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A Bag For All Seasons
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Misha Berger
(aeropenguin) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
A Bag For All Seasons on 03/31/2013 03:33:51 MDT Print View

Sorry if this has come up before but I am driving myself nuts here and haven't found anything conclusive online.

I have a 30* sleeping bag and am trying to figure out if I can get away with using it for shoulder seasons (e.g. spring ski touring) as well and then just buy a 0* bag for winter use; or if I really need a dedicated 15* shoulder season bag, as well as a 0* bag for true winter conditions.

On one hand, Andy Skurka carried only a 0* bag and a 30* bag on his 6mo Alaska Yukon Expedition. Although, he was able largely to make up for the big change in bag warmth by hiking at higher altitudes towards the end of spring with his 0* bag (which would also allow him to take advantage of his skis more), and then immediately switch to hiking around sea level when he switched to his 30* bag for summer and fall.

Weight considerations aside, is there any reason to have more than one bag at all? The worn insulating pieces should ideally provide enough warmth for you to be stationary in the late evening and early morning (for, say, 4am alpine starts), so really the bag must only account for the difference in metabolic heat produced when awake and asleep, which is a fixed amount, independent of how cold it is! Indeed, Skurka used a different combination of 6 synthetic and down worn insulating pieces to fine tune his total insulation carried for each season.

On the other hand, insulation placed in the bag is far more thermally efficient than the same amount of insulation placed in a jacket (not to mention lighter due to less fabric necessary), for the same reason mitts are warmer than gloves. So I guess anyone who owns bags colder than 30* is either carrying too much insulation (by not wearing the jacket to sleep) or does not have enough wearable insulation to be comfortable when stationary outside at night.

Seeing as how I spend the only time I am not active in my sleeping bag, and like to hike as light as possible, the logical conclusion is that I need to get a 20* bag. And in that case a a 10* and 0* bag too. Someone please tell me I am wrong! What is a sensible spacing of sleeping bags by temperature rating, and just how much does the thickness of your puffy layer influence this?

Anna T

Locale: Victoria, Australia
Layered bags on 03/31/2013 04:48:23 MDT Print View

Hi Misha,

I'm not able to give advice on bag temperature spacing... but... I recommend you do some thread searches for bag layering. You may find that a 20 or 30 degree bag plus a synthetic over-quilt meets your needs and gives you more flexibility for less expense. That said, if you plan to be doing a lot of cold weather camping, then a specialist setup might be the better option.

Apologies, am typing on my phone so can't give a comprehensive response, but there's some great info on this technique in the BPL fora.

Yes, you should factor your puffy layer into your sleep system, but I'd say not to rely too heavily on it for more than a few degrees (Celcius). Also ensure that your puffy layer doesn't get compressed, otherwise it doesn't help you much.

Good luck!


Edited by anzt on 03/31/2013 04:56:21 MDT.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: A Bag For All Seasons on 03/31/2013 08:06:53 MDT Print View

I would not buy a 15 bag but would use the 0 degree in those temps. Use clothing, bivy, shelter, over quilt (as mentioned) to take the 30 degree bag to lower temps.

My setup:
1. RAB top bag (rated 32, optimistically)
2. WM linelite (liner down bag)
3. Golite ultralight quilt (rated 20, optimistically)

For shoulder season I like 1+ 2. For winter I use all three.