best lightweight, zero degree, 3-season sleeping bag?

7:43 p.m. on March 29, 2010 (EDT)
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Hi,
I'm looking for a good quality sleeping bag....priorities are that is lightweight and comfortable, and fits my body well-- I'm 5'8 and 125 pounds.

Secondary considerations are price and the clausterphobia factor, I'm thin so probably wouldn't be too confined in most bags?, but still might prefer too roomy to too snug.

Might be nice to find something "cheap", if anyone knows a good substitute for the super pricey bags I was considering:

1. Valandre Bloody Mary -2.2 degree
2. Mountain Hardware Phantom 0 degree

Any other ideas? Or advice on deciding between those two bags? Thanks!!

9:28 p.m. on March 29, 2010 (EDT)
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The finest down bag I have ever owned is my Valandre Shocking Blue and I would choose the Bloody Mary. I have had original Marmot Mtn., Feathered Friends, Western Mountaineering and Integral Designs bags and Valandre and ID are the best....but, NOT "cheap"!

11:35 p.m. on March 29, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks, Dewey. Those Valandre bags and other makers you mention really do look top quality. If Mtn Hardware is considered second tier, I wonder why the phantom bag is just as pricey?...

The one thing I wonder about is if the Bloody Mary will be too wide for me around the shoulders? I'm a woman and my shoulder girth is about 42 inches....and the bloody mary bag is kind of wide at 65 inches? While the women's phantom bag is 56 inches. Seems like a big difference! I'm kinda thinking I might like the extra space for my long arms and elbows, and for shifting around....but....hm. Too bad I can't try 'em out first!

....and I'm still looking around to see if I can't find something comparably nice, but cheaper. paying nearly $500 for a sleeping bag is a bit hard to swallow!

11:44 p.m. on April 7, 2010 (EDT)
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Just passing through this site (don't post much), but I do have some comments. First, I'd be leery of actually using a zero degree bag as a "3-season bag", even though most manufacturers call it that. Totally your call on this, but you must either be doing something at altitude or sleep very cold to warrant a zero degree bag for 3-season use.

Secondly, after doing some research, the Valandre bag is "extreme" rated to -2.2 degrees, but has a "comfort" rating of 28 degrees. One of my largest complaints with sleeping bag manufacturer's is that there is no standard system for rating a bag. This can usually be remedied by looking at the amount of down in each bag. The Bloody Mary has a fill weight of 21.9 oz. Compare this with the Feathered Friend's Murre - their women's 10 deg bag- which has the nearly the same fill and overall weight.

Also, the fabric matters. I happen to know the material properties of Feathered Friend's bags (Epic and Event) fairly well, but I have no idea what Valandre uses and how well it either repels water or breathes.

Frankly, you may know more than I do, but I would need to do more research before even trying to compare two bags, let alone buy one. And frankly, I'd be careful about buying a bag I didn't really need. A 10 degree bag is what I'd use for winter camping in the PNW. Keep in mind that the Feathered Friend's -10 degree bag was designed for use on K2 (with down layers at high camps) in the '80s. Personally, I'd check out Stephenson Warmlite for a crazy sleeping bag system if you really need the warmth. It's not much more money than the Valandre bag, and it seems to give a huge range of temperatures. I'd consider it if I was looking to spend that kind of $ on a bag.

Cheers,

Zak

EDIT: Forgot to check the weight on the Warmlite system. Makes it impractical for anything other than at basecamp somewhere cold. So never mind that suggestion.

10:33 a.m. on April 8, 2010 (EDT)
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I agree with skibum.0degree bag is very warm for 3 season use.I use a 20 degree even in the winter,also pnw.Have a 0degree for serious weather and mountaineering use and a 30 degree ultra light for 3 season use even up high in the pnw.In these uncertain times i too must stretch my dollars more than ever so when buying something i have to look at both value and quality.Sometimes it is very hard to do this but it can be done.The Marmot or Mt Hardware bags may not be of the same quality as the Feathered friends but i have a Marmot that is 15 years old and still going strong at half the price of a Feathered friends bag,not knocking them just cant afford one.Granted it does weigh a bit more and is not as nicely made but it does do the job i need it to.ymmv

10:44 a.m. on April 8, 2010 (EDT)
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If you can bear a little wait time--2ish months--you might want to look into Nunatak's offerings. They can custom-cut a bag to fit your body, use the finest materials/construction, and are comparable to Valandre/ID/WM/FF bags in price. Plus, you can spec. all kinds of cool things like baffle spacing, down overfill, various differential cuts, footbox girth, etc...They made their name in quilts, but they do full-zip bags just as well. I'd bet their Alpinist model with a couple ounces of overfill would be just the ticket.

Nunatakusa.com

12:43 p.m. on April 8, 2010 (EDT)
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... One of my largest complaints with sleeping bag manufacturer's is that there is no standard system for rating a bag. ...

Actually, Zak, there is a standard system for rating sleeping bags. You just quoted it with respect to the Valandre. It is a European standard (CE) that some US manufacturers are considering using, EN 13537. There was a presentation on this at last summer's Outdoor Retailer Show. Here is an article about it. And an official writeup with diagrams. Unfortunately, it is not in wide use outside Europe at this point.

From the wikipedia article:


EN13537 requires a thermal manikin test which produces four temperature results - upper limit, comfort, lower limit and extreme. These temperatures were worked for normal consumers.

The standard measures four temperature ratings:
Upper Limit - the temperature at which a standard man can sleep without excessive perspiration. It is established with the hood and zippers open and with the arms outside of the bag.

Comfort - the temperature at which a standard woman can expect to sleep comfortably in a relaxed position.

Lower Limit - the temperature at which a standard man can sleep for eight hours in a curled position without waking.

Extreme - the minimum temperature at which a standard woman can remain for six hours without risk of death from hypothermia (though frostbite is still possible).

For the purpose of these measurements, a "standard man" is assumed to be 25 years old, with a height of 1.73 m and a weight of 73 kg; a "standard woman" is assumed to be 25 years old, with a height of 1.60 m and a weight of 60 kg.

7:07 p.m. on April 27, 2010 (EDT)
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I have found that most if not all sleeping bag ratings are highly over rated. I am 6' 175 lb and a Guy. I have camped my whole life in the Colorado mountains

Just like the last sleeping bag I got. It was a poler pod bag by REI. It was a 0 degree bag. It kept me warm down to maybe 39 degrees or so. Needless to say I return it.

I replaced it with a Kelty -15 degree down bag.

I would have to say that I think you are going in the right direction

I would look at a 0 degree or -5, -10 or lower.

I would look at a Kelty down 0 degree bag or the Kelty -15 degree down bag.


Steve

5:22 p.m. on April 30, 2010 (EDT)
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The EC standard that Bill mentions is about the closest I have seen to an objective standard. I have no idea how American companies rate their bags. I have a MacPac down bag rated -5C (+23F) and it is spot on. I've used it in colder temps, down to about +15F wearing thermals, balaclava or hat and socks and gloves with a light bivy sack over it. I have also thrown a down jacket over it and slept just fine outside on snow with no tent in similar temps.

9:11 p.m. on April 30, 2010 (EDT)
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I have said this before here and will reiterate, where backpacking gear, especially for use in genuinely remote areas is concerned, you get EXACTLY what you pay for. Also, there are lots of little "whoop-de-do" items that glossy bullsh*t magazines and forums peopled by those who make several thousand posts per annum and offer "expert" advice to any novice credulous enough to believe them tell you that you MUST have....no, you don't need most of this stuff and are better off without it.

THE places to spend serious coin in backpacking gear are 1. your footwear, 2. your pack 3. your bag and pad. Get these right and you will be amazed by what other "gearhead" crap you can do without....like trippy little doodads for "expresso" and "solar panels" for electricity and freakin' WINE goblets made of plastic....and on and on and on.....

So, if you spend the cash on a Valandre, you WILL get a level of performance superior to any I have ever had from any bag. I have no connection with them, have never met anyone conncected with them and will just simply say that I am convinced through use that their topend bags are the best available and worth buying.

To me, living in BC, a decent "3 season bag" WILL work down to roughly 0*F and I have seen 10*F in early Sept. several times and this is in southern BC. I like to have a bit of a "cushion" in my gear choices and now only have and use the Valandre Shocking Blue and an Integral Designs custom Himalayan that is as warm and heavy as a WM "Bison", but, roomier. I have found and I sleep "warm", that, when very tired out in the boonies, that little bit of extra "warmth" in my bag is well worth packing a few extra ozs.

So, get a Valandre and live large!

11:31 a.m. on May 1, 2010 (EDT)
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there are lots of little "whoop-de-do" items that glossy bullsh*t magazines and forums peopled by those who make several thousand posts per annum and offer "expert" advice to any novice credulous enough to believe them tell you that you MUST have....no, you don't need most of this stuff and are better off without it.

Oh Come on Dewey, how else am I going to have a smoothie while I am gaming, if I don't bring my crank powered blender, notebook PC, and solar collecting battery recharging station?
Ed

4:16 p.m. on May 1, 2010 (EDT)
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Only thing I must have in the woods, every time, is a well-fitting pair of 21-oz denim jeans and a matching jacket. That's what watching the latest "X-Men: Wolverine" movie taught me at least...

(and just so it's topical...) I find this combo quite warm inside my conservatively-rated, and very very plump, Marmot Helium.

(just kidding, by the way; cotton kills!) You can find 2-year old Helium's these days for under $200 on here on trailspace, ebay, etc. Less if you really look. Best deal in sleeping bags, methinks.

11:33 p.m. on May 1, 2010 (EDT)
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On the topic of good 3 season and light bags, does anyone have any experience with the MontBell UL Spiral Down Hugger #1 (15F rated)? I like the idea that it is only 2lbs + a couple ounces and packs down to the size of a football (so I have read). I am interested in purchasing a couple but want to actually talk to someone who has one! Or even for that matter, another bag with comparable stats....recommendations?

D

3:44 p.m. on May 2, 2010 (EDT)
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So Dewey, are you saying Valandre bags are better than Western Mountaineering or Feathered Friends bags?? I own a W.M. bag and find its quality superb. Hard to imagine Valandre making a better 30 F. bag than the W.M. Megalite.

Eric

9:15 p.m. on May 2, 2010 (EDT)
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I just sold my WM Alpinlite Super and gave a custom FF bag I had them make for me for sheep hunting to a friend of mine and both WERE very fine bags. I do not and never have bothered with low end or standard gear in over 40 years of both professional and recreational bushwhacking as the small, "best guality" makers produce gear that IS better and WORKS better.

I now have bags by Exped and Wildthings and three by Integral Designs and ID is a better bag than WM or FF, IMO, after years of use. I won't list all of the others I have had and used, but, there were a lot.

I have a Valandre Shocking Blue and it simply blows everything else away in respect of design, quality of manufacture and a level of performance that is just awesome. Mine is a "long" and it is a bit longer than I need, but, it drapes so well that the usual caveat about "warming extra space", which is largely bullcrap, is not an issue....this is NOT the case with synthetic bags, IME.

So, yes, my opinion is that the Valandre Shocking Blue and Bloody Mary ARE better than ANYTHING now commonly available on the market and ID is next....but, while I was going to buy one, I have not seen a Peter Hutchinson Designs bag from "Merrye Englande" or a Nunatak, so, this is where I am at now.

8:21 a.m. on May 4, 2010 (EDT)
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Dewey/everyone else - I am looking for a good lightweight/packable summer bag. Any recommendations?

I was looking at the Mummer PrimaLiner by ID or something like the caribou by WM.

What about a quilt?

Any help would be appreciated, thanks!

10:34 a.m. on May 4, 2010 (EDT)
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My first choice in recreational, NOT hunting, working or longterm stay-exploring summer bags is the WM Extremelite series. I loved my Alpinlite Super, but, I have shoulders and chest and neck like a Neanderthal and it was "just" a tiny bit too snug for my taste when completely closed.

I would combine this with an Integral Designs EVENT repeat EVENT bivy and Siltarp II....or, maybe a "Gatewood Cape" for any summer camping one might do....plus your choice of pad(s), of course.

For most Lower 48 summer venues, I would choose the WM Summerlite, depending on your physique and the Megalite is another excellent option. I have no personal experience with Nunatak, but, I would love to check some of their gear out and that might be another sound option for you.

It is always best to give a physical description of oneself and one's expected camping environment when making enquiries of this sort, as "summer" varies a lot throughout North America. I have experienced 80*+ temps. under sunny skies in June-July in the BC-Alberta Rockies and within hours there was a howling blizzard with blowing snow and darkness, leaving nearly 2 ft. on the ground....and this happens fairly often. So, one needs gear that will cope with that, especially if solo as I usually am.

So, give this some consideration before buying.

11:35 p.m. on June 7, 2010 (EDT)
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I have found that most if not all sleeping bag ratings are highly over rated. I am 6' 175 lb and a Guy. I have camped my whole life in the Colorado mountains

Just like the last sleeping bag I got. It was a poler pod bag by REI. It was a 0 degree bag. It kept me warm down to maybe 39 degrees or so. Needless to say I return it.


I agree. Even my Marmot Couloir, which I really like, only kept me warm down to the mid teens (outside temp, so probably a little warmer inside my tent) during one winter camping trip shortly after I bought it. It's rated to 0 degrees. And I dressed in layers, wore multiple layers of socks, etc. And I'm a pretty warm sleeper. And now that the bag is older, I'd be surprised if it kept me warm even in the mid teens.

10:35 p.m. on June 9, 2010 (EDT)
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What most manufacturers call a 'zero degree' bag usually refers to the lower limit of the EN ratings referenced above (the 'male' rating), whereas the female 'comfort' rating is usually 15-20 degrees higher. so, if you want a bag that's comfortable for you at 0 degrees, you may be actually be looking for something that rates to -15 or -20 on the EN ratings. that's really, really warm for a three season bag unless you live in a very cold place.

i recently replaced my ancient 3 season bag, was looking for something with a lower end range of 15-20 degrees. i tried three brands and liked Marmot the best; Marmot has adopted EN 13537. you probably can't go wrong with either brand you listed - top quality manufacturers. Marmot makes a nice bag, and they have models rated to 0 and -20 fahrenheit.

it's ultimately personal preference, knowing how 'warm' or 'cold' you sleep, and how many dollars you have in your wallet!

best of luck choosing.

November 26, 2014
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