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Bag for a Newbie
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Ken Charpie
(kencharpie) - MLife

Locale: Western Oregon
Bag for a Newbie on 05/10/2009 05:50:03 MDT Print View

I'm new to light/ultralight backpacking (and backpacking in general, really). I'm looking to put together my first set of gear and trying to keep my cost down.

The hardest decision is choosing a bag. I'm ultra-paranoid about water (bad experiences with gear in the army) and I live in the pacific northwest; planning to do most of my hiking in the cool, humid, wet Cascades. I was thinking synthetic due to cost and weather/inexperience. I'd like to keep weight down as low as possible (2 lbs-ish), but still get as close to 3 seasons as I can.

I was thinking about the marmot pounder plus, but the more I read about bags, the more overwhelmed I feel. I would appreciate any and all feedback regarding this decision. As I said before, cost is a big consideration.

Thanks in advance from the newbie!

Ken Charpie
(kencharpie) - MLife

Locale: Western Oregon
cost consideration on 05/10/2009 05:59:49 MDT Print View

I should also have mentioned that I'm shooting for the $200-ish mark on the price range. Lower if at all possible.

James Castleberry
Lightweight Synthetic bag on 05/10/2009 08:25:35 MDT Print View

I haven't used this product, but you might want to check out the Ray Jardine quilt kit. It is $75.00 and has an alpine upgrade for $10. If you have a mom, aunt, or grandma nearby, maybe she can do whatever sewing is needed.
Seriously consider a quilt.
For lightweight budget shelter, consider Ozark Trail Jr. Dome if you are 6 ft or under. It's $20 at WalMart and weighs about two pounds. Just make sure you seal all the seams.
As a newbie myself, I found the podcasts at to be very helpful.

Heather Werderman
(willowbrezo) - F
North Face Cat's Meow on 05/10/2009 08:34:27 MDT Print View

I own a North Face Cat's Meow(20 degrees). It's closer to the 2.5-3 pound range, but it packs up decently for synthetic.

The 20 rating is a bit generous, but I have used it down to the low 20's wearing fleece, a hat, and gloves and not frozen.

Mine has been used a lot and is several years old and is still in good condition, so they seem to hold up well.

REI has the regular length one up for $115.99 right now.

Michael Chudzinski
(oknowa) - F
cats meow on 05/10/2009 08:52:48 MDT Print View

Another vote here for the cats meow. I think it is a great bag at a great price.Stuffs pretty small for a synthetic too.

Luke McFadden
( - F
Cat's Meow on 05/10/2009 09:20:54 MDT Print View

That's what my wife and I have. They do pack down small. We got each of ours for right at $100 on sale a year or two ago.

I'm in your area, so if you'd like to check one out sometime just let me know.

Edited by on 05/10/2009 09:22:08 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Down on 05/11/2009 20:59:30 MDT Print View

I'd still go with down. My wife has a Cat's Meow and compared to my down bag (which admittedly is just a 32F bag but it is only 600 FP) is it huge. You have to work pretty darn hard just to get it in it's large stuff sack.

An comparable 800 fill power down bag is going to pack so much smaller, which really is a big deal. If you going to buy a small 2500-3000 in3 pack then a bag like this is going to take up a ton of it's volume.

Keeping a down bag dry isn't that hard. Keep it in a waterproof stuff sack so you know it's safe while hiking, and then only take it out once your tent is set up safely. Unless your tent sucks, you're going to be fine. When I went down (about 5 years ago) all my friends though getting wet was a huge problem but I've camped in rain, snow etc and it's never been as issue. I don't even keep it in a waterproof sack (although I should).

I would go with a +800 fill down bag. A nice Mountain Hardware 20F Phantom bag sold on the classifieds here a couple days ago for $175. Just buy a used one. eBay is also a good spot.

Edited by dandydan on 04/01/2011 15:19:13 MDT.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Down vs Synthetic on 05/11/2009 21:47:46 MDT Print View


Two cents worth of ideas...

You mention being paranoid about down because you've had bad experiences with wet sleeping bags in the past. When choosing down vs synthetic, you ought to consider what sort of shelter you will choose when you migrate to an overall lighter system. If you choose a tarp/bivy arrangement, then being nervous about down makes sense, as it requires skill and time to set up a tarp to keep you dry in a serious storm. On the other hand, if you are going to have a rock-solid tent, then you can store your sleeping bag in a good plastic bag (trash compactor bags are thick and durable) when it's in your pack, count on a waterproof tent, and so down might be more viable.

In terms of saving $$, the "swap gear" section of this forum is quite active, and there are usually gear addicts who buy every new thing (I've been guilty) and occasionally need to shed stuff in order to feed the habit. You might want to post a Want-To-Guy note on that forum.

Amy L.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Bag for a Newbie on 05/11/2009 21:54:34 MDT Print View

I love down bags....but I will buck the trend slightly here. I spent 5 days recently with a down bag that never got directly wet. However, it rained, rained, and then rained some more. By the 4th night my bag had lost considerable loft due to the general humidity. The accumulation of moisture was significant.

So the question is - do you think you will be trekking in high humidity areas? If yes and as a 'newbie,' I think the Pounder Plus would be an excellent choice. As you get more familiar and comfortable with your sleep system and managing moisture then you can get an additional down bag.

My 2 cents.

Jeremy Greene
(tippymcstagger) - F

Locale: North Texas
Re: Bag for a Newbie on 05/11/2009 21:58:33 MDT Print View


You probably have more autonomy now than in the army. Maybe you can make choices that will keep your gear dry if you are on your own.

If you get down and decide the climate is too wet, it should hold some re-sale value. Or you can make it into a great pillow that will go decades.

Anthony Rosen
(xpress411) - F

Locale: Washington, DC
Montbell Super Stretch Burrow Bag #4 on 05/12/2009 12:09:54 MDT Print View

I'm a newbie too and settled on a Montbell Super Stretch Burrow Bag #4 for $135, 2 lbs 5oz. I'm very happy with the quality, price, the 35 degree rating seems dead on. I figure once I get more experienced, I'll tryout the Jardine quilt, then if that goes well, save up for my custom made nunatek.

Ken Charpie
(kencharpie) - MLife

Locale: Western Oregon
Follow up on 11/04/2009 05:54:13 MST Print View

Thank you all for your feedback on a bag... I ended up purchasing a Marmot Pounder Plus.

The cold, wet Fall and Spring in the Cascade mountains, my relative inexperience, and cost were the main driving factors in my decision.

I'm very satisfied with the bag so far. I would rate the bag at about 35 degrees when combined with clothing. I guess I'm a cold sleeper. Very comfortable bag. The stuff sack that comes with the bag doesn't compress the bag much, but I'm not short on pack space so far.

As my experience grows, I will probably move to a down quilt or bag.

Jeff Jeff
(TwoFortyJeff) - F
Re: Bag for a Newbie on 11/04/2009 06:18:38 MST Print View

I'd personally go with down. It's not that hard to keep them dry.