Sleeping bag temperature ratings
I bought a bag rated as a 0F winter bag from overstock.com. It was an incredible deal. The bag was listed as 3 lbs 2 oz for only $86.
I called the manufacturer before I purchased just to confirm the rating was a "comfort" rating and not a survival rating. I even asked the guy if he had used it personally and he said yes. I also double checked it was Fahrenheit and not Celsius.
The bag arrived and weighed 2 lbs 14 oz on my scale - including the stuff sack! Wow... Four ounces underweight. When does that happen?
I should have known it was all too good to be true. Two hours into a night at 25F and I awoke cold. That's 25 degrees above its comfort rating! Luckily I was prepared with a back-up bag so it wasn't an emergency situation.
So this is just a caution to be weary of the temperature ratings manufacturers use.
From my google searching, I've learned that there is no standard for rating bags. Plus, manufacturers report either a comfort rating, a survival rating, both, or sometimes neither.
FYI: I slept over a foam pad over a NeoAir xlite in a double-wall tent. I changed into fresh clothes just before bed and slept wearing pearl Izumi winter tights, jersey, socks, and gloves.
What was the make/model of the bag?
ETA: When I got a bag earlier this year, I decided anything that didn't have an (EN) 13537 rating wasn't even going to make the preliminary cut... it's just too critical a piece of gear. I also wanted a full zipper. And light as possible of course, but with a reputation of surviving 'real world conditions'. Those criteria narrowed down the field pretty quickly.
"...Some local fiend had built it with his own three hands..."
Well you know the old saying, you get what you pay for! If you want a lightweight bag that will keep you warm in colder temps, go with a known name brand bag with good down in it. I got a killer deal on a marmot 15 degree helium with 850 fill power down. Normally $399 for $260 with free shipping from backcountry edge. First time users can get an additional 12% off. I think that have it on sale again.
Originally Posted by connolm
But lots of variables. Warm sleeper vs. cold sleeper. Humidity, wind, pad, etc. You can also buy a silk liner that will increase the rating and keep the bag from getting dirty.
Richwolf raises an important point. Everyone sleeps differently. This is something I am considering. So I'll reveal the brand and make - but obscured, in case it's just me or I got a bad bag.
The bag is available on overstock.com under the following name: H-I-G-H. P-E-A-K. U-S-A. A-L-P-I-N-I-Z-M-O. L-A-T-I-T-U-D-E. 0.
Verslowrdr: I'll look into this EN 13537 standard! Thanks for the info.
Talk to the folks at backcountry.com and they will get you set up. They have excellent live chat support and an unconditional return policy.
Last edited by Thiel; 12-31-2012 at 07:43 AM.
Reason: fixed "love chat" to read "live chat"!
There are way too many variables at play for us to demand manufacturers to tell us "truthful" temperature ratings for sleeping bags. I only use them to compare one bag to another bag from the same manufacturer, and even then it's "this bag isolates better than that".
Apart from personal preference and how the bag fits your body, anything you wear has an effect, liner, bivy, tent (if any), how well your mattress isolates, the surface beneath the mattress and so on. The latter two have a huge impact, because the filling of the bag is compressed and much less effective below you.
There are lots of things you can do to stay warm with a lighter bag. If none of them are enough, you just need to switch to a heavier bag.
The EN 13537 standard at least makes it possible compare temperature with some degree of confidence. It is not entirely accurate, but still a lot better than the situation before the standard. I once had an Ajungilak Tyin Elite bag, sold as a winter bag for temperatures down to -20C (comfort) and -30C (extreme). It was cold and the EN 13537 standard measured its lower limit to be -9C, so I do think the standard enforced some honesty to the manufacturers.
I just bought a new 3 season (30 degree bag).... it is a "Montbell Super Spiral Hugger" which is a brand I'd never heard of. LOVE IT. Pricey but packs super small, very comfortable, and easily meets its EN rating.
I don't know if this trick still holds true, but back in the day we used to buy the ladies model of a bag because most makers would add a bit of extra down to those models. The weight will go up accordingly ...but not the price.
Also, for BikePacking --verses BackPacking --weight is not the issue. The issue is more the volume in my opinion. You need something that will compress and that means and expensive down bag.
Just get Western Mountaineering, Feathered Friend, Zpack or other boutique bag and be done with it.
I have gotten a few things from overstock.com. Great inexpensive memory foam mattresses for your bedroom, but for lightweight bikepacking I don't think they are the best place to buy from.
If you want to get serious about bikepacking you have to pay the piper to get the right gear that is light and will keep you comfortable. Lots of sales going on now.
For tents, I think Zpacks is the lightest but a little pricey. Tarpetent is a good choice too.
Just your sleep system can run close to $1,000. (tent $200 to $400, bag $300 to $400, pad $50 to $170, bag liner $50 to $80) Going with a bivy will save you some coin.
The worst thing to do and what most of us end up doing is pinching pennies initially, then selling for a loss and then getting the proper gear.
Bags for your bike are going to run $150 and up for a frame bag, $120 to $150 for a seat bag, $70 to $100 for a front sling. $55 for a gas tank, $39 each for feed bags. Then factor in some dry bags, water bottles, cages, and bladders.
Lights will run $100 on up, GPS $200 on up, bike odometer $30 on up. You probably have a cell phone and music player.
Bike $2,000 on up.
Clothing is not cheap either. Figure another $500 to $1000 for that.
From the ground up bikepacking will cost you some dough but consider what your neighbors are spending on their hobbies, then is seems more reasonable and in my mind a lot more fun!
The best place I've found to buy discount backpacking gear is steepandcheap.com (also run by backcountry, which owns chainlove and realcyclist.com...)
For things like sleeping bags that I don't know a lot about and that don't have a clear rating system, I like to use REI. I bought 2 bags for camping and went with the staff recommendation. Turns out they weren't warm enough for either me or my son. I called and they told me to bring them back and they would exchange them. We moved up to down bags and were a lot happier. The no hassle, happy to help you, with a big smile return policy is a big help. They exchanged my tent that ended up to be too short for me as well. Again, no problems and big smiles.
X2 on what's said above. I've tried to save money on sleeping bags and have been on some too cold nights. There's just no legit standard unfortunately. The only true tell is the price point. Get the highest quality down you can afford. Probably $200-300.
I also went with Montbell. I have two UL Super Stretch down bags, one 24 degree and one 40 degree. I do sleep warmer than other, but have been in a breezy tarptent in my 24 degree bag at 26 degrees in a t-shirt, skivvies, and socks. Comfy.
edit: And on a high quality zero degree bag, you'll sweat your ass off in anything freezing and above. Get one that fits your environment, that's why I have two.
I love EMS and REI. Both places seem to have good people working at them. There's usually someone on staff at both my local stores that has used a product I'm considering.
Sadly, I just can't swing $400-500 for a winter bag right now - especially considering that I don't plan on doing a lot of winter camping. Luckily, I do have a lot of decent gear that can be combined for a functional, albeit bulkier and heavier solution.
I imagine making a system like Russian nesting dolls with the following in order: Sol Emergency Bivvy, the High Peak Alpinizmo 0-degree bag, a Stoic Vamp 30 down 3-season bag, and finally a fleece liner. That sits on top of a Walmart closed cell pad on top of a NeoAir Xlite.
All that insulation coupled with some nice thick cycling clothing should keep me warm. I used the emergency bivvy and the Stoic Vamp 30 the other night after I awoke cold in the Alpinizmo.
I read on a scouting website here that nested bags perform as well as specially designed winter bags. Any thoughts on that outside of what I experienced?
My light bag is a Mountain Hardwear Lamina 45. It weighs around 1 lb 14oz in the sack and stuffs down to the size of a lopped off football.
I used to two nights back in AZ and the first night we had some drinks out that wound up freezing in the morning. The second wasn't much better. I had the Lamina and an REI Stratus pad to sleep on. I was pretty far from comfortable, but I survived. It it had a draft collar, I'd have probably been better.
Hope not to high jack this thread, but there is a lot of expertise here and I can use some advice.
I am looking for a down bag and pad appropriate for bike packing. Was thinking of a Big Agnes setup because of the way the pad integrates into the bag. Seems like a way to get a warm bag at a lower weight.
I am looking for something in the 20-30 degree range for use in the Cascades spring through fall. My thought was I could add a liner, etc., for trips when it is on the cold side.
Was looking at something like the Heart Mountain SL bag and Air Core pad. I know there are many other great brands (some listed above). They don't have this integrated pad/bag design. Not sure if I should be so focused on this though.
I would appreciate any insight on this. Thanks.
I'm in the Cascades to the north of you in Washington. Having been hit with a sideways just-about-freezing (as in frost in the low pockets of the meadow we were in) rain storm in late July while backpacking years ago, we're fans of having something that works in temps that low but also has a full zip so we can kick part of it off on warmer nights.
Husby sleeps warmer so he picked out a Marmot Never Summer down bag he found on sale. I have some circulation issues and generally sleep colder so I sprang for a Marmot Helium (which is a positively giant heap of down heaven that packs down like a miracle). Marmot's bags have been considerably stress-tested and continue to be popular with people who actually use them. Other brands that seem to get mentioned consistently are Montbell, or if you're willing to fork out the cash Western Mountaineering and Feathered Friends.
BA makes some excellent stuff and I like the concept of the integrated pad pocket, but I'm a thrasher when on the ground and need to keep flipping from one side to another with my legs curled up to keep pressure off my back. I didn't know how the BA+pad would handle that so I stuck with separate bag/pad.
I have a BA insulated pad and it works pretty well. Husby has their new lighter/thicker model on order which should be interesting... BA did some clever things like make the sides thicker so theoretically a person should be less likely to roll off. However, for R-value and light weight it looks like the NeoAir X-therm is the current winner.
"...Some local fiend had built it with his own three hands..."
Brand is important to me in selecting a sleeping bag. I like Kelty, Marmot, Big Agnes, Sierra Designs. There are other good brands. I would even buy the Campmor house brand down bags. The temperature ratings for the major brands range from pretty accurate to a bit optimistic. Kelty bags are usually comfortable at their ratings. I have slept in a 15 degree F Kelty bag in 15 degree weather.
All temperature ratings assume a sleeping pad, and some sort of wind break (like a tent). The temperature ratings do not work for people who are sick. or exhausted, or hungry. They also assume that the sleeper has enough experience to arrange the bag properly and keep the drafts out.
You can get an inexpensive bag for zero degrees F. It is going to be heavy, though. Check out the sleeping bag selection at Campmor. There is no magic there. All the 20 degree F down bags are going to have similar weights, for example. Slight variations will result in large differences in price. Total weight and fill weight are available for all the bags. Compare them to get a good ballpark for what to expect cost and weight to be for a given rating and size.
I would never buy a brand of sleeping bag I had never heard of.
The problem with that is that the BA bags aren't that light, and neither are their pads. I use both an Air Core and Insulated Air Core, and they are great for the money. There are nicer inflatable pads, and warmer pads that weigh less, particularly the new NeoAir models(though I don't care for the horizontal baffles, myself), and the Expeds, which I wish I'd bit the bullet for, since I backpack, and have become very weight-conscious.
Originally Posted by eugenemtbing
The EN ratings are a standard, and a good way to compare bags. That's it.
It doesn't mean you're automatically going to be warm at the EN-rating. That assumes the user is wearing a baselayer, headwear, and(I think) socks, plus using a pad with something like a r value of 5. The other variable is you. You may be a warm, cold, or average sleeper. I'm a warm sleeper, and know from experience that in ideal conditions I can go below the EN rating of my bags, and still be comfortable, but if I say "my Marmot Pinnacle is EN-rated to 10F, but I would happily take it to 0F" that may sound good, but it's really meaningless to the next person, because they might be freezing their butt off in it. There's not a concrete answer; there's going to be some trial and error to find out where you stand vs. those ratings, and that can change with what you're wearing, what you eat, how well hydrated you are, etc. You guys that are bikepacking, you might be using a bivy. Under some conditions it may add warmth, while in very high humidity maybe your bag doesn't achieve full loft, and then the bivy causes condensation and gets it damp, further hampering its ability to insulate you from the cold. I recently felt cool in that same bag I said I'd take to 0 while it was in the 20s-using a bivy in 80+% humidity.
I'm just saying take the EN ratings with a grain of salt, just like any advice you get from someone else, because they don't, can't, take into account the individual, or the conditions they use the bag in.
I bought a Marmot Arroyo on eBay, was cheap, seemed unused, very light and compressible, I use it with a tarp tent Contrail for hiking and biking, as previous posts have said the mat is important and I also use a silk liner.
Just wanted to throw in my 2 cents re: bags. I have a North Face Superlight that I bought – I’m not kidding – 30 years ago. About 12 years ago, I was having some problems with the zipper, so I took it to REI and they sent it in to North Face for me. Not only did the lifetime warranty cover the replacement zipper cost, they also tried to wash the down and, deciding it was too dirty, replaced the ENTIRE BAG with fresh down! They called to apologize that they would still need to charge me the cleaning fee even though it didn’t work. Was ~$25.
So, brand new bag with, I believe, even more down than original. It was an expensive bag, for sure, but in the long run, I sure am glad I went with a brand name company that honors their warranty! Its very well designed and super cozy - rated to 0 degrees, which I feel for my body is an accurate rating. I have 0 complaints over 30 years of consistent use, including some limited sub-zero camping.
This bag is too hot for summer camping, so I also have an REI 45 degree down bag that packs to the size of a nalgene bottle. Its thin, but very comfy on warm nights (and I have shivered through a few near-freezing ones as well – lots of clothes…) I have been looking into the SOL Escape Bivvy to use in conjunction with the lighter bag when it gets between~35 and 40. It reflects a good deal of heat back at you, packs super small (again, about the size of a nalgene) breathes and is waterproof (so they claim – I wouldn’t count on more than repellency). Goes for anywhere from $50 to ~ $35 on e-bay. Seems like a good bang for the buck.
I also just bought a Big Agnes insulated core pad. As a 44 year old side sleeper, I just couldn’t take another sleepless night on my self-inflating therm-a-rest. Excited to try it out. It was the best deal I could afford for the money and its still packs to half the size of my therm-a-rest, so that alone is worth something.
I have done a bit of winter camping. I live in New England so up in the White Mountains. Serious business up there in the winter. Before you go out on a winter camping trip, I would maybe suggest doing a dry run in your yard with your potential setup before tackling a potentially dangerous situation.
When I got my bag ( a Montbell SuperStretch Burrow 0), I slept in my yard, no shelter, a dual pad setup with medium weight top and bottom, warm socks and a hat. I didnt want to use more because I wanted to test it down to the rating and see how it did and not have additional clothing altering the rating. I slept fine all the way to 2 degrees so I knew tha rating was accurate for me. The bag had come recommended andI bought it from a dealer that had a liberal return policy so I knew I could always return it.
With additional clothing ...expedition weight top and bottom base layer, down booties, Mountain Hardwear insulated pants, down puffy draped over my torso inside the bag, warm hat and mittens, I have slept well in my bag down to -17 in the White Mountains.
The issue with doubling up on bags is outside of the added weight and bulk is potentially squashing the loft of the bags...which would reduce their temp rating. The clothing I wear in my bag in winter is clothing I will have with me anyway so I consider it a dual purpose and part of my sleep system. It allows me to carry a lighter bag in my pack.
This is an important point! I have been looking at the SOL Expedition Bivvy particularly because its on the roomy side and should accommodate my lighter bag without much compression. But you are absolutely right - if you are stuffing any bag inside another, too much compression will not help you much. The loft is what creates the insulation.
Originally Posted by auntesther
One might also consider a bag liner to add warmth to an existing bag. Because it goes inside and not around the other bag, there is less issue of compression. But it can add a good deal of bulk. My wife has a toasty polypro liner for her bag, but its not a space saver...
Last edited by wahday; 01-02-2013 at 02:01 PM.
I bought a cocoon silk liner for my bag. Super light and compresses very small. suppose to add around 9 degrees of comfort. Another advantage is that is keeps the bag cleaner.
Originally Posted by wahday