Unfortunately your not going to find the "ultimate sleeping bag" under $180 bucks. A sleeping bag should be considered an investment. I'm not saying you have to spend tons of money, but as one of the most essential pieces of gear you will ever own, it should be placed high on the priority list.
A sleeping bag will either make or break your trip (comfort and warmth), will be the item which will save you the most weight or weigh your pack down the most, will last you 20+ years (quality down bag) or as little as 3 years (cheap synthetic), and will be the item that gets you excited to get out or will be the item that causes you to never want to backpack again. It is in my "holy grail" category (pack, tent, sleeping bag, pad). You buy quality here and they will last a lifetime.
I would stick with down if at all possible because they give you much more value than even the best synthetics. Down bags compress smaller, last significantly longer, are far more comfortable, but are more expensive. I've owned several Polarguard bags and they have a life of about 10 years max. before losing all loft. Any other type of synthetic fill will last about 5 years or less.
My suggestion would be the Marmot Sawtooth as a starting point (retails for around $200.00). You get an excellent bag, 600 fill down, the best hood IMO, a temp rating of 20 degrees, and reasonable weight and packability. Kelty down bags are ok, but lack the proper fit, construction, and are often not as warm as they claim. However, if it's between a Kelty down bag and any other synthetic I would go with Kelty. My only other suggestion would to keep my eyes open and be patient looking for a deal. Steep and Cheap have had decent down bags, most recently (a couple of days ago) a Big Agnes down bag and pad, retailing for around $350 for $170. Sierra Trading Post also have options, but I would be concerned in how they fit. Often there is a reason why they are on closeout.
My 2 cents.
Believe, then you will Understand...
Loc: California (southern)
A hearty "Amen" to Jason Livy's post. I spent five weeks salary on my first good sleeping bag many years ago. I used if for over fifteen years on all kids of trips and situations, and it gave me many warm and comfortable nights. I often chuckled when I thought about what a good bargain that apparently stupendous expense turned out to be, snuggled down in my bag while the wind screamed and the snow fell. That bag never wore out - it was eventually stolen.
This has been my experience every time I have spent serious money on well researched "core gear" (for me, that is sleeping bag, backpack, and boots). Money is trivial when we get out in serious conditions. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
Loc: north carolina
Check the REI Sub-Kilo bag, it's often on sale for less than $200, and otherwise meets your specs.
We still have an original Mountain Hardwear Phantom bag, rated to 32-F and only 21 ounces. It's a size regular -- theoretically fits to six feet even. I might could be persuaded to part with it. (My wife has since moved on to a Western Mountaineering Ultralite Super.)
I snagged a discontinued Mountainsmith 30-degree pound-and-a-half down bag for around $150 (IIRC) that would fit the bill. (I also got my WM Ultralite on sale for under $200.) You only have to be patient and persistent, and jump when the opportunity presents itself. Good deals tend to disappear quickly.
I am looking for a bag that meets the following criteria:
1. Light (around 2 lbs or less) 2. Under $180.00 3. Good to at least 35 degrees F.
Is it possible? (Why do I predict that the first replies will be one word: "no")
Today Steep and Cheap had the Marmot Hydrogen (mens large) for 152.29! I own this bag and paid $300.00. I'm not at all disappointed because it has been an excellent companion on many trips. Like Rick D. said, keep you eyes open and jump at the opportunities. They will come;).
Believe, then you will Understand...
Jason, and others, I'd not be too quick to dismiss synthetic fills for sleeping bags until you know the conditions the user will encounter. Any damp cold climates will wilt the down faster than you can type a reply to this. I once had to help a camper out in Hawaii who thought a down bag in the Winter there would work <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" /> With as damp a climate as HI has it left him with no warmth on a 40f night. I lent him a synthetic bag and he survived the night and bought the bag from me the next day.
In Southern New England I rarely use a down bag in the lower altitudes due to the damp wet. I prefer syn bags even though they are bulkier, they stay drier, lighter over a longer period of use, and can be field dried easier than down. But that's my personal preference after many years in the wet cold, YMMV. To each their own. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
PEPPER SPRAY AIN'T BRAINS IN A CAN!
Leave price out of the equation, then you can find the ultimate bag for your needs. A good down bag is going to last you probably 20 years of normal use. if the one you really want is $200 more, then you're talking about $10/year to have the best instead of something less. Per night it's going to be less than a buck. Think about it. I'd say it's better to wait a little longer so you can save up the extra dough than to get less than the best when it is something as important to the enjoyment of your trips as a good night's sleep.
I agree with Paul, we've all spent money on worthless junk for everything else in our lives <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> The way to look at the price of QUALITY (not name brand hype) outdoor goods is that YOUR LIFE MAY DEPEND ON THEM, and then spend what you think your Life is worth <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />
PEPPER SPRAY AIN'T BRAINS IN A CAN!
Loc: Bay Area, California, USA
If you pay rent or make any other significant financial payments (like buying a house), the cost of outdoor gear pales in significance. I was always amazed at how much STUFF a month's worth of rent could purchase instead of a cozy apartment. A buddy in college was obsessed with avoiding paying rent in order to save money... he slept in our closet for a while and hawked me a few pieces of old gear in exchange.
Take $500, about a month's rent around here in California, depending on just where you live. That's the price of both a good winter bag, and a good summer bag. Or buy a tent, and a bag. Or buy a pack, camera, clothing, books, and 3 months worth of food with it. EVERY MONTH. Makes me think about moving out <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
Once you realize this and what everyone else has said, you can buy gear confidently if you know you will use it well, despite a high initial price tag.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Uh, well, unfortunately most of us still have to pay the rent or house payment, unless we want to go live in our tents under a bridge! I fully agree that a high quality sleeping bag is worth saving up for, but I don't think it's worth going into debt for (especially not with credit card interest rates!). For those who face this situation, it has to be something less than ideal---or used gear--for now and start saving!
Check out Backcountry Gear; they are having a holiday sale on a number of good sleeping bags. Go through the TLB Gear Portal at the top of this page.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Loc: Bay Area, California, USA
Bridge... tent... sounds good. I can still get electricity and post on forums, right? Oh wait...
Yes, I wasn't seriously suggesting moving into the wild unless that's your thing <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> It does help to put the price into comparison.
There's an old saying - you can get it done fast, cheap, or well. Pick two. For hiking, it's more like: You can get light, cheap, or quality. Pick two. Makes a lot of sense if you think about it. OregonMouse is right, if the original poster compromises on one of their demands, they will end up happy. Secondhand bags are cheap and quality... or cheap and light. But if you want a quality light bag, it won't be cheap.
The ultimate bag? How about 1lb at 35F (instead of your stated 2lb). If you’re patient you can get used Western Mountain Highlite bags on eBay for $180. I see them go about twice/year (but not in December <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" />).
Here is a well made down bag that meets the specified criteria.
1. Light (less than 2 lbs) 2. Under $180.00 3. Good to at least 35 degrees
Luxury Lite V Bag 1 pound 14.2 ounces $125.00 4-inch two-layer loft
I need four inches of two-layer loft to stay warm down to 30-35 degrees in a tent or under a tarp with no breeze. And that is what I got with my new V Bag. So far I really like the salient feature of this bag-the center zipper, but I will need to add a couple of Velcro tabs, as the zipper won’t lock in place. That is the only complaint I have with the bag so far and that is one that is easy to fix yourself or ask Luxury Lite to do it before they ship it. I certainly agree that your sleeping bag is no place to skimp on quality vs. price. I have never owned an ultimate sleeping bag but, IMHO this is a well made down bag and the price is right. I paid $125 without any pillow and the bag is now listed at $165 with the 2.5-ounce air-foam Ultralite Pillowpad.
Luxury Lite specifies loft vs. weight instead of fill power of their down as you can easily measure both loft and weight. No one really knows the fill power of their down bag-they only know what the manufacture claims is the fill power. A couple of the top bag manufactures are well known for conservative fill power and temperature ratings. But there are also some that maybe stretch the truth a little. All you can do is measure the loft and check the weight and see if that bag works for you.
"I would stick with down if at all possible because they give you much more value than even the best synthetics. Down bags compress smaller, last significantly longer, are far more comfortable, but are more expensive."
Far more comfortable? (huh?) Value? Synthetics are generally cheaper for those with similar levels of quality and warmth. The top synthetics (i.e. Primaloft) will resist moisture much better than Down and will continue to insulate at least some degree if wet - down won't. For those who say that their down bag never gets wet, they are wrong. Everytime we sleep we emit about 1.5L of moisture over a 7 hour period - more if we are sweating to any great degree. Every down bag will absorb this moisture and lose some of its loft and hence ability to retain heat until it can be dried out, which may or may not be possible on the trail. This is not the case with the top synthetics. Synthetics will also resist loft breakdown over time due to compression - down bags will not. Down bags will last longer if taken care of but they also tend to be fragile.
However, synthetics will be heavier than their down competitors, apples to apples, with similar temp ratings.
IMO I don't like synthetic bags as they just take longer to warm up. I am a cold person, and I want to be warm fast when I get in my bag. Down does that. It simply feels better. Reason why I use both down at home and on the trail.
Freezer Bag Cooking, Trail Cooking, Recipes, Gear and Beyond: www.trailcooking.com
Loc: Bay Area, California, USA
Everytime we sleep we emit about 1.5L of moisture over a 7 hour period - more if we are sweating to any great degree. Every down bag will absorb this moisture and lose some of its loft and hence ability to retain heat until it can be dried out
Oddly enough my quilt never weighs over three pounds MORE, each morning. I'm pretty sure I'd notice that. Winter camping aside, I would not assume that moisture sweated out is automatically trapped by a bag. It's vapor, and (obviously) most of it passes through the material.
Don't trust this often-repeated statistic and ones like it without a quick grounding in common sense. Winter expeditions report stuff like this; not in my 3-season experience however.
Yup - should have said that the down will absorb some of this moisture, not all of it. (some of that moisture comes from your breath, which doesn't hit the sleeping bag) Did not mean that the entire 1.5L would end up in the bag as you mentioned (Yikes). But over multiple days in cold or humid conditions, a down bag could very well look like a pancake. I assume this is why many expeditions into high altitude, cold conditions will employ high loft synthetic bags over down.
I was not speaking about winter hiking; 3 season for some of us means facing a lot of moisture during these months - i.e. 12K feet in the Rockies.
I would like to know the fill power because then you can judge the price better. But at least he’s giving specs at 2 lbs total weight and must be greater than 8cm loft. This corresponds to a 40F rating.
Based on 2lbs and 3.15”, I think Luxerylite needs to lower their price from $165. As a comparison, the 5” loft and 2.25lb Campmor 20F bag http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/stores...mberId=12500226 is $110. If that loft can be knocked down to 3” (which would drop the weight), I’m sure the bag would cost less.
So compared to other good quality bags and comparable weights, I’m thinking this Vbag would be more of a deal at $80. The Vbag has less down (because of lower loft) thus should be cheaper. Down is the most expensive component. The Fill Power should dictate the price. If he’s using 550 down, then it should be $80. If he’s using 850 fill, then it should be lighter (at the same loft) AND more expensive <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />
To be fair to the LuxuryLite V Bag, it two-layer lofts at a full 4-inches. The 8cm loft was the minimum loft specified to the manufacturer but they have exceeded that with 4-inches loft as stated on their web site. And the bag I bought did measured out at four inches and it weighed 1-pound 14.2-ounces. It cost $125 plus $10 shipping/no pillow. That was about the first of November, now it is on sale as a package deal now listed at $165 with the 2.5-ounce air-foam Ultralite Pillowpad.
I don’t disagree with you about fill power at all, but I can’t measure it without removing down samples from the bag. As I ain’t gonna do that-I have to use loft and weight and compare same size bags. And according to Western Mountaineering, fill power can vary a full 10%. So 850 down would be anywhere between about 810 and 890.
Here are some more comparisons: Two 20-degree bags @ 6’6” long x 32” wide x 5” loft: Campmor 20------20oz. of 550 down-----38oz tot.wt---------$120 WM AlpinLite-----19oz. of 850 down-----29oz tot. wt.-------$400 Difference----------1oz.------------------------9oz-------------------- $280 I understand the difference in total weight due to the heavier fabric in the Campmor bag, but I don’t see how 20oz. of 550 can equal 19oz. of 850 down? And the equal 20-degree rating when the AlpinLite has a down collar and the Campmor does not.
Two 30-degree bags @ 6’6” long x 30” wide x 4” loft: LuxuryLite V Bag-------?? oz. of ??? down----30oz tot. wt-----$125 WM SummerLite--------10oz. of 850 down------21oz tot. wt.----$260 Difference------------------??--------??-----------------9oz-----------------$135
Looks like it is going to cost roughly $100 to over $250 to save less than a pound and get close to that ultimate sleeping bag. And in the long run it may well be worth it. A well made, well cared for down bag will last just about forever. So an extra couple of hundred bucks prorate out to a couple of six packs per year. There are a lot of other things to consider in choosing a bag then what a simple chart can show, such as quality of workmanship and materials, comfort and fit, extra features, and good sales when you find them. And I don’t want to give up my center zipper
IMHO it makes a great quilt. That is the way I like to use all my sleeping bags unless it is too cold then I will zip up. The V bag center zipper is full lenght and as a quilt it puts the hood right in the middle. As a side sleeper the hood lays over my shoulder and tucks around my ear. I have only used the bag a couple of times but I think it will be my sleeping quilt from now on. And that solves the non-locking zipper problem. Us quilt users don't need no stinking zippers!