What Sleeping Bag Temp Is Suitable for SoCal?

4:24 a.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
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I've been busy putting together a pack for some 2-3 day hikes located in SoCal. I'm new to this and also low on funds. One of the last things I need to purchase is a sleeping bag. I want to get a bag that will last me for 3 seasons (winter trips are not on my radar at this level of experience) but allow me to stay warm when I need it and not die in the hot summers we get down here. I have grand hopes of hitting some of the western National Parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and even the Channel Islands (gets wet so need a synthetic), but for now i'm gonna stay within 50-100 miles of Los Angeles (not that big). I've been looking at lightweight bags like the Eureka! Silver City 30-Degree and Eureka! Casper 15-Degree bags. I'm afraid that if i get the 15 degree bag I'll be sweating all night in the summer, and if I get the 30 it won't be enough when it does cool down. Any suggestions?

12:42 p.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
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SoCal is so varied in its temperature regimes that it is hard to give a definitive answer (I was in high school, undergrad, and grad school in SoCal). Go to Anza Borrego, Joshua Tree, the Mojave, or Death Valley, in late spring through early fall, and you need nothing more than a sheet. Go to San Jacinto, Baldy, or San Gorgonio in the height of summer, and a 30 deg bag is comfortable most of the time, except early to mid spring and mid to late fall, when you will definitely need a 15F bag or colder. The Sierra above 8-10 thousand feet often calls for a 15F bag, though there are hot nights when a sheet is just fine (I have about boiled in Yosemite backcountry in July and August, only to be really cold on a backpack a week or two later). At the Boy Scout summer camp on Huntington Lake (7000 ft), I have experienced 60 deg nights and nights with frost all in the same week.

The answer is to get a top quality 15 deg bag (though it depends on how warm or cold you sleep) and count on leaving it unzipped on hot nights while adding a jacket or sweater if it gets really cold.

Personally, I would not get a Eureka bag. You can get better quality synthetic bags for about the same price from REI (their store brand or Marmot, TNF, and a couple others). I would actually recommend the Integral Designs Primaloft bags (Primaloft is the closest synthetic to down in terms of weight to warmth and compressability, plus durability - Marmot also has some Primaloft bags, though nowhere near the quality of the Integral Designs bags which you will probably have to order from the ID website).

5:17 p.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
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Bill is on the money about the varying temps that you will find in SoCal. For example, last year we did a hike in Yosemite that started high in the mountains and the first couple nights were spent well below freezing. By the end of the week as we aproached the valley floor night time lows were in the 60's. I normally tell folks to buy at least a 20 deg bag if they are buying there first bag but Bills 15 degree recomendation would be better. It just seems that 20 deg is more common and you can often find better prices.

3:09 a.m. on March 6, 2010 (EST)
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Thanks for the help guys, it was good advice and I've decided to confidently go with a 15 degree bag. Out of curiosity, what is wrong with Eureka bags? Honestly they are very inexpensive, lightweight, and I have found a large amount of positive reviews. I checked out Integral Designs, and like Bill said, the only place I could find them was on their site. The problem is they were really expensive (almost $300). I can't justify spending that kind of cheddar when I've been looking for last year model type stuff at 33-50% off. I did check out the Marmot Trestles & Kelty Tundra 15 Degree bags and they have a nice balance of weight and price. Would these be a better choice?

3:17 p.m. on March 6, 2010 (EST)
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I live in So Cal and I have a 30 degree bag. It works pretty well all the time but the winter. It still works but I could use a little more warming at night. I want to get a 10 degree mummy bag for winter camping. In the summer time you will be sleeping with the bag open some times and closed sometimes. I always camp with a tent so I don't have a problem with bugs and snakes.

3:16 p.m. on March 8, 2010 (EST)
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I (and a few others) have experimented with a down quilt (mine is home made from plans on the Net) the last two years - mainly Sierra. I've had no problems with 3 season temps and it is lighter weight than a comparable loft sleeping bag. I like to thrash around a bit and use a mummy when it is needed in cold climes. I found a Marmot 20F bag a tad cool at times above 10,000' (20F's in August not a rare event) but supplemented it with a down vest I stuck in bottom of pack.

4:48 p.m. on March 8, 2010 (EST)
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Thanks for the tip speacock, do you have a link for the pattern/instructions?

11:33 a.m. on March 9, 2010 (EST)
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Quilt instructions/kit


Some back ground info and places to get materials. I used the thru-hiker Padget project with a bit of modification. I added rayjardines draft edges as well.

There is info above also on sewing and other skills (patience). The only real challenge is stuffing the down. Messy but straightforward. Doing it inside a tent on a still day is probably the best way to do it to contain the fluffs. Just takes awhile to get the down out of the tent. You need a windy day :)

Important to get the cheapest cotton material for an initial mock up. Old sheets might work if stitched together. Quilt (the usual kind) supply shops have 80" wide cotton that is good.

3:06 p.m. on March 9, 2010 (EST)
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Used to be that you could buy down in long plastic tubes, which made filling down gear pretty easy ( well, ok, comparitively easy) with little loss of down. The gear manufacturers use a blower that blows the down into the tubes of the sleeping bag, comforter, jacket, pants, vest, whatever.

By the way, one of the reasons that a lot of synthetic bags and comforters are so much cheaper than down is that many of the synthetic fills are made in batts, rather than synthetic plumules. This greatly simplifies the construction of the gear.

3:53 p.m. on March 9, 2010 (EST)
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There are synthetic quilt designs out there as well. Holubar down kits had soluble bags that after construction you could 'rinse' out the container. Not sure that ever worked well. I remember his first instructions were to put the cat out side, shut the doors and windows and get a comfortable low stool next to the bathtub. Then proceed a handful at a time....V E R Y S L O W L Y. As I remember a handful, if you look carefully through an opening in the circled index finger at the top of your fist, had 8 down 'puffs' in it.

I've wanted to see the room they fill the down items in. I have visions of white covering EVERYTHING and sticking to you like dog hair with a bazillion volt positive charge...or honey.

You would think that some enterprising soul with a blower would fill hobbyists kits for them for a fee on top of the cost of down. It is not one of those routine jobs you take on quickly without thinking about it, after the last down project.

1:24 a.m. on March 17, 2010 (EDT)
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It can be chilly (mid thirtes) in So Cal mountains and high desert early as mid November and late as mid March. Get at least a 30 bag (you can always wear long johns, fleece and a cap to bed). For very little more $ you can get a 15 or 20 bag:)

If going to the Sierra, get at least a 15 or better bag, regardless of season. I’ve had water bottles partialy freeze on occasion at 12K feet in late July.

I own and use four bags: a slumber party weight synthetic bag for late spring or early fall in the desert; a 30 synthetic bag for three seasons on trips I expect a fair amount of rain; a 20 down fill bag for Sierra east summers, and So Cal spring and fall mountains; and a -25 down fill bag for late fall through late spring Sierra and So Cal winter trips, including josh.

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