Apr 28, 2011 at 12:02 am #1272978
@mikehenryLocale: Pacific Northwest
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.Apr 28, 2011 at 12:22 am #1730386
Chris MorganBPL Member
@chrismorganLocale: Southern Oregon
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.Apr 28, 2011 at 6:12 am #1730417
@matthewbrownLocale: Blue Ridge Mtns
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.Apr 28, 2011 at 7:30 am #1730437
Elizabeth CampBPL Member
@scamp_80Locale: Portland, Oregon
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.Apr 28, 2011 at 8:26 am #1730454
eric chanBPL Member
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-testedApr 28, 2011 at 11:39 am #1730551
@mikehenryLocale: Pacific Northwest
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.Apr 28, 2011 at 11:54 am #1730556
eric chanBPL Member
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 winterApr 28, 2011 at 12:03 pm #1730561
Chris MorganBPL Member
@chrismorganLocale: Southern Oregon
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?Apr 28, 2011 at 12:20 pm #1730563
@aaronmbLocale: Central Valley California
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.Apr 28, 2011 at 12:35 pm #1730571
@tomlikeLocale: Pacific Wonderland
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 AlpinliteApr 28, 2011 at 12:43 pm #1730573
Mary DBPL Member
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
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.Apr 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm #1730577
Steven ParisBPL Member
@saparisorLocale: Pacific Northwest
Next Adventure (at the corner of Grand + Stark) also carries Montbell bags.Apr 28, 2011 at 1:02 pm #1730581
Evan McCarthyBPL Member
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.Apr 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm #1730644
Tom KirchnerBPL Member
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"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.Apr 28, 2011 at 11:33 pm #1730794
@dirk9827Locale: Pacific Northwest
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 Cascades…to 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.Apr 29, 2011 at 7:08 am #1730845
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.Apr 29, 2011 at 8:08 am #1730868
Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
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.Apr 29, 2011 at 8:36 am #1730880
Tony WongBPL Member
@valsharLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
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.
-TonyApr 29, 2011 at 10:30 am #1730924
> 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…Apr 29, 2011 at 10:51 am #1730936
Tony WongBPL Member
@valsharLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
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 pad….so if I got one, I would not benefit from the design to attach the Katabatic quilt to a pad.
-TonyApr 29, 2011 at 11:41 am #1730967
John VanceBPL Member
@servingkoLocale: Intermountain West
I have a Sawatch and just got a Palisade in the mail yesterday. I don't use the cords attached to the pad and haven't had any draft issues. I do use some light bungee cord in the tabs which keeps everything together as I toss and turn all night.
I also have a 24" wide pad that contributes to lessening the drafts somewhat but the bungee cords are more responsible for the draft free results. Unless it is quite cold, I don't use the cords and just adjust the quilt as I toss and turn. I am a side sleeper with a 51" shoulder girth for reference.Apr 29, 2011 at 11:54 am #1730974
Richard FischelBPL Member
may and june in the cascades can be very cold. if you are planning to camp at any altitude in that time frame a 15* bag would be the minimum and a 5* bag could be considered. the apache is pretty flexible with the ability to shift the down from top to bottom. the big question is gore windstopper or microfiber. in the pnw i'd opt for the windstopper for the added protection against external moisture. the one minor issue with the windstopper fabric is you'll need to air the bag out more often if you’re out for a couple of day than with the microfiber. the windstopper is less breathable so it traps more internal moisture. and at your height, even if you think you don't need it, get a long.
while expensive, you will buy this bag once and have it for a lifetime.Apr 29, 2011 at 12:26 pm #1730989
> 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 didn't attach it to the pads I was using on Kilimanjaro (the porters provided the pads), instead just using the webbing straps under me. It worked fine, I was plenty warm, no matter how much I tossed and turned.Apr 29, 2011 at 12:30 pm #1730994
> may and june in the cascades can be very cold.
I've encoutered sub-freezing temperatures with gale-force winds and snow in August at around 7200 feet in the Enchantments. The weather can get pretty nasty even in the Cascades at elevation!Apr 29, 2011 at 7:53 pm #1731149
@dirk9827Locale: Pacific Northwest
It's quite amazing the variation you can get in temperatures in the Cascades – it snowed two feet on us in September then we had a week worth of lows in the single digits – then I was glad for my heavier Feathered Friends bag.
The Enchantments can get pretty windy up top – after a recent experience I chose to camp this time in the Snow Zone and just make the trip up top each day. The last time I was up there the wind pretty much pressed our tent flat and it sounded like a jet plane was going to land on us. Barely slept for three days with all the wind, and did experience the limits of a UL tent.
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