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  1. #1
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    Default Any suggestions on sleeping bags?

    First of all, thanks to everyone who posted a reply to my question about suggestions for a short PA in the spring. I am now beginnig to research and gather my gear and have a few questions. I was wondering if anyone could explain the advantages or disadvantages of a down bag versus a synthetic. Is there much of a difference in weight? Also, if I plan to do the majority of my hiking in the spring, summer, fall months, should I be ok with a three-seaon bag? I was thinking that a bag with a low temperature rating would be hot in the summer months. Thanks again in advance for help.

  2. #2
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    I have had a synthetic bag for a long while and use the same one 12 months of the year. It is an old Kelty Serano, rated 0deg (Celsius I presume). I am looking to replace it with a down bag at some point. Here are some thoughts.

    1. A closed cell foam ground pad should always be an integral part of your system.
    2. No matter what the temperature or material, I think at least 50% of it the weight should be insulation, not that the shell isn't important also.
    3. Above 40F I think a quilt starts to look very attractive because it will allow you to maintain a healthy ratio in terms of insulation to shell weight. A down quilt makes sense above 40F because you don't need much of it so it should be cheap, and you should have opportunity to dry it if it does get a little wet.
    4. Between 20F and 40F Around 30F synthetic bags are competitive with down bags because around freezing is when I think you have the biggest problem with moisture because it seems to get squeezed out of the air right into you clothes and sleeping bag and bones. Down still works, but I wouldn't get a 30F rated down bag to save weight. I would get a down bag of the same weight as a 30F rated synthetic bag. It would be as good at 30F when things are more damp and better at OF when things are more dry.
    5. Below 20F down starts to pay off again. Now you have to be careful below 20F because once the water is squeezed out of the air and all the surface moisture freezes or is blown away with the wind the temperature can really drop fast. 0F is alot colder than 20F. -20F is alot colder than 0F. -40F is pretty rare but it happens. As it gets colder you have a lot less time to correct little mistakes. Anything below 20F is hostile territory for most people, even if you've grow up with it. Very best camping though, in my opinion.

    You should be fine with a three-season bag, but whatever month you hike in you should be prepared for the climate extreme for that month, not just the weather forecast. You should also be prepared to stay dry but also prepared for getting wet. At least once a year when you get a chance test yourself and your clothing and gear close to home in the climate conditions you want to prepare for. Personally I find a mix of wool and synthetic layers with light wind layers and a decent rain layer to be the most robust, and if I put down anywhere I would put it all in the sleeping bag. I like the look of those ones with the zipper in the middle. Have fun in your research, and your testing, and your travels. Don't be afraid to get wet when testing.

  3. #3
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    I prefer down bags and have bought 8 of them recently from 0F to 32F.I bought 1 synthetic bag too.
    Down is lighter and more compact.

  4. #4
    Registered User LIhikers's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PineGrove View Post
    I was thinking that a bag with a low temperature rating would be hot in the summer months. Thanks again in advance for help.
    During the heat and humidity of summer, in the mid-atlantic area, I use a fleece blanket. If my memory serves me correctly it weighs 15 ounces and I paid $15 for it a number of years ago. It's much more versitile than a sleeping bag during hot weather where the nights are warm too.

  5. #5
    It is always about what lies beyond the end... Javasanctum's Avatar
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    Get a fleece bag for $10 at Wal-mart after this winter. If you sleep cold, then add a set of poly-pro underwear to put on before climbing in the fleece during the summer without a lot of extra weight. That will get you started next spring. JUST AS IMPORTANT look into a good pad.
    Between now and then just keep reading the "old-heads" here at WB. I am amazed at how much I've learned from them!!! Definitely start saving between now and next fall for a kick-butt down bag.
    But that's just me. Listen to JAK and the others first. Just remember, reality is self-critiquing. Get outside overnight and see how your body reacts to borrowed bags. You can use my backyard, we are just up the highway from you in the Harrisburg area. But you are practically already sitting on the trail in Newville.

  6. #6
    AT 4000+, LT, FHT, ALT Blissful's Avatar
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    I went synthetic on my hike in 2007 for peace of mind with weather conditions and glad I did. But many go with down. I used the Marmot pounder and pounder plus for summer and early fall and they worked well, were lightweight, and compressed well. But for an early spring hike, synthetic bags can get big with lower ratings. If I go again, I would probably have to get a down bag for a 15 degree rating (so I can use a smaller backpack) but would make sure it has a good shell.







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  7. #7
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    Down rules, but you have to keep it dry. That's not really difficult to do -- all you need is a kitchen garbage bag, as a liner to the bag's stuff sack. 30+ years of hiking, and I've never had to deal with a wet sleeping bag. Knock wood...

    As others have said, a good sleep system involves a mat or pad of some sort as well. The down underneath you doesn't insulate much, because it's compressed by your body weight.

    What's so good about down? It's light, it compresses well (less space in your pack) and with proper care, it lasts forever. A three-season (45 degree) down bag need not weigh much over a pound, and if you look around you can find one for $150 or so.

  8. #8
    Registered User WILLIAM HAYES's Avatar
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    I use a marmot helium EQ 15 degree rating a bit pricey but worth it -has A water resistent cover -never been cold even at temps below the rating-weight is slightly over 2lbs- and stuffs down to the size of a loaf of bread
    Hillbilly

  9. #9
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    Thanks for everyone taking the time. Anyone please feel free to let me know if I can ever be of help in resupply or a ride to town. As JAVASANCTUM mentioned I am right off the trail in the Pine Grove/PA 233 area. Thanks again.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by PineGrove View Post
    Thanks for everyone taking the time. Anyone please feel free to let me know if I can ever be of help in resupply or a ride to town. As JAVASANCTUM mentioned I am right off the trail in the Pine Grove/PA 233 area. Thanks again.
    Are you going to the Ruck at the Iron Masters Hostel? You can learn a lot about bags and everything else just standing in the kitchen and listening.
    Frosty

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by _terrapin_ View Post
    Down rules, but you have to keep it dry. That's not really difficult to do -- all you need is a kitchen garbage bag, as a liner to the bag's stuff sack. 30+ years of hiking, and I've never had to deal with a wet sleeping bag. Knock wood...

    As others have said, a good sleep system involves a mat or pad of some sort as well. The down underneath you doesn't insulate much, because it's compressed by your body weight.

    What's so good about down? It's light, it compresses well (less space in your pack) and with proper care, it lasts forever. A three-season (45 degree) down bag need not weigh much over a pound, and if you look around you can find one for $150 or so.
    That's a cool thing about Big Agnes bags. They have a pocket for your pad in the bottom and no insulator (down or synthetic). So no wasted insultation.
    If you don't make waves, it means you ain't paddling

  12. #12
    Registered User tmdombrosk's Avatar
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    Down is the way to go for wieght and compactablity; check out campmor for great deals
    "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

  13. #13
    Registered User rpenczek's Avatar
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    Default I second Big Agnes

    Check out Big Agnes. You could splurge and get two bags, a 50 degree and a 15 degree along with one 15 degree air core pad that will fit both bags.

    I use a Lost dog 50 degree synthetic in the summer and a Lost Ranger 15 degree down in the winter

    Both compress very small and both work very well in their temp range.

    I also own Marmot pounder (40 degree) and Marmot Sawtooth (15 degree) and while both are great, I am sold on the Big Agnes system (lighter, smaller when compressed and in my experience warmer).

    PS. I find I don't sweet in a down bag like I do in a synthetic bag.

  14. #14
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    Default Check out Big Agnes

    Quote Originally Posted by rpenczek View Post
    Check out Big Agnes. You could splurge and get two bags, a 50 degree and a 15 degree along with one 15 degree air core pad that will fit both bags.

    I use a Lost dog 50 degree synthetic in the summer and a Lost Ranger 15 degree down in the winter

    Both compress very small and both work very well in their temp range.

    I also own Marmot pounder (40 degree) and Marmot Sawtooth (15 degree) and while both are great, I am sold on the Big Agnes system (lighter, smaller when compressed and in my experience warmer).

    PS. I find I don't sweet in a down bag like I do in a synthetic bag.
    I'll be sure to check out Big Agnes. Thanks for the tip. Any place you would recommend looking for them?

  15. #15
    Registered User rpenczek's Avatar
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  16. #16
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    Big Agnes also a system of overbags. I have a 15 degree BA down bag and I'm looking at getting a 40 degree bag that will take the inside bag system down to about 0. Around here there are not enough opportunities to use really low temp bags. So I can use the higher temp bag during late spring through early fall.

    If you go to their website, you will see this.
    If you don't make waves, it means you ain't paddling

  17. #17
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    Down: Lighter, packs better, breathes better (more comfortable when your bag is too warm for conditions), feels like a more 'alive' warmth--when I switched from synthetic to down on my AT thru, climbing into my down quilt felt like climbing into bed with a girl (minus the important parts).

    Synthetic: Slightly warmer when wet, cheaper, lofts more quickly (don't underestimate the importance of this advantage. Your synthetic bag is warm and ready to climb into right away. If you have a down bag you need to shake it a bit, hang it up in the wind, and then shake the down so that it's actually on top of you)


    I'd recommend either a quilt, or a sleeping bag that has a 3/4 zipper for the spring/summer, as temperatures can change a lot. The Western Mountaineering Cloud 9 is a good product. I've also had good luck with Nunutak products, but as they are made to order they're expensive.

    I made a ray way synthic quilt. It was quite warm.

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