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Opinions on Winter Sleeping bags (-10F and lower)


Original Post
Jordon · · Rochester · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 198

After a cold uncomfortable night up in northern Minnesota, I've decided to swap out my cheap Walmart bag for a nice winter bag. Any suggestions? 

I get a pro rated discount on Nemo gear, so I've been considering the Canon sleeping bag. With my INEXPERIENCED.. eyes, it looks like it could have a huge comfort range (with the vents and armholes).  The sonic 0 runs very cold, so I’m assuming the -40 degree rating on the Canon is more like a -25 degree comfort level. 

There isn't much for reviews on this bag, has anyone out there ever used this thing? or have suggestions on a great starter winter bag?

NEMO Canon sleeping bag- http://www.nemoequipment.com/product/?p=Canon%20Reg

thanks!

Cameron Habib · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 0

Feathered Friends. They make some of the best bags IMO and they'll happily customize them however you want. They rate more based on comfort than survival, which is why some cheaper bags seem cold even though you're not at the lower rating yet. 

jdejace · · New England · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 5

I dig 2 way center zips for cold weather. You can just stick your hands out and do stuff in the tent while sitting upright inside your cozy bag. Not that many companies make them. I have a TNF for this feature and although I don't generally love their stuff it's pretty nice. 

Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 634

Jordon, what kind of temps are you dealing with? I use a 20 degree bag year round in combination with warm clothes as needed, but it's not exactly comfortable when it gets to zero degrees.  It is pretty light though!


The bag you linked looks awesome, but it is a -40 degree expedition bag, which will likely make it too warm for a lot of winter trips in the lower 48.  You can save a lot of weight getting a zero degree bag, and maybe be more comfortable too. A sleeping bag like that takes up a huge amount of pack space if you'll be hiking with it.  

Patrick Corry · · PA · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 75

You might want to consider a 3 season bag for most uses, with an over bag for winter.  The 2 bag system would give you flexibility for variable conditions- say, a 30 degree over bag used alone in benign conditions, with a 10 degree bag for shoulder seasons, and the combination for winter. In order to avoid compressing the loft in the inner bag, make the inner bag a regular size and the over bag a long/large.  See this: https://www.phdesigns.co.uk/?phdsid=ui3hhj560nllh6i668t4jflr17


PHD designs discusses the inner/over bag system on their site.  

Jordon · · Rochester · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 198

Thanks for the responses everyone!

Nick- So far this year it's been around -10F half the time and it wouldn't be unreasonable to see -20F part of the time, at night.

Patrick- that's not a bad idea and I had never heard of PHD before. Looks like a solid bag design they have.

Jordon · · Rochester · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 198

This is what I'm talking about....

Karl Henize · · Sierra Eastside · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 643

In my experience, Western Mountaineering makes great down sleeping bags, with good performance to weight & volume.

If you will be spending many consecutive nights in the cold, I would opt for synthetic sleeping bags, rather than down.




alpinejason · · Minneapolis · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 175
Jordon wrote:

This is what I'm talking about....

You know that's Celsius right? 

Jordon · · Rochester · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 198

Damn my company's cyber security!

No I didn't.... For some reason my company uses an Indian IP address so google assumes I want the metric system all the time. 


jdejace · · New England · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 5
Karl Henize wrote:

If you will be spending many consecutive nights in the cold, I would opt for synthetic sleeping bags, rather than down.


I like synthetic (I don't own any down jackets anymore) but for a subzero sleeping bag - even if someone were willing to carry the 6+ lbs - the packed size is the real limitation. Takes up most of your backpack. Hell, even carring a subzero down bag sucks. If you're being flown into base camp or using a pack animal, sure. 

no1nprtclr · · Front range Colorado · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 55

+1 for Western Mountaineering bags!  -24c is -11f which = needed protection.  In the past when embarking in the back country for fast and light trips I followed Mark Twight's train of thought and have gotten away with a lighter bag and used puffy pants/jacket combo.  Works if you want to go fast and light but does feel a little bulky and cramped.  I typically used that method if I was only out for 2/3 nights and I used a bivy sack instead of my Bibler I tent.  

Man that must be awesome having armature eyes, I wished I could have a pair!  I've drained a cameras battery more than twice because I went out without batteries fully charged.  Imagine using your eyes to recharge your camera batteries.  That would be AWESOME!!  No more need for a second car in case the battery goes dead either!!  Whoop whoop!! :)

Briggs Lazalde · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0
no1nprtclr wrote: 

Man that must be awesome having armature eyes, I wished I could have a pair!  I've drained a cameras battery more than twice because I went out without batteries fully charged.  Imagine using your eyes to recharge your camera batteries.  That would be AWESOME!!  No more need for a second car in case the battery goes dead either!!  Whoop whoop!! :)

I tried googling and still don't know WTF you guys are talking about..

simplyput . · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 60

Last night it was 27*F and I was toasty in my Z Pack bag with silk liner.  The bag was gifted to me so  I'm really not sure if it's  the 20* bag or the 5* bag. Either way the thing packs down small, weighs little and even after a couple months in the stuff sack lofts up very nicely.

Definitely the best bag I've ever owned.


Charles Proctor · · Somerville, MA · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 75

The only companies that use the top level down are Feathered Friends, Western Mountaineering, and Vaude (correction, I was thinking of Valandre, not Vaude). There are other bags that will work and will be a better value per dollar, but if you want the longest lasting and best warmth per weight, go with one of these three options. Additionally, these brands tend to be true to their rating more so than the big name brands. I'm a cold sleeper and have slept comfortably at 0F in my feathered friends snowbunting (a 0F rated bag).

J. Albers · · Colorado · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 1,791
Charlie Proctor wrote:

The only companies that use the top level down are Feathered Friends, Western Mountaineering, and Vaude. There are other bags that will work and will be a better value per dollar, but if you want the longest lasting and best warmth per weight, go with one of these three options. Additionally, these brands tend to be true to their rating more so than the big name brands. I'm a cold sleeper and have slept comfortably at 0F in my feathered friends snowbunting (a 0F rated bag).

^^^^ What Charlie suggests is good advice. I grew up in Wisconsin and spent many cold nights up on the north shore of Superior in MN and near Munising in the UP, so I know exactly what type of weather you are dealing with (most folks who live in the mountain west won't quite understand just what kind of cold you are talking about...New Hampshire folks will though, damn are the notches cold in the winter!!). I spent the painful amount of money to get a Western bag and it has been one of the best investments I have ever made in terms of gear. Super warm, well built, and with incredible loft that hasn't degraded in over 15 years of use.

As some others have said, don't even think about bothering with a synthetic bag. They are bulky, heavy, and the insulation breaks down with time way more quickly than is reasonable. The talk of needing synthetic insulation for consecutive nights is way overblown unless you are in a place (e.g., a super technical mtn route) where you can't or don't have the time to air your bag out for a half hour. Simply toss your bag over your car door or tent to air out while you cook breakfast and you will be totally fine with a down bag (after all, when its -10 you don't have to worry about sloppy wet conditions). Over the years my household has collected bags by Nemo, Marmot, Sea-to-Summit, Moonstone, North Face, and Western Mountaineering. They are all nice bags for sure except for the North Face bag, which is total garbage . For regular use down to zero degrees I would suggest the Sea-to-Summit (I was surprised how great their bags are). But, for a truly cold weather bag, their is no substitute for a Western bag or Feathered Friends. They are just amazing and they keep you way warmer per their temperature rating. As some others have pointed out, all manufacturers use different standards. For example, my 0 degree North Face bag is actually only okay to about 30 degrees (yes, it really is that bad...absolute junk). A Western or Feathered bag on the other hand you can expect to keep you warm to the rating and likely below because they are very conservative with their ratings.

To the question immediately below from alpinejason: 

Western and Feathered use high quality down that has better loft. You can tell somewhat by the rating (600 fill vs 850 fill), but quality means something here as well. The big difference between manufacturers is as I pointed out above about the ratings not all being the same (0 degree NF does not equal 0 degree FF or WM). Its a combo of down quality, fill rating,  amount of fill, design of the baffling system, and design of the down pocket structure. All of these things make a difference and are done in a superior manner with the "good" bags.

alpinejason · · Minneapolis · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 175
Charlie Proctor wrote:

The only companies that use the top level down are Feathered Friends, Western Mountaineering, and Vaude. There are other bags that will work and will be a better value per dollar, but if you want the longest lasting and best warmth per weight, go with one of these three options. Additionally, these brands tend to be true to their rating more so than the big name brands. I'm a cold sleeper and have slept comfortably at 0F in my feathered friends snowbunting (a 0F rated bag).

What's considered "top level"? I have little knowledge of down other than fill power. Please educate us. 

no1nprtclr · · Front range Colorado · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 55

@Briggs,

"In electrical engineering, an armature is the power-producing component of an electric machine."  From Wikipedia

Jordon · · Rochester · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 198

thank you J. Albers, by far the most helpful reply yet.

So it sounds like Feathered Friends and Western mountaineering are the tried and true brands. Good to know

But I'm curious, if anybody has used Brooks-Range Mountaineering bags, what their thoughts are? They seem to love the Drift -10F bag over on outdoor gear labs.

jg fox · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 5
Charlie Proctor wrote:

The only companies that use the top level down are Feathered Friends, Western Mountaineering, and Vaude. There are other bags that will work and will be a better value per dollar, but if you want the longest lasting and best warmth per weight, go with one of these three options. Additionally, these brands tend to be true to their rating more so than the big name brands. I'm a cold sleeper and have slept comfortably at 0F in my feathered friends snowbunting (a 0F rated bag).

I would like to add Valandre to this list.  Expensive French company, but their down products are top notch.

Daniel Hamilton · · Iron Range, MN · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 0

I live on the Range and spend about 20-30 nights a year in below zero bivouc, either for personal trips or SAR calls. I have a Marmot-40 I'm pretty happy with. Next bag will be feathered friends. Coldest I've ever stayed out was -55F. We actually abandoned the tent and dug into the snow because it was warmer.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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