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  1. #1
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    Default Collegiate Loop: a Kook's Planning.

    Hey guys!
    I've been learning the hobby through forum research and vloggers for nearly two years now! A year ago I finally began slowly piecing my gear together
    And now I have essentially everything I need. I've been doing some training tests here locally, recently. The nights have been in the low 40s, so its been comfortable for sleeping. The days I've been out have been really warm too, a nice spring feel.
    Mileage wise ive been in the mid teens comfortably, and im moving at basically 3 miles an hour, including breaks.
    *These shakedown runs have also been my first Solo nights outdoors, away from civilization, my car, cell service. Which has been easier than I anticipated*
    I think thats enough of my background, now let's gets to the point.

    I'd like to plan my first Multi day thru hike. I am not mentally ready for a month long CT thru hike. But a week+ long, 160 mile Collegiate Loop may be more realistic. I'd like to use this thread to get some advice from you guys. And pinpoint (1) if this is the right trail to attempt as my first. (2) what time of THIS year will be best. (3)"requirements" for the weather at that altitude.

    I have been living in Castlerock(6100ft) for nearly 2 years. What sort of training for the altitude do I need to consider?


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    Last edited by BackToTheFrontier; 04-22-2019 at 00:41.

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    I wanted to keep the beginning post short, not to disinterest anyone.

    Temps
    Right now, with the nights in the low 40's(as low at 38) ive been able to pack to 10.8lbs baseweight. Extra weight being warm, street clothes, nothing hiking focused or ultralight even.
    That I have seen, the CMC: CT book doesn't show what temperatures to expect in July, when it suggests to pass that area. So, I am curious, what may my nightly temps be?
    I think this will be my biggest factor for base weight. Warmer nights could put me at the low 9lbs. However, more weight for warmth comfort shouldnt effect my experience.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BackToTheFrontier View Post
    I wanted to keep the beginning post short, not to disinterest anyone.

    Temps
    Right now, with the nights in the low 40's(as low at 38) ive been able to pack to 10.8lbs baseweight. Extra weight being warm, street clothes, nothing hiking focused or ultralight even.
    That I have seen, the CMC: CT book doesn't show what temperatures to expect in July, when it suggests to pass that area. So, I am curious, what may my nightly temps be?
    I think this will be my biggest factor for base weight. Warmer nights could put me at the low 9lbs. However, more weight for warmth comfort shouldnt effect my experience.

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    Temperature depends on elevation.

    Even in july you will want a solid 32F rating imo, just in case you get caught at higher elevation. I used a 20 for CT. Didnt normally need it, but did have a couple frosty mornings. One or two in mid 30s for sure. One was 29 according to another hiker with thermometer on tent zipper. Not always ez to guess temp in very low humidity.

    Good that you had nice weather so far. But in july it will rain. Probably half the days have thunderstorms. Sleet. Hail. Etc. At 10000+ ft.

    A thru hike is a hike of a complete trail. Basically unbroken manner , in single effort. You dont thru hike a piece of a trail.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 04-22-2019 at 06:14.

  4. #4
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    You should be ready for 20F overnight temps at any time in the high Collegiates. That way you'll actually be comfortable at 30F. For instance, I have a nice light 30F quilt that would allow me to survive most summer nights on the CT, assuming I make no mistakes, but I wouldn't enjoy it. I always bring my 20F bag into the high country. I'll carry the extra half pound for that.

    You may want to read up on thermal inversions. Often the mountain valleys will be colder (and damper) than the ridges in the mornings. When you see the classic photos of fog in the valleys below, that's why. I usually camp at tree line before descending into the next valley. It's warmer, dryer, fewer bugs/critters/people, with cleaner water from the higher seeps and springs.

    If you live in the Front Range and get out on semi-weekly outings into the high country before your hike, you should have no problems at all with elevations on the CT. That's assuming a basic level of good fitness, good nutrition and hydration, and no chronic medical conditions. To be sure, try tackling some easy 13ers and maybe 14ers before your hike. Maybe a two- or three-day trip on the Barr Trail. James Peak is a good day hike.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Temperature depends on elevation.

    Even in july you will want a solid 32F rating imo, just in case you get caught at higher elevation. I used a 20 for CT. Didnt normally need it, but did have a couple frosty mornings. One or two in mid 30s for sure. One was 29 according to another hiker with thermometer on tent zipper. Not always ez to guess temp in very low humidity.

    Good that you had nice weather so far. But in july it will rain. Probably half the days have thunderstorms. Sleet. Hail. Etc. At 10000+ ft.

    A thru hike is a hike of a complete trail. Basically unbroken manner , in single effort. You dont thru hike a piece of a trail.
    Yep, I was anticipating(and seeking verification) that the altitude would contribute to "much" cooler temps than the summer in Denver.
    Being Florida born, its pretty remarkable that the altitude can have such a drastic effect on the tempurature in particular.
    Frosty mornings, in the summer, what the heck! Haha
    And a good point, "not easy to guess temps in low humidity." I understand the mountains can offer some pretty unsuspecting storms too. Freak snow storms in particular is what i mean. Ofcourse, the afternoon thunderstorms I wouldn't consider freak occurences, rather, should be expected nightly.

    I think that, for getting 'prepared' for the season, getting miles in and camping on clear days/nights is wise.
    As long as I do not forget how unpredictable mother nature can be.
    As well as, can find some days to train in less than appealing conditions.


    Some things are situational, for this loop, it makes some sense(to me) to *stretch* the definition and consider this a, sort of, thru hike. However, if i were piecing together other parts of the trail, segments 2 thru 6 for example, then I dont think that would make much sense.
    Part of my feeling for this, is that this is becoming a popular stand alone loop to do, half isnt even the original CT. Another reason is that it is a loop, and i can park in one spot and finish there too(although this isnt all defining)
    I think "stretching the definition" should be the key here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by garlic08 View Post
    You should be ready for 20F overnight temps at any time in the high Collegiates. That way you'll actually be comfortable at 30F. For instance, I have a nice light 30F quilt that would allow me to survive most summer nights on the CT, assuming I make no mistakes, but I wouldn't enjoy it. I always bring my 20F bag into the high country. I'll carry the extra half pound for that.

    You may want to read up on thermal inversions. Often the mountain valleys will be colder (and damper) than the ridges in the mornings. When you see the classic photos of fog in the valleys below, that's why. I usually camp at tree line before descending into the next valley. It's warmer, dryer, fewer bugs/critters/people, with cleaner water from the higher seeps and springs.

    If you live in the Front Range and get out on semi-weekly outings into the high country before your hike, you should have no problems at all with elevations on the CT. That's assuming a basic level of good fitness, good nutrition and hydration, and no chronic medical conditions. To be sure, try tackling some easy 13ers and maybe 14ers before your hike. Maybe a two- or three-day trip on the Barr Trail. James Peak is a good day hike.
    Are they ever going to adjust the ratings for bags and quilts? I learned early on that the ratings are survival temps, not comfort zones. I love my 20 degree quilt, however, I am a small framed guy, so I may even want to consider a thicker quilt, or additional clothing to combat the 20s overnight. Upper 30s I am confident, and self tested in. Below that is all the unknown for me.

    Ill check out Thermal Inversion, sounds like thats the technical term for the things we process when choosing a camping site. Like setup in the bottom of a valley, expect colder temps. Ill look into that to confirm I am on the right understanding. I could see that being particular useful.

    So far, i havent been into the high country. As i continue to PLAN this loop Ill consider heading into the mountains for some shake off runs before the official start. Barr Trail has interested me, and isnt too far away. The elevation gains on that trail seem pretty comparable to what i may expect. That one would be worth my time and effort making afew trips up it! Great idea.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BackToTheFrontier View Post
    Some things are situational, for this loop, it makes some sense(to me) to *stretch* the definition and consider this a, sort of, thru hike. However, if i were piecing together other parts of the trail, segments 2 thru 6 for example, then I dont think that would make much sense.
    Part of my feeling for this, is that this is becoming a popular stand alone loop to do, half isnt even the original CT. Another reason is that it is a loop, and i can park in one spot and finish there too(although this isnt all defining)
    I think "stretching the definition" should be the key here.

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    Its just a hike .
    And honestly, theres not much reason to hike the CT east anymore.
    Unless use it to access 14ers . Your time would be better spent stringing out a longer hike that spends more time above treeline..like Frisco-Salida.

    Good bus service near front range in CO will get you back to car. For cheap. If need car at all.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 04-22-2019 at 09:31.

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    Best time of year for the Collegiate loop: my next hiking trip of that length into high elevation in Colorado will undoubtedly be tail end of August into early September. In a typical year, as I understand it, the monsoonal patterns of afternoon rain have lessened by then and insects will be less of a bother as well. But that time in late summer would still have enough daylight hours to comfortably cover the amount of ground I like to cover in a day.

    Overnight lows: Garlic has WAY more experience with Colorado hiking weather than I do and knows about potential variability, but in my experiences hiking at high elevations in early August in the San Juans and the Collegiate Peaks areas I found that it just about always got down to a little below freezing at night when I camped above 12,000 feet and very rarely got down that low when I camped below that elevation. I would use a 20 degree bag or quilt in July or August or early September and would go lower than that starting in mid-September.

    Edit: when I hiked the Collegiate loop I enjoyed both the east and west sides. Yes the west has many more stretches above tree line but I thought the east had its charms too. One of my favorite "wow" scenery moments of hiking in Colorado over the years came when I walked around a corner and saw laid out in front of me Mount Princeton Hot Springs and the chalk cliffs behind it. Sure it would have been even cooler if I hadn't been walking on the shoulder of a road at the time, but still. I found the west side to be more rugged and was glad I hiked the east side first to get my hiking muscles broken in a little before tackling the west.
    Last edited by map man; 04-22-2019 at 10:44.
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  9. #9
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    Map man read my mind. Beat me to the late August into September time frame.
    The best time to be in the Rockies.
    Period.
    Buy whatever it takes for you to sleep well at 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Only you can answer that question. I will say that I am able to sleep well at 20 degrees with 3” of down loft over me and R-5+ under me.
    YMMV.
    Wayne

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    +1 on the 20 degree bag. We (a couple of 60 year olds) did the loop late August to the first week in September. Weather was all over the place but the coldest we got was about 26 or 27 degrees. You will still get some quick-hitting afternoon thunderstorms and plenty of wind in the passes. We came from the east coast and even with our advanced age , we didn't have any altitude issues. We spent a day in Aspen and a very easy first day on the trail and we were fine. We went clockwise from Twin Lakes so our climbs on the first half of the trip were considerably "easier" than the second half. Got off the trail and hitchhiked to Leadville and had a wonderful day there before we headed to Denver and Red Rocks for a Bonnie Raitt show. Have a blast - you'll love it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Your time would be better spent stringing out a longer hike that spends more time above treeline..
    I may be misunderstanding what you are expressing, but, isnt MY time best spent where I decide to place MY feet? Weather that be an oak hammock walk in Florida, a walk down the beach, or whatever other trail I decide?

    As well as, for ME(opinion) 160 mile loop sounds like quite a goal early on, not to mention the general elevation or how strenuous inclines can be.
    I am not sure that stringing out a longer hike would make much sense. However, after I have broken my first self sustained 100 mile trek, I think ill feel differently. I mean, thats what experience does for us.

    I am sorry if I am quick to defend myself. I have heard many stories of how "harsh" veteran thruhikers can be and i want it clear that this is my experience and ill go about it in my own way. I am not saying the advice here is not being received, July seems out of the question now simply by learning from others who have chimed in. I am simply stating that I would like to choose my own places, my own distance, just to have, my own experience.

    I think alot of what i just stated also would explain why I am choosing to not do the entire CT(yet? 2020 maybe)

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    Quote Originally Posted by map man View Post
    Best time of year for the Collegiate loop: my next hiking trip of that length into high elevation in Colorado will undoubtedly be tail end of August into early September. In a typical year, as I understand it, the monsoonal patterns of afternoon rain have lessened by then and insects will be less of a bother as well. But that time in late summer would still have enough daylight hours to comfortably cover the amount of ground I like to cover in a day.

    Overnight lows: Garlic has WAY more experience with Colorado hiking weather than I do and knows about potential variability, but in my experiences hiking at high elevations in early August in the San Juans and the Collegiate Peaks areas I found that it just about always got down to a little below freezing at night when I camped above 12,000 feet and very rarely got down that low when I camped below that elevation. I would use a 20 degree bag or quilt in July or August or early September and would go lower than that starting in mid-September.

    Edit: when I hiked the Collegiate loop I enjoyed both the east and west sides. Yes the west has many more stretches above tree line but I thought the east had its charms too. One of my favorite "wow" scenery moments of hiking in Colorado over the years came when I walked around a corner and saw laid out in front of me Mount Princeton Hot Springs and the chalk cliffs behind it. Sure it would have been even cooler if I hadn't been walking on the shoulder of a road at the time, but still. I found the west side to be more rugged and was glad I hiked the east side first to get my hiking muscles broken in a little before tackling the west.
    Great points. Monsoonal season was to be expected, so, I'm not exactly planning things to stay out of those conditions. However, doing it later to miss that AS WELL AS still having plenty of daylight are great points. Definitely things to consider. Thanks!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shae View Post
    +1 on the 20 degree bag. We (a couple of 60 year olds) did the loop late August to the first week in September. Weather was all over the place but the coldest we got was about 26 or 27 degrees. You will still get some quick-hitting afternoon thunderstorms and plenty of wind in the passes. We came from the east coast and even with our advanced age , we didn't have any altitude issues. We spent a day in Aspen and a very easy first day on the trail and we were fine. We went clockwise from Twin Lakes so our climbs on the first half of the trip were considerably "easier" than the second half. Got off the trail and hitchhiked to Leadville and had a wonderful day there before we headed to Denver and Red Rocks for a Bonnie Raitt show. Have a blast - you'll love it.
    Thats very encouraging! Alot of my hesitation is due to not knowing how far I can comfortably and healthily push myself. Your experience sounds great!
    And, just as others stated from their experiences, 20's are more than likely, atleast a night or three.

    I hadnt decided where to start, or which direction to go. But my understand is the trailheads are all pretty easy to get to for the loop, making my options for where to start pretty open. I haven't memorized the area yet, so I may find that wrong. I like your plan of starting 'easy,' work your way up.

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    Last edited by BackToTheFrontier; 04-22-2019 at 21:18.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Venchka View Post
    late August into September time frame.
    The best time to be in the Rockies.
    Period.
    Buy whatever it takes for you to sleep well at 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Only you can answer that question.
    Definitely sounds like that is the time range everyone is suggesting. Things really seemed like July, even with the storms. But clearly, you guys have the experience!



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    Last edited by BackToTheFrontier; 04-22-2019 at 21:22.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BackToTheFrontier View Post
    I may be misunderstanding what you are expressing, but, isnt MY time best spent where I decide to place MY feet? Weather that be an oak hammock walk in Florida, a walk down the beach, or whatever other trail I decide?

    As well as, for ME(opinion) 160 mile loop sounds like quite a goal early on, not to mention the general elevation or how strenuous inclines can be.
    I am not sure that stringing out a longer hike would make much sense. However, after I have broken my first self sustained 100 mile trek, I think ill feel differently. I mean, thats what experience does for us.

    I am sorry if I am quick to defend myself. I have heard many stories of how "harsh" veteran thruhikers can be and i want it clear that this is my experience and ill go about it in my own way. I am not saying the advice here is not being received, July seems out of the question now simply by learning from others who have chimed in. I am simply stating that I would like to choose my own places, my own distance, just to have, my own experience.

    I think alot of what i just stated also would explain why I am choosing to not do the entire CT(yet? 2020 maybe)

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    By all means..
    But Frisco to Salida is 152 MI

    Bus service is easy

    But walking in circles is okay

    Why is July out of question?
    2nd to 3rd week in Collegiate west with lingering small snowfields amongst the green is awesome.

    The pic is around pass north of copper mtn in early july.

    I think you're making it out to be harder than it is.
    If you can walk~ five days between supplies that the 80 mile collegiate West will require, you can do anything else as well. Just repeat, with rest day now and then. That's all it is multiple small 3-5 day hikes repeat it back to back.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 04-22-2019 at 22:46.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    By all means..
    But Frisco to Salida is 152 MI

    Bus service is easy

    But walking in circles is okay

    Why is July out of question?
    2nd to 3rd week in Collegiate west with lingering small snowfields amongst the green is awesome.

    The pic is around pass north of copper mtn in early july.

    I think you're making it out to be harder than it is.
    If you can walk~ five days between supplies that the 80 mile collegiate West will require, you can do anything else as well. Just repeat, with rest day now and then. That's all it is multiple small 3-5 day hikes repeat it back to back.
    Hey man, NASCAR drives in circles and look at their following! Haha
    that picture is great! And looks like a nice addition with the snow patches.

    Timing wise ill continue to pinpoint when is best for me. But it may be late August as others have suggested. We will see how I sway as I continue to research.

    I probably am making it out harder than it is but if that makes for intensely studyin the trails I do, then, so be it..


    I've also been flipping through tons of sites about barr trail. Looking along the trail using google earth and all. I'll be planning that for one of these weekends that are a little warmer. Looks like great training, as suggested before.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BackToTheFrontier View Post
    Hey man, NASCAR drives in circles and look at their following! Haha
    that picture is great! And looks like a nice addition with the snow patches.

    Timing wise ill continue to pinpoint when is best for me. But it may be late August as others have suggested. We will see how I sway as I continue to research.

    I probably am making it out harder than it is but if that makes for intensely studyin the trails I do, then, so be it..


    I've also been flipping through tons of sites about barr trail. Looking along the trail using google earth and all. I'll be planning that for one of these weekends that are a little warmer. Looks like great training, as suggested before.

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    Good luck .

    Late august is a good time. The daily thunderstorms stopped like clockwork last week of august, and temps get less hot in day. This change can take place quickly, like someone flipped a switch . In a period of a week...weather pattern totally changed. Up until it happens...man its hot and dry.

    But then the intermittent snow starts. It melts quickly the next day, but can get 0-6" overnight at high elevation anytime starting near september.

    Each time has plusses and minuses. None is best. The pictures of early mid july in cw and san juans are unbeatable, warmer, plentiful water .

    August...much .drier. Less water availability. Even with daily tstorms in first 3 weeks, theres bone dry sources compared to water everywhere while snow melts.

    Lake Ann pass in collegiate west in early-mid july
    IMG_20170715_083445850-2.jpg
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 04-24-2019 at 03:14.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Good luck .

    Late august is a good time. The daily thunderstorms stopped like clockwork last week of august, and temps get less hot in day. This change can take place quickly, like someone flipped a switch . In a period of a week...weather pattern totally changed. Up until it happens...man its hot and dry.

    But then the intermittent snow starts. It melts quickly the next day, but can get 0-6" overnight at high elevation anytime starting near september.

    Each time has plusses and minuses. None is best. The pictures of early mid july in cw and san juans are unbeatable, warmer, plentiful water .

    August...much .drier. Less water availability. Even with daily tstorms in first 3 weeks, theres bone dry sources compared to water everywhere while snow melts.

    Lake Ann pass in collegiate west in early-mid july
    IMG_20170715_083445850-2.jpg
    Thanks for sharing the photo MW.
    You can’t beat high alpine lakes with snow for a background!
    Wayne

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    Just sticking my nose in here, having lived and backpacked all over CO for now 40 years (moved here in 1979). Yup, 20 degree bag is the most versatile in CO, or a true 22-25 rated (like Katabatic gear Alsek quilt, etc). I only carry and use a 30 in CO in the height of summer with a great forecast on a short trip, or for lower altitude hikes.

    Nuthin' wrong with that fantastic Collegiate loop, might have already been said, start on the east side, end on the west. Lots of folks do this from Twin Lakes, safe parking there for the 10-ish days you might need. Use the NF parking lot across the road from the store. Bonus: there's a "cop" there 24-7 !!! He not much for a conversation though...

    One thing nice about the C-loop starting from Twin lakes is that you can skip the southern-most section if you're running behind a day or so. I'm not saying to do this, it's kinda interesting, but if you're running behind, when you get to US50 (say, heading south on the C-east side), just hitch to Monarch crest, and grab the west side trail from there (1/4 mile west of the crest store).

    Training? Hike. Not much else needed!

    Plenty of peaks along the way for a side trip. If you insist on a 14er, Huron is a great choice. Lots of high 13ers though, no real difference except way fewer people on them.

    I also agree late August is a great time to start this. Even early September; snows that come around mid-September are usually not much to worry about, but ya never know. A late august start is "safer" in case of a big early dump.

    Enjoy. I've done the loop, or most of the loop a couple times now (I did skip a bit of the east side once). Be prepared to be pretty bored on the east side, but it will be good acclimation for when you get to the west side.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by BackToTheFrontier View Post
    I have been living in Castlerock(6100ft) for nearly 2 years. What sort of training for the altitude do I need to consider?
    Train yourself to drink more water than you feel like you need. That's my takeaway after having a much better experience prioritizing hydration vs. not. I live at ~700' and had no issues at >12k' on my second visit to the Weminuche Wilderness. Sharp contrast to the previous trip, where I had headaches for several days, and was a slug on the climbs the entire week.
    I'll be doing that loop in mid-September next year. Colors oughta be great around then. Coming from out of state, I would not come earlier(or later) than September. If I lived in CO, though...shoot, yeah, I'd be out there all summer. Season's too short to skip opportunities in a place with so much beauty, IMO.



    Carrying a bag rated below the lowest temps in the history of weather recording for the area in that time frame is definitely not my cup of tea. It's not necessarily "bad", either, just depends. Take a glance at what's normal, and see how that relates to you, personally.
    One of my good friends is a very cold sleeper, while I sleep outrageously warm. If we traded sleep systems, we would both be miserable. The advice you've gotten here would probably suit him quite well. But I got hot under a 30F quilt wearing boxer briefs and a t-shirt while he was comfy wearing a down hoody in a 20F bag on the coldest night of our trip at ~12k' in CO last September.
    Our conversations related to this matter were not some of the deeper ones had during that week:
    "What do you mean, you're SWEATING?!?"
    "How can you not be with all that crap on?!?"
    We're all different...

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