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Old 12-13-05, 12:47 AM   #1
SeS
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How warm a sleeping bag do you suggest?

I am contemplating a cross-country tour on the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier route, west to east, hopefully next summer leaving in the early June timeframe. I plan to buy a new lightweight sleeping bag for the tour. The guys at the local mountaineering shop suggested a 35 or 40 degree bag. I tend to be a cold sleeper, and am concerned that won't be warm enough. Any comments or suggestions? Thanks.
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Old 12-13-05, 01:16 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeS
I am contemplating a cross-country tour on the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier route, west to east, hopefully next summer leaving in the early June timeframe. I plan to buy a new lightweight sleeping bag for the tour. The guys at the local mountaineering shop suggested a 35 or 40 degree bag. I tend to be a cold sleeper, and am concerned that won't be warm enough. Any comments or suggestions? Thanks.
There are lots of things you can do to make any sleeping bag warmer. A silk liner will add warmth and keep the bag clean, so you just wash the liner instead of the bag. Wearing a hat to bed will help trap heat inside your body, since so much heat loss is through your scalp. Your choice of ground pad will make a difference too, a thicker pad or a second pad will prevent conductive heat loss into the ground.

Keep in mind that a bag that is too warm will make you sweat at night, leaving you dehydrated when you wake up in the morning.

Temperature ratings are pretty subjective, but if you buy the 35 deg bag and end up being too cold on a few nights, you can always put on a hat, burrow down into the bag, and use your clothing as an extra ground pad. If you buy a bag that is too warm you will end up perspiring heavily and waking up dehydrated on a fairly regular basis. You will also be carrying a bag that is heavier than necessary on the entire tour.
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Old 12-13-05, 01:39 AM   #3
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I bought my Mtn Hardware Phantom 32 specifically for bike touring and find it to be plenty warm for 3 seasons and all year round out on the west coast. It is 800 down and packs down to an amazingly small roll 10" long and 6" in diameter. Half the size of a similar rated synthetic bag and will last many years if properly cared for. Fits in the pannier easily. Doubt you would need more warmth than that, even in higher elevations, and as mentioned, a hat helps a lot on colder nights.
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Old 12-13-05, 03:12 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markf
A silk liner will add warmth and keep the bag clean, so you just wash the liner instead of the bag. Wearing a hat to bed will help trap heat inside your body, since so much heat loss is through your scalp. Your choice of ground pad will make a difference too, a thicker pad or a second pad will prevent conductive heat loss into the ground. Keep in mind that a bag that is too warm will make you sweat at night, leaving you dehydrated when you wake up in the morning.
All very good advices and suggestions. You can also further boost the temp rating if needed by sleeping in thermal underwears, , mittens, warm socks and maybe a down vest. I've used a 0 Celcius (freezing point for water) rated sleeping bag in much colder temps using those methods. My "secret" weapon which is in a league of its own for adding warmth at minimum weight is a Psolar balaclava with heat exchanger - www.psolar.com. Lots of people are overly scared of being cold and end up sweating through most nights in bulky, heavy and expensive sleeping bags. Get a light and compact down bag and fine-tune with internal and external additions. That's how I do it anyway.
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Old 12-13-05, 03:28 AM   #5
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Thanks for the replies. It sounds like the advice is generally to go with a lightweight bag and use other means such as a hat or additional clothing if needed for more warmth. Does anyone else have specific information about the temperature rating on sleeping bags they've used through the Cascades or Rockies, and whether they were happy with the warmth/weight balance?
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Old 12-13-05, 05:56 AM   #6
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When I sleep I look like a snow angle. Limbs all akimbo. So I hate small sleeping bags. Previous to my Northern Tier (July, August) trip I learned to just carry a flannel blanket and stop and buy some cheap pants and sweatshirts at a thrift store, use them for the mountains and donate them back after.

If I were to to it again I would use my fleece sleeping bag.
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Old 12-13-05, 07:02 AM   #7
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Having bought and used down and synthetic sleeping bags pretty heavy in the last 3 decades, (currently have 5 in the closet- -5 down, 25 degree down bag, 20 deg synthetic, 40 degree synthetic and a survival bag in th car, my experience with temperature rating is this:

generally subtract 10 degrees from manufacturers ratings for 'average warmth' sleepers. the low temp rating is like the fuel economy ##'s, it's an ideal rating touted to sell, and representds the cold threshold of the bag, not a comfort rating.

A lot of mountain gear manfacturers are touting lightweight down sleeping bags that weigh about a kilo and are rated to around 25-40 degrees. any of these would probably be sufficent for summer tours, but try them out for fit and function first. some of the lightweight bags are using a very short zipper instead of a full zip, this makes it harder to use the bag as a quilt, and makes it tougher to dry out as well.

There's a huge difference between 25 and 40 degree bags though...40 degree bags are very insubstantial, the best extremely light down bags out there are by Western Mountaineering, made in the usa. Models named the highlite and the mightylite I think

But, you can then 'supercharge' any sleeping bag as suggested above, using liners, VBL's, fleco overbags, bivies, or just using all your extra clothing as insulation top and bottom, and a hat.

I like down over synthetic because of the packability, but you need to take greater care with down to keep it lofty and dry.

Last edited by Bekologist; 12-13-05 at 09:18 AM.
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Old 12-13-05, 09:41 AM   #8
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I've been happy with the REI sub-kilo 20 degree bag I have. It's 700 down (I think) and stuffs down way small.
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Old 12-13-05, 08:28 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by librarian

If I were to to it again I would use my fleece sleeping bag.


That fleece bag might get a little crowded, but you'll be warm!

(Refering to the picture)
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Old 12-13-05, 10:35 PM   #10
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One thing no one has mentioned is that to be sure to get a bag with the side baffles removed. The style is also referred to as continuous baffles. This allows the down to be shaken from the top side (chest) to the bottom side (butt) or vice versa depending on the weather.

I too am a very cold sleeper. I have used a 20 degree Feathered Friends bag (you can customize to your desires) for over 10 years. I have been caught as low as 20 degrees in the snow (Yellowstone in July of all places) and after shaking the down to the top (to keep the heat in), I have always been warm. In Glacier Nat'l Park I was comfortable and two days later in the plains of Montana I shook the down to the bottom and I was fine in 70s at night.

All other advice, i.e. wear sweats, cap, etc. are valid.

Be careful of the grasshoppers in North Dakata in August !
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Old 12-13-05, 10:51 PM   #11
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almost impossible to find a continuous baffle sleeping bag anymore, unless you buy custom like FF or some of the western mountaineering bags. I didn't mention it because its not a standard feature on down bags anymore.

TNF Blue Kazoos used to be continuous baffle, but no longer. I believe one of the Marmot bags, the neverwinter, is still continuous baffle.
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Old 12-14-05, 03:04 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kesroberts
I've been happy with the REI sub-kilo 20 degree bag I have. It's 700 down (I think) and stuffs down way small.
I second that. Great 3 season bag for the $, esp. when it's on sale. Superlight and compresses super small--about the size of a loaf of bread. I would stick with a 20-30 degree rated bag if you sleep cold, (even in the summer) for the higher elevations of the Cascades/Rockies.

http://www.rei.com/product/47692051.htm
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Old 12-14-05, 04:34 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeS
I am contemplating a cross-country tour on the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier route, west to east, hopefully next summer leaving in the early June timeframe. I plan to buy a new lightweight sleeping bag for the tour. The guys at the local mountaineering shop suggested a 35 or 40 degree bag. I tend to be a cold sleeper, and am concerned that won't be warm enough. Any comments or suggestions? Thanks.
I use this sleeping bag:
http://www.backcountry.com/store/TNF...gree-Down.html

and this pad:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...goods&v=glance

It worked good on the Oregon Coast. Too warm: use the bag as a blanket. I stopped looking for debris free tent sites and never felt anything w/pad. Real warm use the pad as a pillow, clothes as pading.
Good Luck, I'm jealous
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Old 12-14-05, 07:35 PM   #14
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Chinook Everest Micro - good to about 0C/32F without a liner.
Packs TINY (half a loaf of bread size) in its own compression sack.
I use a ThermaRest Pro-Lite 3 short as a ground pad. (packs even smaller)

I don't winter camp but for 3-season use, I love this setup.

BTW: the Chinook is synthetic filled. I see you're leaning toward down. Keep moisture in mind - down isn't great when wet.
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Old 12-15-05, 01:55 AM   #15
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Thanks, everyone. Lots of good suggestions here. Since I know that I sleep cold, I think I need a bag rated at least 32 deg F or below. I've been looking at journals on Crazy Guy on a Bike, and found a few comments from people wishing they had warmer bags. It makes sense to add a lightweight liner as well, which would accomplish 3 things: keep the bag cleaner, add warmth in cold weather, and be used by itself in hot weather.

I need to think about my sleeping pad, too. I have a Thermarest 3/4 length ultralight that is somewhere between 10 and 15 years old. It has a couple of patches but is still air tight. If I recall, it is less than an inch thick, and weighs just a shade less than a pound. It's from the era before the manufacturer figured out that non-slip is a good feature.

But on the sleeping bag side, I have a short list of options. A good down bag is a lot of money, but if it saves some nights in a hotel it can pay for itself. At least that's what I'm telling myself. Here's the list:

1- Western Mountaineering Aspen Hooded MF, 25 deg, full zipper, continuous baffles, 2 pounds. List price $310. Ouch. Most flexible, heavier than some other WM bags.
2- REI sub kilo, 20 deg, 2 pounds, list price $209.
3- North Face Kilo, 32 deg, 2.1 pounds, ~$150.
4- Mountain Hardware Phantom 32D, 1 lb 5 oz, $245.
5- Marmot Helium (30 deg, $320, 1 lb 5 oz) or Helium Women's (15 deg, $358, 1 lb 10 oz)

I expect to visit some stores to see how I fit into some of these, and then make a decision. And whatever I do, I'll have that warm hat ready to put on if I'm cold at night! Thanks, again. And please don't hesitate to add more comments.
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Old 12-15-05, 04:03 AM   #16
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If you have an Eastern Mountain Sports about, check out there Mountain Light bags.

They're 725 fill goose down. With bags rating +40, +20, 0, -20 and -40.

Link to the EMS Mountain Light +20. Womens&regular 199$. Long $209. 2 lbs for regular length (up to 6ft).

I have there +40 Mountain Light. It's a very nice bag!

I'm pondering there +2O (and use an ultralite 45degree hostel bag as a double bag system), or there Zero for my upcoming trip.

I allways use a liner with sleeping bags. I've had my current silk one for 5 years now. When it's "buggie" about (mosquitoes/tics) I treat the outside of it with spray on permethrine fabric treatment.

Also note EMS has a nice synthetic filled +35 bag (Velocity-fill is Primaloft Sport). Weighs 1lb 8ozs regular size. I haven't checked it out yet, but am intrigued. Loss of loft over a long tour would be the primary concern though.
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Old 12-15-05, 09:45 AM   #17
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Ses, it looks like you're going for down, great choice.

The last three on your list have abbreviated zippers, I believe. Marmot makes a Helium EQ with very water resistant shell and full zip, but its 100 more.

The REI subkilo is a great value for the price. I have a sub kilo (what i thought was my 25 degree bag, but its a 20 degree REI subkilo I bought last year) and just used it in subfreezing temps on a bike tour last week out on the Olympic Peninsula. I'm taking my winter weight down bag out today for a 3 day tour, but I'm heading up towards the mountains so the added warmth will be a plus.


There's lightweight down sleeping bags by Exped, Sierra designs, and Montbell that might merit taking a look at, if you can find them, distribution's kinda spotty.
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Old 12-15-05, 12:16 PM   #18
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FWIW...Here's a link to a NZ company that sells silk liners (scroll halfway down, past the "Silk Boy Leg Cheeky Briefs" :

http://www.nznature.co.nz/mshop/spi//3_SIL_851

$29 inc. shipping to the states, 5oz., pure HABOTAI silk, quality AAA grade.
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Old 12-15-05, 05:30 PM   #19
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I like the way this one hugs you when you sleep.

Mountain-Equipment-Dreamcatcher-500
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