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Are top dollar sleeping bags worth it?
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By Ryan Dodd
From Lakewood, CO
Jun 21, 2012
Well title says it all.

I am going on a 2 day backpacking trip to Oak Creek Canyon and have wanted/needed to get a sleeping bag for a while.. well now seems to be the perfect time since I actually need it now.

I really want the bag to be under 2 pounds and looking at the bags at REI you have either a 60 dollar one, 130, then they shoot up to 250-500.

I watched videos on them all and the expensive ones definitely seem to have some perks, but I cant tell if they really are worth it.

Im the type to get the best at the beginning so im not wasting money upgrading later. Ill definitely be using the bag throughout the years so if they are much more comfortable, durable, etc then Id rather spend the extra.

With that said, the hike will be consisting of walking in deep water and trekking through the stream/river. (I do not know all the details of the hike.. going with some friends and they've been there before.

If I could get any insight by the tonight that would be great!!

Thanks

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By Brendan Blanchard
From Strafford, NH
Jun 21, 2012
Obi Wan Ryobi - Darth Vader Crag, Rumney NH
I've been happy with a North Face 0 Bag, although over the years it does not quite do it even in 10F weather, it was only ~$100 so I can't complain. If you wanted to have something that lasts/still performs, higher quality would work wonders.

Probably don't want down if you're going to be going through water all the time.

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By Mattberr
From utah
Jun 21, 2012
uintas
with sleeping bags most of the time you get what you pay for. I am a cold sleeper, so I was more willing to shell out the money to get a nice bag that was true to its temperature rating.

seatosummit.com/sleepingbags/

I got the trek, super high quality and I don't doubt it will last me for years!!

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By randy88fj62
Jun 21, 2012
Thunderbolt Peak in the Palisades
I have a western mountaineering 20 down bag that is under two pounds. It makes a huge difference from my old rei synthetic bag in warmth, weight, and bulk.

You have to determine if the reduction in weight is worth the cost to you. Some people take it to extremes. Look at your entire backpacking list and see where the big weight items are.

Here is my rough weight comparison list I compliled this season. It compares my 70+ lb pack in 2010 to my 45lb pack this year. It's not complete and not meant to be thorough but it may give you a rough idea of how I looked at weight savings.


not sure if this pic will load but its in my old gear for sale album

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By Ryan Dodd
From Lakewood, CO
Jun 21, 2012
Here are the two bags im looking at

rei.com/product/762521/marmot-...
rei.com/product/731784/marmot-...

I don't usually do hiking through water and stuff, but tomorrow is a special case. These bags, assuming I understand the rating, are geared for 40+ temps correct?

Looking around at other bags with a lower temp rating appear to be heavier which I guess makes sense.

So for my first bag would it be smartest just to get the lowest rating and sacrifice some weight or if I use a 0 bag in 60 degree weather will it be uncomfortably warm?

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By Ryan Dodd
From Lakewood, CO
Jun 21, 2012
Pic Didnt show up, but thank you for the advice guys!

I dont get cold very easily, but when sleeping Id prefer to be comfortable. Honestly I dont think I have ever gotten a good night sleep while camping/backpacking and maybe this is due to cheap sleeping bags but I cannot be sure.

Should I also get a mat if I get one of these nicer bags or do they not require anything of that sort?

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By NickinCO
From colorado
Jun 21, 2012
after the hard stuff, into cruiser hands.
Yes definitely get a pad. Also look at the montbell super spiral series. I have the 30 degree down bag and it's awesome. Thinking about getting the zero or 15 degree synthetic next. If you like to roll/stretch in your sleep it's definitely better than the typical mummy bag because it stretches to you. IMO 40+ bags are not worth it. That's similar to the blanket I sleep with in my bed in my house at night.

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By NickinCO
From colorado
Jun 21, 2012
after the hard stuff, into cruiser hands.
Ryan Dodd wrote:
Here are the two bags im looking at rei.com/product/762521/marmot-... rei.com/product/731784/marmot-... I don't usually do hiking through water and stuff, but tomorrow is a special case. These bags, assuming I understand the rating, are geared for 40+ temps correct? Looking around at other bags with a lower temp rating appear to be heavier which I guess makes sense. So for my first bag would it be smartest just to get the lowest rating and sacrifice some weight or if I use a 0 bag in 60 degree weather will it be uncomfortably warm?


it's definitely possible to get to warm of a bag, I originally bought a montbell super spiral 15 degree down and in 20 degree weather I was sweating my ass off with the bag half open and the feet vented. If you're camping in a warmer climate I think a 30 degree bag is good because they usually don't have the internal baffles so it's easier to cool off.

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By randy88fj62
Jun 21, 2012
Thunderbolt Peak in the Palisades
A mat is key to keeping you insulated from the cold ground. Without that you loose all your heat through the bottom of your bag when sleeping. This is especially critical when snow camping.

Look at the altitude and type of backpacking you're doing. If weather will be in the low 20's then a 30 deg bag and wearing your jackets to bed will work.

If you will be doing a lot of backpacking where rain is a key factor then a synthetic bag is a must. If rain is not the main concern then down is a good choice becuase it packs down smaller.

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By Nathan Stokes
Jun 21, 2012
Second the +40 bags are not good for most actual back country activities if you are not a super warm sleeper to begin with. I did try it once in the back country in August in New York and still wasn't warm enough. That bag is now for huts with mattresses and blankets, hostels and couches. A Super light +30 is a good middle point, +20 may start to get to hot on warm nights, but a sleeping bag liner helps that immensely and keeps the bag cleaner.

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By randy88fj62
Jun 21, 2012
Thunderbolt Peak in the Palisades
Ryan,
Also keep in mind that your camping spot makes a difference too. If you have enough time you can pile pine needles up under your tent for extra insulation.

A trick I use winter camping is to heat up a nalgene full of hot water and sleep with it in between my legs in my sleeping bag. They call it a "beaver bottle" and it adds a lot of warmth. It also doubles as your drinking or cooking water in the morning.

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By David Appelhans
From Lafayette
Jun 21, 2012
Imaginate
I've done a lot of open bivying and backpacking in the mountains and cold desert nights. I've never used a bag below 20 degree and I've been happy with the results.

I've been very happy with the modern REI bags, my guess is that those of you that got rid of your REI bags also got rid of 20 year old technology and probably 20 years of compression cycled synthetic which wears out.

I've taken the 20 degree synthetic REI zephyr on trips to patagonia twice and bivied with it in RMNP lots of times and it has kept me warm and packs down fairly small. It cost me about $90, and there haven't been any times where I wished for a "better" bag (except for camping in Ouray in January where I wished for a true winter bag when the temperature in the tent dropped below 5 degrees). The synthetic is good if I think I might get wet. This bag is my recommendation for getting started, it is comfortable, cheap, and light enough.

The only other bag I have is the REI subkilo, a 20 degree down bag that weighs under 2.2 lbs. I like it because it packs down small, keeps me warm, and was around $150.

In my opinion REI makes quality tents and sleeping bags, at a fraction of the price of name brand companies. I buy their products and I also buy the generic brand at the supermarket because I think the difference is tiny but the cost is huge.

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By Brian Scoggins
From Eugene, OR
Jun 21, 2012
With sleeping bags, you're not paying for perks so much as durability and lightweight. Basically, a $60 bag is one that won't be usable after a 2 week backpacking trip. A $300 bag is one that can traverse the Appalachian trail 2 or 3 times.

I have a 10 degree bag I got on sale from REI, that retails for about $250. I don't anticipate buying another bag in that temperature range in the next 10 years, and I average about 60 nights a year in a sleeping bag.

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By Ryan Dodd
From Lakewood, CO
Jun 21, 2012
So many factors come in to play I would have never realized.

Rain is not a huge deal where I am at, and if I can help it I probably wouldn't do much backpacking if its going to be down pouring a ton.

With that said it seems my best bet is to go to REI and talk to the people, check out the bags, and see what my options are.

Ill take what you all said and try to steer away from the +40.. see if I can get myself a nice 30.

I will definitely look into a mat as well when I hit up REI tonight.

If I dont get a $300 bag then I could finish my rock climbing setup! (Or at least buy 1 or 2 pieces of equip lol)

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By randy88fj62
Jun 21, 2012
Thunderbolt Peak in the Palisades
Check out all the bags at REI, see what you like, and buy online when they are on sale. Tons of bags on sale right now...

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By Jaren Watson
From Rexburg, Idaho
Jun 21, 2012
Ryan,
As far as pads go, consider closed-cell foam. Not quite as comfortable as the inflatable pads, but very cheap, very light with good thermal insulation.
About the 30-degree: I've got Marmot's 30-degree bag and other than one winter trip, I've never wished I had a heavier bag. Granted, when it's cold I sleep pretty heavily clothed with either a hot rock or a bottle of hot water.
Have a good trip!

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By Ryan Dodd
From Lakewood, CO
Jun 21, 2012
Typically I would say spending more money gets you every option you could want in merchandise but apparently not in this case!

Ill check out the closed-foam tonight and see if they rent out bags.

I also may wait for a sale like you mentioned depends on what I find tonight.

EDIT: Jaren I was in Rigby a couple weeks ago and I believe we went to a rock gym in Rexburg.. what a beautiful area! I seriously could see myself living there.

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By sanz
From Raleigh, NC
Jun 21, 2012
One of my first trad leads, on Ooga Chocka at Crowder's Mountain.
My buddy has a Marmot 30 and loves it. I have a Mountain Hardwear 15 and love it. In general, you pay for the high fill power down, which packs down small and is light for the amount of loft you get. That and the weight/durability/water resistance of the shell material is pretty much what you pay for.

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By Ryan N
From San Louis Obispo
Jun 21, 2012
RJN
Spent last 3 months looking at WM bags. I have other WM products and they have nice materials. The thing is their prices are way steep for the products. I eventually looked at go lite and they claim to have the same specs as the comparable WM bags but their 2/3 less in price. The 40 degree down bag weighs 1.6lbs and packs to nothing. My opinion is go with a down bag. Synthetic bags don't pack well and they weigh more. Also paying more money docent always get u a better product.

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By Ryan Dodd
From Lakewood, CO
Jun 21, 2012
Id agree that money doesnt always buy superior products it just tends to go that way majority of the time.

Ill look into the go-lite bags.

Thanks!

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By Marc R
From Boulder, CO
Jun 21, 2012
Dog Safety
A few notes/tips about bags:

1. there is no exact industry standard/lab to quantify temp ratings and power fills (go with a reputable brand). Temp ratings are supposed to be the temp you can survive in (not be comfy) and are ALWAYS subjective.

2. most manufacturers will list the fill weight (weight of the down)and the total weight (down + shell). This is a good check between bags to see how much insulation you're actually getting. This is a little tricky still to compare and doesnt apply when comparing different power fills.

3. The 6oz weight difference between a $100 bag and $350 bag is equivalent to about 3 cliff bars. Most people will make a majority of their weight savings by cutting out unnecessary gear, clothing, food, and especially water rather than buying the lightest gear possible. This takes a lot of experience to figure out what you do and do not need. Try to have gear/clothing serve more than one purpose (ex use a tent stake to dig a poop hole instead of that trowel)

4. if you have a down bag (or even synthetic) and plan to get wet that day, put it in plastic bag.

5. try out bags and get one that fits. A poorly fitting bag (too big) will not be as warm as a proper fitting one.

6. if you have a lighter bag and want to use it in cooler temps, try out a bag liner, put on a hat, socks, jacket, etc.

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By s.price
From PS,CO
Jun 21, 2012
 Morning Dew ,self portrait
It's true that paying more doesn't always equate to better.
WM is the gold standard and the pricing reflects that. Owning one of their bags is something you will never regret.

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By Marc R
From Boulder, CO
Jun 21, 2012
Dog Safety
s.price wrote:
It's true that paying more doesn't always equate to better. WM is the gold standard and the pricing reflects that. Owning one of their bags is something you will never regret.


same goes for feathered friends

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By Adam Stackhouse
Administrator
Jun 21, 2012
Courtright Reservoir, September 2013
I bought a Marmot about 20 years ago for $400 (back when they used to call them names like Penguin). It is down with goretex and has served me very well. I spent hundreds of nights in the thing, sometimes in rainy conditions and several times waking up to being buried in wet sand (aka snow).

That was alot of money back then (no credit cards or anything) and I can bear witness that it was and is worth the money.

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By Ryan Dodd
From Lakewood, CO
Jun 21, 2012
Marc thank you for the break down! I just checked out fethered friends... looks like something you would take if your going to mob Everest!

s.Price- WM stuff definitely looks nice. I really dont know how to compare it to Marmot that REI sells, but they both look very high quality.

Adam- Thanks for your input. Fortunately I can put this bag on my REI Visa and gain an extra 5% =)

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By Carl Sherven
Jun 21, 2012
Ryan Dodd wrote:
So for my first bag would it be smartest just to get the lowest rating and sacrifice some weight or if I use a 0 bag in 60 degree weather will it be uncomfortably warm?


I have trouble staying comfortable if I use my 0 bag when it's warmer than about 20 outside. You end up trying to leave parts of you out of the bag to make up for the parts that are sweltering inside. It's just generally hard to regulate my body temp, and as the night goes on and temps drop I wake up several times and have to readjust my setup to stay comfortable. Also, as you mentioned, they take up more space/weight the lower the rating goes, and you obviously care about that since you're considering spending more $ on a nice down bag.

A couple other thoughts:
1) A sleeping pad is definitely worth it. Even a small pad makes a huge difference in comfort and warmth.
2) You mention a lot of water/steam/humidity in the places you'll be. Down loses its warmth far easier than synthetic when it gets wet, and it is harder to dry out.
3) If it's 60 at night, my 20 bag is too warm for me, for the reason explained above. You may want to consider a 30 bag, or even just a micro-fleece liner. I've done trips with just the liner where it got down to low 50s; I was fine with just the liner and a t-shirt/socks. This might not work as well for you, since not everyone sleeps comfortably at the same temp.

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