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#109951 - 01/23/09 03:38 PM Needing help with sleeping bags
Barefoot Friar Offline

Registered: 01/23/09
Posts: 176
Loc: Houston, Alabama
Ok, so what is the big deal about sleeping bags, especially in the Southeastern US between March and October? Why not a blanket or quilt? If I do end up looking for a bag, what is a good, lightweight model that packs down small? Money is a big issue right now. Are second-hand/used models ok?

I expect to use the bag 3-4 times per year, mostly in summer months, and probably in Alabama. I already have a bag that I got at a secondhand store, but it weighs 6.25 pounds and is huge. I didn't buy it for backpacking, anyhow.

Thanks in advance.

#109956 - 01/23/09 04:03 PM Re: Needing help with sleeping bags [Re: Barefoot Friar]
Glenn Offline

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
The time of year is useful, but more useful is the nighttime low temperatures you expect to encounter. When calculating that temperature, be sure you figure out what the low will be where you are camping, not what it will be in the nearest town. Sometimes, you can extrapolate: for example, if you're going to be camped on top of a mountain, 2500 feet higher than the town, subtract 5 or 10 degrees. Being out in the country is also good for a little less warmth.

For example, when I'm hiking in August, let's say I know it's going to probably be a nighttime low in the 60's in town (per the weather channel.) However, I'm going to be camped a hundred feet lower, in a narrow valley alongside a decent-sized creek. Those conditions are likely to yield a microclimate that creates lows in the 50's where I'll be. In that case, a blanket may not be enough if I'm sleeping under the stars - but it may be if I'm in a tent. And two blankets might also be enough.

A sleeping bag isn't always necessary - when I've known the lows were going to be in the mid-70s, I've successfully used a fleece or wool blanket. Usually, however, except in July and August in the Ohio Valley, I always carry a 40 degree bag. I may not start out under it, but along about 3:30 in the morning, it usually feels nice to pull it over me like a quilt. (It's a Western Mountaineering MityLite: semi-rectangular, hoodless down bag that zips fully open - a very versatile piece of gear since I can use it as a bag or a quilt, depending on temperatures encountered.

REI sells a Travel Sack that's a 55-degree bag, 27 ounce total weight, with a "flat" hood (as opposed to a shaped hood) that only costs $60. I got one for a niece who was only backpacking with me in the summer, and it was perfect. It's got just a little synthetic insulation in it, and a nylon shell (keeps leaves and twigs from sticking to it.) She used it the same way I use mine: mostly as a quilt, but occasionally (when that unanticipated dip in temps hit) as a full-out sleeping bag. One time, when it got cooler than we expected, she slept in her pile jacket inside that bag and stayed plenty warm. The Travel Sack may be just what you're looking for. (Use the link at the left to go to REI.)

Edited by Glenn (01/23/09 09:21 PM)

#109969 - 01/23/09 08:29 PM Re: Needing help with sleeping bags [Re: Glenn]
sabre11004 Offline

Registered: 05/05/07
Posts: 513
Loc: Tennessee
I have a great value for you. If you only trek as often as you say I don't think that I would go out and purchase a$300- $400 bag. I bought a bag from Wal-Mart (the web-site-not the store) It claims to be a "0" degree bag and for Wal-Mart that is probably a 20-30 degree bag but that should do you well where you are planning to trek. The good thing about this bag is that it only cost about $25.00. It is bigger than I would carry very often or maybe at all and is probably around 5 lbs. which is just too heavy for my needs. It comes with it's own stuff sack which is good coming from Wal-Mart and it stuffs down to about 10"X16". I tested it to see if would fit in the bag compartment of my pack and it went in but not easily. It was very tight where I can place my bag in there and still have room to put other stuff in the same compartment. I do think that this bag will fit your needs and will save you a ton of money compared to some others of the lighter weight and smaller size and far as their "stuff" size. Hope that helps...sabre11004...

The first step that you take will be one of those that get you there !!!!!
The first step that you take will be one of those that get you there 1!!!!!

#109983 - 01/24/09 12:57 AM Re: Needing help with sleeping bags [Re: Barefoot Friar]
Wolfeye Offline

Registered: 01/11/07
Posts: 413
Loc: Seattle, WA
What I did for a summer bag was go to a army-navy surplus store and get a poncho liner. Then I installed a kit that would turn it into a sleeping bag: I borrowed someone's sewing machine to attach the zipper, and then threaded a cord through the head area so it could be drawn shut. It was easy, and it packs down small. Not too spendy either. It's not super warm, but it works fine if I wear most of my clothes. I've had it down to about 40 degrees comfortably, though I was in a bivy, fully clothed, and also had a full-length sleeping pad.

Edited by Wolfeye (01/24/09 12:59 AM)

#110026 - 01/24/09 11:53 PM Re: Needing help with sleeping bags [Re: Barefoot Friar]
phat Offline

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada

You'll find a lot of us don't actually use a sleeping bag a lot of the time. Many of use use a quilt - search back in the site a bit using the search function and you'll find much discussion about quilts - usually these are made of sleeping bag
like materiels, but often are a flat quilt, or a quilt with only
a footbox sewn up, the rest open.

Any fool can be uncomfortable...
My 3 season gear list
Winter list.
Browse my pictures

#110035 - 01/25/09 08:25 AM Re: Needing help with sleeping bags [Re: Barefoot Friar]
CamperMom Offline

Registered: 01/04/02
Posts: 1221
Loc: Eastern MA, USA

I have not noticed a reply that includes used bags. I have had good luck buying second-hand bags from this site, and, once, from e-Bay. It helps to research the specific bag on which you are bidding.

You may also wish to consider making a sleeping quilt for yourself. If your local Walmart has any thin and light plain (uncoated) nylon, especially ripstop, in the "dollar bin," and some polyester fill, you can easily and quickly make an inexpensive sleeping quilt. Down is more compressible and lighter, but more expensive and harder to work with. With some research, you could buy a more efficient synthetic insulation, which can be lighter and more compressible than Walmart's, but will also be more expensive. The same applies to the outer materials.

As others have said, you may do perfectly well with a sleeping quilt, rather than a bag, especially in the summer. If you are camping in the South, you may be kicking off your covers no matter what. A blanket can work, but a filled item nearly always is lighter and packs down smaller.


#110041 - 01/25/09 10:35 AM Re: Needing help with sleeping bags [Re: Barefoot Friar]
Barefoot Friar Offline

Registered: 01/23/09
Posts: 176
Loc: Houston, Alabama
Thank you for your help.

I already have a quilt that is warm but packs down small; that and a simple sheet should be enough for where I'm going and the time of year. I do tend to be warm-natured, and night-time lows here in the summer reach a frigid 80*F -- not exactly arctic temps. On the flip side, so many sites and fellow bpers say that you need a sleeping bag, even in the summer. Maybe someday if/when I hike the AT, but from what you all are telling me, it looks like a bag is overkill.

Thanks again.
"Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls."

#110044 - 01/25/09 11:38 AM Re: Needing help with sleeping bags [Re: Barefoot Friar]
Paddy_Crow Offline

Registered: 11/08/04
Posts: 2285
Loc: Michigan
For the way I sleep, a bag is not overkill. I toss and turn a lot. With the typical bag and pad, I wind up sliding off the pad and wake up freezing my tail off on the ground. I suspect I would have similar problems with a quilt and pad.

I've gone with the Big Agnes system of having the pad captured in a sleeve on the bag. It works extremely well for me, with the bag zipped up I never slide off the pad. I really like the Horse Thief, mostly because it doesn't have a hood (I wear a cap at night). I have been comfortable in it to the low thirties, but wouldn't want to go much colder- although I have not tried sleeping in pile insulated clothing (Patagonia Micro Puff). I do normally sleep in my clothes.

Be aware that if you camp at altitude, it can be significantly colder than lower elevations. Especially in spring and fall. A decent 40 degree bag might fill your needs.

#110048 - 01/25/09 12:39 PM Re: Needing help with sleeping bags [Re: Barefoot Friar]
JAK Offline

Registered: 03/19/04
Posts: 2569
I only have one sleeping bag and its a 3.5 pound synthetic, so I look to alternatives in summer. Summer is a fun time to mess around with alternatives. If you can get some decent fleece or a wool blanket at a cheap price you can experiment with it. It helps sew up the bottom and part way up to keep your feet in and cover your body efficiently. Also, even inside a tent or under a poncho tarp, it helps to have a cheap light nylon spread over the fleece or wool. You will have to experiment with it to see how warm it will keep you. Also, check climate data to see the coldest it has been in the past 50 years in each month. You might as well be prepared for the climate extreme, rather than put your faith in weather reports, unless your going up a mountain. Up a mountain the extremes can get rather insane, and you can't always prepare for that other than doing everything you can to avoid them.

In my purely theoretical and untested opinion...
At 50F, fleece and wool bedrolls can be competitive with bags and quilts.
At 40F, down or synthetic fill quilts can be better than bags.
At 30F, synthetic fill bags can be as good a choice as down fill bags of the same weight, but down bags of the same weight are just as good at 30F when damp and but better for when it colder and dry.
At 20F and lower, high quality down filled bags become increasingly desirable.

Wool clothing is the best choice for wearing inside a bag below its rating, if you can dry the clothing by wearing it in the sun and wind during the day, or drying it with a fire before you go to bed. 16oz wool underwear can absorb 4oz of water without feeling wet, which recovers 10kcal/hr for 6 hours of latent heat of vaporization from your skin. Seems like a silly choice in summer, but 16oz wool underwear and wool socks and hat and mitts, along with your regular summer clothing and fleece blanket and poncho tarp might save you from bring a sleeping bag or quilt. Depends on how cold it gets at night, and how long you wish to sleep, and how low your skin temperature can get and still be safe and able to sleep.

#110049 - 01/25/09 01:08 PM Re: Needing help with sleeping bags [Re: JAK]
JAK Offline

Registered: 03/19/04
Posts: 2569
Sleeping in a traditional kilt or poncho or cloak could be a fun thing to try in winter. Again, not a real weight saver, or $$$ saver either if your fussy about your material, but if you can get a hold of some suitable material at a reasonable price and put an idea together you could make a go of it, and end up looking rather dapper by day, subject to the eye of the beholder.

If you can find a comfortable way to hike in 4-8 pounds of clothing by day, and sleep in it by night, you might also be able to reduce your pack to something for carrying food. If you really want to go traditional, as in way back traditional, maybe a pack like this...

#110053 - 01/25/09 01:45 PM Re: Needing help with sleeping bags [Re: JAK]
JAK Offline

Registered: 03/19/04
Posts: 2569
I've done some thinking about the weight of wool blankets a kilts recently. I have two wool blankets about the same size, roughly 5'x6' and one is perhaps twice the size of the other, but not much warmer. The heavier one is tighter woven, and better for laying on the ground, and better for cutting the wind, but no warmer for its thickness under a nylon shell.

Kilt fabric tends to be tightly woven, and 10-18oz per yard for about 60" wide yards. That equates to 6-11 oz per square yard. A great kilt or belted plaid of 9 yards would originally by of 9 yards of 25-30" wide home spun, sewn together, so it would only be 4.5 yards of 60" today, and might weigh 3-5 pounds depending on the weight of cloth. I would also guess that the old homespun might not all be as tightly woven as plaid cloth used today, so they might have been a bit breezier by day and somewhat warmer by night by being loftier for the same weight. Not sure.

Hudson Bay Blankets weighed 3.1 pounds per point, and covered 96" by 32" per point, so about 21oz per square yard. A 3 point blanket was very common for winter and weighed 9.3 pounds.

Not sure where this is leading, but I gotta go. Cheers.


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