Best subzero down lightweight sleeping bag

2:42 p.m. on October 26, 2008 (EDT)
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I am looking to get a -20 to -40 degree bag that is very light but not real expensive, any ideas where I should get one.
I had a -40 degree EMS bag back in the 70's that I used for Yosemite and the Sierra but have been a spring/summer and fall alpine hiker ever since. I have done winter but only in the Grand Canyon where it does not get very cold at night (in the canyon). My current bag is the Featherlite by Golite that is rated to 20 and weighs 9 oz. See my review a while back.

10:19 p.m. on October 26, 2008 (EDT)
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Best best? Head to westernmountaineering.com

I have the Puma Super MicroFiber, and would highly recommend.

9:49 a.m. on October 27, 2008 (EDT)
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Another brand to look at would be Feathered Friends. It's been a while since I compared prices between FF and WM, but I seem to recall they were fairly competitive with each other.

11:22 a.m. on October 27, 2008 (EDT)
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Gary.
Your criteria are not fully compatible with one another -

a -20 to -40 degree bag that is very light but not real expensive


To go very light, down is your only choice, no matter what the temperature range. But down is very expensive, with the higher fill factors (hence the lightest weights) at the very high end of "expensive". You will want quality of design and construction as well for the bag to stand up to use.

The two top brands in US-made bags are Feathered Friends and Western Mountaineering. Barb and I both have FF bags, rated at -40 and used a number of times in those conditions (mine in Antarctica and Denali). Western Mountaineering is my "home town" manufacturer, in San Jose, their shop being about 10 miles from my house. Integral Designs, which is based in and manufactures their bags in Canada (in Alberta) is also up there, and has down bags as well as their top quality synthetic bags (Primaloft, the best and lightest of the synthetic fills, but a bit heavier than down). kutenay can recommend a couple European brands, which he uses regularly in his home territory in British Columbia.

The prices of all these are close to one another, and the customer service from the factories is very similar.

You can go to the second tier and save a little money with companies like Marmot and Mountain Hardwear. However, their bags are heavier. I have gear from both, and find it generally excellent. But comparing my down clothing from Marmot and Feathered Friends, it is clear that the FF down clothing is significantly better than Marmot's, and both significantly better than The North Face, in terms of warmth for weight and quality of manufacture.

1:14 p.m. on October 27, 2008 (EDT)
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Yeah, winter mountaineering bags have become better and more exspensive, but I want to get back into winter camping again and I remember when I paid $180 for my -30 EMS bag in 1978 That was pretty pricy for a bag in those days.
I looked at both westernmountaineering and featheredfriends. I like that some of the companys now offer longggg bags like the 7' models tho only down to 0 degrees.
The price of a new bag is about two weeks pay and it seems reasonable for what I want to do.
Thanks.

2:36 p.m. on October 27, 2008 (EDT)
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To Cgray: I have the same exact bag, MF shell, the works. Best bag I've ever had, and I've lived in my old North Face Ibex and spent many years in a Marmot Couloir. The Puma is, well, well-crafted and light for what it does. Still expensive, but the question can't be answered: A cheap -40 bag??

11:53 p.m. on October 27, 2008 (EDT)
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Gary, to paraphrase Bill, "Good, light, cheap, pick any two."

Having said that, I would look on eBay. I have seen several WM or FF bags that people have bought for expeditions that fell through or were used on one big mountaineering trip according to the listings.

A couple of years ago, I got a TNF Baltoro down parka on eBay for just over half price. This is what is now the Himalayan which sells for about $500. Mine has a bit lower fill power and slightly different pocket design. I was the only bidder and got it at the reserve price. Specialty items like this don't show up every day, but don't get a lot of bids. Not that many people need or want a -40 bag.

1:33 a.m. on October 28, 2008 (EDT)
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Good idea, I know a guy who climbed Denali and spent about $5000 on equipment only to sell it later to cover other pursuits.

7:27 a.m. on October 28, 2008 (EDT)
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And how many climbers leave all their fancy gear as litter on the mountain just to get off quickly??

12:29 p.m. on October 28, 2008 (EDT)
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Among the climbers I go with and on most of the mountains I climb, zero leave their gear. On Denali, Kilimanjaro, and in Antarctica, my most recent major mountains, you are required by law (with stiff fines, or forcing you to return at your own expense) to remove or retrieve all the gear (Denali and Antarctica require removal of everything, including human waste). Similar rules for climbing in Yosemite NP and peaks in the Sierra, Cascades, Rockies.

The Himalaya seems to be the primary exception to climbers leaving gear behind, and that seems to be mostly the "take me up the mountain" crowd, not serious climbers. The stuff I see left behind in US ranges seems to be mostly backpackers who are not what I would call "serious backpackers", and the gear is mostly cheap junk that looks like it was abandoned when it failed - tents that came apart, sleeping bags that came apart at the seams, stoves that failed, ...

But even in the Himalaya, there is an increasing and concerted effort to organize cleanup parties to retrieve as much abandoned gear as possible. All the major national climbing organizations (American Alpine Club, Appalachian Mountain Club, Seattle Mountaineers, Mazamas, among those in the US, all the European national clubs, etc) have a policy of not leaving trash and sponsoring cleanup expeditions.

For many of the more remote areas, the practice is to donate any unwanted gear to the local guides and porters. For Kilimanjaro, the porters union requested we bring gear to donate to the porters (which Barb and I did), as well as donating any gear we were not taking back with us.

7:33 p.m. on October 28, 2008 (EDT)
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In the Grand Canyon, it is very popular for some people to leave gear like tents,sleeping bags,sleeping pads,even packs behind at the campgrounds especially Cottonwood. And often food left in the Ammo cans the park has placed for food storage. Mnay people hike, I guess for their first and maybe last hiking/camping trip. So instead of packing out the gear, they simply leave it behind.

12:42 p.m. on October 29, 2008 (EDT)
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But it is sooo hard to carry that heavy pack up the trail, and they charge sooo much to have a mule pack it back to the rim.

I suspect these were folks who had little or no backpacking experience and didn't realize that it's a lot easier to descend into the canyon than to climb back out - in spite of the prominent and explicit signs warning about that, the lack of drinking fountains, and the huge charge for rescue with a mule to carry you out. Ya know, if the Park Service would do like on Denali and charge a $5000 fine for leaving stuff behind (gear, food caches, or anything else), and publicize the fine, that sort of thing would stop real quick.

6:34 p.m. on October 29, 2008 (EDT)
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How about a $500.00 deposit placed on your gear list to be checked off, as you check out. I guess that would be a lot of work for someone.
In Great Smokey Mountains National Park stuff gets left also, mostly in the front country areas. It's mostly inexperience I guess, we all have to learn. As Bill mentioned it is usually the cheap stuff that has tore up, ect.

7:19 p.m. on October 29, 2008 (EDT)
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There is a MAJOR difference between camping at -20*F and -40*F, believe me. The former is the lowest edge of the temp. gradient to +15*F which is where the best winter camping IS, as it is DRY and cold enough that a good down bag will really perform.

-40*F and colder is just brutal and I have spent enough time winter camping, oftimes alone and bush working in such temps., that I advise people to AVOID such extremes if at all possible, the discomfort and danger is seldom "worth it". I have camped at a measured -41*F at the bottom of Kokanee Glacier in the West Kootenays of BC; I did this with a Swedish "Caravan" double bag piece of over-rated, over-priced crap and also my original Marmot custom down/GT bag....I won't do it now as I was young, tough and a working pro in the mountains then, circa mid-late '70s and am old, soft and SMARTER now!

For use in extreme cold, my FIRST choice would be an Integral Designs XPDIII Arctic bag with the 900 fill option, and Endurance shell, standard. I would definitely use my ID VBL with this and two EVA pads plus an inflatable insulated pad underneath, EVA, Ins. Pad, EVA, is the way to go here.

These bags come in various lengths and widths, the quality is absolutely top notch and they are NOT cheap. ID will sometimes do custom models of this, it just depends on what Evan wants to do at a given time...as he told me a few months ago.

My next choice would be a Western Mountaineering Bison, probably with "overfill" and the WM "Hot Sack" VBL. The Feathered Friends Snowey Owl and Snow Goose also fit in here, and they are also NOT cheap.

However, for MOST winter camping in western and northern Canada, I have found my ID XPDII Himalayan custom OF to be often MORE than enough and this past year went to the incredible Valandre Shocking Blue bag, a bivy or cover with it and my VBL, if indicated. This bag weighs THREE LBS TOTAL and it will work down to -20*F if set up right....cheap, well.........NO really worthwhile winter backpacking bag is "cheap".

Quality?

Valandre-ID, about equal, but, Valandre is ahead on design. These two makers supply the finest bags I have ever used and, IMHO, the price is worth it.

WM, superb, very restrictive in repect of sizes and widths, a smidgen less bag than an ID or Valandre, but, the price of their microfber shelled bags is VERY low for what you get and they are the best deal around.

FF-MINE, a 1989 model is excellent, however, there have been recent reports from sources I consider valid which detail some less than satisfactory incidents. To my eyes, the newer WM bags are superior, but, FF may be getting back to their once pre-eminent position in the industry.

Finally, you might look at Peter Hutchison Designs of Merrye Englande; they have an outstanding rep, offer total customization on their website and have certain features I find very appealing on their "Xero" models. I would love to try one in January in the BC interior.

These are the bags to choose from, IMO, study the various websites carefully and consider your body type and how you sleep. I would go with a -30C bag as the "coldest", UNLESS I were doing polar things or living out all winter in the Yukon or NWT or Alaska's North Slope. My -30 rated bags have ALWAYS been warm enough for any uses I put them to and a true -40 bag is not very useful as it is HOT at just over 0*F, something to consider. HTH.

9:42 p.m. on October 29, 2008 (EDT)
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I own four Valandre bags myself, my wife and kids have four WM bags, so I have used both.

I prefer the design and the down quality of the Valandre, having tested them extensively.

I am amazed at how compact the Valandre bags can get, and also at how well they loft up. I tend to sleep warmer in Valandre bags, moreso than any other bag brand.

This is crazy, but I own the Valandre Thor, a -58F bag. It weighs 4 lbs 7 oz and compresses into a 10" diameter stuff sack, which fits in the bottom of my McHale. Overkill maybe, but I like having a margin of safety when camping at -20 or colder.

8:24 a.m. on October 30, 2008 (EDT)
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Well, I had said -20 to -40 because I live in Jackson Hole where winter temps range in the heart of the season depending on where you are between Yellowstone, the Wind River/Gros Ventre range, the Wyoming range and the Tetons.
I used to winter camp years ago in Yosemites high Sierra backcountry and had a EMS down bag that was rated to -30. I never got cold in it at night.
This year being my second winter to stay here I thought I might try some weekly overnight hike/camps and was looking at the temperture ranges of bags on the market. I note they seem to range between -20 and -40, so that is why I asked about that range.
Vigilguy, Where did you get your Valandre Thor and how much did it cost just out of curiousity? My roommate has a bag rated at -40 and its compress'es quite small. Made by Wiggley or something that that?

10:31 a.m. on October 30, 2008 (EDT)
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Ahhh.... Wiggley...., now WHERE have I heard THAT before?????

I will simply say that, after owing and using a ...Wiggley..., for a few months, I replaced it with an ID Primaloft synthetic North Twin bag.

WM, ID, Valandre, PHD and FF are now and have been for quite some time, THE absolute pinnacle of design/quality/function in sleeping bags and ESPECIALLY for really severe cold. There is simply NO comparison with the cheap bags you mention, none.

I HOPE that this does not turn into a "W" thread...........

3:07 a.m. on October 31, 2008 (EDT)
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Valandre Thor....

DISCLOSURE: I sell 'em. I am a retailer for Valandre' as well as other bags.

Price on these monsters is high, something like $800 +, depending on length. But so is the WM Bison and the ID XPD3 bags.

But the Thor compresses a heck of a lot easier and smaller than my XPD2 by Integral that I used to own.

Don't get me wrong, WM and ID make superb bags like Kute said, but bags seem to be a personal thing to me and I like Valandre quality.

9:55 a.m. on October 31, 2008 (EDT)
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I looked up the Valandre on the net and got a foriegn site I could not read. Where are the products made?

10:26 a.m. on October 31, 2008 (EDT)
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The bags are made in France. Their goose down is sourced only a couple of hours away from their factory, which means that they can get pretty choosy on what down goes into their bags. I have seen a noticeable difference in the warmth of their down vs. comparable products. Plus the design and fit of their bags are pretty unique and innovative, I believe.

Go to www.valandre.com and click on english. They are working on a U.S. site that is soon to launch.

Let me just add that there are several wonderful bag mfgrs out there...each has their strengths. It depends on what features you are looking for and what is important to you. I personally prefer Valandre' because of their features, but they aren't the best one for everyone.

10:09 p.m. on October 31, 2008 (EDT)
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Pretty nice site there. You said you sell this, are you one of the listed US sellers? The Thor is about the temp range I am looking for, is that bag $800. I need the longest bag as I am 6'7" tall.

9:14 a.m. on November 1, 2008 (EDT)
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I will just say here that I have been at this for over 40 years and have purchased a LOT of highend gear during that time. I "met" Vigilguy through this site when I first found it and joined and I have done a lot of business with him.

I live in BC and he is in Utah and I STILL do almost all of my buying from him and one small store here in the Lower Mainland of BC; this is because of the quality of product and service he gives. I worked in the industry for several months before I retired in June, 2001 and I wish everyone in the industry was as wonderful to deal with as Vigilguy always has been.

I don't know if Valandre makes a bag long enough for a guy as big as you are,I do know of one very large chap that had ID build him an XPDIII to such dimensions as he sought my advice via PMs on another forum and Evan was willing to do it. The only maker who regularly offers bags in a full 7 ft. length is WM and they do not do this with their expedition level models and will no longer do any custom work due to backlogs on regular production....I know as I asked them a few times for a Bison cut like a Kodiak and Megalite the same....no luck, dammitt.

So, you may well have to go with a custom ID if Evan is willing to do it, I would definitely go with the 900 fill option he will use if asked and such a bag will NOT be inexpensive, probably over a grand USD. Almost enough to make a guy give up winter camping, eh!

10:47 a.m. on November 1, 2008 (EDT)
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Yes I saw that WM made a bag that was for a 7 ft length but it was not for below 0 degrees. I want a cold bag rated to at least -40.

11:14 a.m. on November 1, 2008 (EDT)
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Gary, email me at vigilguy at gmail dot com and we can figure out what may work for you. I have a feeling that the Thor should work. I'll have somebody your height crawl into my Thor Long and see how it fits him.

Charlie

2:47 p.m. on November 1, 2008 (EDT)
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Gary- The stat sheet from Valandre states that the Thor Long measures 6'6" on the inside. My son's brother in law dropped by this morning, he is 6'7", believe it or not, and I had him crawl inside my Thor. He had just enough room inside for him. I checked the hood fit and it fit well. There was a very slight compression of the down in the foot box , perhaps 1/2 inch to an inch, but bear in mind that the Thor has huge amounts of down loft, in the 6 to 7 inch range layering over your body.

He felt comfortable and did not feel the need to go with a longer bag, if he were buying one.

Hope this helps you and others.

4:17 p.m. on November 1, 2008 (EDT)
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What GIRTH do these have, tho', my concern is that they list a mere 62" on their site. When next speaking with Niels, perhaps you could ask him if they could/would make their serious expedition bags in an optional wider version?

I would very likely buy one if they did this as I am about as nuts over Valandre as you are. The ID bags ARE rather difficult to stuff, a REAL pita in very cold weather, but,that is due to the "Endurance" shell, IMO, and that shell is more H20 proof than anything else I have ever seen, so, it is not an un-mitigated problem, at least in a climate like BC's.

4:46 p.m. on November 1, 2008 (EDT)
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Their new specs that they gave us at the OR show say 64" girth for the Long. I will check it out myself this afternoon and let you know. It is not as spacious at the Shocking Blue, but it is not a narrow bag as compared to others.

10:11 a.m. on November 21, 2008 (EST)
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Another consideration is Rab (not sure if readily available in the US), I own a Rab down bag and have used in the winters here in Scotland with no problems, they do a summit bag which may be worth a look, big supplier for british polar expeditions.

http://www.rab.uk.com/equipment/sleeping_bags/

5:08 p.m. on December 25, 2008 (EST)
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Three bags in one:

Warmlite.com

7:37 a.m. on December 28, 2008 (EST)
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Hi,

As mentioned by Kutenay, PHD do a number of fantastic sub zero sleeping bags:

http://www.phdesigns.co.uk/gearadvise/categoriesDisplay.php?parent_categories_id=1

On my South Pole expedition I will be using one their 'Hispar 1200 Down' sleeping bags, rated @ -72°F, with an inner VBL together with one of their Overbags:

http://www.phdesigns.co.uk/product_info.php?products_id=60

which adds another 18°F to the warmth factor (-90°F total rating!)

regards
Andrew

5:13 p.m. on March 19, 2009 (EDT)
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Take a look at the bags from The Backside. They meet your requirments for a lightweight, sub zero degree bag. Plus they are affordable, especially the X-fibre models.

http://www.campingcomfortably.com/x-fibre-sleeping-bags.html

http://www.campingcomfortably.com/down-sleeping-bags.html

12:18 p.m. on March 23, 2009 (EDT)
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For me - hands down, the Mont Bell bags are incredible. Very light, very warm, and best of all, if you're a big guy they stretch to allow you some REAL movement, especially around the shoulders, without your arms having to come out and freeze. Cheap? NO!! - BUT always there on Ebay if you're willing to look. i just picked up a #2 (rated to 25 degrees for 2-3 season) for $200. I picked up my expedition bag rated to -20 for about $250 last year- and it retails for over $500.

February 18, 2019
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