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  1. #1
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    The more I look, the more I'm confused about sleeping bag choice.

    Quick background... As some of you know I'm planning my first tour this fall. Started out as a credit card tour, but the more I read on here the more I want to try camping. At least for part of it. So I have been collecting gear & getting the bike converted. Bought a 2006 GF Tassajara on Craigslist for $200, not as a tour bike, but as an extra bike for friends to ride. They weren't riding it much..... so it's now my touring bike. I know I like the fit of the bike because I put 10-12k miles on the 2003 version I have before I got a road bike. If you want to check out my progress so far in planning and setting up the bike I've posted over in the "Southeast" forum. http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...irst-bike-tour...

    Anyway I've got the tent picked out (not bought yet). But I'm stuck on sleeping bag choice. I haven't camped since I was a kid every summer with the family. Back then I have NO clue what kind of bag I had but I do know it was huge when rolled up. Here is the thing.. I'm 5'9" and not thin (to put it politely). I roll in at about 230lbs. (before I started riding 7 years ago I was 270).. Got down to 195 at one point.. Grandparents & then my dad all got sick and I all but quit riding for awhile and gained a bunch back... anyway that's another story...

    Anyway .. 5'9" 230lbs... No plans as of now for touring when it gets too cold. Maybe 20 to 30 deg at night if I went on another tour in the winter here. I'm pretty much a warm to hot sleeper with a fan on all the time here at home. Ohhh and I'm a side sleeper for the most part... But I think I could sleep on my back if in a bag. I don't think I could use on of the tight mummy bags. But I'm open to suggestions and input. I think I want synthetic as apposed to down.

    The touring forum has been awesome in helping set up and plan everything.

    Any ideas, hints, suggestions, advise or comments are welcome...

    Thanks.... Jay.......

    PS... Sorry I get long winded sometimes... Doh!
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  2. #2
    Senior Member irwin7638's Avatar
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    When and where are you planning to sleep? Is your tent a good 3-4 season tent with a full fly?
    Those are the questions you need answered. I use a fleece sleeping bag liner on a thermorest pad most of the time,I also have a good 3 season tent which traps in my body heat. That's good from April to October in Michigan. You might want to look at this, that's about all I carry traveling solo.

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  3. #3
    Kittery Maine / NC
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    there are lots of bag makers that have rectangle bags. Chinnook for example. Sea to Summit. Look at Campmor. Backcountry.com All good sites for gear. Backcountrygear has free shipping and free returns to switch stuff out, I believe. I'd go at least a 20 degree bag. Down, compresses small, lightweight and warm. Synthetic,not as compressable, not as lightweight, but cheaper and much easier to dry out in case it gets wet. Unless it's really cold, I use a rect. Can't stand mummies if I don't need one. Log onto the backpacker forums and post a thread in the gear section stating your needs and hang on. You get more info than you can imagine. Those folks know their stuff.
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  4. #4
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    I think I'm going to purchase this tent here. ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 2 Backpacking Tent .. It seemed to get really good reviews (also watched a few video reviews on youtube). It is about half the price of this one that also got very good reviews. REI Quarter Dome T2 tent.. Ohh and they both seem to be good 3 season tents.

    I was thinking of the synthetic because here in Florida it rains a lot... If even for only short periods at a time. As to when and where.. For now most likely only here in Florida or mid Georgia. If I decide to go try the Silver Comet trail. As for when... My first tour later Sept or early Oct, whenever it cools down a bit from the 95+ deg heat every day. But I can see myself if all goes well and I like touring going on another tour in the the Florida winter. I grew up in Michigan and only lived in Florida as an adult.

    Jay....
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  5. #5
    Kittery Maine / NC
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    I just moved from so fl after 30 yrs. no stranger to heat. Checkout chinnook bags. We use them and they are nice, lightweight, pack really small and are cheap. Rectangle models as well. Fine for Fl and Ga warmer weather.
    1987 Schwinn Circuit
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  6. #6
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    Your running the same numbers as I am, but I am 6'1'. I have problems closing mummy bags. Mummy bags are the way to go though, if you can find one that fits at all. The reason I say that is that square bags do provide more room for your feet, but they also weight more for it. They are mainly about getting a bag that will open out like a quilt. For warm weather camping, the mummy bag is worn like a quilt. You unzip it to the bottom, or the last foot or so, depending on zipper length. Stick you feet into the pouch, and spread the rest over your body like a blanket. That will probably work at your weight. The foot pouch ensure the quilt stays on, and that you don't wake up with the quilt one place and you in another.

    When it gets cold, the zipped up mummy bag will actually be warm, while the square bag will be very drafty. So in the square bag you have a heavier platform that is less comfortable, and has a smaller temp comfort range. Mummy bag is a bit of a misnomer. For alpine type climbing the extreme mummy really was a tappered tight fit. But the majority of these bags today are pretty relaxed. The issue is just whether you can get one to zip up in. Remember that you only zip it up when the temp plunges, and by then you want all the warmth you can get.

    One option that you could consider is a "quilt", This is a development by Ray Jardine that essentially tries to be a super light weight version of the sleeping bag worn in the open position. There are many advantages to this, from extreme light weight (good deal for me carrying that excess stuff), cheap since most are made by the owner. Might sound complicated but it is dead simple. One can argue pro-quilt or bag, but the reality is that a quilt can be custom made to fit you, that is not likely to be the outcome of your bag hunt.

    There are quilt videos, but most seem very much more complicated than even sleeping bags, and at that point some of the appeal seems lost to me. The jardine ones are so cheap that they are virtually disposable.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9hPKzf9D4o

    This is all about the ultralight but you can see a quilt:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=fbK7d0I6quQ

    http://www.rayjardine.com/ray-way/Quilt-Kit/index.htm

    The thing is, one can argue quilts vs sleeping bags, but for bigger campers, higher diameter campers, this is a great option. Since I always used my sleeping bag like a quilt, I was already sold on the concept. I still don't own a "real" quilt, I just use a sleeping bag I bought. I will be getting one eventually the sewing is no problem around our house, and I made a quilt for my bed out of backpacking materials over 25 years ago, that I still use most nights 3 seasons. But whatever one thinks about it, it works great if you need custom. I do think there could be problems buying one, since they are designed for the ultralight market, I don't know how adaptible they are to larger sleepers. But making one would be ideal. Jardine sells the kits, and it is a few hours work with a sewing machine. The cheapest way to get the info is to see if your library can get you his Beyond Backpacking book that has the instructions in it. Or just order from rayway, they are really great to deal with.

  7. #7
    Slow Rider bwgride's Avatar
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    I'm 5'8" and weighed as much as 230. For temperature between 55F to 25F I use a Big Agnes Fishhawk 30F bag. Much more room than many sleeping bags, even for wide bodies. It is not mummy so plenty of room for legs. It is lightweight 2.5lbs. Has no insulation on the bottom, but instead has a sleeve into which one inserts a pad. One won't roll off the pad, which is a nice feature. The pad serves as insulation. I've had no trouble sleeping on my back or side with this bag. I also have Big Agnes Moon Hill rated to 0F and like it as well, but it is mummy style. Lightweight at 2lbs 13oz. A long version offers lots of room, even more than the Fishhawk. Mummy still is very nice for very cold weather. I initially thought I would feel confined in mummy, however, in very cold weather I don't spread my legs much, instead I keep them together for warmth, so the mummy is a very good design.

    A good compromise would be the Lost Ranger rated at 15F - that could be used from about 40 or 50 to 15ish and would still be lightweight.

    I now use quilts for much of my camping such as the Golite UltraLite 3-Season Quilt (rated at 20F, regular is 1.5 lbs.). This is very lightweight and very warm -- I think the rating is conservative. A long version would be wider still. I sleep in a hammock, so quilts work well for hammocks. Many use for quilts in tents as well. Someone mentioned the Rayway quilt -- keep in mind that is polyester filled, which has some minor advantage if it gets wet (I write minor because any quilt or bag, whether down or other insulation, will not offer warm, or much warmth, if wet), but that quilt does not compress well so is bulky.

    Golite has 50 to 60% off coupons which makes buying their quilts, from Golite.com, a reasonable price.

    An excellent place to buy sleeping bags, quilts, camping equipment is from geartrade.com. This is owned by Backcountry.com and serves as Backcountry's outlet store for returned merchandize. Others may sell on geartrade, but I buy only from Backcountry when I buy on geartrade. I just bought a Moon Hill 0F sleeping bag for $120 -- still had tags on it and in excellent shape.

    Bryan
    Last edited by bwgride; 08-24-11 at 11:23 AM.

  8. #8
    imi
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    Sleeping bags are kindof a n+1 item for me. I have three; summer only, 2 season, and one for down to freezing nights.
    The balance is between "too hot - have to open the zipper and get bitten by mosquitoes... and too cold - into that good ol' foster position with your hands keeping your knees warm thang... :/

    Some people sleep hot, some cold... In my experience the manufacturer's "comfort temperatures" are way too cold. Pad and tent make a difference obviously

  9. #9
    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    I know you said you'f prefer synthetic, and I was of that view myself, until I tried putting together a bike camping setup and saw not only the weight but the bulk of a decent 3 season bag. Now I'm going down the down road. When you can lose a third of the weight and bulk in one fell swoop, it's worth it, in my book. I know where you're coming from being concerned about getting it wet (I come from the North west of the UK, which is probably on a par with the North West of the US for rainfall), but with care, a down bag should be safe - always pack it in a waterproof bag in your pannier, never get it out until inside the tent etc.
    The only time a down bag can be a liability is in the depths of winter when, during a prolonged trip, the seat from your body gets trapped in the down because it has nowhere else to go and affects its ability to insulate.
    But in Florida, I expect that isn't a worry.
    I know synthetic is by far the safer option, but there is a price to pay.
    Those quilts look great, though, and offer a way of saving both bulk and weight. I wish I didn't toss and turn so much, though. Even attached to my mat, I imagine I'd wake up at 3am with a quilt underneath me and the mat on top.

  10. #10
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    big Agnes offers a few bags that use their insulated air mattresses
    for the bottom of the bag.

    and so the rectangularish ones would be OK,
    You won't redundantly carry bottom of bag insulation,
    that is flattened by your body weight, anyhow.

  11. #11
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    Syn bags:
    Bad: Heavy,don't compress as well,insulation breaks down after a couple years,not as warm per weight
    Good: Some insulation when wet,cheaper,easier to clean,insulation doesn't shift.

    Down bags:
    Bad: No insulation when wet,harder to clean,reduced loft when damp outside,down can shift around,more expensive

    Good:Lightweight,compress well,warmer per weight,last a lifetime with care.


    Marmot and other bigger companies make oversize bags(normally 6in longer and 2-3in bigger around) for tall/bigger people in mummy type bags.If your looking for some wiggle room,but still retain some warmth,look at trapizoidal shape bags.If you want max wiggle room,rectangle bags.

    The more empty space around you inside the bag(and tent),the colder the bag will feel because your body has to keep that space warm.

    On warmer nights,any type bag can be used as a reasonable quilt as long as it has a 3/4 or full zipper.

    Personally,I buy the best down bag I can afford.For many years that was an army surplus mountain bag(inside a $20 pup tent),not so great but that didn't stop me from any rides.I just bought a Marmot Hydrogen,best bag I've ever owned,my search is over.
    Last edited by Booger1; 08-24-11 at 02:26 PM.
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    I highy recommend the LL Bean Semi-Rectangular Down 35: http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/48813...ink&qs=3000086

    It's large and comfortable. Light (2 lbs). Cheap: on sale right now for $135. Very compressible for touring. I LOVE this sleeping bag---best I've ever owned. It doesn't have a single drawback that I can think of. Temperature rating is accurate---I've used it below freezing with light clothing. I honestly think you can't go wrong with this sleeping bag, and it's one of the best or possible the best sleeping bag on the market for a larger person.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    big Agnes offers a few bags that use their insulated air mattresses
    for the bottom of the bag.

    and so the rectangularish ones would be OK,
    You won't redundantly carry bottom of bag insulation,
    that is flattened by your body weight, anyhow.

    If you look at Big Agnes, make sure you understand why it is designed only for BACK SLEEPERS. If you get in it with the pad inserted in the sleeping bag and turn on your side, you will notice some problems, like a tenting effect over your shoulder that feels too tight but leaves air spaces around your body. I find this "system" constricting and weird.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by bwgride View Post
    A good compromise would be the Lost Ranger rated at 15F - that could be used from about 40 or 50 to 15ish and would still be lightweight.

    Bryan
    There is a lot of agreement among backpackers that Big Agnes sleeping bags are rated at least 15 degrees too high. Most backpackers say the Lost Ranger is warm to about 30 or 35 degress, no lower. I think that's a lot of weight to carry (2 lbs 14 oz) for a 30-degree bag, plus it's $220, compared to the LL Bean bag mentioned above at $135. I owned a Lost Ranger and replaced it with the Bean 35---much better bag in my opinion.

  15. #15
    __________ seeker333's Avatar
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    OP - You're considering fall touring in FL? All you need is a blanket and pillow (or clothes in a stuff sack).

  16. #16
    Slow Rider bwgride's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GetUpnGo View Post
    There is a lot of agreement among backpackers that Big Agnes sleeping bags are rated at least 15 degrees too high. Most backpackers say the Lost Ranger is warm to about 30 or 35 degress, no lower. I think that's a lot of weight to carry (2 lbs 14 oz) for a 30-degree bag, plus it's $220, compared to the LL Bean bag mentioned above at $135. I owned a Lost Ranger and replaced it with the Bean 35---much better bag in my opinion.
    I use my Fishhawk, rated to 30F, to about 25F, so I've not experienced the problems that you mentioned. I think we can disagree about this one.

    Bryan
    Last edited by bwgride; 08-24-11 at 07:31 PM.

  17. #17
    More Energy than Sense aroundoz's Avatar
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    +1. I no longer insert the pad into the bag because it's way to confining when I sleep. I can't even lay on my side unless I am straight as a board. The concept is good, the design leaves a lot. If you don't use their bags with the pad inserted and it's cold and you are sleeping on your side, you will feel the cold for sure due to the lack of insulation.

    This was in reference to GetUpnGo's post.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    I use a cheap syn bag or flannel sheet for warmer weather, and a 25 dg down for southern winters. If it gets too cold for the down, below 35, I layer up. If the down bag gets damp, throw in a dryer. Hasn't really been a problem.

    To reduce bulk, I cut the hood off and substitute a wool watch cap.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by seeker333 View Post
    OP - You're considering fall touring in FL? All you need is a blanket and pillow (or clothes in a stuff sack).
    Yep.. Fall touring for now... But If its something I find I like to do... I would like to have some of the basics to do at least winter touring here in FL. For now maybe mid 30''s . If the forecast is for colder than that ... I most likely would not go. (for now).....

    I'm not a kid..... 40+ ... But my mom is getting a kick out of buying me small stuff to take with me on my first tour. Small first aide kit, small toothbrush, some really little containers.... Things like that. Well today she came back from Goodwill with a sleeping bag she got for 5 bucks.. Very clean, NO smell to it... 3lbs (I weighed it.. I ship a lot of stuff so have a good scale). Synthetic, I think it would compress pretty small if i had a sack. (which I don't have yet). It will mostly likely do the trick for my first tour... BUT... I'm still on the lookout and searching...

    Lots of good advice and things to check out ..... Thanks all!! Much appreciated. I really like the fact that a NOOB (ME) can come to the Touring forum and ask the same kind of questions that I'm sure have been asked before and still get some really good advice/answers. You can search old threads but sometimes there is just too much info across too many threads to make sense of it sometimes.

    Jay....
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  20. #20
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    I can't stand to be zipped into a sleeping bag! I carry a mummy bag, but never zip it up unless it's very, very, VERY cold! I just use it as a blanket, but having the foot box adds a huge level of comfort when it's chilly.

    I discovered what I think is the perfect system for sleeping while on the road. I had a lightweight summer sleeping bag which packed very small and weighed next to nothing. Then I also made a fleece sleep sheet - I just bought some lightweight fleece at a fabric store and sewed the bottom into a pocket. I didn't sew it all the way up - just the bottom and a foot or so on the side to make that foot box.

    The advantage of a two-part system is that it works in a huge range of temperatures. When it was hot, I could use only the lightweight fleece as a sheet. If it was a bit colder, I could use only the sleeping bag as a blanket. A bit colder still, I used the fleece and the sleeping bag. If it got really really cold I could zip up the sleeping bag and put the fleece on top of that.

    If it got even colder I wore a wool hat. Colder still, two wool hats. Even colder, two wool hats and a wool shawl wrapped around my head and neck...

    The trick is layers. Lots and lots of them.
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  21. #21
    Senior Member Aushiker's Avatar
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    Hi

    Just to throw another idea into the mix; I have stopped for now using a sleeping bag and instead have gone over to a home made quilt which I have found works well done to around 0 c when used in combination with a silk or Sea-to-Summit Thermo liner. My only problem with mine is that it is bulky. If I could get a good quilt that packed small I would be very happy.

    Oh BTW I camp in a Big Sky International Evoution 1 P tent so that makes a difference as well.



    Andrew
    Last edited by Aushiker; 08-25-11 at 02:18 AM.

  22. #22
    Senior Member irwin7638's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zzOtherlandzz View Post
    I think I'm going to purchase this tent here. ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 2 Backpacking Tent .. It seemed to get really good reviews (also watched a few video reviews on youtube). It is about half the price of this one that also got very good reviews. REI Quarter Dome T2 tent.. Ohh and they both seem to be

    Jay....
    You'll be really happy with the ALPS tent. I know people who use them and rave about the oversized zippers. The zippers are the area where most manufacturersscrimp.

    Marc
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aushiker View Post
    Hi

    Just to throw another idea into the mix; I have stopped for now using a sleeping bag and instead have gone over to a home made quilt which I have found works well done to around 0 c when used in combination with a silk or Sea-to-Summit Thermo liner. My only problem with mine is that it is bulky. If I could get a good quilt that packed small I would be very happy.

    Oh BTW I camp in a Big Sky International Evoution 1 P tent so that makes a difference as well.




    Andrew
    Wow cool picture. Where was it taken? It looks like something I could see down here if Florida out riding my mountain bike.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by irwin7638 View Post
    You'll be really happy with the ALPS tent. I know people who use them and rave about the oversized zippers. The zippers are the area where most manufacturersscrimp.

    Marc
    I think I'm getting it all sorted... I have been kind of waiting for steepandcheap.com to put the tent on... But so far no luck. They have put both the alps 1 person, 3 person and 5 person tent on so far (that I have seen).

    But I did purchase a compression stuff sack from geartrade.com (which somebody mentioned here in this thread... Thanks). Really cool site!!

    I think I have the sleeping bag sorted (again thanks to a comment in this thread... Thanks!). I am a side sleeper for the most part and a bigger guy <sigh>. So I think I'm going to go with semi-rectangular bag. A big more room in the torso for me... and for side sleeping (I hope).... I decided to go with down.. partially because I chose a bigger type bag and that would help save weight and room.

    Thanks again.... Jay.
    "If you see me walking, my bike is busted!!"
    2011 Rocky Mountain Vertex 29'er
    2007 Trek 1500
    2006 Gary Fisher Tassajara Disc soon to be converted to a touring bike... I think... (Converted)
    2003 Gary Fisher Tassajara Sold, went to a friend who still rides it!!
    Gone but not forgotten 2003 Gary Fisher Sugar 3+

  25. #25
    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    Another option, one which I'm experimenting with now in the back garden, is to use two lighter bags. I have a summer down bag, which goes inside a summer synth bag. I put a pertex cover over the top and a silk liner inside. The overall weight is about 1.6kg, which is about the same as a good 3 season bag, but you can chop and change depending on the weather, and split the pack up.

    Just a thought.

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