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Thread: cold weather sleeping bag/system

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    Default cold weather sleeping bag/system

    I am looking for advice on a good warm packable sleeping bag. I own both a mummy packable and a Cabelas rectangular sleeping bags. the Cabelas bag is moderately warm but still not near what its supposedly rated to and is large and heavy once rolled up. the mummy style bag with synthetic fill is nice and light but not any ways warm as it say -40 Celsius lucky if I am comfortable at -10. Any input greatly appreciated.

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    Use the two together. Not sure what 'packable' means to you though.
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    Most of those temp rating are bunk. Ther is "Sleep Comfort" rating on some bags or an "EN" rating that is more accurate. I know REI uses the EN rating system as well as the traditional rating system for comparison. All that said, I think you'll find (and someone correct me if I'm out of turn on this, though I doubt I am) that most Alaskans, especially hunters, praise the Wiggy's Sleeping bags. I know I'm buying one for next season myself.

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    Wiggy's are definitely the gold standard, but again the question becomes what does packable mean to you. Big differences between packing for a boat, airplane, backpack, etc.
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    I think you already have what you need in sleeping bags. What you need to do is to learn how to get and stay warm at -20 below that way if the temperature drops you are prepared.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Troy Hamon View Post
    Use the two together. Not sure what 'packable' means to you though.
    Back packable is what I am looking for. The cabelas bag is 36 inch wide when packed and weighs about 12 lbs to heavy for what I want.

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    Quote Originally Posted by elkaddict View Post
    Back packable is what I am looking for. The cabelas bag is 36 inch wide when packed and weighs about 12 lbs to heavy for what I want.
    I admit, I have never slept outside that cold, but I use a goretex bivy sack (mil surplus) with a 20 degree bag and I have slept outside at 0 and was comfortable. I did buy a zero degree bag, but it was to bulky for me. So I went with the lighter 20 degree with the bivy. I also like to use the bivy sack with a poncho liner and used that set up during moose season. Coldest it go then was 30 and I was fine.

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    I have slept out a number of times in the -10 to -20 range. I use a Slumberjack mummy bag rated to -20. I have to wear a lot of clothes but I have them on anyway so I just don't take them off. The bag is pretty bulky and pretty heavy, maybe 8 lbs. I have it because it is only 80 bucks. If you want the lightweight stuff, I have no experience with down so can't really help.

    My one word of caution is just to remind you that being almost warm enough can be a bitter and awful situation in winter. Especially when it is really cold, the temperature can vary greatly and cold pockets 10 or 20 degrees colder than everything else can settle into small areas. Whatever your intended adventure, if you are planning on camping in really cold conditions, you are likely in the snow...in which case you might want to pack a sled more so than carrying stuff on your back. And whatever you do, make sure if you need a full -40 you have it.

    As for the disappointment of your -40 bag...no non-mummy style bag can really do temps like that with your head sticking out...
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    Western Mountaineering Bags are good for their rating as are Feathered Friends....these are the best (warmest) down mummy bags you can buy. The old school Wiggys and the like....don't cut it for numerous reasons.... The -30 Western Mountaineering bag I bought is warmer than the -40 Marmot Bag I have.

  10. #10

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    Go to the wiggy's store, on Old Seward I believe, and check out their materials. Then Add a gortex bivy sack. Wiggy's second to none! I have had mine for over 15 years. -60 below. Killer zippers never break and seals are the best. Can't go wrong. Spendy but I haven't needed a new bag for 15 years!


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    You also need to factor in a sleeping pad to keep the ground from sucking away the warmth. I have had a few experiences without my sleeping pad and regretted it.
    Even a -40 deg bag can be cold when laid over a tent floor/tarp/bivy at 32 ish degrees.

    Sobie2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sobie2 View Post
    You also need to factor in a sleeping pad to keep the ground from sucking away the warmth. I have had a few experiences without my sleeping pad and regretted it.
    Even a -40 deg bag can be cold when laid over a tent floor/tarp/bivy at 32 ish degrees.

    Sobie2
    Absolutely true. No sleeping system in winter can work without an insulating pad. And the insulation in that pad needs to be pretty good...
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    I hate mummies but Troy is spot on, I have one of those cabela's rectangular bags as well and they are very comfortable, but the heat loss around your shoulders is more than distracting at anything below 30 degrees F.

    When I've been silly enough to camp when it's that cold, I try to go to bed warm (fire, excercise etc.) put on dry underlayers in the bag, have a good fleece hat for your head and ideally a balaclava or some kind of neck gaitor. A cold breeze on either my head or neck negates anything below the shoulders being toasty. I have a north face down mummy with a cocoon liner. Has been adequate to -20 F.....but it's still far from fun.

    Also, don't underestimate the temp robbing properties of booze. Made that mistake once, not to mention any extra bathroom calls in the middle of hte night become nearly life threatening

    If you have the option, green conifer bows placed under the tent offers a nice layer as well, you need a good tarp so you don't pinhole your tent tub but it really helps if you can do it.

  14. #14

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    Yes, serious and $$$ down (WM and FF, both used by mountaineering types), a bivvy sac, and a good pad are essential. Note, though, that you really have to manage condensation with bivvies. DO NOT BREATHE into your bag or you will awake to find a frost layer all over the inside of the bivvy, and, if you really overdid it, inside the sleeping bag insulation, too. It is extremely hard to get rid of ice crystals in your down bag when you can't warm it up above freezing. Do not wear wet clothes, even socks, inside your bag setup. Keep a set of dry socks for this purpose, especially if you are using vapor barriers in your boots.

    Putting a water bottle or thermos (non-leaking!) with HOT water inside your bag will also help, at least for a few hours, and with luck you'll have drinkable liquid in the morning. It is easy to get dehydrated when it's cold and thick blood makes you feel colder.

    You probably already know that certain spots are much colder -- toe of slope, creek beds, etc. Set up camp higher if possible -- it may be 10-20 F warmer there.

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    Having been an "arctic soldier" for many years, I highly recommend staying away from anything except mummy bags. Goose down is great for keeping you warm but I'd look at synthetic bags if there is any risk at all of getting your bag damp. Get yourself a US GI poncho liner, affectionately called a woobie by GIs, and use it inside of your mummy bag. A poncho liner doesn't weigh much and adds insulative value as well as sealing any air flow and cold spots. Put on dry socks and long underwear before climbing into your sleeping bag at night. Wear a full face stocking cap even when your head is inside the bag's hood. Never allow yourself to breath down inside your sleeping bag as your respiration adds moisture inside your bag. Use a sleeping pad, NOT AN AIR MATTRESS, under your sleeping bag. You can put your outer clothing layers between your pad and sleeping bag to provide additional insulation under you as well as keeping it a little warmer to put on come morning. You can use some mid-layer clothing wrapped around your feet inside your bag to keep your feet warmer. A pocket hand warmer down in the foot of your sleeping bag is nice for foot warmth too. If you have a good leak-proof canteen or water bottle, fill it with hot water before bedtime, wrap it in a cloth and put it down in your crotch inside the sleeping bag. The hot water will transfer warmth through your femoral arteries to the rest of your body. The others have given you some good tips on selecting a proper sleeping bag.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Muskeg_Stomper View Post
    Having been an "arctic soldier" for many years, I highly recommend staying away from anything except mummy bags. Goose down is great for keeping you warm but I'd look at synthetic bags if there is any risk at all of getting your bag damp. Get yourself a US GI poncho liner, affectionately called a woobie by GIs, and use it inside of your mummy bag. A poncho liner doesn't weigh much and adds insulative value as well as sealing any air flow and cold spots. Put on dry socks and long underwear before climbing into your sleeping bag at night. Wear a full face stocking cap even when your head is inside the bag's hood. Never allow yourself to breath down inside your sleeping bag as your respiration adds moisture inside your bag. Use a sleeping pad, NOT AN AIR MATTRESS, under your sleeping bag. You can put your outer clothing layers between your pad and sleeping bag to provide additional insulation under you as well as keeping it a little warmer to put on come morning. You can use some mid-layer clothing wrapped around your feet inside your bag to keep your feet warmer. A pocket hand warmer down in the foot of your sleeping bag is nice for foot warmth too. If you have a good leak-proof canteen or water bottle, fill it with hot water before bedtime, wrap it in a cloth and put it down in your crotch inside the sleeping bag. The hot water will transfer warmth through your femoral arteries to the rest of your body. The others have given you some good tips on selecting a proper sleeping bag.
    Curious, how good is the military sleeping system? I bought one this fall for this winter. I have only used the patrol bag and the goretex with my poncho liner (but it has been almost 20 years since that time).

    But as a whole???

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    I honestly can't answer the question about the current military sleeping bag system as it was adopted about when I retired. The old Extreme Cold bag was spacious and warm but bulky and heavy to carry. I also used the old Mountain Bag/Arctic Bag/Cotton Cover system which was warm but likewise very bulky and heavy. For the last few years of my career, I used a commercial Trekker -35 bag from Cabelas with a poncho liner inside. I bought both of my sons quality commercial bags when they were Boy Scouts and did some cold weather camping. I've heard nothing but good things about Wiggy's bags and Mountain Hardware made some decent and fairly inexpensive bags. I still have old school military bags as well as my old Trekker bag and I've never had to replace them.

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    The Exped down mat is a good sleeping pad for cold weather.
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    Thanks for sharing that tip about the water bottle and femoral arteries, Muskeg. I doubt I would have ever known it, otherwise.

    Ona side note, I spoke to a couple of Scoutmasters out in Eagle River recently, and they said Wiggy's puts their bags on sale every Spetember. (I can't recall if that is a sale for Scouting groups only, or for everyone at large.) Just something to think about.

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    For cold weather camping, the only two bags I've found with a remotely accurate temp rating are a Wiggy's and a Western Mountaineering.

    For deep, dry cold- down is just hard to beat but it is expensive and needs some TLC with regard to moisture.
    My Wiggy's is a lot more forgiving but it packs down like an angry bear.

    For that kind of camping- forget backpacking, you can load a ski pulk and stay comfortable. Heck my AO pipeline, stove and Wiggy's would do nicely far colder than I'd ever think of camping and there's no way I'd pack it on my back but it pulls easy on a pulk.
    "I do not deal in hypotheticals. The world, as it is, is vexing enough..." Col. Stonehill, True Grit

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