Seven hundred dollar sleeping bag. What do you think?

4:06 p.m. on November 23, 2010 (EST)
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I have been searching for a nice sleeping bag and I finally found one with a foot tent feature. I have 12 1/2 inch feet and my feet need room! Needless to say I don't have seven hundred bucks laying about for a sleeping bag. I wouldn't mind working nights to make a few extra bucks to get one. Here is a link please let me know your thoughts on this bag.

https://comfortinthecold.com/products-custom-winter-gear.php

I am looking at the rapture sleeping bag.

 

 

 

5:50 p.m. on November 23, 2010 (EST)
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$700, American?

Open cell foam bags were made for a short time in the 1970's.  I think there is a how-to section in the book Backpacking by R C Rethmel.  The book also advocated open cell foam body insulation.

Feathered Friends used to make semi-custom bags on request.

Snow Lion bags featured an expanded foot section all those years ago.  I'd sell you mine for a lot less than $700.

7:24 p.m. on November 23, 2010 (EST)
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Thanks Alan I will look up that book. I don't want to spend $700 if I can make the same item. I like the expanded foot section a lot. That is what made me search in the first place.

9:21 p.m. on November 24, 2010 (EST)
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The three big problems with open cell foam as a fill for sleeping bags are (1) they do not compress very well, hence are not really backpackable, (2) the warmth to weight ratio is much poorer than down or the modern synthetics like Primaloft, and (3) the open cell foam is just a big sponge (has to be to get the air out when you are packing it and back in when you unpack it) - try compressing an open cell foam pad, then soak it with water and try squeezing the water out and getting it dry.

3:48 a.m. on November 25, 2010 (EST)
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Yo, King Tut! Looks like a sarcophagus!

Who was it that made the sew-it yourself kits back in the 70's? Are they still around? Anyway, my first sleeping bag was one of theirs, and was filled with down on top and shredded open cell foam on the bottom. The idea was that the foam would give enough padding and insulation that you wouldn't need a pad. Well, that was the idea. It surely didn't stuff well, and after I sent it to a dry cleaner to get the stink out the foam was never the same. Replaced shortly thereafter.

I notice the web site doesn't give the weight or rolled dimensions, unless I am missing something. Pretty critical if you're going to carry it anywhere.

10:21 a.m. on November 25, 2010 (EST)
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if I was going to spend $700 or more on a sleeping bag, I'd get a Western Mountaineering bag - the best of the best.

11:10 a.m. on November 25, 2010 (EST)
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if I was going to spend $700 or more on a sleeping bag, I'd get a Western Mountaineering bag - the best of the best.

Definitely second that.Zero degree Kodiak is the best bag I've ever owned,hands down.

5:00 p.m. on November 26, 2010 (EST)
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that's a pretty expensive bag.  what is it rated to, temperature-wise?

for that money, you could get any number of outstanding four season down bags rated to -40 fahrenheit.  Marmot CWM, North Face Inferno, Mountain Hardwear Ghost, for example.  buy a long - that should give you extra room for your feet, and it's a good idea for winter anyway so you can keep gear in the bottom of your bag while sleeping. 

Western Mountaineering and Feathered Friends also make outstanding down bags, but they will set you back a few hundred more.

it happens i use a synthetic winter bag, North Face Dark Star.  uses a version of primaloft insulation.  it's warm but heavier and not as easy to compress as down.  i happen to like synthetic so if i crawl in after a particularly strenuous day, i won't collapse all the down with perspiration.  should have plenty of space for your feet, has a roomy toe box. 

goes without saying that if you have fit issues, best to try something in-store before you buy. 

12:21 a.m. on November 27, 2010 (EST)
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What temps are you going to use it at? Ray Jardine makes quilt kits good to around +20F that some people swear by and cost far less than $700. He uses some kind of synthetic batting.

For deep cold, I would consider the usual suspects-Feathered Friends, Western Mountaineering, Vaude, ID.

My bag is a MacPac, good to about +23F and about +15 with my overbag.

Not sure what Bill S has but he's been to Antarctica, so he knows cold.

The full version of this bag weighs 12 lbs. according to the website (in the FAQ), but no temp rating that I saw.

1:11 a.m. on November 27, 2010 (EST)
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Hello guys, I noticed a visit from this thread and thought I'd drop by to clear up some misconceptions about what I make and how the foam system actually works.

It is true that the foam is generally heavier and harder to compress, but these bags and this system is made for extended deep cold weather use.

DrReaper,

If all you are looking for is a more room for your feet and you don't go out camping in the winter for more than 3 nights in a row, you will most likely not want to spend $700.00+ on a sleeping bag.  There are less expensive options that would serve you well.

Bill S,

Regarding your points.

1) They are backpackable.  I have stuffed my bag (in its Winter configuration) into a 22"x10" stuff sack.  Winter camping is inherently heavier due to the requirements for more insulation.

2) Yes, the foam is heavier than down or fiber bags.  However, down and fiber do not perform as well in the long haul without drying them out every three days or so.  Fiber and down do not completely allow the moisture vapor to escape therefore the moisture builds up over time, compromising the insulation value of those materials.  The structure of the foam does not allow for the build up of moisture vapor, but allow it to pass through due to vapor pressure differences.  Therefore it makes a superior long term insulation material in sub freezing weather.  The sleeping bag is only one part of the system.

3) Yes, when you are talking about liquid, not vapor.  These are two different animals, or states.  And do YOU soak your sleeping bag in water before using it? :)  You may be interested in a video that I made using my bag in such a soaked state. https://comfortinthecold.com/video-foam-sleeping-bag-saturated-with-water-and-ice.php

Big Red,

You don't dry clean these bags.  The foam and the dry cleaning chemicals are not compatible.

leadbelly2550,

I don't rate my bags; ratings are pretty meaningless, anyway.  I have been down to -12F in my system and slept like a baby.  I have a 0F Wiggy's bag that will only take me down to 20F before I can not sleep due to the cold.  That's a 20 degree difference between what is claimed and what is practical.

The comfort range of the foam sleeping bag is quite wide.  I take a nap in my bag at home at 72F wearing my street clothes, and then take the bag outside and use it down to 20F in my street clothes.  With the foam clothing (the other part of the system) I've been down to -12F, as I said before.  So, for street clothes that is a 52 degree range.  I can't do that in any other sleeping bag that I own.

 

In the end, it depends on how you plan on using the bag. 

Are you a weekend camper?  If you are, don't buy my bag, unless you want a custom bag made just for you.  Otherwise, you would find no great advantage other than the useful features that come with it.  Go get yourself a good fiber or down bag.  They work well for short term outings.

Are you staying out for a long time without the ability to thaw and dry out your equipment?   Then you need to seriously consider this system.  The inventor Jim Phillips has spent countless hours out in the cold near Nome, Alaska testing the foam system against all other fiber and down bags.  After 30 years he still has not found anything that performs as well as the open cell foam, and the vast majority of the fiber and down bags failed within 5-7 days of constant use.

 

I hope that helps, Gentlemen.

Sincerely,

John

12:07 p.m. on November 27, 2010 (EST)
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Thanks for stopping by John. Very good advice. And interesting.

3:13 p.m. on November 27, 2010 (EST)
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John,

Good comment on the no dry clean. Sleeping bags, whether down, synthetic fiber, or foam should never be dry cleaned. Dry cleaning down removes the natural oils and causes the down to lose loft. Dry cleaning chemicals are toxic and take a very long time to dissipate from the bag, even if you air it out (outdoors, or at least in a well-ventilated area).

On the Wiggy bags, I am always amazed at the number of people who have them and tolerate the highly inaccurate comfort ratings. Almost everyone I know who has had one reports the same order of discrepancy that you mentioned in your post.

But I am afraid I do not consider a 12 pound bag that stuffs to 22"x10" backpackable. I can see such a bag for hut use, where the hut owners provide the bag on site.

I have been using down and synthetic bags in winter camping for years, including the Arctic and Antarctic. Everyone going into such conditions learned a lesson 30-40 years ago from Will Steiger's polar adventures, where they were accumulating something like a pound a day of moisture from condensation and subsequent freezing, resulting is something like 70 pound bags on the one North Pole expedition. 

But there are very simple steps to preventing such buildups. One obvious one is to use a VBL in the bag. Wearing wicking long johns solves the clammy feeling that some people get in a VBL (most current synthetic long johns wick well enough to wick the moisture out the face hole). Of course, some people seem to sweat more and for them a VBL doesn't work satisfactorily.

Another simple step is to roll the bag tightly as soon as you get out of it, squeezing the humid air out of the bag, then fluff it to get dry air in and roll it tight again. By doing this, I have spent many a month sleeping in my bag in those conditions with no buildup at all.

You claim no condensation in the foam. I would question that just on the basis of the simple physics of the situation, but have no way of checking. The one experience I had using an open cell foam as a top cover resulted in a layer of ice in the outer part of the foam, which indicates that the transpiring vapor condensed within the foam and froze. My point 3 was to note that if you do have condensation within the foam, it will be difficult to squeeze the moisture out. Plus, if you do spill the soup on the bag and not get it off quickly, you will have a bit of a wet sponge.

For comparison, my Feathered Friends (the -40F bag I currently use) weighs 4 pounds in its stuff sack which is 10" diameter x 10" long, so 1/3 the weight and less than half the volume. It was also 60% the cost, and that is for a top-quality down bag. Western Mountaineering, Integral Designs, and Vaude produce similar bags.

What is the reason that foam sleeping bags are not more widely used?

11:13 p.m. on November 27, 2010 (EST)
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Bill S.

Thank you for your feedback.  I'd like to ask you a few questions and clarify a few points.

The bag is 9 lbs and the foam pad used underneath it is about 2.5 lbs.  I didn't say that it was a lightweight, just that it could be backpacked, and you certainly could sled it.

Some people don't like having their face exposed, I'm one of them (the bags I make close up entirely), nor do they like the thought of sleeping in their own sweat in a VBL.  So this is just another option for them.

I didn't say that condensation never occurs, what I did say was that condensation does not build up.  There is going to be some condensation, when you get out of the bag, it's going to freeze because there is no longer an internal heat source to force it out.  However, when you get back in, that condensation melts and is forced out.  It's like shutting off a hose.  There is going to be water in the hose itself, and it will be moved out when it's turned back on.

In order to prevent the accumulation of frozen condensation there needs to be a stable air mass that allows the moisture to pass out of the foam.  This is accomplished by surrounding the bag with a windproof bivvy or a plastic sheet.  This allows the moisture to leave the bag before it gets cold enough to freeze.

Under the foam pad on the bottom is a piece that is called a deicing cloth.  Moisture that finds its way under you freezes in this piece instead of inside the bag's material.  This piece is then stripped off, crumpled up and the broken ice shaken off.  The cloth is then replaced, ready to do its job again.

Wouldn't spilled soup on a down/fiber bag would also be difficult to remove? :)

One other thing that I said is that this system is not for everyone.  I actually encourage people to purchase what fits their needs.  Most of my customers are people who are emergency preparedness minded and purchase for a possible time when they are not able to remain in their home due to disaster in the winter.

I was wondering about your months using your system where you using a VBL?  Did the temperature ever climb above freezing?  If so, how frequently?

Currently my experience is limited and I'm in the process of gaining more as I am able.  Most of my knowledge has been gained from my personal interaction with the inventor of the system, Jim Phillips.

To answer your last question, I'm betting the foam system is not more widely used due to two things, cost and weight.  These factors, however, do not reduce their effectiveness in keeping people warm in extreme conditions.  Although, I have seen fiber and down bags that run around that $700.00 mark, so maybe it's only the weight of the system that makes it less widely used.

Thanks again!

11:20 p.m. on November 27, 2010 (EST)
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Here are a few more tidbits you might find interesting.

"[Jim Phillips'] cold-weather protection system (PALS Clothing), unlike any other available, is capable of providing indefinite protection in the most severe cold weather known to man. Without a doubt, we'll continue to use the system on our future trips to the cold weather extremes of the world".
James A. Lovell Astronaut, Commander Apollo 13

(http://www.jimsway.com/about.html)

Here is a youtube video on the foam clothing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug3QS4Wn-ds&feature=&p=D596A40BABFE41A3&index=0&playnext=1

 

4:22 p.m. on November 28, 2010 (EST)
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With all due respect to you and Jim Lovell, the Eskimos, Inuit, and Sami have all been living for hundreds of years in the harshest winter environments possible with none of this stuff. To say it's the only system for sustained living in cold weather ignores history. Explorers like Amundsen, Shackleton and Hudson spent months using what we could call primitive clothing and survived.  Modern explorers and adventurers seem to get along fine with down or modern synthetics doing things like skiing to the poles for weeks at a time.

I'm not saying your gear doesn't work, I have no idea, just that sweeping statements like this one don't stand up to even casual scrutiny.

6:56 p.m. on November 28, 2010 (EST)
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I never said that Lovell was an expert, I don't know anything about Amundson, Shackleton and Hudson and just how comfortably they survived, or what they had to do to do so.  I also don't know what the Eskimos, Inuit, and Sami know, nor do I know anyone who is not already a member of their tribes who has the time to learn what they do to survive where they do. What I did say is that the system works, and it's a system I know how to work.  So I promote it just like you would promote down and fiber and the other needed accessories to make them work.

For those who do not like sleeping in their own sweat, this system is an excellent alternative.  For those people who trust a man with 30+ years of experience with the system and testing it against other systems, this is an excellent system.

For those who scoff the idea that foam even works, I'm here to tell them that it does, and it's an option for those who want to explore it.

And as I have said in every one of my posts, if you don't need it, don't want it, don't buy it.

What I would be interested in is a breakdown of what YOU use when you are out for more than a week, and what you spent for each item for your system.  I'm not closed to learning. :)

8:53 p.m. on November 28, 2010 (EST)
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Personaly I find the system interesting. And I loved the videos. Its not for me but hey, I just love looking at stuff.

12:36 p.m. on November 29, 2010 (EST)
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I rented a  good movie about Shackleton on Netflix a few months back. It's called "Shackleton" of course. I recommend it, especially if you don't know the story.

Didn't the Eskimo use animal skins to make shelters as well as igloos. I don't think I will be packing a bunch of skins. I like the idea of looking through history to see how it was done on the cheap. I am going to do a little searching after work.  

1:28 p.m. on November 29, 2010 (EST)
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Bill S.

Thank you for your feedback.  I'd like to ask you a few questions and clarify a few points.

Some people don't like having their face exposed, I'm one of them (the bags I make close up entirely), nor do they like the thought of sleeping in their own sweat in a VBL.  So this is just another option for them.

 

Most people traveling in such conditions have (and use) a balaclava and/or face mask. This can be worn in the sleeping bag as well. It prevents the buildup of moisture and ice in the bag in the face area.

As a general rule, the body gives off about a liter of water overnight (8 hours of sleeping) and breathes out another liter of water during the same period. Breathing through the face hole cuts out the liter of moisture lost through breathing.

There is going to be some condensation, when you get out of the bag, it's going to freeze because there is no longer an internal heat source to force it out.  However, when you get back in, that condensation melts and is forced out.  ....

That is only partially true, as Steiger and his team found out years ago. There is a temperature gradient through the insulation, with the outer part near the outside air temperature. You can end up with a layer that never quite melts, but will build up on consecutive days, unless you take steps to mitigate the buildup.

In order to prevent the accumulation of frozen condensation there needs to be a stable air mass that allows the moisture to pass out of the foam.  This is accomplished by surrounding the bag with a windproof bivvy or a plastic sheet.  This allows the moisture to leave the bag before it gets cold enough to freeze.

The windproof bivy or plastic sheet are not permeable enough to allow the vapor to pass through and escape. You end up with a coating of ice or at least frost on the inside of the plastic sheet - been there, experienced that. Years ago, we used to use plastic tube tents. I have had too many experiences of waking in the morning, starting to move around, and being showered by the ice cascading down on me from the plastic. People pretty much quit using the tube tents for winter after several tragic incidents where the openings at the ends of the tube were collapsed and frozen shut, suffocating the occupant in the 1960s.

Wouldn't spilled soup on a down/fiber bag would also be difficult to remove? :)

That depends on the shell of the bag and how quickly you brush it off. Some bags are made with a wp/b cover, such as Goretex, eVent, or similar products, or microfiber, such as Epic or Pertex. Microfiber will let liquids soak through if you leave it sit long enough, of course. If you brush it off fairly quickly, it won't get the down wet. Synth, such as Primaloft or Climashield, do not absorb the liquid, so any that gets through can be squeezed out, a significant advantage over down, and a huge advantage over open cell foam. Open cell foam is basically a sponge, and hard to squeeze out any liquid that is absorbed. A plain nylon taffeta or ripstop, as used to be very popular for sleeping bag shells, will allow spilled drinks or soup to soak through more quickly.

I was wondering about your months using your system where you using a VBL?  Did the temperature ever climb above freezing?  If so, how frequently?

 

You are asking about a large number of trips. On some trips, the temperature was above freezing during part of each day, some where an occasional day during the trip would get above freezing, and some where the temperature was never above 0F, including ones where the high temperature for the entire 3-4 weeks would be -20F.

The temperature does not have to be above freezing to dry a down or synthetic bag. The ice can sublimate.  A common practice is to take advantage of sunny days by turning the bag inside out and spreading it on the top of the tent with the black side up. Most, if not all, quality sleeping bags are made with a dark or black inner liner to boost the heat absorption. The insolation (that means the illumination by the sun, not the insulation in the bag) will help sublimate the ice in the bag. Also, on sunny days, the temperature inside a typical expedition tent can get up to 80-90F, even when the air temperature is -30 or -40F/C outside, especially if the common practice of building wind walls around the tent is followed.

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