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  1. #1
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    Default Down sleeping bag questions

    Hi
    I initially posted on an incorrect forum about my difficulties getting my gear to fit in an ultra pack. Thanks to those who helped.
    My synthetic bag is a problem space wise. I’ve been advised to find the best down bag I can afford. What is the “best” down? I think there are several really good bags but what am I looking to find as “The best down you can afford?
    I’m looking for a 20 degree bag and I need it to compress smaller than what I have now.
    I will look forward to and I appreciate your comments.

  2. #2
    Registered User Lithopath's Avatar
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    i really like my LLBean 20 degree bag - 650 fill goose down. Seems to handle all temps. in cold weather i use it as a mummy, has draw string for sealing in heat around my neck-upper body,. in warmer weather i use it as a quilt-just insert my feet in toebox with unzipped bag over me to allow for air circulation from sides. Three other add-on recommendations are 1) down booties for cold nights, 2) zipped up rain jacket over toe box for preventing wet inside of tent (condensation) from wetting toes box of bag, and 3) emergency space blanket for crazy cold nights. i stuff bag each morning back into my sea to summit waterproof lightweight 13 L bag and it goes into the very bottom of my pack. never gets wet in that stuff-sack
    Happy Trails
    -Old Oriskany

  3. #3
    Garlic
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    Once in a while I see Marmot bags on sale, a pretty good value for the price. I have the Helium 15, got it some years ago for less than $300. It works for me in the upper teens, which I saw several times in the Southern Appalachians on my AT hike.

  4. #4

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    The "best" down bag has the highest down fill (like 850 to 900 fill power) therefore it's the warmest and lightest with the best compression, i.e. stuffing in a small sack. Think Western Mountaineering or Feathered Friends or Valandre.

    All companies in my opinion over-rate their bags---so if I need a 20F rated bag I'd follow the 15 Degree Rule and get one rated at 5F. This will keep you comfortable at 20F when air temps are cold with high humidity. Moist cold air will take a bone dry at-home down bag and reduce the loft and warming power, esp on a long winter trip of 8 to 21 days etc.

  5. #5
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    Sounds good y’all

  6. #6
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    Look at specs for the various down bags you're considering. Over the years, I've seen down bag that were as "bad" as synthetic bags in terms of stuff size, and vis-versa.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    All companies in my opinion over-rate their bags---so if I need a 20F rated bag I'd follow the 15 Degree Rule and get one rated at 5F. This will keep you comfortable at 20F when air temps are cold with high humidity. Moist cold air will take a bone dry at-home down bag and reduce the loft and warming power, esp on a long winter trip of 8 to 21 days etc.

    For the OP - I agree with TW, bag temps tend to be over-rated. As he notes, one reason is loss of loft due to accumulation of moisture in the bag over multiple nights. This is related to how down loft is graded - it's measured in extremely dry lab conditions. Unrealistic for most applications. Even treated down is eventually affected by humidity - it just takes longer. But it doesn't take much to have a significant affect. And the highest fill powers are most affected by humidity ... you're probably not going to get more loft (after a night or two) out of 900 fp than 800 fp - maybe not statistically more loft than a 750 fp bag.

    There are other reasons bags are over-rated. Some of them include the assumptions behind bag temperature ratings. There's a recent standard (ISO 23537-1:2022) but unfortunately (unbelieveably) details aren't publicly available except at a price. In general however, bag ratings depend on a lot of assumptions about the physical characteristics of the person in the bag (height, weight, sex, age), what sleepwear they are wearing, and the insulating quality of the pad underneath the sleeping bag. The net effect of all this is: if you or your ancillary gear fall short of what's assumed, you may feel colder in a given rated bag than you expect. In my limited experience, falling short in sleepwear and sleeping pad are the most common ways to end up in a bag that feels under-rated. [Of course there's not much I can do about my height, weight, sex, and age.]

    So it's a little like loft ratings. There are lab conditions, and there's trail conditions. They are seldom similar, so if you buy gear rated for the edge of the conditions you expect, it will probably fall short. Go for overkill to make up the deficiencies between the assumptions and reality.

  8. #8
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    For some education go to the website below. They have a good number of topics on stuff size, insulation, ratings, the importance of an appropriate pad, etc. that also apply to sleeping bags.

    If stuff size is a top priority for you then a quilt may help with that but be sure you understand the pluses and minuses of a quilt vs. a bag. As a side sleeper that flip flops a lot I have been thrilled with my transition to a quilt. I got my quilt from Warbonnet and it is very similar in design and construction and quality to my friends Enlightened.

    For your reading pleasure:
    https://support.enlightenedequipment.com/hc/en-us

  9. #9
    Garlic
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kittyslayer View Post
    For some education go to the website below. They have a good number of topics on stuff size, insulation, ratings, the importance of an appropriate pad, etc. that also apply to sleeping bags...https://support.enlightenedequipment.com/hc/en-us
    Also pay attention to the sections on baffling. That's something I was unaware of when I bought my first down bag.

  10. #10

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    If you have the $$ Western Mountaineering isa great investment you will not regret.

  11. #11
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    When I upgraded I went with a quilt for several reasons 1 I'm side sleeper and toss and turn alot. So I went with the hammock gear burrow 0 degree quilt with extra feathers
    I can use it like a blanket or button up to chest and has upper draw string and lower draw string.

  12. #12
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    One point not mentioned so far is the size.

    In the older days, down bags were cut wide and the one measure you could select was the length.
    Nowadays as everybody seems to be hunting for the Ultralight, many bags have a very narrow cut and a partial-length zip only, in order to save weight.
    Also, the sturdyness of the features seem to suffer for the same reason.
    I fell into this Ulktralight-trap when I bought a traditional-cut down bag for my wife (which fits her stout frame just fine), and an ultralight bag for myself which should fit my slim body well but its so narrow that I can hardly move in it. Then the zip failed on my ultralight bag - a thing I never had happen in all the decades doing outdoor stuff.

    So it is good advice to try out the sleeping bag and do a very close inspection yourself before buying.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    One point not mentioned so far is the size.

    In the older days, down bags were cut wide and the one measure you could select was the length.
    Nowadays as everybody seems to be hunting for the Ultralight, many bags have a very narrow cut and a partial-length zip only, in order to save weight.
    Also, the sturdyness of the features seem to suffer for the same reason.
    I fell into this Ulktralight-trap when I bought a traditional-cut down bag for my wife (which fits her stout frame just fine), and an ultralight bag for myself which should fit my slim body well but its so narrow that I can hardly move in it. Then the zip failed on my ultralight bag - a thing I never had happen in all the decades doing outdoor stuff.

    So it is good advice to try out the sleeping bag and do a very close inspection yourself before buying.
    One way to solve the "Mummification" dilemma---the constriction that comes with being zipped up tight---is to get an overkill down mummy bag and use it as an open quilt 90% of the time so you can toss and turn in comfort. And yet when temps really fall to 0F or below you have the option of zipping up tight and getting mummified.

  14. #14
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    You are perfectly right, Walter, within your world&way of hiking. You most likely never come close to falling into the trap of Ultralight.

  15. #15
    Registered User Last Call's Avatar
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    Excelllant post....Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Time Zone View Post
    For the OP - I agree with TW, bag temps tend to be over-rated. As he notes, one reason is loss of loft due to accumulation of moisture in the bag over multiple nights. This is related to how down loft is graded - it's measured in extremely dry lab conditions. Unrealistic for most applications. Even treated down is eventually affected by humidity - it just takes longer. But it doesn't take much to have a significant affect. And the highest fill powers are most affected by humidity ... you're probably not going to get more loft (after a night or two) out of 900 fp than 800 fp - maybe not statistically more loft than a 750 fp bag.

    There are other reasons bags are over-rated. Some of them include the assumptions behind bag temperature ratings. There's a recent standard (ISO 23537-1:2022) but unfortunately (unbelieveably) details aren't publicly available except at a price. In general however, bag ratings depend on a lot of assumptions about the physical characteristics of the person in the bag (height, weight, sex, age), what sleepwear they are wearing, and the insulating quality of the pad underneath the sleeping bag. The net effect of all this is: if you or your ancillary gear fall short of what's assumed, you may feel colder in a given rated bag than you expect. In my limited experience, falling short in sleepwear and sleeping pad are the most common ways to end up in a bag that feels under-rated. [Of course there's not much I can do about my height, weight, sex, and age.]

    So it's a little like loft ratings. There are lab conditions, and there's trail conditions. They are seldom similar, so if you buy gear rated for the edge of the conditions you expect, it will probably fall short. Go for overkill to make up the deficiencies between the assumptions and reality.
    Let's head for the roundhouse; they can't corner us there!

  16. #16
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    I've been carrying a Hyke & Byke for the past several years, affordable and warm. www.hykeandbyke.com
    Take Time to Watch the Trees Dance with The Wind........Then Join In........

  17. #17

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    After shivering through a ~20-degree night, I realized that spending money on a good sleeping bag was, indeed, a worthwhile investment.
    ...but I still tried to do it on a budget. I found a Marmot Never Summer 0-degree bag (650 fill) on sale for $200. I have been quite warm in it all the way down to about 15 degrees where I was acceptably comfortable but could notice the coolness. So as Tipi pointed out, the comfort limit on that zero-degree bag is (to me) 15 degrees. It is also pretty bulky. Not as bulky as a synthetic bag, but bulkier than a pricier higher fill power bag.

    Later, in my search for weight and bulk savings, I bought an Enlightened Equipment 10-degree 850 fill power quilt. I was leery of the draftiness I had heard about over the years from people who had tried quilts - or from doubters who were simply afraid of that issue - but tried anyway. It has kept me warm at just below freezing and I have found that draftiness is not an issue for me. It is MUCH lighter than the 650 fill zero-degree bag and it also stuffs down considerably smaller.

    To the op and anyone else who is considering going with a small pack and trying to be ultra light, two things:
    1. Ultra light gets exponentially more expensive after a certain point. You must be willing to spend money to get there. For example, from 650 fill to 850 fill, the price can double. Or a 2 lb tent can be $300 and a 1.5 lb tent goes to $600.
    2. Aside from spending money on ultra light equipment, you must be willing to leave things at home. To be ultra light, you must also be minimalist. All of those "maybe I'll need this" items and luxury items add up in weight.

    Last, my 75 liter 4 lb Osprey Volt with 35 lbs total weight is more comfortable (to me) than my 2 lb ULA pack with 25 lbs total weight.

  18. #18
    Registered User Grampie's Avatar
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    One thing to remember when choosing a bag for a long term, thru-hike, is once you get a down bag wet it is very hard to dry and the ratting goes way down. On a thru-hike it can become a problem to keep a down bag dry at times. I would consider a good synthetic bag that will still keep you quite warm after getting wet and dry easily.
    Also consider your starting time. If you plan to start a thru-hike in Feb or March I would suggest a bag rated for at least 10 degrees.
    Grampie-N->2001

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seesfar View Post
    My synthetic bag is a problem space wise.

    Here's a curiosity - apples to oranges data point - my regular length Snugpak synthetic bag (14F EN comfort) packs 10-15% smaller than my 20F (not EN rated) LL Bean long down mummy. The down bag is merely 600fp.

    The synthetic is about a pound heavier. With fleece PJs, I can be quite toasty in it down into the 20s. But if it's howling wind - not so much.

    Tipi, what is your sleepwear of choice for colder weather?

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