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#207206 - 10/09/23 03:07 PM Elephant's Foot experience?
DustinV Online   content
member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 190
Loc: Lakewood, CO
I know they're ostensibly designed for mountaineering, but has anyone here used an elephant's foot/half sleeping bag for backpacking?

I'm intrigued by the concept because I always bring a puffy jacket and I like the idea of already being half dressed when I inevitably get up overnight. I'm wondering why they aren't more popular, since most folks bring a puffy or similar,

I generally use a bivy, so hoping the that would mitigate drafts.

What I am missing? Would there be any particular advantage/disadvantage to side-sleeping?

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#207207 - 10/10/23 10:22 AM Re: Elephant's Foot experience? [Re: DustinV]
BZH Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 1189
Loc: Madison, AL
For me, the puffy I bring is not as warm as my sleeping bag and I use it for margin if temperatures get colder than expected (ie it allows me to bring a lighter sleeping bag).

If you bring (and need) a thick puffy, what do you do for insulation on your legs? If I only need a light puffy to be warm while sleeping at night (night time lows upper 50's, low 60's), I usually don't bring a puffy at all.

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#207208 - 10/10/23 03:35 PM Re: Elephant's Foot experience? [Re: BZH]
DustinV Online   content
member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 190
Loc: Lakewood, CO
I don't usually bring my puffiest puffy, but if I were to bring it, I'm wondering if I could pair it with a half-bag for the legs (and possibly some down pants for margin).

The idea I am mulling is to wear more of my insulation than I leave laying in the bivy. I usually get driven in by the cold because at 10,000 feet, the sun sets with a klunk. Temps drop rapidly when the sun goes behind the mountains, which can be much earlier than when I get tired. Also, getting up overnight or in the morning would be less of an internal debate if didn't have to leave the warmth behind.

Just wondering what the potential disadvantages of an elephant's foot bag may be.

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#207209 - 10/11/23 06:02 PM Re: Elephant's Foot experience? [Re: DustinV]
Glenn Roberts Online   content
Moderator

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 2206
Loc: Southwest Ohio
Having never tried this, I can't discuss the pros and cons intelligently. However, I do recall that in his Complete Walker III and IV, Colin Fletcher discussed this system in some detail; you might want to see what he has to say.

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#207210 - 10/11/23 06:09 PM Re: Elephant's Foot experience? [Re: DustinV]
JustWalking Offline
member

Registered: 01/12/16
Posts: 293
Loc: PNW
I tried this years ago when the idea was bandied about on a different site (and someone was making such a bag, Nunatak I think but not sure), but didn't really like it. It worked fine, I can't, off the top of my head, think of any disadvantages. I'm just someone who really likes pulling the covers right up to my chin, and sometimes beyond. Can't do that with a half bag. So for me the dislike was more psychological.

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#207212 - 10/12/23 06:19 PM Re: Elephant's Foot experience? [Re: JustWalking]
DustinV Online   content
member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 190
Loc: Lakewood, CO
I can understand the impulse to pull up the covers. I know it will feel weird to not do that.

Until I'm able to locate a half-bag, to test the concept I'll wrap a down blanket I already have around my legs. If I can't get over the awkwardness, I can quickly configure the blanket into a quilt.

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#207213 - 10/13/23 04:36 PM Re: Elephant's Foot experience? [Re: DustinV]
BZH Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 1189
Loc: Madison, AL

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#207218 - 10/16/23 01:59 PM Re: Elephant's Foot experience? [Re: BZH]
DustinV Online   content
member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 190
Loc: Lakewood, CO
Yeah BZH, I saw that one. I'm gonna have to find a viable way to test the concept before I invest in a WM. It's unlikely I'd be able to sell a niche item like this if I don't like it.

Over the weekend, I pulled out the down blanket I already have and devised a way to snap it into a double-layer half-quilt configuration. Some length is lost to cinching both ends into a footbox, so it only comes to about my beltline. The puffy jackets I have go to just below that, so there's a very small margin. I think I'll bring down pants and booties as a backup if I need to bail and turn the blanket back into a quilt.

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#207219 - 10/17/23 09:48 PM Re: Elephant's Foot experience? [Re: DustinV]
JustWalking Offline
member

Registered: 01/12/16
Posts: 293
Loc: PNW
If you have a sleeping bag, why not shorten it by either twisting then tying off or something to turn it into a temporary half bag. Seems like that could give you an idea with what you already have.

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#207222 - 10/18/23 10:26 AM Re: Elephant's Foot experience? [Re: JustWalking]
DustinV Online   content
member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 190
Loc: Lakewood, CO
JustWalking, I do have one sleeping bag. I wasn't even thinking about it because it's an odd one: Exped Wallcreeper. Essentially, it's a huge hooded vest with a drawcord at the foot end.
I think that if I try laying in it upside-down with legs through the drawcord, that would simulate using a bag like the WM Semilite. Interesting idea.

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#207246 - 12/11/23 11:36 PM Re: Elephant's Foot experience? [Re: DustinV]
Jim M Offline
member

Registered: 11/23/03
Posts: 430
Loc: Kitsap Peninsula, WA
I have an elephant's foot (sometimes called a "Footsack)." I only carried it for an unexpected night at altitude when climbing. Never used it. Western Mountaineering made one that they called a child's bag/Elephants foot years ago. Hard to find nowadays.
It is hard to explain, but it seems to me the envelope a complete sleeping bag creates helps distribute the warmth inside, i.e. over your entire body. That is: not isolating the extremities like a footsack and Puffy would do.

With a footsack you need to remember heavy mittens. I think the weight of my footsack and the added weight of a heavier jacket might not save you much Weight... if any.

Colin fletcher (and Rawlins) don't say much about the Elephant's Foot except that it is, in their opinion, only an emergency option and that warm clothing an a VBL would be lighter and save weight over the E Foot. (Not much added from the original edition (1971) to the IV (2002) editions.
Speaking in general terms, or personal preference, I love curling up and being warm in my sleeping bag on a cold night in a way I don't think I could achieve even in a very nice puffy and footsack in a bivy sack.


Edited by Jim M (12/11/23 11:39 PM)
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Jim M

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#207247 - 12/13/23 12:12 PM Re: Elephant's Foot experience? [Re: Jim M]
DustinV Online   content
member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 190
Loc: Lakewood, CO
Hmmm. I will need to try out the concept with my Wallcreeper on a warm/low-risk night. That way I can see how high I will need the bag to go. If it comes all the way up, I guess I'll know if an elephant's foot is for me. Gonna be awhile, though. Winter is coming. Next Thursday.

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#207261 - 12/24/23 12:59 AM Re: Elephant's Foot experience? [Re: BZH]
Jim M Offline
member

Registered: 11/23/03
Posts: 430
Loc: Kitsap Peninsula, WA
Western Mountanieering Semilite looks really nice. At 48" long it would come up to my armpits. But it would be an expensive experiment. I should think (and this is total speculation) that an Ultralite (1 lbs.) quilt with a puffy parka might be as good and perhaps more versatile than the Elephant's Foot.

https://www.backcountry.com/big-agnes-fussell-ul-quilt-down
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Jim M

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