best quality down bags. Stephensons Warmlite used to make some good ones, I don't know if they're still in business.

2) Temperature rating - You could buy a subzero bag for the coldest temperature you think you would possibly encounter, but if you want to use it year round you'll be too hot for 3 out of 4 seasons. I don't know what the average weather is like over there, I'd aim for the average winter conditions, and add some accessories for the extreme weather. A good insulating pad will help a lot, and if you're using a hammock, get two. I have a silk liner to extend the range of my bag, it works but I absolutely hate using it. I'm fine in a mummy bag, but the liner makes it feel really claustrophobic. If you do get one, find one with at least a half zip, or you'll have to wiggle yourself in and out of the bag through the top. A bivy sack will also lower the temperature range of your bag. For colder weather, a draft collar is really nice to have, but some people don't like the feeling of them. Also, the ratings for most manufacturers are just a guide, I wouldn't rely on them too much.

3) Cost is inversely proportional to size and weight. A decent down bag will set you back about $200-$300 (slightly less for synthetic), a really good bag could cost $400, and premium bags go even higher. At that point you're really paying more to save maybe an ounce or two. If you think you'll get into a situation where your life is going to depend on your sleeping bag, spend as much as you need. If a bad bag will only cause minor inconvience, I'd save some money and just get a decent one.

Also, a sleeping bag is only one part of the equation. Even the best bags in the world aren't gonna do much good sleeping outside directly in the snow. The mat and shelter is just as important.

#114695 - 12/04/07 03:52 AM Re: Sleeping bag - how to choose? [Re: ame]
jshannon Offline

Registered: 02/02/03
Posts: 585
Loc: North Texas
One other thought. Alot of backpackers are liking the Montbell superstretch bags.


Edited by jshannon (12/04/07 03:53 AM)

#114704 - 12/04/07 06:16 AM Re: Sleeping bag - how to choose? [Re: ame]

Registered: 06/13/07
Posts: 99
I did a quick read through the other replies, so if someone already mentioned something similar sorry....Have you looked at a modular system with a possible bivy sack? I have one for the military and they're great. It gives you two different sleeping bags with a fairly good all weather bivy sack. I'd have to check on the temp specs, but I've used the inner lining bag or patrol sack down to 30 deg F and the whole sytem down past 0 F. You can always adapt to carrying part or the whole system. I have seen them online for around $200-700.
Spemque metumque inter dubiis - Hover between hope and fear. (Vergil)

#114712 - 12/04/07 01:11 PM Re: Sleeping bag - how to choose? [Re: CBTENGR]
benjammin Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/06/04
Posts: 4020
Loc: Anchorage AK
My experience has been that I must fit test it first. I am too big for most standard bags, and even worse for mummy style. My current bag is a slightly tapered rectangular oversize weighing a little over 4 lbs and rated to 0 degrees. I have yet to test it short of the home trials, so I am not sure if it will be up to snuff for warmth retention or not. It cost me $60 on sale, which is about all I intend to spend on a sleeping bag.

I prefer synthetic fill to down. I've had the miserable experience of using a down sleeping bag in the wet, and will not willingly do that again. Qualofil seems to be the best for weight to warmth that I've found, but these newer synthetics also sound pretty good, though I've not tried any of them yet.

As with all my previous bags, I find something that fits and the specs look right, the construction quality is there and I will take a chance on it. If it doesn't work out, I will go back and find something else. You really won't know until you get it in the field and put it to the test if it will do what you need, but with experience you will have a better idea what to expect.

There's a big difference between the bag you will use at base camp and the one you will pack into the hills. Throwing a 20 lb stuffed canvas sleeping bag atop a king size cot in a wall tent with a wood stove is a luxury. Backpacking items are almost always a compromise, but there's plenty of functional stuff out there that makes for decent enough survival gear if you happen to have it on hand at the time.
The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
-- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

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