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15 degree bag for 3-three season in the PNW?
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Mike Henry
(mikehenry) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
15 degree bag for 3-three season in the PNW? on 04/28/2011 01:02:46 MDT Print View

Hey so i am new to ultralight backpacking, and backpacking in general. I have been a few times and have decided that i wish to make it a large part of my summer from here on out. I have been lurking for the last month reading all of the great information that is abundant on these forums.

So anyways, i am looking for a good three season sleeping bag for the pacific northwest. I am based out of Portland, and would likely beng doing most of my backpacking in the Oregon/Washington cascades. I have decided to go with a down bag due to the packability and the hope that it will last many years, despite my empty college pockets. I plan on doing most of my backpacking between may and september, so i figure that a bag in the 15-20 F range would be sufficient becuase i believe i am a cold sleepier (i usually sleep with a blanket and down comforter for probably ~9-10 months out of the year). This has led me to look at thew WM ultralite, Marmot Helium and Montbell UL Super Spiral Down Hugger #1, with the down hugger being the front runner in my mind. I usually sleep on my stomach in a double "4" position (left leg agianst right in a 4 shape, along with an arm under my head), which has led me to look at the montbell due to its stretchability. I also am looking at long versions of bags, because i am 6'1"-6'2" and weigh 180-190.

So my question to you guys is this: am i looking at the right bags for the temperatures i will be experiencing, or am i completely looking the wrong direction? Please give me any advice or constructive critism, as i am new to this and would take it to heart.

Thanks for reading all of this, i tried to cover all of my footsteps.

Edited by mikehenry on 04/28/2011 01:03:55 MDT.

Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
Re: 15 degree bag for 3-three season in the PNW? on 04/28/2011 01:22:35 MDT Print View

Looks like you're covering the right bases, and those are the three bags I'd recommend for that temp range. If you are truly thinking May to Sept you could do fine with a 30 degree bag like the Summerlite or Caribou, so long as you don't plan to camp on top of Mt. Adams in May. I think the caribou has a little more room of the two.

For reference, I just took a 35 rated Highlite snow camping in the gorge, down to about 25, and did just fine with a good sleeping pad underneath (I'm an "average" warmth sleeper). I've taken my 10 degree rated versalite down to -5 with no coldness. The Montbell temps are a little closer to accurate, and I think Marmot runs about 5 degrees in the other direction.

I'm partial to the WM bags, but the Montbell are just fine too, and are more likely to be found on sale, though you can likely find them both used here if you post something asking.

Edited by ChrisMorgan on 04/28/2011 01:25:37 MDT.

William Brown
(MatthewBrown) - F

Locale: Blue Ridge Mtns
Check the Sycamore on 04/28/2011 07:12:38 MDT Print View

I am 4 sleeper also. After a ton of research and a lot of laying on hike shop floors I went with a WM Sycamore. It's heavy by UL standards at 2 lbs, but it's extremely versatile. I can 4 sleep in it. I can adjust the down due to it's horizontal baffles for temp control. It opens fully flat so my wife and I use it as a quilt during 3 season @ 1 lb per person. I can open it and use it as an under quilt for hammocking. And the list goes on.

I have slept in it to it's rating(25F) in boxers and I'm and average sleeper. I've taken well below it's rating, topping the down and wearing in merino thermals.

Hope this helps a little in your quest.

Elizabeth Camp
(scamp_80) - MLife

Locale: Portland, Oregon
Try out WM Bags at OMC on 04/28/2011 08:30:20 MDT Print View

I went for the WM bags like the above posters. I have a Highlite I use in summer only and an Ultralite I use in the spring/fall. I'd say I'm cold sleeper relative to most men but fairly average for a female.

Just a warning...Some people have noted that they don't like the "narrow" cut WM bags (Highlite, Summerlite, Ultralite, Versalite, etc). These individuals prefer the roomier cut WM bags (Caribou, Megalite, etc.), the Marmot bags, or other options.

You may want to see if you find the cut of some WM bags overly restrictive or not. You may want to go over to OMC at about 28th and NE Sandy Blvd. in Portland. They stock WM and you might even want to purchase from them if you want the bag immediately. Trying to find a sale on WM requires time and patience...or you might be able to find one used here on Gear Swap if you check this site a lot so that you can snap up your desired bag before someone else gets it!

BTW the other bags you mentioned (Helium, Atom, or Montbell bags) are all quality products.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
15F on 04/28/2011 09:26:17 MDT Print View

id stick with a 15F bag ... if you ever do alpine in the summer, it can get a tad chilly

also remember than in constant drizzle, you may not have the opportunity to dry yr bag ... so youll lose loft slowly

youll also be prepared for the rockies where you KNOW you till take a trip anyways someday

the WM, marmot and MH are more or less accurately rated to en-standards ... the MB is not en-tested

Mike Henry
(mikehenry) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Sleeping Bag on 04/28/2011 12:39:08 MDT Print View

From experience do you think that a 15 F bag would be too warm for warmer nights, or could i counteract this by unzipping? I guess my main problem is trying to figure out whether to buy a warmer bag and unzip it for warmer temps, or buy a 30 F bag and use layering to increase the bags range.

It sounds like i should be looking at purchasing a bag for 20-30 temps instead of a 15 bag. Would a 20 bag be the most versitile 3 season bag if i was only looking to own one sleeping bag for the next couple years?

Thanks for all of the input, it is very helpful.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
unzip on 04/28/2011 12:54:30 MDT Print View

15-20F bag unzipped .... use it as a blanket if you want

itll actually be close to a 4 season bag for the PNW as long as yr not in the alpine in winter

Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
Quilt? on 04/28/2011 13:03:58 MDT Print View

Okay, I'll be the first to admit, I like sleeping bags, nor have I used a quilt, but perhaps it might be the answer for what you are looking for, especially with your style of sleeping and wanting the option to adapt with temperatures.

Can quilt users chime in?

Aaron Benson
(AaronMB) - F

Locale: Central Valley California
re: 15 degree bag for three seasons in the PNW on 04/28/2011 13:20:20 MDT Print View

I toss and turn, but when I finally settle in, I'm often close to a fetal position (feels good on the knees) or on my stomach in the double four position as it was described above. This made sleeping in mummy-cut bags problematic and I felt a little claustrophobic, despite my relatively small size (5'5" 145lbs). Reading about quilts here at BPL motivated me to try one and I like it very much. The extra room is nice and hasn't been problematic yet, as I'm quickly learning how to move underneath it without venting the sides.

Edited by AaronMB on 04/28/2011 13:23:01 MDT.

Tommy Franzen
(Tomlike) - F

Locale: Pacific Wonderland
Western Mountaineering on 04/28/2011 13:35:13 MDT Print View

Western Mountaineering Alpinlite, sold at Oregon Mountain Community. Seriously the best gear purchase I have ever made! The Alpinlite is the wider cut version of the Ultralite. They are conservative in their ratings, I had my Alpinlite well into the teens (with a base layer and insulated mat). I am 6'2" and fit in the regular version. Full length zip allows it to be used as a quilt in warmer temps, and 19oz. of premium down will keep you warm in colder temps. Weighs 32oz with stuff sack. If you want one bag for PNW trips that will keep you warm in shoulder season, go for the Alpinlite

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
15 degree bag for 3-three season in the PNW? on 04/28/2011 13:43:39 MDT Print View

I use a 20* F bag (Western Mountaineering Ultralite) from April through October with no problems. I'm a cold sleeper, too. It's probably equivalent to a 15* bag with other brands. The draft collar feature (which you can pull snugly above your shoulders to keep cold air from hitting your body) is, IMHO, priceless. With it snugged down, I can keep the hood relatively loose (over my fleece balaclava) without having icy air flowing onto my body!

During our occasional summer hot spells (I live just east of Portland), I've often started the night on top of the bag. Later in the night I either pull it over me with the zipper undone or use it as a quilt. Usually by morning I'm inside with the bag partially zipped up, especially if I'm camping up high. With the big variation in temperatures we have here (99* one day and 55* the next, depending on the direction of air flow), it's important to have a full length zipper for ventilation!

At the other extreme, my fall trips always include a high-altitude trip in northern WA in early October to admire the bright gold of the alpine larch. It gets really cold up at 6-7000 feet at that time of year!

As Elizabeth says, girth is all important. Measure your shoulder (not chest) girth over your arms while wearing all your insulating clothing, and compare them to the bag's specs. While you don't want a lot of dead air space that your body has to heat up, you also don't want to be compressing the insulation of either the sleeping bag or your puffy jacket on a cold night. If you're in a store, insist that they let you try on the bag, and take that insulating clothing with you to put on (with the weather we've been having, you may need to wear it to the store anyway). If you order online, try out the bag as soon as you get it and return it if it isn't right for you. If you're just under the borderline between bag lengths, it's also important to try out the bag. Some have more room to stretch your feet out than others. If you're just over the borderline, get a long bag. In freezing weather you need room for your water filter and your stove fuel canister (if you use one) in the foot section.

My fall trips always include a high-altitude trip in northern WA in early October to feast my eyes on the bright gold of the alpine larch. It gets really cold up at 6-7000 feet at that time of year! The Ultralite, when combined with an adequate pad and my insulating clothing, has kept me warm down to 10*F.

That being said, if you're a normal sleeper as far as temp goes, and not a cold sleeper like me, and you don't plan to be out past mid-September, a 25* or possibly even a 30* bag combined with warm clothing and a sufficiently insulated pad would probably do the job.

To reiterate: Full-length zipper for ventilation. Draft collar for cold weather. Sufficient girth to wear your puffy insulating clothing inside.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
15 degree bag for 3-three season in the PNW? on 04/28/2011 13:49:34 MDT Print View

Next Adventure (at the corner of Grand + Stark) also carries Montbell bags.

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
RE: 15 degree bag for 3-three season in the PNW on 04/28/2011 14:02:56 MDT Print View

I've found that a three season 15-20 degree bag or quilt doesn't make too much sense unless you know for certain you can only afford one bag. A 15 degree bag is going to be much too warm in the summer months, even in the PNW. If you think about a 25-30 degree bag or quilt, things should be easier.

How about grabbing a JRB No Sniveller, on sale for $240 for their 800 fill 25 degree quilt? I sleep similarly to you and I think a quilt is more accommodating than a mummy bag. You'll need to have something on your head when its cold but this could work out perfectly. Wear your hooded down parka when its cold in combination with the quilt and you solve all your problems: increasing the quilt's temp rating while having the right type of around camp insulation.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: 15 degree bag for 3-three season in the PNW? on 04/28/2011 16:53:55 MDT Print View

"To reiterate: Full-length zipper for ventilation. Draft collar for cold weather. Sufficient girth to wear your puffy insulating clothing inside."

+1 to your entire post, Mary. You really nailed it.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Humidity on 04/29/2011 00:33:26 MDT Print View

I honestly find a 15 degree bag to be good for the PNW, but I do most of my hiking in the Olympics and Central me the greatest factor in this entire discussion is humidity and altitude. The closer to the coast you hike, the greater the humidity generally. And there is a huge difference in temperature between the central cascades in Washington and say, Mt. Hood in the summer. Portland is generally 5 to 7 degrees warmer in the summer months, one of the many reasons to visit your fine city. (That and eating at Andina - fantastic.)

Tom could correct me on this - but in the North Cascades, the PCT and many other sections of trail run a bit further East, thus you have less humidity. My experience is that you generally get a bit drier air but you are also at higher elevations than other parts of the state. As Mary noted, it can get pretty chilly in shoulder season, especially around the bigger peaks (Glacier Peak comes to mind, with the cold air settling in the valleys around it).

The hiking I've done in Oregon, particularly Central Oregon, tends to be a bit dryer, with a distinct change (Mary could chime on this) in climate as you approach the Sisters and Mount Jefferson.

In the Olympics, you do get a fair amount of rain and humidity, even in summer months. Humidity will degrade down performance, and because backpacking season here isn't very long, thus you generally deal with snow (and meltoff) through late June and early July. That contributes to the humidity as does the proximity to the coast. It can be hot some years, so I have been too warm in my bag in July and August, but I've been in the mountains on September 1st, so I guess I was thankful for having a 15 degree bag.

You certainly could use augment your bag with clothes. I endorse everything Mary and Tom have to say, although I find it personally difficult to use a draft collar effectively as I have a tendency to toss and turn more than most.

paul buzzard
(troop208) - F
try before u buy on 04/29/2011 08:08:18 MDT Print View

You have great insight already. My .02 (I own a MB ULSS #1) is that one bag can do it all, invest in a high quality down one, money well spent. But I think you should take all the advise on where to shop, and do that. Fit is crucial to be comfy, and you are lucky to have some good stores nearby. Spend a day, find the best fit, you will be happy camper. All the top end bags will work, get the one that fits your style the best.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
re on 04/29/2011 09:08:16 MDT Print View

Like Mary said, zipper for ventilation and enough girth for puffy insulation inside.

Half zipper is good enough, you can always sleep on top.

I go year-round out of Portland, avoid coldest periods. Look at weather reports and stay home if it's going to be below 20 F.

I have a bag maybe rated 45 F and wear a vest underneath and stay barely warm enough, but my bag has lost a lot of loft. I am going to replace this sometime.

I think I'm going to make a bag with 5 ounce Apex synthetic insulation, rated 30 F maybe. Or a down bag would be a little lighter. Even 35 F rating would be okay. And then wear an insulated vest underneath which would be comfy down to 20 F.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Helium vs. Quit JRBs SIerra Sniveler on 04/29/2011 09:36:06 MDT Print View


I own both of these and I am a cold sleeper, who switched over to a quilt last year.

I also sleep on my back and I am NOT an active sleeper, tossing and turning all night.

I love the flexibility and light weight of the 22-23 oz down quilt that I have now, but have to say that I find sleeping bags warmer and more thermally efficient.

The fact is that a sleeping bag is going to cocoon your whole body and trap your body heat and has limited heat loss due to drafts.

The issue with quilts for me is that the top of the quilt where my shoulders are is a source of heat loss due to drafts and difficulty "sealing off" the top portion of the quilt.

That said, I have successfully used my quilt down to 22F layering up on my all clothing and wearing my Montebell Thermawrap jacket to keep my shoulders warm and to avoid some of the draft. (It is much more efficient to be able to lay the jacket over my chest to trap warmth vs. wearing it, but it is what I have to do to make the quilt work in the shoulder seasons).

I have the Helium EQ (waterproof shell) and now only use it for winter camping or situations on the shoulder seasons where I know I am going to be dealing with some cold weather 25F or below.

Of the sleeping bags you have mentioned, the Helium is probably heavier than the others, but the temperature ratings should be honest in that it follows the European testing standard. The cut of the Helium is also a bit wider too, which could be good or bad for you depending on your size.

Like many others have said, a 30F sleeping bag or quilt can serve you fine in most situations if you layer up your clothing to maximize your warmth. So I would urge you to consider if you will fry in summer time and how many trips you will take every year on the shoulder seasons to take advantage of the 15F rating.

For me (and I think many others) having two sleeping bags allows you to comfortably cover all of the weather conditions that you might face. For me, this would be 30F & 15F....note, I live in CA and hike in the Sierras.

Now, the flexibility of the quilt is such that it is essentially a blanket and it makes it very easy to vent excess heat in warmer weather, which allows me to not only save weight but cover a much larger temperature range vs. a sleeping bag. (Well, this might be subjective opinion as you can certainly unzip the sleeping bag and use it like a quilt).

Bottom line, are you looking to save weight and maximize your warmth?

Quilts = lighter for same temp rating, but can be drafty

Sleeping bags = can be truth to temp rating, thermally more efficient, heavier, and can be opened up to be "like" a quilt

For me, if you put a gun to my head and I only could take one for all my needs, I would take a 30F sleeping bag....thought I am now a committed quilt user.

I say this because I feel that the sleeping bag gives me max. warmth and I can layer up my clothing take me to a lower temperature than an equivalently rated quilt, but at the expense of being heavier.

Hope this helps.


Rakesh Malik

Locale: Cascadia
Re: Helium vs. Quit JRBs SIerra Sniveler on 04/29/2011 11:30:59 MDT Print View

> Quilts = lighter for same temp rating, but can be drafty

I think that depends on how the quilt is designed. My Katabatic Blackwelder is pretty much draft-free, and I can make my MLD Spirit draft-free if I don't attach is to my pad (i.e. snug around me, and just plop down on the bag -- though I'd also lose the ability to move around within it. If I'd known, I'd have asked Ron to make my Spirit a bit wider than standard, and then I'd be happier, but I still like my Spirit for non-winter camping.

Edit: Wrong model initially, slip of the brain...

Edited by Tamerlin on 04/29/2011 13:23:50 MDT.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Helium vs. Quit JRBs SIerra Sniveler on 04/29/2011 11:51:15 MDT Print View


I totally agree with you....the Katabatic quilts really have my eye with the draft collar across the top, think that it would go a long way to solving the draft issue that I am having with my JRB quilt.

Question for you, bit of a thread high jack, how do you think the Katabatic would work if it were not attached to a pad in terms of being drafty?

I use a GG 1/8" thin light and GG torso pad, don't think it would lend itself well to running a cord around it to "attach" to my sleeping if I got one, I would not benefit from the design to attach the Katabatic quilt to a pad.