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#200928 - 05/08/18 10:53 AM newbie looking for sleeping bag advice
Scotttyd Offline

Registered: 05/08/18
Posts: 3
So the wife and I are newbies to the world of backpacking (I have camped a lot in my life - but not backcountry camping. We do a lot of hiking, but always end up back at the hotel. I think I have finally convinced her to do some hike in camping. I am looking at gear, and wanted advice on sleeping back. We will be doing the NC mountains as late as October (mid 30's low). I don't want to spend an arm and a leg in case we end up not truely enjoying it.

I would like to spend <$100 and one that packs (obviously) as small as possible (within reason - I have read the issues with over compression, etc). I do not like the mummy bags as I tend to roll a lot while sleeping-I have tried them, and just don't sleep well.

Any recommendations? I saw the Ozark Trail Climatech 40F
for $40 - it sounds like 40 is pushing it - more like a 50 degree bag, it pacs supper small, but probably not warm enough for us.


#200932 - 05/08/18 01:52 PM Re: newbie looking for sleeping bag advice [Re: Scotttyd]
aimless Offline

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 3027
Loc: Portland, OR
You're caught in a common dilemma among first time backpackers. Sleeping bags are a fairly critical piece of equipment.

- Inadequate bags can kill your trip from lack of sleep, or worse. It may convince your wife and you to never backpack again, when the real problem was just bringing the wrong bag.

- Mediocre bags that just barely serves the purpose, and are relatively heavy and bulky, are still not exactly inexpensive. If you continue to backpack you'll eventually replace them and wish you'd done it sooner.

- Good bags that will keep you warm, be fairly light and packable, and last you for many years are more of an investment type of expenditure. For committed backpackers, this is essential, but you are experimenting, and such a long term commitment is for the future to decide.

Your idea that a super-cheap bag rated 40 degrees is probably more of a 50 degree bag meant for backyards more than backcountry is accurate. You're going to have to spend at least in the neighborhood of $100 for a synthetic bag. If the maker is reputable you might get by with a 30 degree rating, by wearing clothes inside the bag. And a hat. You want to be warm, not just not-quite-cold.

Look for sleeping bags on sale. Closeout models can be heavily discounted and rarely have any major flaws. They are just "last year's model" and not the "latest & greatest". But, last year they were the "latest & greatest". If you are willing to kick in more than $180 per bag, there's a chance you might afford a down-filled bag that would work for you.

AS for not wanting a mummy bag, there are gradations of "mummy". The key measurement is girth. Try not to get talked into a rectangular bag. They contain too much wasted space that your body must heat up before you can stay warm. That's a huge inefficiency your body heat must continually overcome for the entire night.

Also, the pad underneath you is a big key to staying warm or getting frozen. Cold ground sucks warmth out of you. For temps in the mid-30s I'd recommend the R-value should be at least 3.5.

#200933 - 05/08/18 01:59 PM Re: newbie looking for sleeping bag advice [Re: Scotttyd]
4evrplan Offline

Registered: 01/16/13
Posts: 784
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
A sleeping bag is, unfortunately, one of those things many people just aren't happy with unless they invest in a quality one, either because it's not warm enough, not light and small enough, or not durable enough. One option would be to check at outdoor stores to see if they have rentals. That would allow you to have something that fits your needs for your trial trip without investing too much money.

If you happen to have a couple of cheap synthetic ~40-50F bags already, and you're willing to carry the bulk and weight, you could always double up on them with one inside the other to make them warm enough, but I would spend a night outside in them somewhere easy to ditch to make sure it's going to work. I did this when I was saving up for my down bag. Just be aware that they are extra weight and very bulky. I ended up strapping them to the outside of my pack when I did this.
Hiking is the ultimate realization that the journey is more important than the destination.

#200934 - 05/08/18 02:06 PM Re: newbie looking for sleeping bag advice [Re: Scotttyd]
Bill Kennedy Offline

Registered: 02/27/18
Posts: 180
Loc: Portland, Oregon
Warm, packs small, and inexpensive are at odds with one another, so some compromise is likely going to be required.

Be aware that the temperature ratings on less expensive bags are often wildly optimistic. Depending on how warm you sleep and what you wear while sleeping, you'd probably need about 2" of "top loft," that is, the thickness of insulation on top of you, for mid-30's temperatures. So that means that the bag would be about 4" thick overall.

One option is a 2-person quilt. I haven't tried it myself, but some people like it. If you sew, DIY is a possibility. Ray Jardine sells a kit on his web site, and also an "insulated hat" kit to take the place of the hood on a mummy bag. Their quilt kit is synthetic, so doesn't pack that small, but you only have to carry one between the two of you.

If you're unfamiliar with Ray Jardine, he and his wife have a tremendous amount of experience and some good ideas. Their methods won't necessarily work for everyone, but definitley worth investigating.
Always remember that you are absolutely unique, just like everybody else. -Margaret Mead

#200936 - 05/08/18 04:35 PM Re: newbie looking for sleeping bag advice [Re: Scotttyd]
BZH Offline

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 954
Loc: Torrance, CA
I agree with the advice you have received above...

Here is a Kelty on clearance at REI that might work for your wife:

It is EN Comfort rated to 27 deg F... That is about the only number you should put any stock in. If you are not going to be happy in a mummy bag, you should definitely look into quilts. If you can sew Ray Jardine is a good idea. If you can't Enlightened Equipment sells something similar for just under $200:

... if I got you that far, I would try to push you into an actual down quilt for just $75 more:

#200937 - 05/08/18 04:52 PM Re: newbie looking for sleeping bag advice [Re: Bill Kennedy]
Alf Offline

Registered: 04/15/18
Posts: 53
Loc: London, UK.
Be aware than women sleep colder than men, so a bag rated at 30'f might be fine for you but it almost certainly won't be warm enough for your wife...Marmot take this into account and make sleeping bags especially for men or especially for women...Also, a little tip for you...You don't need to buy such an expensive sleeping pad/mat if you simply lay a cheap, ultralight space blanket on the floor of your tent to reflect your body heat back up towards you (you heard it here first!), but you should always buy the warmest bag you can afford as that can only help you so much...Over the weekend I tried out my new 500gram ultralight Marmot Phase 30, in my Marmot Tungsten 1P tent, on a cold and windy hilltop...I slept like a log, till the dawn corus started. Mind you it should be good for £320! By the way I am mostly a side sleeper and I have the Klymit Inertia X-Frame Recon ultralight sleeping pad, which easily fits inside the phase 30, and even on my side it was very comfortable. The standard version is cheaper and even lighter than the Recon version.

Edited by Alf (05/08/18 04:56 PM)

#200938 - 05/08/18 05:11 PM Re: newbie looking for sleeping bag advice [Re: BZH]
Alf Offline

Registered: 04/15/18
Posts: 53
Loc: London, UK.
Originally Posted By BZH
I agree with the advice you have received above...

Here is a Kelty on clearance at REI that might work for your wife:

It is EN Comfort rated to 27 deg F... That is about the only number you should put any stock in. If you are not going to be happy in a mummy bag, you should definitely look into quilts. If you can sew Ray Jardine is a good idea. If you can't Enlightened Equipment sells something similar for just under $200:

... if I got you that far, I would try to push you into an actual down quilt for just $75 more:

Before rushing out and buying that Kelty, bear in mind it is extremely heavy! A whopping 54oz (1530 grams)! Whilst your wife might appreciate it's warmth, she certainly won't appreciate having to lug that preverbial lump of lead about on her backpack! Go for a down bag...Yes, they are more expensive, but they pack smaller and are much lighter, so they are worth the extra cost.

#200939 - 05/08/18 07:17 PM Re: newbie looking for sleeping bag advice [Re: Alf]
Scotttyd Offline

Registered: 05/08/18
Posts: 3
thanks for all your advice - as an avid scuba diver I appreciate the "but it right or buy it twice" mentality - that is what I tell people - but it sucks if you buy it and you use it once! But a sleeping back - well you can always use it for something

I was leaning towards a rectangular once because we could zip them together and make one large bag - or is that a silly idea and not really practical?

what about the galactic dry down 30? is that a reasonable compromise?

#200940 - 05/08/18 08:32 PM Re: newbie looking for sleeping bag advice [Re: Scotttyd]
balzaccom Offline

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1868
Loc: Napa, CA
You can zip mummy bags together just as easily as rectangular ones. My wife and I do this when it isn't too cold. When it is really cold she likes to burrow down into her bag, close it up tight....and I tend to sleep a little warmer, with open zippers and flaps.

check out our website and blog:

#200942 - 05/09/18 04:43 PM Re: newbie looking for sleeping bag advice [Re: Scotttyd]
OregonMouse Offline

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6644
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Some general advice on sleeping bags:

How to start backpacking Has links to buying low-budget gear (not just sleeping bags, but everything you need--goes from "frugal" to "budget" to "jack of all trades."

A series of articles:
Deciphering EN13537 (sleeping bag temperature ratings)--this system produces fairly accurate temperature ratings. I'd recommend using the "comfort" rating, especially for your wife.
Sleeping pad R ratings The pad is an equally important part of your sleep system. Note that the EN13537 tests for a 20*F sleeping bag assume a sleeping pad with an R rating of 5.

Like the others here, I'd suggest renting or borrowing for your first trip, if you possibly can. That goes for most of your gear!

For cheap, non EN-rated sleeping bags, it's a good idea to assume that the temperature rating is 15* F too low. If the label says 40*, it is more like a 55 degree bag. Try measuring the loft.

A few outfits of high-end reputation don't test their bags--it is expensive. However, outfits like Feathered Friends and Western Mountaineering have a sterling international reputation. Actually, Western Mountaineering bags are EN-tested--they have to be because they are sold in Europe--but you have to look on European websites to find out the rating--preferably British sites unless you're fluent in French or German.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

#200946 - 05/10/18 08:14 AM Re: newbie looking for sleeping bag advice [Re: Scotttyd]
OhioPaddler Offline

Registered: 01/10/17
Posts: 16
Loc: Northeast Ohio
If you don't care for mummy bags have you thought about using a quilt? It may be out of your price range since you were hoping for under $100 but Hammock Gear makes a really great down quilt for a good price. They have an "economy" line called the Burrow Econ. The difference is they use 800 fill power down instead of 850 and a little thicker (heavier) fabric in comparison to their higher end line. Otherwise the build quality is the same. A Burrow Econ 30 in the wide size (55") for ground sleepers would be about $170. It shouldn't be hard to sell if you decide you don't care for it since Hammock Gear has a good reputation.

Also, if you are going to be sleeping in mid-30* temps make sure you have a sufficiently insulated sleeping pad. That will be almost as important as the rating of your sleeping bag to keeping warm. Inflatable pads tend to be more comfortable then foam pads but many have very low R-values (insulation). You probably want a pad with an R-value of 3.0 or higher. My new favorite sleeping pad is the REI Flash. It's a bit narrow, but is the most comfortable pad I've slept on, has an R-value of 3.7 and only weighs 15 oz for the standard size. The do make wider and longer sizes as well. They cost about $100.


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