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Sleeping Bag Advice Needed

Hey guys, so here is my situation. I have an old zero bag and probably what amounts to a 40 degree bag but I am looking for a brand spanking new one for 2013. I have been reading tons on this forum and other sites about bags but wanted to get your thoughts.

What I will need the new bag for: 1) Camping/backpacking in SoCal primarily. 2) I am taking a wilderness course with several days being spent snow camping. 

Based on what I will be using the bag for mostly (camping in SoCal) I could get away with not having a zero bag but the snow aspect makes me think I should get one (a zero bag is required for the course but I think I can skate around that). Should I get a zero bag or should I look for more like a 15-20 degree bag with a fleece liner to get the best of both worlds? What do you guys think? 

I would buy a good quality 3 season bag(no lower than 15-20F and even that may still be a tad warm for most of your uses) Either a 15F or a 35Fish bag, depending on the temps you normally see in your area.

Now, for your snow trip/wilderness course. Why not just use this older zero bag you already have? If it still works, will save you some money. Otherwise, yes adding fleece layers and wearing more clothing can extend a bags range but most wilderness courses WILL NOT allow this. This method takes alot of experimentation to get right, practice car camping etc first to figure out the combo you need for really cold temps. It can be a deadly and otherwise dangerous action to bring a 3 season or warmer bag into below 0 temps, and takes alot of experience to make it work safely. I strongly discourage anyone from doing this unless they are very experienced winter backpackers and even then only if they do it car camping several times to figure out their system.

use your older zero bag for snowcamp, get a 20 deg bag for everything else. I have a minus five bag that I also use in the summer and it isn't too warm. just sleep with it unzipped.

If it ain't broke, don't try to fix it.  If it is really cold, put the lighter bag inside the heavier one.

Thanks everyone for the responses! Much appreciated!

a fleece lining will not supply much additional warmth.  also, placing anything inside a sleeping bag risks compressing the insulation from the inside, thus limiting loft and, perversely, making you colder.  the same goes for putting a light bag inside a heavy bag.  however, if you unzip a light bag and place it on top of another bag, you get the benefit of the full loft. 

if winter camping is a much more occasional pursuit for you, i agree with the advice above - use your existing cold weather bag for that, replace the other one that you plan to use more often. 

another strategy to consider - if you could sleep with a quilt rather than a sleeping bag, the quilt could not only serve your 3 season use, but also enhance your cold weather bag by laying it on top - quilts tend to work better for that than mummy bags which usually don't unzip completely. 

Where are you snow camping? I've snow camped in Yosemite in February along Glacier Point Road (the Dewey Point area) at 7000ft and it didn't get any colder than about +15F. I used a +23F down bag with an MEC overbag (kind of like a +50 bag) and Bibler Winter Bivy (just a light shell, no insulation) and that combo on two stacked pads worked fine.

I now have a -10F down bag I'm going to try this winter. SoCal in general is too warm for a 0F bag unless it's winter in the mountains.


Unzip the light bag over the top if you prefer, but they tend to slide off.  That is why I suggest one inside the other.   Some compression but still plenty of loft and no waking up in the middle of the night to find the overbag.

Tom D, I think we are camping in the Sierras in April so I am betting a 15-25 bag might work but the course is saying a zero bag. I think based on everything above, I am going to stick with the old zero bag I have and get a new bag with a higher temp rating sometime down the line since most of the camping will be in SoCal and too warm for a 0. Really appreciate all the responses! 


            Your taking this course to learn, trust your leaders. Have fun and stay dry.

I think you are right. April could be in the 15-25 range at night if you are around Mammoth, for example, so your zero bag should be fine. This will depend on how high you are and how far north. I would check with the company running the class and get a history of the weather in the area you will be for that time of year. You may be able to find that info on the net somewhere.

sierras in april, definately need the zero bag. not a frivolous request by your instructors. a 20 degree should do you for everything else. wish I were taking that course! but not really. my snowcamping days are over. I'm a fairweather hiker now.

October 29, 2020
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