newbie looking for sleeping bag advice

11:41 a.m. on May 8, 2018 (EDT)
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I didn't see the newbie section when I posted this elsewhere

So the wife and I are newbies to the world of backpacking (I have camped a lot in my life - but not backcountry camping. We do a lot of hiking, but always end up back at the hotel. I think I have finally convinced her to do some hike in camping. I am looking at gear, and wanted advice on sleeping back. We will be doing the NC mountains as late as October (mid 30's low). I don't want to spend an arm and a leg in case we end up not truely enjoying it.

I would like to spend <$100 and one that packs (obviously) as small as possible (within reason - I have read the issues with over compression, etc). I do not like the mummy bags as I tend to roll a lot while sleeping-I have tried them, and just don't sleep well.

Any recommendations? I saw the Ozark Trail Climatech 40F
for $40 - it sounds like 40 is pushing it - more like a 50 degree bag, it pacs supper small, but probably not warm enough for us.


12:00 p.m. on May 8, 2018 (EDT)
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just found this one - sounds like a good compramise

galatic dry down 30

1:43 p.m. on May 8, 2018 (EDT)
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Unfortunately you won't get a (new) bag for that price that packs small. Generally your choice of insulating material is down or synthetic. Down = better insulating value per ounce so overall lighter, packs smaller, pricier, doesn't do well when wet. Synthetic = heavier, more economical, packs large, does work when wet.

3:04 p.m. on May 8, 2018 (EDT)
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If your wife is similar to mine in regard to temps, don't skimp on the insulation :)

I'd suggest a 20°F quilt or bag for low 30s along with a good pad underneath if you're on the ground. TNF 20° Dolomite is available a few places right now for $98 or so if you meant $100 each as your budget.

10:44 p.m. on May 8, 2018 (EDT)
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If you are not sure if back packing is for you, first borrow or rent a bag suitable for the temps you are considering.  And don't forget to get a sleeping pad, the ground is very hard no matter what bag you get.

Do consider you are willing to spend good money on the internet and cell phones - a sleeping bag is the outdoor equivalent to those "must have" back home amenities.  And consider whatever equipment you buy will likely last for years, offsetting the cost of vacation lodging.  Some equipment is not worth being cheap.  Sleeping bags, boots, packs and shelter are items where function should take precedence over price.  Any one of these that fails to deliver adequate performance will ruin your trip.  I am not saying you have to buy pricey gear; but am saying you need to spend whatever it takes to meet the purpose of said gear.

Lastly I second Lone Stranger's comments about women need more warmth than men.


11:11 a.m. on May 9, 2018 (EDT)
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Thought I'd repeat this over on this forum:


There are four basic criteria for sleeping bags, Scott.  Weight, warmth, compression, and price.  You don't get all four.

Down bags are out of your price range, but offer light weight, good warmth, and very good compression. 

Some synthetic bags might fit your needs, but I want to raise of couple of concerns first.

1.  A sleeping bag rated at 30 degrees will not keep you warm at 30 degrees.  it will keep you alive at that temperature, particularly if you also wear long underwear, socks, and a hat.  If you actually want to be warm in 30 degree temperatures, you will need a bag rated at 15 degrees or lower.

2.  Mummy bag may not be so comfortable, but they weigh less, and keep you warmer than a normal rectangular bag.  If you insist on using a rectangular bag, you will pay more and carry more weight to so do. And it will take up more space in your pack.  That may not matter on an overnight trip, but it will matter on a 3-4 day trip when you are carrying more food, clothes, etc.

3.  $40 isn't enough for what you need, if you want to buy it new.  For that kind of money, I would spend some time in local thrift stores, shopping on Craigslist and ebay, and looking for a bargain.

4:54 p.m. on May 9, 2018 (EDT)
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thanks all for your advice - my main hobby is scuba diving -another gear intensive hobby - so I get the "buy it right or buy it twice" because I have been there. So I should learn to "suck it up" and buy something good -with in reason -

I will check out the mummy style - or semi mummy style.  Two nice sleeping bags that I will have for years is the same as a night or two at a nice hotel - things I splurge on all the time - so ya - if camping saves me a night or two at a hotel in the NC mountains in October - they will pay for themselves - at least that is what I will tell myself :-)

let me see what I can find on clearance or REI garage for the under two hundred or so range.

2:16 a.m. on May 10, 2018 (EDT)
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Hey Scotttyd,

Welcome to Trailspace.

The very first thing I would do if you have a REI handy is go and interview bags, and any kind of equipment that your thinking of buying.

Do you know that REI and other equipment retailers rent equipment so that after you interview gear and pick what might fit the bill you can rent some of it?

Now, IMHO..............if you hate mummy bags and you buy a mummy bag or a "semi-mummy bag", that most likely will be one of the things that very well could make your life out in the wild utterly miserable.  Example, if your claustrophobic and you by a 600k tiny house, you'll still be crazy cause your claustrophobic.  If you are uncomfortable in a mummy bag it will not matter how much you spend or what label it is.

After you interview bags, and any other equipment.  Look on Ebay, Craigslist, as well as the numerous discount sites and as you mentioned, the REI garage sale.

I have 120 tents, 30 sleeping bags and so much more other gear.  I bought two of the tents new, but on at 50% off and the other at 70% off.  I got one of the sleeping bags new on a trade at a store that sold Marmot bags, the rest are used, most at 60%+/- off their retail price.   All of my bags and tents work just as well this year as they did last year.  The reason I get good deals is because Americans, not all........... but so very many, seem to feel the need to buy everything new, and, they buy the newest.......bestest..........gear..............year in and year out,  because they are somewhat unsatisfied with the very best gear ever made in the history of humanity. 

I still have my very first North Face Oval Intention tent that I bought in $1979, just scored a new unused fly on Ebay for $169........................... I paid $179 for this tent in the first place and everyone told me I was out of my mind to spend so much on a tent.  Now this tent sells for upwards of $1200 on Ebay in mint condition.  How weird.........but true.

Take your time, buy the right gear...........good gear..........but make sure that if backpacking, hiking and camping is not your thing that you can sell your gear for nearly what you bought it for..............or at least you don't take a horrible hit on it.  You know that thing about buying a new car, the second you drive it off the lot, it loses 20-30% of its new value.  Its way worse with camping gear and stereo equipment.   Five or ten year old equipment works just as well now as it did Five or Ten years ago if you buy gear that someone has hardly used.

Stepping off the soap box now....................................


2:25 a.m. on May 10, 2018 (EDT)
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My very first tent I ever bought, in 1979.  After it being the only tent I owned for 30 years..........other than a 1st edition marmot single hooped bivy called the Burrow.........the original blue fly was so degraded that I had a yellow fly made for it.

Word of warning:  If you have to spend many hours on end in a tent, the darker the color the more depressing it will become.  I once had to spend 11 days in this tent with a blue fly on it and I wondered about day 8 if I was going to live thru the experience, merely because of the color.

5:11 p.m. on May 10, 2018 (EDT)
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A lot of good advice here.  I would recommend REI for a comprehensive selection.  In addition, their website has some very sound advice on the various varieties of bags.  The bag that is perfect for the committed backpacker (light, warm, expensive) is overkill for the car camper/occasional overnighter.

There are two rating systems, at least.  One, as Balzacom describes, is the temperature at which you will survive (uncomfortably).  The other, apparently employed by REI and others, is the temperature at which the average sleeper will be comfortable, assuming a layer of bed clothes and some sort of mattress (the R value of the mattress or whatever is beneath you is often just s important as the bag itself.

If you aren't sure about how much backpacking you will do, don't get a high end bag right away, but don't get garbage either/  You will spend at least a $100 retail for anything even close to decent...

6:22 a.m. on May 11, 2018 (EDT)
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I don’t have one, but I’ve never heard anything bad about Kelty bags. 

20F down bag

20F women’s down bag

I do have a 15 degree Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 800 that I like a lot and paid $200 for, they’re out of production now but you may be able to find one if you look. I’d definitely seriously consider renting as mentioned above, you don’t want to spend good money on something you end up not liking then either have to hang on to useless gear or sell it at a steep loss. 

10:28 a.m. on May 11, 2018 (EDT)
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The East is warm in summer.  I grew up hiking in Md, Va, and WVa.  You can get by with a flannel sheet and a blanket. For cooler weather, a syntheitc bag would be best in that climate. For around $100 or a little more you can find some really nice bags now.  Try to get used to a mummy or semu-mummy bag. Learn to roll with it. 

10:36 a.m. on May 11, 2018 (EDT)
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Kelty rocks for mid priced gear. More expensive than cheap crap, but its not crap. Our 3P tent we use for family trips is heavy, but rides out a mountain thunderstorm well. The Little Flower we got for the little one has been going strong for years now. They are a great place to find starter gear.

As for the folks saying to "get over" your dislike of mummy bags I'd suggest listening to Rick Nelson's advice and please yourself. Do what makes you happy, not others, when it comes to gear.

11:19 a.m. on May 11, 2018 (EDT)
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first, look at semi-rectangular bags. more room than a true mummy bag, but somewhat easier to pack than a full rectangular.

second, synthetic bags tend to cost a little less and take up more space - but they compress reasonably well. 

it happens REI sells 15 and 30 degree semi-rectangular bags, synthetic fill, for under a hundred.  the trail pod 15 and 30. scroll the photos, you can see how they pack relative to a water bottle for the 30 degree bag.  Kelty tends to sell lower-priced bags that function well too. 

1:46 p.m. on May 13, 2018 (EDT)
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One company you might consider is Outdoor Vitals.  They produce inexpensive gear that is very functional and I have been using one of the 20 degree summit bags for a couple of year and couldn't be happier.

Here is a link to their rectangular down bag:

7:44 p.m. on May 14, 2018 (EDT)
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743 forum posts the AegisMax "ultralight" line of sleeping bags found on Amazon...they have a number of rectangular and tapered down bags for under $100. If you search "AegisMax sleeping bag ultralight spacious" you will find a bag (pictured blue) that appears to check off most of your wish list. The down quality is lower than more expensive bags (650 v. 800-900)...but that equates to only a few extra ounces of weight and a few cubic inches of compression.

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