Sleeping Bag Help

12:23 a.m. on February 9, 2013 (EST)
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Hey everyone, 

So I am starting a new job this week where I am suggested to have a -20 or -40 (F) sleeping bag. I have been searching around the past couple days and besides paying upwards of $400 I have not come up with a solution. I currently have a 20 degree bag and a 0 degree bag. I also purchased a "Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme" sleeping bag liner that is supposed to add up to 25 degrees of warmth. 

Would having the liner and a zero degree bag be suitably warm? I thought about doubling up on the sleeping bags but there seems to be varied opinons as to whether that works or not. That would also make my sleeping bags very heavy to carry and I will be doing a fair amount of hiking. I have also thought about adding a fleece liner in addition to the thermolite liner and the zero degree bag. 

At this point, buying another sleeping bag is probably out of the question. I have very limited time and it appears that there are no -20 degree bags in stock anywhere. 

Any suggestions?

3:34 a.m. on February 9, 2013 (EST)
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What line of work requires this?  Where?


6:46 a.m. on February 9, 2013 (EST)
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A wilderness therapy job. I will be in northwest CO/ northeast UT. 

7:42 a.m. on February 9, 2013 (EST)
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The sts liner will give you about ten degrees max. I would go with the liner and some type of bivy bag over it. People tend to compress the inner bag when they double sleeping bags. Maybe some type of quilt over the top of hyour bag might help.

10:02 a.m. on February 9, 2013 (EST)
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Maybe with the 0° bag and the Thermolite, but to me that sounds risky. You say the Thermolite is, "...supposed to add up to 25° of warmth." but that  sounds like marketing hype more than a guarantee. 

If you're going to be camping outside where the temperatures overnight could get to -40° C/F, IMHO go wiith the real thing, something meant for that temperature. There's a BIG difference between -20 and -40°.

You can double up or add extra layers, but you're adding weight and bulk as well, and there's no assurance you'll stay warm. At best, you're talking about an uncomfortable and sleepness night shivering in the dark, and at worst, freezing to death. For the money, I'd just buy something like a Western Mountaineering bag meant for those temperartures. 

10:18 a.m. on February 9, 2013 (EST)
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Would you consider a vapor barrier system?

What kind of therapy will you be able to provide at -20 to -40 degrees F?  Peak bagging in January?  Something is fishy about the requirements for your job.

10:28 a.m. on February 9, 2013 (EST)
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It is looking like more realistic temps for this upcoming week will be in the negative single digits at night. But with snow as well. I will only be at an elevation of about 6000ft. 

11:12 a.m. on February 9, 2013 (EST)
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Given your location, I recommend you take a short drive to Salt Lake and visit IME. They are located on 3300 just off I-215 (east part of the loop) in the same mall as the REI. They have Western Mountaineering bags in stock. Talk to Merrill or Scot (the owners). They are extremely knowledgable and will give you the right information (not like the mixed bag of disinformation you get on the web). And they are a local specialty shop. They have a room with used gear on consignment where you can get slightly used gear at super bargain prices. And you can get the right clothes, boots, and other gear for your new job as well. The info you got so far is ok (several of Trailspaces most knowledgable members), but you need to provide a bit more information about where you are going and what your job entails. Your comment about NW Co/NE Ut places you in the Uintas. The valleys there are 6000 ft, and the mountains get up to 12-14 thousand. If you will only be in the valleys, your 0 F bag would be OK with the liner. But if you are going to be up into the hills, then the -20 / -40 range will be needed in the next month or 2.

12:42 p.m. on February 9, 2013 (EST)
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Wilderness therapy?  Do they expect the clients to have this sort of gear?  I imagine the program is providing them such essentials, which makes me wonder why they don't make similar accommodations for the staff, given your total set up can cost a tidy sum, especially given most psych staffers do not make the big money.


5:13 p.m. on February 9, 2013 (EST)
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My sleep system involves layering and it works well. I like the specs on the STS thermolite bag -- thermolite, in my experience, is remarkably warm for very little weight or bulk. I might try it out myself, and relegate the fleece liner to summer use (it is bulky for backpacking.)

But if I were shooting for -20, and price being an obstacle, I'd follow Bill S.'s advice and go look for a good used bag that was properly rated. You can still pack the STS liner along without much extra weight or bulk if you want some extra assurance.

2:43 a.m. on February 11, 2013 (EST)
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For a handful of items in one's pack one should go as big as his budget will allow, and a bag is one of those items. Honestly, being warm is just one part of the equation. You must also REST. If you do not rest well and sleep well, your decision making processes, ability to regulate yourself in metabolism, aptitude, and abilities will all degrade. Many backpackers don't look wholistally at not just the value, but overwhelming importance of good sleep.

Without waxing obnoxious, sleep is far too underrated and undervalued. Especially when your life is in your own hands, like it is in the wilderness, good sleep is not just a convenience. It's survival.

Other responders have given you good insight. Good luck!!!

3:08 a.m. on February 11, 2013 (EST)
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Take Bill's advice and check with IME. Nothing like talking to people in the area who actually know the conditions first hand. Getting a good used bag can save you a lot of money. I picked up a Marmot bag last year for half it's retail value on Craigslist. It's only a -10F bag, but I bought it for the local mountains. I saw a couple of WM Puma bags for around $300-400 and that is a -25F bag. They retail for around $700-800 depending on the shell, so half off is a pretty good savings for a bag like that.

I have used an overbag over my +23F bag and got about 10 degrees lower comfort with that combo, but stuffing them together is a pain. I also have a huge winter parka (TNF Baltoro, replaced by the Himalayan) that I have laid over my bag. That parka weighs about as much as many bags and adds quite a bit of warmth. Notice I said I lay it over my bag, not that I wear it inside the bag. I'm wearing midweight Capilene and have a fleece balaclava, down booties and gloves if need be, but I'd rather not wear anything other than the Capilene.

I would try out that combo of yours before trusting that it will actually work in -20F weather out in the field where you don't have the option of seeking warm shelter if it doesn't.

June 18, 2018
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