I'm going to be overhauling most of my backpacking gear and want to start with the sleep system (shelter next to come). I've done enough research that I think I'm ready for some customized advice from all of you knowledgeable denizens of the backcountry. My focus is substantially reducing volume (first) and shaving some weight (second).
I'm a side sleeper who is fairly active, although I tend to tone it down when backpacking. Most of the places that I backpack (which includes the Sierras) have the capacity to get down below freezing on any given day of the year, so I'd say my target is something that would do okay down to say 30 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm a somewhat cold sleeper.
My current gear is a 20 degree F rated synthetic (Climashield APEX) sleeping bag that weighs around 2 lbs. 13 oz and a Thermarest XTherm. It's not a rectangular bag but is somewhat roomy (not a tight mummy) and I do fine in it as far as restrictiveness/freedom of movement.
I really like the XTherm (compared to a Ridgerest, which was my first pad set up), but it's fairly heavy and think I can do better. I see a lot of varying opinions on this topic and am trying to decide whether a substantially lighter pad (uninsulated?) with a thin CCF pad over or under it would be a better set up. I do like the idea of a pad in case the pad deflates and can't be repaired. Or I could just use a lighter insulated pad and no CCF, if there is still a substantial benefit to be had over the XTherm.
I'm willing to shell out some good cash to get to where I want to go but I also always like the idea of a good bang for my buck.
The people at my REI highly recommend the Nemo spoon-shaped bags and their insulated pad. It sounds like they all use them for backpacking. I like the design of those bags but they are heavy. I'm wondering if just getting the EE quilt with 950 fill that most fits my sleeping style and going from there would be the best bet. But I see varying feedback on quilts, and the REI people aren't fans. (I've never used a quilt for backpacking.)
Funny REI doesn’t like them; I just checked the website and they sell them (at least online.)
I’m currently using a Nemo Tensor/Vector Insulated pad (same pad, except one has a built-in pump, the other uses a stuff sack. It’s light, comfortable for side sleeping, and adequately warm down to 25-30 degrees, based on my experience with it. If I were going to regularly go where it might drop below 30, I’d stick with the XxTherm - I used it for a couple of years and loved it. I never felt heat loss to the ground, and I used it once when it dropped to zero.
I’m currently using a Western Mountaineering Nanolite quilt, and love it. It’s warm to about 35 sleeping in longjohns and a hat. Prior to that, I used a Thermarest Vesper down quilt, rated to 32 degrees (comfort) which was dead on. Combined with the XTherm pad, longjohns, down pants and a hooded down jacket, I slept comfortably at 20 degrees.
I like the quilt with down garments combo due to its light weight and versatility, since you can leave pants and jacket behind in warmer weather. Oh, I hike all 4 seasons in the Ohio River Valley, but don’t go out when lows are predicted below freezing any more x- which is why I switched to the lighter WM/Nemo combo to save half a pound over the T-rest combo, which was warmer.
If the $500 price tag doesn't scare you, the Western Mountaineering Terralite might be one to consider. It's a "semi-rectangular" mummy bag, 25 degree, and pretty roomy (inside girth 65"), 1lb. 13oz. in the medium size. Expensive, but US-made, and WM's customer service is excellent in my experience.
I saw one of the Nemo bags at REI the other day, rated at 15 degrees, but obviously only for very warm sleepers, as it had only about 4" of overall loft. I notice on their web site that the "Riff" bag (not sure if that's what I saw) is rated at 15 degrees, but it lists "ISO lower limit" at 16 degrees. Seems goofy.
You can save some weight by using a 3/4-length pad, especially if you carry a sit pad anyway.
If a CCF pad is an option, look at the Nemo Switchback. Similar to the Z-rest, but somewhat thicker and the same packed size. I bought one of these last fall, but haven't used it yet, although kitchen-floor tests seem promising.
Always remember that you are absolutely unique, just like everybody else. -Margaret Mead
I too am a side sleeper and also toss and turn a bit. I have a 20 and a 50 degree rated Enlightened Equipment quilts. Together they are rated down to 0 degrees F. I feel this will give me relative comfort over a wide temperature range. EE has some nice charts on temperature ratings when combining their quilts. I was going to go with 950 down on both but they suggested making the 50 degree synthetic as the weight and size penalty was minimal. The total weight of the quilts is just over two pounds, something like 34 or 35 ounces. I use a NeoAir XTherm pad, a tent, and of course clothing to supplement.
I tested this out a couple months ago on a trip to Alabama. The forecast was for 35F at night and I slept in a low area next to a small water fall so maybe a little cooler. I used only the 20F quilt and was quite comfortable.
Thanks, from these responses, I'm getting the impression that a quilt should be fine for my sleeping style. That's good since I'm eager to leverage that volume and weight savings.
Obviously seeing multiple possible approaches to dealing with varying temps -- wearing down clothes vs. combining quilts. I can see advantages to each. I'll have to think about which is best for me.
I'd probably be okay with the $500 WM price if it were the only way to go, but it looks like EE or others will give me what I need for less. I was also looking at EGQ, which seems very similar to EE but might be cheaper. If anyone has any experience with them please let me know.