Jul 30, 2014 at 6:05 am #1319409
I'm looking at buying a new winter bag sometime this summer/fall and I'm in need of a little help. Given that not all manufacturers are using EN ratings I'm finding it a bit hard to make real comparisons between them I'm looking at bags rated at 0 or below. I wish I could look at WM or FF but they are in sleeping on the couch in my new sleeping bag until the end of time territory. It seems as though there is a huge disparity in fill quantities for bags with roughly the same fill quality. For example the the Big Agnes Pomer Hoit uses only 24.5 oz of fill where bags from Marmot and Brooks Range have 31 oz. Am I missing something or am I getting a much warmer bag for the price buying the Brooks Range over the Big Agnes?
The Big Agnes doesn't appear to be the only anomaly either, the EMS Mountain Light uses 26ozn and Montbell' Down Hugger uses 24oz. I just want to make sure that when it gets down into the single digits I can still be comfortable. I need to keep the price on the low side of $500.Jul 30, 2014 at 6:18 am #2123356
Ken T.BPL Member
I would rather get an non EN rated quality bag than a heavier, less quality, rated bag like one from Big Agnes. I have had a few of their bags. Don't anymore. Still have my WM.
This is one of Eric's favorite topics. Hopefully he'll come around.
I don't see anything about EN ratings at Brook Range either. They don't even say what kind of shell fabric they use or mention DWR of anything. Nor does BA.
Are you a cold sleeper?
Where are you planning on using it?Jul 30, 2014 at 6:39 am #2123358
Richard FischelBPL Member
if you are looking for a bag to take you down into the 0* to 5*f range, you can find a lightly used and with some searching even a new western mountain antelope for sub $500. right now moontrail has them for $535 – http://www.moontrail.com/western-mountaineering-antelope-mf-reg.php . i've had no problem pushing an antelope sub-0*f, but ymmv.Jul 30, 2014 at 6:53 am #2123360
Get a WM or FF along with a hammock so that you won't have to sleep on the couch! :)
Big Agnes bags don't have insulation on the bottom.
I like my 600 fp Marmot Never Summer 0F. It's almost 4 lbs, but it's one of those things you have to decide how to pay: money vs. labor (trail weight).
My non-EN-rated Montbell Super Spiral #3 is great, but it's just barely a 30F bag.Jul 30, 2014 at 6:59 am #2123362
Brad RogersBPL Member
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
I don't think they do EN ratings for bags 0*f and below.
I have a mountain Hardwear phantom 0 (from ~2007) that I like, but I would go with a western mountaineering antelope with overfill if I was buying today. The marmot couloir is a trusted bag as well.Jul 30, 2014 at 7:04 am #2123363
@pastyj-2-2Locale: SE US
I second everyone's advice on getting a high-quality bag like WM or FF. I have had a WM Megalight (30*) for 9 years and it works identically to the day it arrived. A quality bag will last you "forever" if you take care of it.
Nice thing about WM is that the horizontal baffles allow the down to be shifted from bottom to top on those really cold nights. With all down moved to the top, I have slept warm (wearing all my base layers and insulation layers) down to 10*. Works the other way too…with most of the down moved to the bottom it can work well in the lower 60's, although at those temps I just use it as a quilt.Jul 30, 2014 at 7:20 am #2123368
@mczeemanLocale: Canadian Prairies
>>Dave: "Big Agnes bags don't have insulation on the bottom."
Take note that this is true for their System Bags, which covers most of their collection. BA's Traditional Bags have insulation on the bottom.Jul 30, 2014 at 7:57 am #2123377
Sumi WadaBPL Member
@detroittigerfanLocale: Ann Arbor
EN-ratings are helpful but not the end-all, IMO. In the end, I think understanding bag specs is key. I think it's a good exercise to go to a brick-and-mortar shop to "try on" bags for size. I've found that having a bag that fits makes a difference in its warmth, which is that much more critical in a winter bag. You may also have to weigh the balance between a roomy bag (comfort) vs a slim-fitting bag (efficiency and warmth.)
We tend to fixate on the fill-counts but, when you do the math, a bag's dimensions (i.e. volume) is usually just as significant as the fill-count. For instance, the difference between 750-fill and 800-fill is 50 cubic inches of loft per ounce of fill. So, in a bag with 25oz of fill, the difference is 1,250 cubic inches. On the other hand, for a bag with 6" of loft, every inch of girth (bag width) is about 470 cubic inches (6.5' length x 6" loft x 1"). So a difference of just a couple of inches in the width of the bag will quickly add up to more than the fill-count difference above.
Use the Western Mountaineering spec chart as a guide to get a feel for fill amounts + loft + dimensions. It will help you judge other bags based on their specs.
http://www.westernmountaineering.com/index.cfm?section=products&page=Sleeping%20Bags&ContentId=27Jul 30, 2014 at 8:25 am #2123382
James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Yes, high quality bags will do better at 0-10F than lower quality fills. 800-900 FP down will save a bit of weight over 500-600 FP down, but in winter conditions, weight is not real important. Typical weights are 4 pounds for winter boots that stay good and dry. Larger pots that are suitable to melting snow or ice. High output stoves. Fully enclosed 2 skin tents that trap what heat you can generate at about 4-5 pounds. A couple foam pads or insulated inflatable. Larger and heavier packs. And so on. The same techniques apply to colder temps, too…say down to -30 or so. You look for durable, abrasion resistant gear that can take a bit of ice/snow, keep you warm and let you be comfortable. Look at the MontBell "Hugger" series. They do a fair job and are fairly durable, too.
Typically, the more fill of equal fill power, the warmer the bag. Loft usually says this. Generally you will need about 7"-7.5" loft to give you a comfortable nights sleep at 0-10F, or "single digits". Generally, I would want about 8", but I have diabetes and sleep a bit cold. Or, some overfil in a 0F bag. WM, FF, are good. But probably more than you want to spend. The Montbell bags at 800FP fit the bill pretty well. Mine is old, and well used. It is still going strong after ten years…Jul 30, 2014 at 8:37 am #2123387
My usage will be a late shoulder season bag in the Rockies. If I really feel like it will get colder than that, I'll plan on layering a quilt or something with the bag. It rarely gets below zero when/where I'm planning.
I sleep somewhat neutral except for my feet. They get cold easily on a long cold night. (I'll probably be getting/making some insulated booties soon to remedy that.)
I think Sumi might been getting close to the crux of my question in the relationship between bag shape, fill quantity, and loft. I just found it hard to believe that two bags with the same temp rating and similar fill power could differ in fill levels by as much as 7oz. I mean that's about 5600 cubic inches of down!
BTW Ken, according to Campsaver the Brooks Range bag uses Pertex Quantum and it uses 900 fill down. Not too shabby on paper.
(Also I do certainly appreciate the suggestions of WM or FF, but my $500 cap is really a $400 cap. I just know that if I use the military discount at campsaver or wait patiently for others I can get a 20% discount on a $500 bag that puts it in my budget.)Jul 30, 2014 at 8:46 am #2123391
Robb WattsBPL Member
@rwattsLocale: Western PA
I have an EMS Mountain Light 0 degree bag and a WM Versalite (10 degree bag). The Versalite has more loft and is noticeably warmer than the EMS. Plus the Versalite is substantially lighter. A buddy of mine has a WM Kodiak (5 degree bag?) that looks like it has someone in it even when it's not being used. You can't go wrong with a Western Mountaineering bag. Check out Hermit's Hut; they have WM bags on sale plus they have free overfill.
For evaluation purposes, I regularly use the Versalite with a bivy (Borah gear) under a flat tarp down to the low teens without much problem at all (occasionally need to wear my puffy to bed – like when I'm tired or it's really shitty out). Note that I'm a warm sleeper.Jul 30, 2014 at 9:03 am #2123399
jeffrey armbrusterBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
I bought a Brooks Range down jacket with Pertex quantum on sale last fall. I'm really impressed with how the Pertex material keeps the jacket from leaking down. Much, much better than any other down bag or jacket that I've had. AND I use this jacket as a pillow while I'm hiking, so I stress it pretty well. My jacket is 900 fill; very nice. good quality all around.
I've never used their bags. I like my Marmot Helium but it leaks down badly.Jul 30, 2014 at 11:02 am #2123430
jimmy bBPL Member
After having a very informative conversation with the good folks at WM a while ago I came away understanding that loft is king in determining warmth. After all it is not the bag that is generating the heat. When you understand that the loft or air space with the insulation is trapping your body heat you also understand that the thickness of that insulation is key to slowing the bleeding off of that heat. Like fiberglass house insulation the thicker the barrier trapping and holding the heat the higher the R rating. You will also note that all but the most reputable makers exclude loft in their specs.
After returning two new EMS 15 deg down mountain light bags that were woefully overrated I purchased a WM Versalite. Comparing the two the EMS bag looked like a flat tire as far as loft. I even went to the extent of emailing the folks that test the EMS bags and it is much the same as the EN rating testing. I personally don't put much faith in EN ratings either. As far as the Versalite, it explodes out of a stuff sack and when you move the fill to the top of the bag via the continuous baffles it looks like the Michelin man :)
Keep in mind regardless any hype or fancy shmancy BS marketing you still get what you pay for in the real world. I'm certainly no expert on SB's but I dang well know a warm one when I sleep in it. I would take the advise of others here on getting a proven bag with a good long standing reputation. I believe WM is one of those.
PS. yeah the good stuff costs an arm and a leg but hypothermia can be a real buzz kill :(Jul 30, 2014 at 11:41 am #2123445
@owenmLocale: SE US
"After having a very informative conversation with the good folks at WM a while ago I came away understanding that loft king in determining warmth."
Which would make a lot more sense if the loft per temp rating was consistent between their bags.
Having experience with some EN rated bags really does come in handy for comparing specs for quilts, and uncertified bags, though.
Takes out a lot of the guess work when you know firsthand how your personal comfort while using your own pad and sleepwear relates to EN ratings.Jul 30, 2014 at 2:40 pm #2123496
Dena KelleyBPL Member
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
I would seek out the high quality bag like WM or FF *used*. I've purchased two WM bags used, a Versalite and a Puma and I got good buys on both. One bag was fine as is when it came in, the other required a downwash and fluff.
It's not just warmth that makes the high quality bags better. They feel flat out luxurious to get inside of and they are often designed with certain comforts in mind. As an example, I have an inexpensive Kelty Women's Cosmic Down bag. My primary reason for replacing it was that the footbox was so tight that it crushed my toes when I lay on my back. The WM bag has a much roomier footbox and I never feel crammed into it. That makes a huge difference in my sleep quality.Aug 1, 2014 at 12:58 pm #2123994
Have a look at PHD
You can customise a bag that's already in their line up or make your own bag to suit.
Been using PHD bags for years and it's a great product from a great company.Aug 2, 2014 at 5:53 pm #2124206
Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
A recent issue of Backpacker magazine compared down bags with DWR treated down. Dri-Down and Down Tech were the two DWR treatments tested/reviewed.
The findings showed that these bags actually dried much faster than 100% synthetic bags!
I believeeve the Sierra Designs bag was winner due to fabric breathability and higher quality down.
"Suposably" (to quote Joey from Friends) down DWR treatments give down even more loft. This could also be that DWR treated down merely retains its loft far longer when body moisture, etc. dampens it.
Anyhhoo, I believe the findings in this article as they came from many days of field tests of five or six bags. (Plus they confirm my own suspicions about the inherent goodness of DWR treated down.) Seguro this kind of down bag will be my next winter bag.
P.S. Other BPL owners of DRW treated down bags please speak up.Aug 2, 2014 at 8:31 pm #2124237
It seems like I have 4 maybe 5 real options I've compared and contrasted them six ways to Sunday but I think My preference is the Marmot Lithium It's not the lightest but it seems to check pretty much every other box. Outdoor Gear Lab said it was one of the warmest bags they tested in its class when they reviewed the older Membrain version. I'll just have to wait for a magical 20% coupon or for it to be in stock at Campsaver.
Let me know if I've missed anything on my chart below. The temp ratings with a ? are because the manufacturer doesn't list any EN ratings(I understand, EN ratings aren't gospel truth, but you have to compare somehow) Also interesting that Marmot is the only company I can afford to buy from that listed a loft value. I also found in interesting that neither of the Gold Standard bags (FF and WM) were available in a DWR down. My guess is because it would shoot their prices from high to astronomical. The First Ascent bag is probably not in the running at all based on numerous review that say the reg length bag is long enough that a 6' person still has room for their boots at the bottom. That and they provide no real info on about the bag.
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