Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
What constitutes an ideal three season bag?
Display Avatars Sort By:
Dave .
(Ramapo) - F - M
What constitutes an ideal three season bag? on 03/07/2008 12:59:47 MST Print View

I’m not sure if the desire for a suitable (if not perfect) three season sleeping bag that can be used Spring, Summer, and Fall is really reasonable or whether I should just resign myself to needing more than one bag for the wide range of conditions that characterizes typical three season use here in NY. Here’s my situation:

I was about to buy a Western Mountaineering Summerlite a few days ago, but I got psyched out. I’ve posted about this before: I’m moving to a lighter bag in large due to a trip to Glacier National Park that I have planned this summer, but also because I want a lighter bag that I can use here in the Adirondacks and Catskills for 3 season use. I’m sort of stuck as to what to do:

1. The Summerlite fits me great and leaves a fair bit of room for supplementing its use with lofty, insulating clothes. Also, I’m sure that, with its 30* rating and full zip that I won’t roast in the heat of July and August.
2. However, the bag lacks the collar and added fill of the Ultralite which, for a few ounces more, would take me down to 20*. I’m sure that the Ultralite would be warmer in the shoulder seasons without being supplemented by clothes, but I wonder if won’t be too warm for summer use.
3. I’ve only just gotten myself set up with a nice ultralight clothing system this winter and, thus, kind of lack experience using it in conjunction with with a sleeping bag. This being the case, I’m not sure how much to prioritize the lighter weight of the Summerlite and Ultralite versus the extra room of the Megalite and the Alinlite.

What do you guys think? Is there a silver bullet solution available to me? Am I overthinking this? Should I just accept that I’ll need multiple bags to maintain good comfortability in the heat of summer and the cold of earl spring/late fall? What are the qualities of an “ideal” three season bag if such a thing exists? If I utilize proper technique layering clothes in the Summerlite (and we assume that I’m well fed and tend to run on the cool side of warm when I sleep), can I expect that it’ll keep me warm in spring and autumn?

Thanks in advance for your opinions,
Dave

Edited by Ramapo on 03/07/2008 13:01:20 MST.

douglas ray
(mountainmandoug)
Three-season bag on 03/07/2008 13:16:55 MST Print View

You'll probably be OK with either sleeping bag choice, you could flip a coin.

I find that a sleeping bag with a full zipper can be pretty flexible. Unzip it and spread it out over you like a big quilt and you can arrange ventilation to be comfortable in pretty warm weather. I've used a zipperless 26 degree sleeping bag in the summer by rolling off my sleeping pad to cool down, but a zipper would be better.

I'd consider carefully how much girth you need to be able to use your clothing to stretch the bag into cold weather. I've used my MB Super stretch (the 26 degree one) down to 0 without much trouble. I find that the draft collar is nice most of the time but not so important when I've got a parka on, since it seems to pretty well plug up the top of the bag.

Good luck with whatever you decide.

Roland Fein
(AlaskaCub) - F

Locale: Alaska
Check sizing on 03/07/2008 14:03:12 MST Print View

Make sure you try these bags out for size, I am not that big of a guy (5'9" 185) and the Ultralite was way to restrictive for me. Those 59" circum bags are real tight.

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F - M
Sizing & Girth on 03/07/2008 14:17:16 MST Print View

Hi Roland. I did try the Summerlite and I really liked the fit and sizing. I'm sure I could wear anythign from a Thermwrap jacket to a Micropuff Vest to a Wild Things EP jacket in the Summerlite. Heck, I could probably wear the EP Jacket and the Micropuff simultaneously in the Summerlite. That said, I doubt I could wear a Patagonia DAS in there, so taking it down to zero might be unwise.

Douglas, what do you wear in order to push your Montbell bag down to zero?

Edited by Ramapo on 03/07/2008 14:50:50 MST.

Roland Fein
(AlaskaCub) - F

Locale: Alaska
Cool on 03/07/2008 14:22:09 MST Print View

I have been in quite a few WM bags recently (been shopping)and had my eye on a Ultralite and an Apache and both were way too tight for comfort.

jon goldsmith
(jegsmith) - F
Northeast bags on 03/07/2008 15:24:54 MST Print View

I am in a similar predicament as you are. I hike primarily in the northeast and have been using a megalite for summer use. I found the bag to be a little to warm for the summer, and not quite warm enough for the winter, even with a lot of extra layers. The bag was really comfortable but probably too large for my frame. The bellows effect was pronounced when I moved around. I sold the bag and picked up an apache mf, which certainly has a much slimmer cut more appropriate for my size. Right now I'm thinking of making a momentum xp quilt with doubled 2.5oz insulation for my legs and a single layer of xp for my torso. This setup will hopefully be comfortable to 30 with a down top and xp balaclava. I would like to be able to push this setup to 20 with added layers. From my experience the adirondacks are an ideal environment for quilts.

Edited by jegsmith on 03/07/2008 16:22:29 MST.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
Adirondacks - 3 season bag on 03/07/2008 18:11:44 MST Print View

I used a 20 degree bag with a little extra room for wearing clothing for many years in the Adirondacks.

I was often too cold in May and September. From mid-July through August I was usually too hot. In the hottest months, opening the bag and using it as a quilt was "do-able" but not ideal. I'd start the night sleeping on my side with the bag only covering my back and top side, then bring the quilt all the way to the ground about 4-5 hours later. Often, I'd be too hot during one or both stages, but too cold if I slept on top of the bag. During the shoulder seasons I was cold enough to be miserable (but not in danger), no matter how many layers of cloths I wore inside the bag.

Eventually, I discovered bringing a 200 wt fleece blanket along was the answer. In the summer, it was cooler than using my bag as a quilt. In the shoulder seasons, using it as a quilt inside my sleeping bag was a WHOLE LOT warmer than wearing my long johns, pants, long sleeve T shirt, 100 wt fleece top, and 200 wt fleece jacket. During the spring & fall seasons, using the fleece blanket and then my 20 degree bag as a quilt on top of that prevented me from having to wake up around 1-2am and zip up the bag.

Unfortunately, there is a small weight and BIG volume penalty to the fleece blanket approach... So I'd recommend getting a summer bag, and just using the 3 season bag during the spring & fall. Then use both during the shoulder seasons. The summer bag should pack smaller than my fleece blanket did.

Edited by JohnG10 on 03/07/2008 18:13:19 MST.

Brian OKelly
(losthillsguy) - F
WM Ultralite on 03/07/2008 18:43:45 MST Print View

I opted for the WM ultralite super with 2oz overfill. Most of my camping/backpacking is in the Sierras and temps can easily fall below 30 anytime of year when you are at higher altitudes. I am 5' 10' and about 170lbs. It's snug but doable for me. If it's cold I'll be glad it's tight, if it's warmer I'll unzip and go quilt style.

Steven Nelson
(slnsf) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
GoLite Ultra on 03/07/2008 20:06:23 MST Print View

I don't know if there's a "silver bullet", but here's another alternative: the GoLite Ultra quilt. Rated at 20°, and very flexible for a wide range of temperatures.

We'll be publishing a review of it next month - in the meantime, I'll say that I used it in the High Peaks in late October last year and it did well. I imagine it would be a fine fit for most conditions you'll come across in the Adirondacks, and it's a pretty good deal at $225.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Three Season Bag... on 03/07/2008 22:51:28 MST Print View

David -

A couple of years ago I decided to go the two bag route... my heavier down bag was too warm for mid season trips even when opened and used as a quilt. I figured I'd buy a lighter bag for the warmer temps.

I picked up a -3 C (27F) down bag (MEC Merlin) and have not taken my heavy bag on a trip since buying it. I find that with a bit of layering in cold weather I'm good well below freezing and when opened up like a quilt it is just right in warmer temps. The lighter weight shell of these bags seems to make a huge difference in the overall comfort level that these bags provide in a wide range of temperatures. I find them less confining than bags made of the heavier shell material (I'm not sure why...). The WM bags have a similar shell material to the Merlin and although I really like mine the shell seems very delicate (ie. I wouldn't put mine loose in my pack and stuff things on top of it).

If you figure the majority of your trips would be fine with a Summerlite, I'd go with the lighter bag and just add layers on the shoulder season trips (or on your Glacier trip). At least that way you are able to lighten the load if you expect the temp on the majority of your trips to be above freezing.

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F - M
Re: What constitutes an ideal three season bag? on 03/08/2008 15:49:24 MST Print View

This has been helpful so far. Thanks guys. I really like the WM bags, but I do find quilts intriguing. It's just that I don't feel like I know enough about them to put together a system for the 'Dacks with one. They do seem versatile.

douglas ray
(mountainmandoug)
Stretching the bag on 03/08/2008 16:48:59 MST Print View

What I wear to take my 2005 MB #3 SS Down Hugger to 0f?

Lightweight Base layer
Nylon Pants
Patagonia Micropuff pants
Integral Designs hot socks
2nd base layer shirt
Wind shirt w/hood
Micropuff vest
Golite Coal Parka
Light knit beanie
Light Balaclava
Whatever pair of gloves are driest.

I sleep on a full lenght 3/8in foam pad plus a GG sleeplight torso pad and use the 3/8in backpad out of my Cilogear pack under my legs and use the pack itself under my feet.

If it warms up to above about 20 degrees I get a bit hot.

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F - M
Re: What constitutes an ideal three season bag? on 03/14/2008 14:58:29 MDT Print View

So, I'm still mulling this situation over, but after considering it more, I figured that, whatever I get, I should be able to wear my DAS in it. Especially given that Douglas indicates that he wears his big Golite Belay parka to push his bag.

Anyway, there's no way I can wear the DAS in the Summerlite. I went back to the gear shop today on my lunch break and it just doesn't work at all. It did fit well in the Megalite though, so...

I'm not sure where that leaves me. I think I need the bigger cut in order to push the bag's temp. rating, but I'm not sure whether to get the Megalite (30*) or the Alpinlite (20*). Or to just go for a quilt in order to maintain the same weight as the Summerlite.

Choices, choices...

Is it ridiculous to want to be able to wear an uber winter jacket like the DAS in the 30* sleeping bag? It seems like I might just be better off with the heavier bag if I'm taking the DAS...

Edited by Ramapo on 03/14/2008 15:20:01 MDT.