Overbag???

9:23 p.m. on August 30, 2006 (EDT)
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Now that I have finished drawing all the knowledge out of Bill that I could on stoves, I have my next question. I would like to get into winter camping and I need a sleeping bag with a rating of -10 or more. Right now I have a north face blaze. Anyway I was wondering if it would be best to just buy a whole new sleeping bag or if an overbag is a good option. If an overbag is a good option what kind of rating do I need to have to get an increase of 30 degrees in my current sleeping bags rating. Keep in mind that I am a high school kid and I am on a budget. I almost forgot I to tell you that I am just tall enough that I need a long sleeping bag just incase that makes any difference in your recommendations

10:18 p.m. on August 30, 2006 (EDT)
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Dave, I have a down MacPac bag rated at -5C (+23F)which I have used with an MEC Emperor Penguin overbag. The MEC costs about $70-100 U.S., depending on what shell it has and will lower the temp rating of my bag by about 10F or theoretically to about +13. I have used both inside a Bibler Winter Bivy, which probably adds a couple of degrees as well down to what I estimate to be about +15F and was quite toasty.

My MEC bag is made with Primaloft and a shell of something called F.O. H20 (Canadian for Americans will believe anything). They have a new model with Goretex. It looks like a really lightweight mummy bag with a half zip.

EMS has an overbag that looks nice-about $125. There are a few others.

According to a review here, the Blaze is rated to 20F so it's about the same as my bag. I know of no overbag that will lower the rating by 30F and I spent a lot of time looking before buying mine. There may be some claims like that out there, but I would be suspicious of them.

Winter bags, especially good down bags, are very expensive. If you are sure you're going to be out in -10F, then depending on your build, you probably want a bag rated to -20F so you have a bit of extra warmth just in case. There are some less expensive synthetic bags on the review pages, but if I was going to really use a bag a lot in that kind of cold weather, I would bite down hard-no pun intended-and spend the bucks for a Western Mountaineering or Feathered Friends down bag. Never had one, but they get rave reviews from those who have them.

There are a few experienced winter campers here-Bill S being one, so you'll probably get a better answer from them.

11:10 p.m. on August 30, 2006 (EDT)
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Thanks for the quick response Tom. I am actually expecting temps around zero so I already added 10 to the temp I expect. also I tend to sleep fairly warm thanks to my teenager metabolism. I have one fairly big problem though I am slightly allergic to down.

12:04 a.m. on August 31, 2006 (EDT)
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Dave, you can get synthetic bags for really cold weather-just look for the better brands-and yes, there is more than one. The trade off is weight-generally speaking, synthetics are heavier; and bulk-synthetics don't compress as much as down. Cost--synthetics are a lot cheaper than down.
Example-MH has a synthetic bag rated at -15F for $225 and a down bag,rated at -20F for $580. They weigh the same according to the factory website. In this case, for the extra $350 you get down and a waterproof/breatheable shell, which explains the weight similarity-more fill in the synthetic bag but a heavier shell on the down bag.

If you stuff whatever you have in a winter bivy like the Bibler, you can save getting an exotic shell that will add to the cost. My MacPac, which I bought about 20 years ago, just has what I think is a polyester shell of some kind, so I put it in the bivy to keep it dry. I picked up my bivy used for $50. It packs to about the size of a Coke can-no hoop or any of that stuff.

I would be wary of bags sold on eBay that claim to be good to -40F and cost $100. Do your homework, check all the factory websites and do comparisons before shopping. REI has some cheap bags rated at 0F. Might be worth a look. REI stands behind everything they sell.

6:08 a.m. on August 31, 2006 (EDT)
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boil up some water before sack time and throw the hot water bottle into your sleeping bag with you.

You'll be pretty warm all night and have luke warm water in the morning that is safe to drink.

I always put my hot water bottle into two Zip lock freezer bags - just in case of any leakage.

12:03 p.m. on August 31, 2006 (EDT)
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Some great suggestions here, especially Ed's hot water bottle. I use that on my winter treks and high altitude expeditions to prewarm my -40 deg bag.

Another suggestion that is less expensive is to get one of the fleece "sleeping bags" from Walmart/Target/Big 5/etc and use it as a liner. Even a fleece blanket formed into a liner with safety pins works. This will give an extra 10-15 degrees.

Sleeping in dry long johns or a dry parka will warm things up. Just make sure any clothes you sleep in are dry (not damp and sweaty from the day's activities) and you remove all the hard lumpy things from your pockets.

A really cheap way to get an overbag is to borrow a summer-weight bag from family or friends and use that as an overbag (gee, golly, guess what an "overbag" really is? - some companies make a 2-layer bag in which the outer overbag is a summer 50 deg bag, the inner is a 20 deg bag, and the combination is a -10 to -20 deg bag).

As already noted, there are synthetic bags that go down to -40 deg. The Dark Star is one. They are much cheaper than down bags of the same rating and are non-allergenic. I have a North Face Bigfoot, which is a -10 deg bag (hmmm, I never use it anymore, and it's in good condition. Maybe I should sell it to you. I only paid $100 on a promotion that the local TNF store had).

The 2 big problems (figuratively and literally) for most synth bags is that they are heavier than down for the same insulation value and they are bulky, which shows up as being hard to compress into a stuff sack. These have both been changing in the past 3 or 4 years. The best current synth is Primaloft. It comes very close to down in both insulation for weight and stuffability. I would place it as equivalent to 500-fill down (these days you can commonly get 700 to 800 fill in top quality bags). Polargard's 2 best varieties are close, and a bit cheaper than Primaloft. The lifetime of synth is not as long as down, about 10 years for the synth in my experience and up to 40 years for down (I sometimes use my 45 year old Karakoram still).

If you are inclined to buy a new winter bag, take a look at the Integral Designs website at their Primaloft bags. They are premium bags, a bit on the pricey side for synth, but well worth it. Marmot also has some good synthetic bags. But keep in mind - a bag good to -20 or colder is very specialized. You won't want to use it in summer at all, only late fall, early spring, or during the winter.

"Keep in mind that I am a high school kid and I am on a budget. "

Hmmmm, sounds to me like you are a pretty mature and thoughtful "high school kid". I wish that even half of the "high school kids" I have to deal with put as much into it as you have been in your posts and excellent questions here.

1:42 p.m. on August 31, 2006 (EDT)
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I have one of the el-cheapo fleece bags Bill is refering to.

It's really pretty nice for the $9.95 I paid for it. It can be compacted really small, weighs next to nothing and is pretty warm.

I originally bought mine for hammock camping, but I also intend to use it inside my 15 degree down bag if necessary.

In addition to the fleece bag, I found some silk long underwear at Sierra Trading Post for about $20 for top and bottoms. This also helps keep me pretty toasty at night.

3:41 p.m. on August 31, 2006 (EDT)
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Thanks for everyone's advice. I already have a cool max liner that I bought it because it is more comfortable to lay on than the sleeping bag nylon, and so i have something easy to wash on long outings. I looked up they liner online and found that it increases my bags temp rating by up to 8 degrees. So with the addition of a cheap fleece sleeping bag and a pair of long johns. that should lower the rating of my sleeping bag enough to use it in winter, and on very cold nights I can always add a pair of fleece pants and a fleece jacket.

PS. Bill my parents would disagree with you on the mature and responsible part.

6:41 p.m. on August 31, 2006 (EDT)
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Parental viewpoints

"PS. Bill my parents would disagree with you on the mature and responsible part."

It is a parent's obligation to forever view their progeny as immature and irresponsible. That's almost an exact quote from my son, following his graduate hooding ceremony, when I said "I hope you will now start acting in a mature and responsible manner." He was 25 at the time. Barb's father considered her his "little baby daughter" up until his death, and she was in her late 40s at that point. He was introducing me as "Barbara's boyfriend" at least as late as our 20th wedding anniversary.

Don't let it worry you. They might outgrow it someday {;=>D

6:58 p.m. on August 31, 2006 (EDT)
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Thanks for telling me what to look forward to Bill.

9:50 a.m. on September 1, 2006 (EDT)
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At one time I owned a Wiggy's overbag and used it in conjunction with an REI polarguard bag. The beauty of the Wiggy's overbag was that the zippers just so happened to match up with the REI bag and the bags nested together. Wiggy's bag has two sets of zippers specifically for that reason, the zippers matching was just coincedence. The combination worked well and kept me warm in below zero temps.

Here's what I don't like about the overbag method - two of everything, plus it is a heavy system. Two bags, two sets of zippers, two hoods, two sets of drawcords. In short, a bit of a pain in the a$$ to use in the field. However, if you are on a budget the overbag method is the way to go as others have mentioned that winter bags are expensive.

Currently I have a down bag good to about 20* F, but have not winter camped since I sold the Wiggy's and REI bags. I'm not sure what I'd do to get a -20 system together. I have a 40* Marmot bag that I could nest over my 20* bag and a gore tex bivy shell. Maybe I'd get a vbl for the balance and hope the weather stayed above 0*. I'd really like a -20* or -40* bag, but will have to get lucky and find one on some sort of mega-clearance before I spring for one.

5:44 p.m. on September 1, 2006 (EDT)
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thanks for all the help everyone. if I am correct the cheapest way to get my bag down to the temperature rating I want would be to use my existing bag(20F) with the addition of my liner(+8F). Then add a fleece bag from target(+10F), and sleep in a pair of long underwear. with a fleece pants and a fleece jacket on cold nights. Correct me if I'm wrong but this should be good down to 0 and a little past maybe to -10.

If I get the money I would be looking for a 40 degree bag to use as a over bag to drop my sleeping bags rating by around 30 degrees F Correct???

8:12 p.m. on September 1, 2006 (EDT)
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Dave, don't forget that what gives a bag its insulating property is loft-creating dead air space in the bag between you and the outside world. Remember, the bag itself doesn't generate heat, it keeps you warm by retaining your own body heat. A down jacket works the same way. If you jam the bag full of liners and compress everything against the interior of the bag, you will defeat the purpose of it. Same is true if you jam one bag inside another and wind up compressing them together.

An overbag only works if there is enough room in it for the inner bag to loft up. My overbag works fine with my MacPac, but probably wouldn't with anything much bigger-not enough room for the bag to fully loft.

Whatever you buy, try to test out the combo before buying the pieces at random and then trying to make them work together later. For example, both of my bags have the zip on the same side-easier to get in and out of. The Bibler, unfortunately has a cross-chest zipper so that is a real pain, but it is super light so I'm not sure what I could get to replace it.

12:55 p.m. on September 2, 2006 (EDT)
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I was thinking about that and I think that there will be enough room, but I cant be sure till I try it with everything to make sure it fits.

8:58 p.m. on September 4, 2006 (EDT)
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I found a old wool military surplus wool blanket in our basement. I was wondering much warmth it will add to a sleeping bag??? The blanket is in good shape it looks like it has hardly been used.

12:11 a.m. on September 6, 2006 (EDT)
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The wool blanket would be much the same as one of the fleece bags or blankets already mentioned. Having it in hand makes it much cheaper, of course. Only 2 problems I can see - it is probably heavier than the fleece bag/blanket approach, and since you said something about being allergic to down, you might be allergic to wool as well. Check it out and tell us how it works for you.

12:51 p.m. on September 6, 2006 (EDT)
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I was hoping that it would be warmer than the fleece but I guess the only way to find out is to test it. the blanket is fairly heavy and doesnt Pack well so unless it has a substantial amount more warmth than fleece i wont bother with it. It is also not in as good of shape as I thought it looks like maybe some moths got at it. I'm actually not sure if I'm allergic to down it self or particles that get trapped in down I think it actually might be things that get trapped in down I just know that i had problems with down pillows when I was younger.

1:44 p.m. on September 6, 2006 (EDT)
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Dave, My dad used to have a couple of WW II vintage wool blankets, so I imagine what you have is similar. I know you are on a budget, but you may want to look for a small synthetic filled quilt instead-it will be lighter and will compress more. You should be able to find them at discount stores.
Also, believe it or not, sometimes places like Salvation Army or Goodwill have used gear that people donate. Occasionally someone will post one of those "what's the best deal you've ever got?" posts on a website and you'd be surprised what people find. The trick is to find one near a neighborhood where people tend to donate items rather than sell them on eBay. What you will find mostly is clothes, like nice jackets, for next to nothing.

Also, a lot of sites like this one have buy/sell boards which are good places to look for used gear. There is also a yahoo group called "backpackgearswap" that seems pretty active. I have just joined it so I'm not that familiar with what all shows up there yet.

You can outfit yourself relatively cheaply if you are resourceful and spend the time looking around.

7:02 p.m. on September 7, 2006 (EDT)
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would a synthetic fill quilt be warmer that a fleece blanket or a cheap fleece sleeping bag like Bill mentioned??? Thanks for the tip about salvation army I never even thought about that.

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