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Sleeping Gear The Sleeping Gear forum is for the discussion of sleeping gear (bags, mats, quilts...).


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  #1  
Old 06-19-2014, 07:58 AM
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JohnHenry JohnHenry is offline
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Bags specifications questions: loft, rating, weight

I am in the process of identifying some choices for sleeping bags for my wife and me. After spending hours looking at specs and reading articles, I still have some questions.

Our use profile: 3 season (in Montana, so 25-50 night temps), moderate use (we are not going to be frequent backpackers, but want these for use over many years). We will be moderate backpackers (i.e. short trips, 1-2 nights for the most part). Budget: reasonable at $250-$400.

I have narrowed the selection to down bags, probably treated down, and in the 15-30 temp range (lower end for my wife who is a cold sleeper). I'm now trying to separate those specs which are more important in actual use than others, so I can pick 4-5 bags and look for deals as they come up.

Here are some questions, and please correct any misperceptions if you see any:

1. Loft - higher is better, but how much different is a 700+ from an 850 loft bag in practice? Wamth? Compressibility? Wear?
2. Duck or goose down? Goose is higher cost, but is there a functional difference?
3. Treated down - marketed as being more tolerable of a little moisture. How much is that actually needed and under what conditions? Normal dewy night or 3 days in rain?
4. Temperature rating - too high is cold, too low is a sweaty night. For 3 seasons, is 20-25 too hot for my wife, ditto for 30 for me?
4. Other criteria - how easy to maintain after use, ruggedness (do you have to baby it, or use and clean and no worries?) etc. Any other comments.

I am looking at several REI bags (duck, 700 fill), Marmot Xenon women's (850 goose, 15F), Sierra Designs Eleanor 19 (700, duck), Marmot Stardust women's (700 goose, 16 degrees) and a few similar ones.

Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 06-19-2014, 12:04 PM
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EagleRiverDee EagleRiverDee is offline
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Backpack: Granite Gear Vapor Trail
Sleeping Gear: BA Q-Core SL, WM Versalite
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Sleeping bags are really subjective. I have purchased several and still find myself looking, although I am relatively happy with the bag I have now.

The higher the down fill #, the more compressible the bag. So, a 700 fill bag is going to be less compressible than a 900 fill bag of the same temperature rating.

Duck tends to have a different smell, particularly if it gets wet. Some people hate it. My first bag was a Kelty Cosmic Down, and I didn't mind the smell or even really notice it. It wasn't as compressible as my current bag, though.

However, not all bags are created equal in design, either. The reason I stopped using my Kelty was because the footbox was tremendously uncomfortable. I switched to a Western Mountaineering bag that has a far more comfortable footbox.

Make sure the girth of the bag is large enough that you can wear your warm clothes underneath it without compressing the down. If it's too tight, you won't be able to do that. But make sure it's not too loose, either, or you'll be heating a lot of dead space and will feel colder.

As a cold sleeper, I use a bag rated for 20 degrees colder than the lowest expected overnight temp...and sometimes I'm still cold. So on selecting a bag for your wife, keep in mind whether she's a cold sleeper or not and adjust the temp rating accordingly. I use a WM Versalite, which is a 10 degree rated bag, because our overnight temps even in summer drop down to about 30.
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  #3  
Old 06-19-2014, 12:16 PM
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Grandpa Grandpa is offline
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Backpack: GoLite Pinnacle
Sleeping Gear: Moonstone Lucid 800 w/Neo Air pad
Shelter: Tarptent Sublite Tyvek & Tarptent Double Rainbow
 
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Location: Texas
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I don't know if GoLite has any treated down bags but they have a pretty nice selection and occasionally will offer a nice discounted price.

A 700 fill bag will weigh more and be bulkier than a 900 fill bag of the same temperature rating.

For several season use, I prefer my bags to have a full length zipper. That way, I can unzip it and use it like a quilt when it's more comfortable to do so. Full length zippered bags can often be zipped together for a cozy double bag.
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Old 06-19-2014, 07:54 PM
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richwads richwads is offline
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1. Loft matters a lot to folks who want to pack really light and compact and can afford high loft bags. High loft means less weight and bulk for a given warmth. I personally have been happy with the North Face Blue Kazoo, which is roomy, durable, meets its warmth rating, and not too heavy but not very light either. I did a short run into expensive, flimsy, high loft, cramped, finicky bags and didn't last long there.
2. I think the loft rating matters more than duck vs goose, but duck down, being cheaper, may be combined with other cheaper materials to make a really inexpensive bag, that may or may not hold up well (on one hand), but is cheaper to experiment with (on the other hand).
3. This year, most goose down bags have water-resistant down for what doesn't seem to be a cost penalty. The current run of North Face "kazoo" models has treated down, for example. I have never (in 45 years of backpacking) had an issue with untreated down being a problem, as I've always managed to keep my bag dry.
4. I agree with your temperature ratings - 30 degree for 3 season works fine for me, and 15-20 degrees for my wife.
5. Roominess, as mentioned by EagleRiverDee, is critical. I've suffered much in a couple too-tight bags I bought. REI bags are pretty light for their cost, but are among the narrowest out there. North Face bags are all pretty roomy. Another issue is temperature rating - I will no longer buy a sleeping bag that does not have the EN temperature rating. You cannot trust the rating otherwise - one exception: Western Mountaineering bags have a good reputation of being conservative with their warmth rating.

Read reviews and PAY ATTENTION TO ZIPPER PROBLEMS! Trust me, they can drive you mad, when you're in the wrong position in a tight bag!

In full disclosure I have three North Face bags - The original Superlight (5 deg), an old Blue Kazoo (20 deg), and a Gold Kazoo (30 deg). Shopping for a 3 season bag for a friend last year, for a reasonably priced 15 degree bag, after comparing everything available, I ordered the Blue Kazoo. NF bags have great zippers!

If money was no object, I would get a Western Mountaineering bag. Their zippers are also legendary.

Hope this helps!
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  #5  
Old 06-20-2014, 03:37 AM
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JohnHenry JohnHenry is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by richwads
1. Loft matters a lot to folks who want to pack really light and compact and can afford high loft bags. High loft means less weight and bulk for a given warmth. I personally have been happy with the North Face Blue Kazoo, which is roomy, durable, meets its warmth rating, and not too heavy but not very light either. I did a short run into expensive, flimsy, high loft, cramped, finicky bags and didn't last long there.
2. I think the loft rating matters more than duck vs goose, but duck down, being cheaper, may be combined with other cheaper materials to make a really inexpensive bag, that may or may not hold up well (on one hand), but is cheaper to experiment with (on the other hand).
3. This year, most goose down bags have water-resistant down for what doesn't seem to be a cost penalty. The current run of North Face "kazoo" models has treated down, for example. I have never (in 45 years of backpacking) had an issue with untreated down being a problem, as I've always managed to keep my bag dry.
4. I agree with your temperature ratings - 30 degree for 3 season works fine for me, and 15-20 degrees for my wife.
5. Roominess, as mentioned by EagleRiverDee, is critical. I've suffered much in a couple too-tight bags I bought. REI bags are pretty light for their cost, but are among the narrowest out there. North Face bags are all pretty roomy. Another issue is temperature rating - I will no longer buy a sleeping bag that does not have the EN temperature rating. You cannot trust the rating otherwise - one exception: Western Mountaineering bags have a good reputation of being conservative with their warmth rating.

Read reviews and PAY ATTENTION TO ZIPPER PROBLEMS! Trust me, they can drive you mad, when you're in the wrong position in a tight bag!

In full disclosure I have three North Face bags - The original Superlight (5 deg), an old Blue Kazoo (20 deg), and a Gold Kazoo (30 deg). Shopping for a 3 season bag for a friend last year, for a reasonably priced 15 degree bag, after comparing everything available, I ordered the Blue Kazoo. NF bags have great zippers!

If money was no object, I would get a Western Mountaineering bag. Their zippers are also legendary.

Hope this helps!

richwads (and EagleRiverDee), thanks for the insight, this is exactly the kind of thing I am looking for. What's behind the specs is important, like zippers.

You commented that in your experience, the "finicky" high loft expensive bag you had wasn't worth it. Is "finickiness" common to some of those? Are some bags, in an attempt to get high loft and other ratings, much harder to deal with, in terms of the fill moving around, not working over time, or whatever?
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  #6  
Old 06-20-2014, 12:39 PM
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richwads richwads is offline
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Posts: 483
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnHenry
You commented that in your experience, the "finicky" high loft expensive bag you had wasn't worth it. Is "finickiness" common to some of those? Are some bags, in an attempt to get high loft and other ratings, much harder to deal with, in terms of the fill moving around, not working over time, or whatever?

The (ultralight) zippers and non-snag backings on some ultralight bags seem to be more likely to cause sticky zippers. The very light fabric may also be easier to get dragged into the zipper teeth. I accidentally tore the light fabric while trying to unsnag a stuck zipper on a superlight bag.

Also, the minimal amount of high loft down used seems to allow "cold spots" easier, when pressure of a body part is applied to the inside. More lower loft fill seems to spread out more evenly on its own, and seems to drape better over me. I dunno - maybe I just like the feel of a more substantial bag .

I replaced a 1.5 lb 800 fill bag with a sticky zipper that was a bit snug, with a 2.0 lb 650 fill bag that is roomier, has a much better zipper, and has patches of synthetic insulation under the hips and feet. Oh, and cost $229 rather than $380. (Both bags are rated 30 degrees)

But, not all ultrallight bags have such problems - just be careful.
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  #7  
Old 03-23-2015, 05:08 AM
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JohnHenry JohnHenry is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2014
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Went with the North Face Hightail 3S

After much research, and some great advice here, I ended up buying the NF Hightail 3S, a 15 degree, 850 loft bag. I've now had the opportunity to try it out a few times in colder weather (in the backyard) and found that I really like it. Lowest temp was about 28 degrees, and I slept (deliberately) with only a silk liner on me, no clothes. I was toasty warm the whole time, and very comfortable.

I went with the large size because the first regular one I bought seemed a tad tight. It probably would have been ok, but now I am sure that I can wear some layers if need be and still have plenty of room. The only drawback might be the larger foot box, which may be colder than a more snug one, but as this is my first mummy bag, I do appreciate the feeling of not being a sardine.
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  #8  
Old 03-23-2015, 09:55 AM
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Grandpa Grandpa is offline
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Backpack: GoLite Pinnacle
Sleeping Gear: Moonstone Lucid 800 w/Neo Air pad
Shelter: Tarptent Sublite Tyvek & Tarptent Double Rainbow
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Texas
Posts: 430
Even though I'm pretty much an average size guy (5'-9", 168#), I prefer the long sleeping bags because they usually have more girth. I like a little extra room inside. I also bring my clothing for the next day into the bag for the night so I don't have to change into icy garb in the morning.
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