Ultralight, 4-season sleeping bag recommendation

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  • #50009
    Mariner_9
    Participant

    I’m looking for a recommendation for a lightweight sleeping bag for winter camping. Temperature rating would need to be down to around -20C. I suspect there are a number of mountaineers / alpinists well positioned to make a recommendation, and I trust UA a lot more than other sites!

    The reason I’m asking is that a splitboarding objective I want to complete is only (legally) do-able by winter camping. I’m only going to attempt it if visibility is good and that will typically mean clear skies and cool overnight temps, perhaps -10 to -30C based on experience in the area (Selkirks in BC). Of course, the combination of acceptable snow stability and good vis is relatively rare, but that’s a different story.

    I’ve looked at offerings from Western Mountaineering, Feathered Friends, Mountain Hardwear, Mammut, Mountain Equipment (UK, not MEC in Canada) and Rab. So far, the best option seems to be the Rab Mythic 600 which has a measured weight of 885g and is rated to -16C. While my experience with Rab products has been decidedly mixed, it’s been OK for down.

    Does anyone have any suggestions? I’m aware of Mark Twight’s suggestion, I think in Extreme Alpinism, to sleep clothed and buy a lighter, less warm bag, which is one option to save on weight (and money).

    Thanks in advance.

Posted In: Mountaineering

  • Participant
    Rachel on #50011

    That bag looks nice BUT the limit rating is to -16C/3F. Usually if you want to be comfortable and not just survive the night you should look for a comfort rating at your expected temperature. That said, some people sleep warmer than others. I know I’ve had enough nights of barely sleeping because I was so cold that I mostly prefer to avoid that situation now.

    I have personal experience with Feathered Friends and they are amazing bags and super lofty. I would trust their temperature ratings. I’ve heard the same about Western Mountaineering over the years.

    Participant
    John S on #50035

    I bought a new bag a few years ago looking for similar temperature ratings.  Although I did consider that Rab bag, I ended up buying a Western Mountaineering Antelope MF.  WM rate it to -15 (to their standard not EN testing) although it’s a bit heavier than the RAB (1160g for the long).  I am REALLY happy with it.  I don’t think I sleep warm, but I have slept in a tent at -15 with just base layers and been super comfortable.  And the anti-snag on the zipper actually works!

    That model wasn’t available in Canada at the time, not sure about now, so the international shipping aspect may influence your decision.

    Moderator
    Scott Semple on #50065

    My current product knowledge is out of date (my sleeping bags are all in good shape and ~15 years old), but in general:

    * Sleep in your clothes so you can use a lighter bag; and
    * Try and test out a friend’s bag (in the backyard?) to see how warm you sleep.

    I’m a warm sleeper, and I always sleep in (most) of my clothes, so I have a -6C down bag that I use for almost everything and a -30C bag that I’ve never used because it’s too hot.

    Participant
    Lou-H on #50090

    I have a Nemo Disco 15 (rated -10C). Not the most super rated bag but it has features I like and weighs about 680grams. Modified mummy with some added features (vents, stuff space for ‘pillow’, )

    Consider not just the bag but also the liner, the clothes, the pad and tent or other domicile.
    Note: This is not a bag, used by it self, for VERY cold temps.

    I just finished a few nights at 16-18,000 feet in wind and -C temps. Using a thin therma-rest pad and a silk liner and sleeping with lots of clothes (but never a puffy) on the coldest nights I was almost always warm and comfortable. I am a warm sleeper.

    On ‘warmer nights’ (getting closer to 0C) I don’t use the liner and I end up removing clothes and opening vents.

    Participant
    Mariner_9 on #50315

    Thank you all for the suggestions.

    The difficulty with brands that don’t have distribution in Canada is that, while there are no import duties on products made in the US, there are hefty customs fees simply for “clearance”. These can add as much as 20% to the price of the product.

    Participant
    Rachel on #50316

    That’s frustrating, and expensive! I was thinking more about that Rab bag, and I was wondering how roomy it is, like if you could wear a huge down jacket while sleeping for additional warmth like you mentioned in your original post. But you’d need enough shoulder space for the jacket to loft. And your legs might get cold.

    A technique I like to use for winter camping is to layer a synthetic quilt over my down bag or quilt. I’ve slept in single digits Fahrenheit in the past like that using an overstuffed 20F(-7C) degree quilt and a 30F(-1C) degree synthetic quilt and of course a very warm sleeping pad. Although I don’t really recommend all quilts unless you are used to managing the drafts that come along with them. But a quilt layered over a bag is a great combo. It’s important that the quilt be wide enough to full wrap around the bag and not a narrow hammock one. I thought I’d mention in case you have a decent down bag and access to sleeping quilts in Canada.

    Participant
    Mariner_9 on #50415

    Thanks, Rachel. I used to have a Rab Ascent bag which was roomy enough (different shape, though that’s much more noticeable for the legs than the shoulders). Being fairly skinny, I’m not worried about shoulder room.

    As to the temperature ratings: it seems Rab, Western Mountaineering and Feathered Friends all have different terminology and it’s not clear they’re comparable..?

    Quick check suggests no Canadian distribution for FF; MEC is essentially the only retailer for WM which likely means only the camping/hiking/lower-spec models will be available here.

    Moderator
    Scott Semple on #50427

    @mariner_9: I haven’t shopped for sleeping bags in years, but I’m skeptical about one brand being loads better than all the rest. I would just judge them by temperature-to-weight ratio. I suspect MEC has plenty of good options.

    Participant
    John S on #50469

    From memory MEC carries WM bags at negative single digits and then jumps to the -30 bags. FF is only available direct from the manufacturer. In a regular year you would have the option of a weekend trip over the border to pick one up to avoid the customs fees (if you live close enough anyway).

    I’m with Scott in that no one brand is significantly better than the others – you just have to read between the marketing lines. I think Rab focuses on the “survive but too cold to sleep” temperature whereas WM focuses on the “most people will sleep fine” temperature. They all use high end down, so the insulating properties will be similar, a big variation in warmth for a given weight of down is likely to be only there if the trimness of the cut is dramatically different. Although the weight of the fabric can vary signifcantly between models.

    Good luck! I reccomend a spreadsheet 😉

    Participant
    Mariner_9 on #50693

    @Rachel – I emailed Rab who responded that, “The Rab sleep limit is what we believe the sensible limit of the bag to be from past experience and feedback from our athletes”. This assumes you do *not* use a liner bag and/or sleep clothed.

    @John S – the only bag they have rated <-12C is limited to ‘small’ size only (I’d need a regular). And having spoken to them last week, I know they’ve stopped doing all special orders and won’t make any exceptions.

    re: border crossing – I know people do that but it’s often illegal. The limit on the value of goods you can bring back even for >48h out the country is C$800, which is below the cost of many of the bags in question.


    @Scott
    Semple – spreadsheet already in place. Can’t post so I took a screenshot and uploaded it to Imgur

    Participant
    John S on #50706

    That’s a bummer re availability of WM bags at MEC! I guess we will see some more changes there in the future.

    As far as bringing things over the border – it is only illegal if you don’t declare that you have goods in your posession. If the goods you are bringing back exceed the limit, then you have to pay sales tax and/or import duties depending on where the product is made. But there is no handling fee like there is if it is posted. (I paid PST on my WM bag) If you are travelling as a family/couple etc, then the limits are per person and are typically able to be combined.

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