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What makes a sleeping bag worth big $
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Eric Falk
(zerolimit) - F
What makes a sleeping bag worth big $ on 03/26/2007 16:08:38 MDT Print View

Hey everyone, about to purchase a western mountaineering aspen mf 25 deg sleeping bag just based on the opinions of everyone on this site but don't really understand what makes it such a great bag only that everyone likes it. What makes a bag $300 dollars as opposed to a $100 dollars? What is different other than pack size and weight? Is that all you're paying for because temperature rating doesn't seem to have an effect on the price and goose down I assume is goose down no matter what bag it's in. Thanks in advance, appreciate your help. Eric

Scott Peterson
(scottalanp) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: What makes a sleeping bag worth big $ on 03/26/2007 16:33:17 MDT Print View

I am certain you can query "down ratings" and get a pile of info., but in a nutshell, that and craftsmanship are what you are paying for. $300 and up should buy you premium quality down as well as more advanced/maticulous assembly.

Your assumption that any farmed product would be the same grade as the next leads me to believe I would not want you to do my grocery shopping! I have to believe that like quality wool, or cotton, or foods, the process can leave the grower with a multitude of qualities. Premium gear manuf.'s who specialize in down products focus on the fluffiest down they can get. This is what will offer you the best pack size and rebound and warmth for the weight.

Also, some of the synthetic fabrics used for the shell are rather expensive and hard to come by...and the internal designs to keep the down in place tend to be pretty intricate.

Bottom line, you probably could source and assemble just about the same quality bag for the cost of materials, but you would hard pressed to beat their retail if you charged yourself $10 or $12 an hour labor from start to finish.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: What makes a sleeping bag worth big $ on 03/26/2007 17:12:07 MDT Print View

Eric, it sounds to me like you're just starting your research into sleep systems. There are other options to the bag you are considering. I'm not trying to talk you out of a Western Mountaineering bag as I own a WM Versalite Super, and love it. You need to take into account the clothing you have with you, the conditions you will be in and the shelter you may be using. Synthetic insulation might be better for you. You might prefer a quilt when it's above freezing, like I do. If you don't like feeling confined Montebell bags might be another option to consider. Consider the entire sleep system not just a bag. My sleep system varies depending on the conditions and the shelter I'm using or the lack thereof. When in my hammock an under quilt is part of my sleep system. When on the ground a pad.

I also want to say something about temperature rating. In the US, temperature ratings are set by the manufacturer and therefore vary widely. In my experience, manufacturers of cheap bags have optimistic temperature ratings. Be very careful when comparing temperature ratings. Amount of loft can be a better measure, though you must take into account the loss of loft over time. Synthetics loose it faster then down, depending on the quality of both.

Pedro Arvy
(PedroArvy) - MLife

Locale: Melbourne
WM Bags on 03/26/2007 17:42:02 MDT Print View

I can also say from seeing a number of bags that the loft on WM bags beats anything I've seen from Marmot or Feathered Friends in bags of similar weight. That translates directly to warmth. Of course, you could probably get a cheaper bag that was just as warm but it would most likely weigh more.

Edited by PedroArvy on 03/26/2007 17:43:09 MDT.

Caleb Wininger
(caleb_sandler) - F

Locale: Michigan
formula on 03/26/2007 18:11:44 MDT Print View

the higher the quality of down the higher the price, but the greater the warmth value per ounce of down. (ie 1 oz of 850 fill is way warmer than 1 oz of 600 fill, so it takes less to get you to your desired temp rating, but it also costs way more.) WM bags use pretty much the highest quality down known to man. the high price gets you insane warmth at an insanely low weight. cheaper bags may get you the warmth, but the weight and compressed size will be significanly greater.

the same holds true with synthetics. the better ones (ie. polarguard 3d) get you more warmth at less weight but cost more.

WM bags also use highly technical shell fabrics that breath well (ie. move moisture from perspiration, your breath etc)the the outside of the bag where it can evaporate rather than take up residence in your insulation, where it can greatly reduce loft and therefor warmth. cheaper bags tend to use less breathable, heavier fabrics like tactel nylon etc.

Eric Falk
(zerolimit) - F
thank you on 03/26/2007 21:56:51 MDT Print View

Thank you so much for the replies. I'll have to do more research into it. I am a newbie but am trying to read as much as possible so I only have to buy things once instead of upgrading a few times. I will definitely consider the sleep system like suggested but love the comment on the better bags being more breathable as well. Thanks again. Eric

Christopher Chupka

Locale: NTX
Re: thank you on 03/27/2007 06:57:05 MDT Print View

My first sleeping bag a Feathered Friends Gore-Tex 10 bag lasted me 20 years. Used it in 40 degree summer and below 0 in the winter.

Well worth the investment in a good bag in a good company that stands behind their products.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: What makes a sleeping bag worth big $ on 03/27/2007 09:37:27 MDT Print View

Eric, More advise, for what it's worth. You may be tempted to do what I did and try to buy one bag that will do it all. As I said earlier, I bought a WM Versalite Super as my "do it all" bag. I took it on a week long trip in the Colorado Rockies during the last week of July and cooked. My Versalite is easily a 10°F bag. Even with the zipper totally undone, I cooked. Your considering a WM 25°F bag that may be similarly uncomfortable in the summer. I was lucky because my Versalite makes a perfect winter bag. I now use a down quilt for the rest of the year, when it's above freezing and below 60°F. The right clothing and pad with my Versalite will take it well below it's rating in the winter. The right clothing makes my quilt cover a wide temperature range as well. That's why I stressed the concept of a sleep system in my previous post. I don't know where you're planning on going or in what seasons, but these are vital questions you need to consider. If you give us a where and when we can be more specific in our advise.

barry hitchcock
(barryspoons) - F
what makes a sleep[ng bag worth on 03/27/2007 17:07:26 MDT Print View

i am on the opposite side of the fence to eric. i use a winter sleeping bag all year round. slept down to 16f in it and at nearly 70f on it. if you can only afford one bag, get one that goes down the minimum temperature you think you will encounter then zip yourself in or out as necessary--- WARNING this advice is not UL and i might be asked to leave this site

Greg Vaillancourt
(GSV45) - F

Locale: Utah
Warmth, Comfort and NO BS on 03/27/2007 19:04:06 MDT Print View

I have the hooded version of the Aspen MF. You will find it to be easily capable of exceeding the rating.

Compare this to the total BS ratings on may bags. Lets just pick on Kelty* as an example. If Kelty claims 15 degrees add 20 degrees in your head and consider their bag a 35 degree sack.

* Picking on Kelty because I bought 2 of their bags years ago and found the 20 degree overstatement to hold true.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
get the best you can afford on 03/27/2007 19:24:04 MDT Print View

I have a synthetic bag - heavy and wanted to try a cheap down bag. Did no research. Just looked for and found a bargain. Would have been better to wait and save and get a good quality bag. I'm shopping for a better bag now.

Yet another case of a poorly spent Ben Franklin. I'm sure I could stay plenty warm if I could stuff a sleeping bag with all the cash I've spent unwisely. But I have begun to see the light, thanks to all of the wizards at BLP.

Edited by gmatthews on 03/27/2007 19:24:53 MDT.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
re:What makes a sleeping bag worth big $ on 03/27/2007 19:26:11 MDT Print View

I agree with Eric, you should consider your bag as part of your sleep system which can include some or all the following; tent footprint, tent, sleeping pad, bivy sack, bag, liner, and the insulating clothing you are wearing. Each item adds insulation by reducing conduction convection and/or net radiation.
Something like a 1 lb Western Mountaineering, Feathered Friends, or Montbell bag with 2" of loft, and a set of Patagonia Micro Puffs or Montbell Thermawraps is a very warm setup. How warm depends on your metabolism.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
without experience it's hard to figure it all out on 03/27/2007 19:46:33 MDT Print View

I wish there was an integrated gear guide. A tree diagram maybe. e.g., A given pack that will carry 20 lb. Then a branch to Tent and to Tarp/Bivy. Then branches to reg bags, top bags, quilts. And branches to sleeping pads.

For the big four, I really messed up when I haphazardly bought my first and 2nd rounds of gear. For lightweight 3 season coming up, this time I'm starting with pack. Then I'm going to shelter. then finally bag/quilt and pad.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: without experience it's hard to figure it all out on 03/27/2007 19:57:30 MDT Print View

>For lightweight 3 season coming up, this time I'm starting with pack. Then I'm going to shelter. then finally bag/quilt and pad.

You might want to do that in the opposite order: get your pack last. You might find after you've settled into your lightweight gear that you could have bought a smaller pack, and maybe you don't need a transport quite as beefy as you thought. I bought my pack last, and it weighed a full pound less than the pack I originally thought I needed.

Edited by Otter on 03/27/2007 20:03:39 MDT.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
What makes a sleeping bag worth big $ on 03/27/2007 20:24:35 MDT Print View

George, I also messed up, as per your comment;

"For the big four.. I haphazardly bought my first and 2nd rounds of gear.. this time I'm starting with pack. Then I'm going to shelter. then finally bag/quilt and pad."

And I ended up returning or just keeping a few sleeping bags which were too heavy or inappropriate. In the end, it wasn't the most expensive bag which was worth the $ (the original subject of this thread), it was a balance of comfort, space, weight, and cost.

..however, to digress and risk hijaking this thread for a moment, I agree with the previous poster, buy the systems (including sleep system) you need to fulfil your set of requirements, THEN buy the pack(s) sized appropriately to hold it all.

For any readers looking for a way to compartmentalize their purchases, the book 'Mountaineering'*, gives these 10 essential 'systems', which I have (slightly modified) without changing the order:
1. Navigation
2. Sun protection
3. Insulation
4. Illumination(and signalling)
5. First-aid
6. Fire making
7. Repair kit and tools
8. Nutrition(and cooking)
9. Hydration(and H2O treatment)
10. Shelter(and shells)

For now, I have settled on a few packs, depending on the size of those system components. The size of the appropriate sleeping system as per this thread, is a big factor in choice of pack volume..
20 liter range: Montbell Versalite20, 340g
40 liter range: Golite Dawn, 392g
60 liter range: Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian, 1600g
Canyoneering: Outdoor Research DryComp Summit Sack, 346g

*ISBN-13: 978-0898868289

Pamela Wyant
(RiverRunner) - F - M
In a word... on 03/28/2007 00:17:11 MDT Print View


Same reason a filet mignon costs more than a round steak.

Eric Falk
(zerolimit) - F
all around bag on 03/28/2007 12:30:48 MDT Print View

Yes, looking for an all in one bag if it's possible. Obviously a newbie but planning on hiking a piece of the appalachian trail this september(prob. NY, section) and then continuing on for years to come. Big dreams so looking to conquer alot of well known areas but I know I'll learn as I go but just trying to start out right with high quality gear. Big camper, but now getting in to the packing. I bought a black diamond lighthouse tent and granite gear vapor trail bag. I have a thermarest prolite 4 for my pad. Now looking at stoves and a bag. Was going on the recommendation of get a 20-30deg. bag if you're buying just one. Was also looking at this bag because it opens up and can be used as a comforter if needed on hot nights. And, I can definitely use it on higher peaks and colder nights. Again, thank you very much for the input. Appreciate all the help I can get.

Eric Falk
(zerolimit) - F
another question on 03/28/2007 12:33:00 MDT Print View

What's your thoughts on getting a 40deg bag and buying a sleep liner for extra warmth. Thanks, Eric

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: another question on 03/28/2007 12:56:04 MDT Print View

Eric, I've never used a bag liner so take this for what it is worth. I've never felt the need for a bag liner because it's a single use item. I can achieve the same functionality as a liner with the clothing I carry, and have all the versatility that affords. Some users of bag liners have posted that they've become tangled in them during the night. The one advantage that a bag liner might have, is that it might keep your bag a little cleaner. However, my clothes have kept my bag and quilt quite clean in practice.

A high quality 40°F down bag with the right clothing and pad should be adequate for most 3 season use. I would lean toward a 30°F bag if the bag is lower quality, you choose a synthetic bag, or you sleep cold. Choosing a bag is a very personal thing, it depends on your metabolism and what is driving it at the time. I'm sure you know this already, but insulation only preserves the heat you are generating.

Edited by ericnoble on 03/28/2007 13:12:20 MDT.

Caleb Wininger
(caleb_sandler) - F

Locale: Michigan
Re: another question on 03/28/2007 13:49:38 MDT Print View

i have a coolmax liner and it adds almost no warmth. it claims to add up to 9 degrees F. i have read a lot of other comments at BPL that agree with my conclusion: claims that liners make about increased temp rating are gross exagerations at the very best. i would skip it and spend the extra $ on clothing you can sleep in or a better bag.