Winter Sleeping Bag

2:51 p.m. on March 5, 2009 (EST)
MODERATOR
38 reviewer rep
1,765 forum posts

This is for anyone with extensive winter experience (this means you, Bill, hehehe) and I know there is a similar thread here somewhere, but I'm asking anyway.

I am considering buying a winter bag for next winter. I am in no hurry and will be looking around for a deal over the summer. I only do a trip or two to the Sierra each winter, so I know pretty much the temp range, although I might do a trip to Ontario where it will be a lot colder.

My current bag system is a 23F (-5C) down bag inside an MEC overbag that adds maybe a few more degrees. With my parka tossed over the top, I was toasty in Yosemite down around 15F or so with only my base layer Capilene, expedition socks, and a balaclava on.

I could get a 0F bag, but am considering getting one for much colder temps. My bag weighs 45 oz.;the overbag adds another 25 oz, total 70 oz.

I could buy a WM Puma good to -25F and it weighs only 55 oz, maybe a few more for the long version.

So, the dilemma is this-would buying a Puma or similar bag be too much bag? Should I get one with the MicroFiber or similar shell or get Gore-tex? I have read that Goretex won't breathe in really cold weather, so is it worth the extra money?

Also, my present bag is 6'6" even though I am only 5'10." I don't recall why I wound up with a long bag, but I like the extra bit of space. I'm thinking of getting the same length again. A few extra oz. won't bother me and I don't think a shorter bag is any big advantage. I am not very heavy, so a standard bag like a Puma would fit me just fine from what I read on the WM site.

Feathered Friends makes a similar bag using eVEnt.

These bags aren't cheap, and one problem I have is I want to actually see one before buying anything. A16 in WLA has some WM bags, but not the Puma, but at least I can see how they are made.

Any other suggestions? I don't buy a lot of gear, so I want to get some feedback before making a decision. Thanks.

2:55 p.m. on March 5, 2009 (EST)
153 reviewer rep
460 forum posts

So looks like you are looking for a more lightweight bag. Correct me if I'm wrong. I can share with you the bag I'm using for cold weather camping.

Of course I don't think you would use this bag however:

http://www.sierratradingpost.com/p/,79445_Alps-Mountaineering-0-F-Sleeping-Bag-Alpine-Lake-Long-Mummy.html

You may want to take a look at these bags however:

http://www.campingcomfortably.com/down-sleeping-bags.html

or perhaps these bags with X-fibre:

http://www.campingcomfortably.com/x-fibre-sleeping-bags.html

3:18 p.m. on March 5, 2009 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
1,083 forum posts

Tom, based on what you have as described above, I wouldn't bother getting a 0F bag as it's too close to your current bag. If you are toasty at 15, you'll survive at 0. I'd pop for the warmer bag, but keep in mind I always take more bag than I need. I'd narrow down your choices to a select few brands; Western Mountaineering, Feathered Friends, Marmot, Mountain Hardware, ID, and maybe Sierra Designs and TNF, then wait for a bargain. I still kick myself from a few years back when Sierra Trading Post closed out Moonstone bags and they had winter weights too.

I do the overbag too, and while it's a pita, it works and the price is right.

3:29 p.m. on March 5, 2009 (EST)
153 reviewer rep
460 forum posts

Tom, based on what you have as described above, I wouldn't bother getting a 0F bag as it's too close to your current bag. If you are toasty at 15, you'll survive at 0. I'd pop for the warmer bag, but keep in mind I always take more bag than I need. I'd narrow down your choices to a select few brands; Western Mountaineering, Feathered Friends, Marmot, Mountain Hardware, ID, and maybe Sierra Designs and TNF, then wait for a bargain. I still kick myself from a few years back when Sierra Trading Post closed out Moonstone bags and they had winter weights too.

Alan,

I'm curious, why only these brands you mentioned?

They all seem to be BIG name brands.

Perhaps you don't share the same idea I have about those BIG names, however.

3:54 p.m. on March 5, 2009 (EST)
MODERATOR
38 reviewer rep
1,765 forum posts

Ministercreek-What I am looking for is not so much lighter, but warmer. I mention the weight because a single bag is warmer than a double like I am using anyway, so weight isn't a big factor for me.

I think Alan mentioned those brands because they all make quality products that are readily available. WM and FF are niche manufacturers. ID isn't all that big either, I don't think, compared to TNF. But, that isn't what I care about as much as finding a good bag. We've discussed that issue before here, and I don't want my quest for a bag to turn into another critique of big v. small companies.

Maybe someone can come up with the concept of "fair trade" camping gear, but not here and not now.

Alan, I saw two Puma's on eBay for under $500 brand new- that is not bad-25% off retail ($660 for a long Puma) for a new bag.

5:06 p.m. on March 5, 2009 (EST)
153 reviewer rep
460 forum posts

I was just thinking perhaps Cabela's or some other gear company could of been suggested.

That's all.

5:41 p.m. on March 5, 2009 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
1,083 forum posts

Cabela's is a big name in their own right in a slightly different market niche - hunting and fishing versus backpacking and climbing. I don't see them as any less big name than the brands I mentioned. The difference in my opinion is the quality of Cabelas is likely less than that of a WM, FF, Marmot... The cost of Cabelas' products is generally less and my guess is the difference comes out on the quality end.

As winter is coming to an end, even in Minnesota, I would suggest a daily browse through ebay, craigslist, REI Outlet, Sierra Trading Post, as well as other forums such as this. Sooner or later patience is rewarded. You may also consider some house brands like REI or EMS or LL Bean. For the amount you'll use the bag these may serve you just fine. REI and Bean have good warranties if the bag doesn't work out.

5:54 p.m. on March 5, 2009 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
1,083 forum posts
6:09 p.m. on March 5, 2009 (EST)
MODERATOR
38 reviewer rep
1,765 forum posts

Thanks Alan. -40 is probably too warm though. Like you said, I have plenty of time. I got my parka on eBay at almost half price, so bargains are out there on occasion.

10:57 p.m. on March 5, 2009 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,445 reviewer rep
5,386 forum posts

Tom,

In my experience, you will get what you are looking for in Feathered Friends, Integral Designs, or Western Mountaineering bags. I would suggest -10 to -20F for a temperature rating (all 3 give honest ratings for the various bags I have from them). Contrary to ministercreek's comment, all 3 are small niche companies, from which you get personal service from the owner or one of his immediate assistants (all 3 are owned by men, but FF's main assistants are women, and one of the people you might talk to at WM is female, so I am not being sexist here). All 3 turn out a few hundred bags a year each, along with other products, so they are definitely not BIG names in the sense that ministercreek is meaning the term. They are big in having well-deserved excellent reputations.

WM is just down the road from me. FF is in Seattle, and ID is in Edmonton. All 3 make their gear by hand, none of these large cutting machines that cut out hundreds of the bag pieces at a time with little human intervention (they do use sewing machines, of course).

ID used to do a fair amount of customization, but they have taken on some Canadian Armed Forces contracts in the past few years. So Evan has cut back on the customization (both Barb and my Dolomiti jackets were customized for the hoods, and Barb's was made with shorter arms for the parka size - women tend to have shorter arms for jacket size than men, and we supplied the measured arm length). My Primaloft bag from ID also had some custom adjustments made. All my ID products have stood up well under the conditions I subject them to (I am not easy on my gear).

Both of our -40F Feathered Friends bags were customized, in my case with extra fill of down and a different material for the hood area, and for Barb, a shorter length than they normally make (she's 5 feet even tall), but with the same amount of down as a regular length bag. When my first -40 bag from FF delaminated in the hood area (Gore's problem, not FF, and FF discovered it when I sent the bag to them for cleaning and inspection after my 3rd Denali climb), FF replaced it for free with similar customized features.

Western quit doing customization several years ago, because of the high demand and staying as a small operation. My WM gear has also proven to be well made and stands up well.

You can get a bag of whatever temperature range you want from any of the 3. I would suggest going a bit colder than the 0F you mention, because down bags have a wide comfort range (as do Primaloft bags), and you can always open the hood, loosen the draft collar, and unzip the bag part way. I have used my -40 FF in Africa in the Serengeti and on Denali and in Antarctica at -40 measured by adjusting the hood, collar, and zipper.

3:58 p.m. on March 6, 2009 (EST)
38 reviewer rep
134 forum posts

WM and FF are niche manufacturers. ID isn't all that big either, I don't think, compared to TNF.

Wow, I've never see WM and FF written off as niche manufacturers. Made in the USA, and almost universally acclaimed as some of the finest down bags made anywhere in the world. I don't consider volume to be a measure of quality, but I would never buy a Chinese TNF bag over WM. Incredible to even consider. And I don't know who makes Cabela's bags, but I'm sure they're just re-labeling someone else's bag. It's not like expeditions get outfitted at Cabelas.

5:02 p.m. on March 6, 2009 (EST)
MODERATOR
38 reviewer rep
1,765 forum posts

Bill, two more questions: About bag size: Jim Shaw suggested getting a shorter bag-just long enough, but I am tending towards some extra foot room since I am used to that in my MacPac bag - it is 6'6". Also both WM and FF make a narrow bag. I am small (5'10, about 130), but like the idea of the standard bag, which is a bit wider, so I can move around a bit in it. They make an even bigger bag too, but that's not the ones I am looking at. Anything too narrow doesn't appeal to me all that much. My MacPac bag is fairly confining and sometimes, it bugs me a bit.

About the shell-Microfiber v. Goretex or eVent?

WM offers MF or Goretex, while the FF equivalent of the WM Puma uses eVent. I am leaning towards the Puma - a -25F bag. Not sure why I like it over the FF really-the FF Peregrine is about the same bag.

Ski- I am not "writing off" WM and FF; I think you misunderstood my use of the term "niche." As Bill said, and he has personal knowledge of these companies that I do not, they are small manufacturers of high end gear, that the average camper either does not need and can find a reasonable substitute for at a lower price or can't afford. Niche to me means smaller numbers of top of the line or a specialty product, not what you usually find in a store like REI, which carries a wide range of commonly purchased gear but not usually from smaller manufacturers who can't supply the whole chain.

I was surprised to find WM at A16 here in LA, but they only have five stores in SoCal, not 70 or 80 or so like REI.

6:29 p.m. on March 6, 2009 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,445 reviewer rep
5,386 forum posts

Tom -

I got a long bag (I'm 5'8-1/2, but was 5'9 when I got it - too much backpacking a ton of climbing gear and a month's worth of food on expeditions, my PCP tells me), mostly to be able to put my boot liners at the foot of the bag in super cold climates. I am not as skinny as you claim to be, but I can get inside the bag with my 8000 meter jacket and FF down pants, as well as with the boot liners on (we slept that way on Denali at 17,000 ft, not so much to keep warm as to be ready to get out of the tent if the 70 knot winds managed to collapse the wind walls, as they did for some groups - we had to reinforce the walls with new snow on a daily basis as it was). There was still room to move around a bit. Barb's FF allows moving around, even though it is custom shortened.

After having had bags with DriLoft (Gore's version of gtex intended for sleeping bag outers, though not as breathable as eVent) and microfiber (Pertex for our FF bags and my FF down pants, and another microfiber for my Marmot 8000 Meter Jacket (can't recall the brand name right now) and for my ID Primaloft bag), I would definitely stick with the microfiber. I believe you can still ask FF to use Pertex for the Peregrine (the Peregrine with about 4 ounces of overfill 850 down becomes a -40F bag). That's what I have, and have used in -40F weather. I definitely would not ever get the full-on GoreTex or Driloft for a sleeping bag again.

You can spill your tea or soup on Pertex or other microfibers, and if you are reasonably quick about brushing it off, it doesn't soak through at all. It works well enough on my FF down pants that I have worn them in moderate rain for a quarter hour and when setting up my tent in Sierra wet snow without the down getting wet.

 

skiNM, maybe I should have said "specialty" rather than "niche", if that makes you happier. My meaning of niche (and Tom's, from his comment) is that WM, FF, and ID do not make bags for the serious backpacker market (like Marmot, North Face, and similar companies), much less the mass camper market (Wiggies Coleman, that group). They are high end specialty manufacturers, with their bags aimed for the climbing expedition, backcountry telemark and randonee skier, and the super-serious backpacker markets. By super-serious backpacker, I mean people who have been at it for a long time and plan on continuing for a long time, so need gear that will stand up to hard, continuous use for many years to come, people who will stress their gear like the expedition climbers and backcountry skiers. Generally people who do a lot of climbing in, say, the Cascades, where they camp high on the mountain and may have to sit out a multi-day storm are in that class, too. That is not to say that Marmot and North Face (and the reincarnated Eddie Bauer, maybe) do not make gear in that class, though it is saying that FF, ID, and WM (and a few European and Aus/NZ companies) are clearly at the top. Until you use gear from each of the manufacturers under more extreme conditions, you probably won't spot the differences, though.

One other thing - you won't find ID, WM, or FF in very many shops, and almost never in the REIs and EMSs of this world, unlike Marmot and TNF. You have to get them either in specialized mountaineering shops (like Gary Neptune's, IME's, and the like) or directly from the factory.

By the way, here is an interesting page comparing tests of Goretex, eVent, and Epic, with mentions of PacLite and Entrant. eVent comes out ahead as a waterproof/breathable, with Entrant being too new at the time of the article. Friends who have Entrant gear have told me it is the equal of eVent, but I haven't used any Entrant gear myself.

7:14 p.m. on March 6, 2009 (EST)
MODERATOR
38 reviewer rep
1,765 forum posts

Thanks Bill, that helps a lot. I look at this bag, whatever I get, to be the last winter bag I buy, so I don't mind spending a few extra bucks to have something I am going to like. Not to say that there aren't others out there that would do me just as well at a lower price, but I'm willing to forego other things to know I've got about the best there is. I do want to try a bit of cold weather camping up North (Canada) so that's why the Puma and similar bags are getting my interest. One of my Canadian friends from another site has a Puma and he really likes it.

9:13 p.m. on March 6, 2009 (EST)
37 reviewer rep
747 forum posts

I have a large WM Super Kodiak that was designed for a linebacker. I got it because I thought I was 6 foot 1. After I got the bag I was unhappy with it. I could feel a cold draft on my back if my back was against the zipper. I took it back and they overstuffed the draft tube. You could knocked me over with a feather when I was actually measured at 5'11".


I was still cold, because it was way too big for me. I installed two elastic bands inside the bag that gently hold it against me, one below the knees and another just below my waist. This dividing up of the bag into air packets worked. My feet stay warm without socks because the bag is snug to my legs and warm blood arrives at my feet. The top of the bag is probably still too big for me, but it is such a mass of down that it works, and putting my down jacket over me makes it really toasty.


You may be warmer in a puma, but for most sierra nights you might be too warm. How yo fit it and use it will make a big difference.


And yes mines the full on goretex and fully seam sealed with seam grip.

Jim S

9:33 p.m. on March 6, 2009 (EST)
MODERATOR
38 reviewer rep
1,765 forum posts

I remember you posting about putting those straps inside it. I agree, it's probably too warm for most Sierra nights, but I want it for those few times I go out when it's darn cold. I want to start doing more of that, so a good bag is where I'm going to start. I probably won't pick one up until next fall, unless I see a real steal on Craigslist or eBay.

10:35 p.m. on March 6, 2009 (EST)
38 reviewer rep
134 forum posts

Interesting. Got my WM for the cost of a Marmot, and now I feel like I shouldn't have it. Moving right along though.......so at -25, are you using a vapor barrier?

11:27 p.m. on March 6, 2009 (EST)
MODERATOR
38 reviewer rep
1,765 forum posts

Sounds like a great deal to me, Ski. I'm hoping to find something like that. Not sure about using a VBL. I've never been in that cold yet and have read various opinions on them and the best way to use them. How about you? Any experience with one?

12:30 p.m. on March 8, 2009 (EDT)
6 reviewer rep
119 forum posts

The bags from Montbell have the elastic huggers built right in. A guy I know purchased one and said he was very pleased with the bag! I may look that way next bag!

9:58 p.m. on March 10, 2009 (EDT)
42 reviewer rep
352 forum posts

I've totally trashed a WM ultralight over the course of about 500 nights and loved it! The best bag i ever had by far. i regret every day not buying the exact same bag again.

I do use a VBL i made out of silnylon (5oz). For the very humid, cold ever changing weather we have in north quebec its essential, and keeps you warmer in the process. I'm never wet or clammy inside and my bag stays fit, but i only use it below 20F.

The VBL also gives you the option of using a bivy or a waterproof cover over your bag for real nasty weather without wetting it.

2:35 p.m. on March 12, 2009 (EDT)
153 reviewer rep
460 forum posts

I personally think those bags from The Backside are definately worth considering, even if that brand is not as well known.

I owned some of their bags and they were very good in terms of quality and performance.

Most of the reviews I see posted on this most excellent Site prove the same.

Since I'm allergic to down I would have to use the X-fibre bags.

4:12 p.m. on March 13, 2009 (EDT)
38 reviewer rep
134 forum posts

Oops, quoted myself.

4:13 p.m. on March 13, 2009 (EDT)
38 reviewer rep
134 forum posts

Sounds like a great deal to me, Ski. I'm hoping to find something like that. Not sure about using a VBL. I've never been in that cold yet and have read various opinions on them and the best way to use them. How about you? Any experience with one?

Never slept out at -25, I was just curious. I'd have to drive north for 8 hours to sleep out in those temps. Heck, our low here the other night was 57. I was just curious, in case I ever do go out in winter.

1:15 p.m. on March 14, 2009 (EDT)
153 reviewer rep
460 forum posts

Never slept out at -25, I was just curious. I'd have to drive north for 8 hours to sleep out in those temps. Heck, our low here the other night was 57. I was just curious, in case I ever do go out in winter.

I have slept out in these types of temperatures. Wisconsin gets very cold during the Winter months.

I faced lows in the -20 to -30 degree range while in my tent, not too long ago while in The Badger State. That's before I came down to Ohio, where I am presently.

December 18, 2014
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

 
More Topics
This forum: Older: boots and pack for rain forest Newer: Axe for packing
All forums: Older: $20 for set of REI traverse Shocklight Trekking Poles - pair Newer: New anomolies in forum posts and replies