Thoughts on Used Sleeping Bag

12:42 p.m. on April 18, 2014 (EDT)
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I have a guy that has a used Marmot Co -20 sleeping bag that he says was only used for 2 weeks.  It does appear to be in new condition.  Bag was purchased back in 2006 or so and comes with a compression bag.  Considering today's price on the bag it seems like a pretty good deal.  What do you all think.  Price is $175.00.

1:11 p.m. on April 18, 2014 (EDT)
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I'm surprised at some of the high prices people pay for used sleeping bags. I put sleeping bags in the same category as boots and base layers -'personal gear'....

That said I recently bought a used SierraDesigns 15 deg F down bag ($50). When it arrived it went into a knotted plastic bag and into the freezer for a week (bedbugs can be a problem with used soft goods) and then washed and dried well.


3:37 p.m. on April 18, 2014 (EDT)
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Just like cars - drive it off the lot, and the price you could get for selling it takes a precipitous drop. Purchased in 2006? It is 8 years old. Slept in for 2 weeks? As JohnAbercrombie notes, "bedbugs can be a problem with used soft goods". Did the seller sleep in it in a soggy wet snow cave or igloo and improperly dry it? Could have developed mold that you can't see from outside (smell the bag - that will give you a clue)? Did he sleep in it every night with his trail clothes on? Did he sleep out in the dirt? If he washed it, did he use an experienced professional launderer who does bags regularly (I am lucky to have one about 5 blocks from my house, plus have cleaned my own bags for over 50 years and learned from my mistakes)? Did he (shudder!!!) dry clean it (dry cleaning chemicals remove the oils from the down, causing major loss of loft)?

It may be a great bargain, but for $175, take a very close look and ask a lot of questions. Even if you decide it is really used carefully and tenderly, plus is truly "like new", offer him half and see what he is willing to bargain for. When I have sold barely used bags, I usually count on depreciation at 20%/year (that is, a $500 bag is $400 at one year, $320, second year, $250 3rd year, etc). Now if someone wants to buy my "collector's bag" (original Eddie Bauer Karakoram", that's a different story. I do have to find a real collector who is willing to pay a premium.

4:19 p.m. on April 18, 2014 (EDT)
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I have to agree wioth Bill..Take a close look at it..The market changes with use and time..I got a really good deal on a Western Moutaineering but you have to know what your looking at and see what the retail is and look at the bag closely to see how well it was maintained and ask questions..

5:12 p.m. on April 18, 2014 (EDT)
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I agree with what seems to be the consensus here. Tread lightly. Other major concern of mine would be "how was it stored"? If the seller has left that bag compressed for the past 8 years then that bag is now a summer bag (to use a bit of an exaggeration)!

9:03 p.m. on April 18, 2014 (EDT)
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Thanks, Jake for adding that. Stored compressed is a serious problem. Stored in a cool, dry closet, hanging or in a large breathable bag, is preferable, while stored in the attic or garage is a red flag.

12:50 a.m. on April 19, 2014 (EDT)
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One trick to buying used gear is to have patience and be diligent in searching. Resist the "I've just got have that" impulse as I have learned to do and eventually, you will score a good deal.

I've had fairly good experiences buying used gear and clothes off Craigslist and eBay. I bought a used Marmot Alba (-10F rating) around two years ago. Found it on Craigslist in New Mexico (using a now banned search program, but that's another story). It showed up looking brand new with the stuff sack, storage sack and even the original hang tag. A quick trip to my local outdoor shop (A16 in W. LA) for cleaning and you can't tell it from new. I paid half the original retail price. I called Marmot to ask about it and the customer service rep found the old catalog and faxed me the pages from it with the bag's description and specs. She also told me they offer a cleaning service and could refill or overfill the down at what I thought was a reasonable price.

A few years before that, I bought a TNF Baltoro parka off eBay. You rarely see those used. One reason is that they retail now for $600 and are a specialty item. I paid about half retail and it also looked brand new; still does. I was the only bidder, btw.

I thought both were a bargain, but I suppose that is relative. Best bargain so far was a brand new Marmot ski parka I found in a store selling clothes from films and tv shows. It came off a low budget picture (they keep records for those who care) and I paid 20% of retail including tax. I would bet they had no idea what it retailed for($300).

When I saw this jacket, I called Marmot to find out what it was. I was checking to see if it was a fake. I must say, both times I called-on the bag and the jacket, even though I told them I was buying them used, I got friendly and very helpful customer service, another reason to buy Marmot.

My point is that if you look hard enough, you can find deals. It sounds like you actually saw this bag. I bought mine after talking to the owner on the phone and looking at some photos. The bottom line is that if it's worth $175 to you, then that is what it is worth. Marmot doesn't make a wide range of subzero bags. Their current -20F bag, albeit probably a better material and loftier down that the older bags, sells online for around $540, more than 3 times the bag you are looking at.

8:20 a.m. on April 19, 2014 (EDT)
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i also wouldn't turn down a quality down bag simply because it might be dirty.  laundering down bags isn't the easiest task in the world, but done properly, it can rejuvenate a bag.  the flipside is that if you are looking at a down bag that has been laundered, doing it wrong can damage the baffles and make the bag much less appealing.  (they have to be laundered at very slow speeds, and preferably by hand in a tub or in a front-loader on a very gentle cycle.  laundering a down bag at high speed, particularly in a top-loader that relies on a twisting motion to agitate the laundry, can damage a bag.

12:03 p.m. on April 19, 2014 (EDT)
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leadbelly2550 said:

i also wouldn't turn down a quality down bag simply because it might be dirty.  laundering down bags isn't the easiest task in the world, but done properly, it can rejuvenate a bag.  the flipside is that if you are looking at a down bag that has been laundered, doing it wrong can damage the baffles and make the bag much less appealing.


I agree with Andrew's statement 100%.

Looking at eBay listings, I often see 'recently laundered' or 'just dry cleaned' in the item description. Unless that statement is followed by info about the (professional) place that did the cleaning, I move along.

I'd rather buy a dirty bag with intact baffles.... at the right price, of course!

(That used SD bag I bought had an overwhelming 'Febreeze' smell (aka 'instant cleaning' ;-) )when it came out of the packing, but it washed out completely!)

3:06 p.m. on April 19, 2014 (EDT)
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I don't try to wash my bags myself. I've had three of them cleaned through A16 here in LA. They send them out to a commercial launderer. As I said above, Marmot will also do it. Not sure of the cost, but customer service can give you all that info.

Marmot has a video on how to wash a bag on their website-

Marmot recommends a powder detergent, but you could use this-

I have used other Nikwax products, so I wouldn't hesitate to use their down detergent.

FYI, I wouldn't buy a down bag that has been dry cleaned. The down has likely been damaged by the dry cleaning chemicals.


7:48 p.m. on April 20, 2014 (EDT)
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Thanks guys for all the suggestions.  

9:49 p.m. on April 20, 2014 (EDT)
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Let me provide background with my 2 cents.

I always buy new.  Why?  If I was honest with myself it is because I cannot be bothered with any of the possible downsides of 2nd hand bags.

When I get around to retiring a bag IT IS DEAD.  The outer shell UV brittled and splitting, down fill hardened into inseparatable, mildew infused, clods of feathers, due to extended periods of use in the field under wet conditions, shredded by marmots (yes, these all happened to my bags).  If this is what I offer I am hesitant to consider someone else's bag unless I knew more details.

I always have washed my bags.  Back in the day Woolite and Downey Flakes was what the pro cleaners who did such work recommended.  At the risk of a pummeling from the peanut gallery I will basically agree to that assertion.  I don't notice the difference between down bags washed using the latest and greatest, compared to ones I used to wash using Woolite.  So I guess the various specialized products to be about the same, but I have noticed certain tips have a bigger impact on end results.  

I use very warm water ~95 degrees F.  This temp is good regardless what cleaning solution you use.  Warm enough to enhance the wetness (soap is a wetting agent) of the solution, but cool enough to not destabilize the natural oils on the down.  I soaked my bags in the bathtub, using no more than a kneading motion to agitate them.  The wring-out was more like stomping grapes, in that I stood on top the piled up wet bag to force out most of the moisture.  This wash and wring technique is effective, and avoids torqueing and tearing internal baffles in the bag.  The bags were then taken to the coin-op laundry and dried under low heat in the biggest dryers available.  Some folks like to toss in some tennis balls; I prefer four or five bath towels.


10:50 p.m. on April 20, 2014 (EDT)
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Ed and I have a different perspective on buying used gear. I want high end gear and clothes, but it is hard to justify paying retail when know it won't get used all that much. It's worth the time to me to hunt around and buy used if I want something and the price is beyond what I want to pay. Another way to buy if you want new is buying from websites like Steep and Cheap or Woot that offer limited time, limited number bargains or STP (Sierra Trading Post) that sells closeouts, last year's models and overstock. Even Patagonia has sales twice a year at 40-50% off some of their stuff.

I've got a pretty long list of deals I have gotten over the years. I will skip the details, unless someone is particularly curious, but you'd be surprised what people buy, never use or use lightly and then resell. This seems to be particularly true of expedition quality gear. The backstory often is that the bag or parka, etc. was bought for that once in a lifetime trip that got cancelled for various reasons, so it winds up on eBay or Craigslist. Just like with cars, you can get a lemon, but if you are a careful shopper, it can be worth it.

1:49 p.m. on April 25, 2014 (EDT)
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Well I picked up the bag last night and more that happy with the decision.  It looked new with not a spot or snag on it.  Came with original stuff sack, cotton bag that it has been stored in plus a Guide Gear compression  pouch.  Figure I will give it a good washing and be ready to go for the next cold season. 

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