Sleeping bag advice
Jan 29, 2019 at 8:37 am #3575631
Hello forum, I’m looking for some advice and opinions as to which bag to buy. I’ve been steadily upgrading equipment and dropping my base weight, and now it’s time for a new sleeping bag. My old Moonstone 20˚ bag from the 90’s weighs a staggering 49oz with the stuff sack. I’ve narrowed it down to a Western Mountaineering bag, either a Summerlite overstuffed by 2oz (21oz total), or an Alpinlite (31oz). Most of my trips are in the Sierras, late spring thru late fall. The Summerlite seems like an obvious choice, and $35 worth of overstuffing adds 5˚ to the rating, making it a 27˚ bag. The Alpinlite is 31oz, compared to 29oz for the Ultralite, so for a 2oz penalty I get an extra 6″ of girth.
I’m 6’0″ 195#, and i hear the WM bags can be a little snug… can anyone confirm or deny this? This made me consider the Alpinlite.
Also, it’s difficult for me to mentally compare the warmth I’d get from a new bag vs my old faithful-but-heavy Moonstone that has close to 100 trips on it. Can anyone testify to the warmth factor of the WM Summerlite or Ultralite in the higher Sierra elevations?
I’m definitely a bag person, but if you really have some compelling advice about quilts, go ahead and let’s hear it. It just seems like for comparable warmth, the small weight savings is not worth the draft factor to me. I use a NeoAir X-Light pad, and I’m not a fitful sleeper but I do switch from side to back to side throughout the night.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts,
PaulJan 29, 2019 at 9:15 am #3575632Franco DarioliSpectator
@francoLocale: Gauche, CU.Jan 29, 2019 at 10:35 am #3575635Geoff CaplanBPL Member
@geoffcaplanLocale: Lake District, Cumbria
An interesting alternative is the Montbell Down Hugger series. They use an innovative cut to provide more freedom of movement without sacrificing performance. A bag that attracts some enthusiastic reviews.
Feathered Friends have some interesting designs like the Flicker, a quilt/bag hybrid.
Finally (especially if you’re in Europe) check out PHD, where you can specify a custom bag in exquisite detail: https://www.phdesigns.co.uk/design-your-own-sleeping-bagJan 29, 2019 at 1:30 pm #3575646Alex HBPL Member
@abhittLocale: southern appalachians or desert SW
I am your size and have both a Highlite and an Ultralite and they are narrow bags but I have been using narrow bags for years and I am very used to them. The Megalite suggestion is a good one too. Yes they are very warm, conservative in their temp ratings. I have had the Highlite down to 20 (took some work to stay warm) and the Ultralite down to 6.
I am with you on being a bag person. By the time you add a hood/down hat the weight savings are mostly gone and I like the bag moving with me not around me.Jan 29, 2019 at 2:45 pm #3575648James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Well bags make a lot of sense in colder temps. They eliminate the drafts common to quilts. Anyway, If you look at a quilt to 20F, you can get a long/wide version at relatively lower weights than a bag. By the time you are done with a good pad system and hood, the weight is nearly the same, though.
- You don’t always need the lower range gear. At 32F, you certainly don’t need the extra features on a bag.
- Quilts are easier to ventilate, hell, they naturally ventilate through drafts. It is much easier to sleep in a 20F quit at 40F than a 20F bag at 40F.
- Hats vs Hoods are more versatile. You can use them for hiking, too. Not a lot of weight savings, but the overall savings can be a bit of a help for no extra weight.
- 20F is at my cut-off. Below that temp, I bring a bag. At or above that temp I bring a quilt. I cannot say I prefer one or the other, except the quilt seems a bit lighter.
- In an pinch, I can always open up my quilt to a blanket and wrap it around me under my rain jacket and over my down jacket. I’ve made breakfast like this as I packed up to head out. All this is with my standard UL kit when weather conditions forced me to. I sort’a felt like the Michelin-man, but hey, it works and the bears didn’t really care.
Anyway, you are getting some good advice, and, it is your choice. Choose well and you will be happy!Jan 29, 2019 at 3:48 pm #3575655Erica RBPL Member
I dislike narrow bags, I don’t like that the whole bag has to move everytime I do. Narrow bags are warmer, though, no doubt about it. Just be sure there is room for your puffy in it.
As far as warmth… I backpack the Sierras too, from July to mid September. The 30 F Z packs Xwide is warm enough with a down puffy on the colder nights. I sleep inside a drafty single wall tent.Jan 29, 2019 at 4:44 pm #3575667Diane “Piper” SoiniBPL Member
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara
You can use a bag like a quilt by simply unzipping it, so there’s no benefit really unless the quilt can be expanded flat, then it’s a real quilt and not just a bag without a zipper.Jan 29, 2019 at 6:41 pm #3575689Iago VazquezBPL Member
@iagoLocale: Boston & Galicia, Spain
My favorite bags are Montbells because of the stretch, adjustable girth. I am working on figuring out quilts. Two things I don’t like about bags: Zippers and hoods. I prefer to thermo regulate with my own headwear of choice for conditions. I find that unless I use it, it has a tendency to get in the way and is annoying often.
Zippers… I toss and turn. Hate it when I gotta get up and can’t find the zipper. Often it’s under me because I am not using the hood.
A compromise for me would be a hoodless bag with a full zipper that can be zipped on the top–or any side also. I feel the zipper would be easier for me to find as it wouldn’t move under me. Not sure why this design isn’t more common. EE, Zpacks and others make this kind of bag. A hoodless Montbell 15-20F would be a dream.Jan 29, 2019 at 7:02 pm #3575692Paul McLaughlinBPL Member
As to bag sizing and WM in particular, my own experience is limited to in – store trials, but my impression was the lighter bags were tighter than i like. I think you have to get into a particular bag to know if the sixe is right for you, so be prepared to return it if you find it too snug.
Quilts do have a weight advantage – a bit less material, no zipper – but not everyone finds them as comfortable, so you have to try a quilt to find out if you like quilts.Jan 29, 2019 at 7:17 pm #3575695Bruce TolleyBPL Member
@btolleyLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
@ Paul and the original post
My local outdoor store (now closed) carried WM bags. I confirmed by crawling into them that the lighter ones are tight fit for me at 215lb and 6′ 2″. I would suggest you get a cloth tape measure and lie in your current bag and check the shoulder and hip girth and then compare versus the internal measurements of the WM bags you are evaluating. Otherwise you risk buying a bag you do not like or you end up using it as a quilt. Your other option is to buy a standard WM configuration with no custom overfill with the option to return it without penalty.
The WM bags with more girth were heavier, and given the substantial cost of the WM investment, I went with a Marmot 30 degree hydrogen bag, before my final transition to a quilt.Jan 30, 2019 at 1:31 am #3575754
Thanks for all the great input. Somehow in my research I overlooked the WM Megalite, which now seems like the ideal bag for me. I also discovered, through reading zillions of posts on BPL, that I could buy a “stock” Megalite and have it overstuffed at a later date if I felt I needed more warmth. However, I’m thinking that the way the WM baffles are continuous, I can shift the down from top to bottom to top as temps dictate. At 24oz, it would drop 25oz, over 2 pounds, from my base weight! That’s huge!
Knowing the way I sleep, I just can’t wrap my head around using a quilt. Maybe I’ll find a cheap used 2-person quilt someday and try it out with my wife on a summer trip, but that’s a whole ‘nother bag of worms.
So for those of you who own WM bags, I’m exactly 6’0″… do you find the regular length adequate or do you recommend a long?Jan 30, 2019 at 2:36 am #3575767Franco DarioliSpectator
@francoLocale: Gauche, CU.
Mine (Ultralite and Summerlite) are the 6′ size.
At 5’8″ I don’t have all that much to spare.(160 lbs)
Looks to me that at 6′ you would touch both ends.
The Summerlite works well for me with a light puffy down jacket and pants down to around 20f.
Similar total weight to the Ultralite but I like that I don’t have to get dressed to look at the stars at midnight.
BTW, yes they do look like a quilt (with a footbox) when opened up….Jan 30, 2019 at 5:26 pm #3575844Kelly H.BPL Member
I love the bags from WM. I have 3 of them. I am 6’5″, 230. For Spring and Summer I have the Terralite, a semi-rec bag. 78 inches in length. Weight 1pound-15 ounce. Rated for 25 degrees. A great bag.Jan 31, 2019 at 9:31 pm #3576089Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
“Why not the Megalite?”
I own a Megalite and after a cool 26 F. night on the PCT at 8,000 ft. near Olancha Peak I sent it back and got it overfilled for about $45. A very good deal. I’ve since had it down to 14 F. with medium weight polyester long johns and a fleece balaclava and it was nicely warm inside my Moment DW solo tent.
So if you get this bag be SURE to have WM overfill it before shipping it to you. Remember, the Megalite as-is has no left side baffle and this is so you can shift down from the top to the bottom depending on the temperature. Once “overfilled” it looks much puffier and the down won’t shift from top to bottom. This added loft is fine for 3 season camping. On nights above 75 F. just unzip the entire bag, hook the foot end over the end of a mummy shaped mattress and use as a very comfy quilt.
The Megalite gets its “MEGA” from its greater width and this is great for adding a puffy jacket (and pants) to greatly increase the temperature range without compressing the bag’s insulation. This is what I like about the Megalite. I once wore puffy jacket and pants in +5 F. temps (in my tent) in the overstuffed Megalite and was nice and warm. In cold weather I always sleep in a light fleece balaclava. It’s also a good daytime emergency item for rotten weather.Jan 31, 2019 at 9:40 pm #3576091John VanceBPL Member
@servingkoLocale: Intermountain West
Hermits hut in California sells WM bags with a 2oz overfill (Megalite) for no extra cost.Jan 31, 2019 at 10:27 pm #3576105Monte MastersonBPL Member
@septimiusLocale: Changes Often
For sleeping out in temps as low as 20 F, you’re going to want the 19 oz of down in the Alpinlite over the 14 oz of down in the stuffed Megalite. I have the Alpinlite and it is true to its 20 F rating (unlike most other manufacturers). The 64″ shoulder girth is worth it for guys who wear a large size shirt or above. The Alpinlite is supreme.
As others have stated. Montbell bags are very good too. I’m 5′ 10″ 200 lbs and the Montbell # 3 fits me like a glove.
I know there are many here on BPL who use quilts in cold temps and love it, and I get that. But for me I only like quilts in warmer temps.Jan 31, 2019 at 10:29 pm #3576107Kelly H.BPL Member
I just ordered a bigger WM bag from Hermit’s Hut, over the phone. Indeed they provided a free overfill on the bag I ordered. I guess they have some special deal with the folks at WM, where they provide Hermit’s Hut with free overfill. It’s a deal that’s hard to turn down.Feb 1, 2019 at 1:19 am #3576143Rob PBPL Member
I’m exactly 6 feet tall as well, and in the bags you are considering (Megalite, Alpinlite) I would get a long. I have tried quite a few of their bags (and own 3 of them) and I’m a long in all of their mummy shaped bags. I can fit into 6 ft bags with a more rectangular footbox, such as the Sequoia and the Alder, but interestingly enough, not the Terralite.
Once you get ready to order you can always order several different bags and send back the one’s that don’t fit the way you like….you’ll have to pay for return shipping but you get to compare the bags side by side in the comfort of your home.Feb 1, 2019 at 5:19 am #3576173
Great tip on Hermit’s Hut, thank you John Vance! And thanks to everyone else for all the great advice. My suspicions that I require a long are definitely affirmed. I think I’ve settled on the Megalite with an overfill. Also thinking of a short Summerlite for my 5’2″ wife now, since she mostly only goes with me in good weather. :)Feb 1, 2019 at 6:40 pm #3576246Hydro ManBPL Member
I’ve got 4 WM bags I’ve collected over the past 20+ years, including a summerlight and an ultralight (the next step up in warmth). You have described wanting a one stop bag that gets you into late fall in the sierra. This is a tough call. If minimal weight at the sacrifice of some comfort in the shoulder season trips is your thing, summerlight with overstuff might be ok. If you want to be comfortable in all portions of your hiking season, go with the ultralight, or it’s larger version, the alpinelite. The summerlight is definitely not enough bag for late fall in the sierra but with overstuff you might be OK, but likely still a bit chilly on the cold nights. No draft collar on the summerlight which can be very helpful on cold nights.
And yes, they do run snug.Feb 4, 2019 at 9:47 pm #3576749Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
That’s a good deal getting an overstuffed Megalite for the regular price. I think you now have a good “3 1/2 season” bag. WM’s quality is just outstanding. My bag looks new 6 years after I bought it and it has seen use from 80 F. nights (as a quilt) to +5 F. nights.
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