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Brian Dunlay

Beginning Alpine - Sleeping Bag options

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I'm intending to take the Alpinism 1 class from American Alpine Institute this summer and I'm looking to upgrade my sleeping bag. There are some differences in price, warmth rating, and weight, and of course intended use.

 

I suspect coming out of Aplinism 1 I don't need a $700 -20 winter bag. I'll probably spend the next year or two at least just doing 3-season climbs. Here are a few I am considering. I realize they're all basically the same, give or take a few oz, liters, or dollars... But I do want to make sure that whatever I end up with is adequate for getting started in the alpine.

 

  • REI Igneo : $240, 19 degree, 1 lb 13 oz, Down, 5.2 liters compressed
  • North Face Blue Kazoo : $223, 15 degree, 2 lb 9 oz, Down, 8.8 liters compressed
  • Marmot Sawtooth : $194, 17 degree, 2 lb 11 oz, Down, 7.9 liters compressed

 

Is this a reasonable set of parameters to be looking at? Do you have any experience with a 3-season? Any recommendations, suggestions, or other considerations?

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http://www.montbell.us/products/disp.php?cat_id=3212&p_id=2321162

 

Montbell UL Super Spiral Down Hugger #3

 

30 degree down bag, 5.2 liters compressed (though I get mine about 2/3 that size (maybe even 1/2 that size) when packing my kit).

 

This is the only bag I used while in the PNW WTE going even lighter (50-degree) on a few occasions and on one winter climb on Rainier. I cannot say enough good things about Montbell.

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I'm kind of a cheap bastard, I buy everything on sale or used. That said, sleeping bags are one item that I happily spend money on. A good down bag will last a very long time and there is a huge difference between the boutique bags (Feathered Friends, Western Mountaineering) and the big box brands.

 

Look for something 15-20 degrees with as high a fill power loft as you can afford. 750 at least. Of the big box brands Marmot is probably the best. I've not used a Montbel bag, but their other products I have used are top notch.

Edited by DPS

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I agree with DPS completely. This is the one piece of gear that I don't skimp on.

 

I've found that a tent adds 5-10 degrees of insulation. I'll also sleep in my clothes which seems to add a few more degrees and makes getting up in the morning a lot easier. I use a 20 degree bag for all 4 seasons here, and a 30-40 degree bag for June-September (and this year, for May).

 

I've had a Feathered Friends Swallow for my 4-season bag, and a Vireo for my summer bag, for over 10 years. The Vireo is finally looking dirty and beat up enough that I'm considering replacing it - with another Vireo.

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For bags, the price reflects quality and durability more than a lot of other gear in my opinion. Make the investment and you'll be much more comfortable when you're out. This is huge if you're just getting into the sport as a few nights freezing your a$$ off will make you think twice about taking your next venture or exploring further.

 

I use a Cal 13 and love it. I've also been extremely impressed with all feather friends products. Get a silk liner to keep oils away - you're bag will hold up a lot longer.

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recommend you buy the highest quality fill you can get your hands on -- 900, or better if you can find it. it will outlast the less expensive lower quality down, and be cheaper over the long (say twenty years) run. Also, maybe consider buying LESS bag than you think you need, with the idea of picking up a second bag to nest with it for colder conditions. I use a two-pound feathered friends three-season (15') bag for spring, fall, and moderate winter, a one-pound bag for summer, and the pounder goes inside the FF for subzero conditions. both bags get plenty of use, and I don't have a $500+ subzero bag gathering dust for years at a time. FF lets you order details like "extra girth", when you buy a bag, which makes their moderate bags good candidates for this tactic.

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I'm with Chris. A Vireo for most anything in three season in the PNW. The thing packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle too. If it gets cold, the alpine buddy spoon rule applies.

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One thing I found with a lot of sleeping backs that are in the lowest end of weight/volume range for their warmth is that they tend to be quite narrow in the legs/hips (hip girth). If you sleep like a log on your back, that's not a problem. If you're like me and tend to take a while to fall asleep and roll around a lot, you may find the lack of space/mobility in the legs/hips problematic. It restricted my sleeping bag selection considerably. Just something to consider.

 

I use this one as my 4 season bag and have had good luck with it (it packs down much much smaller than the stated 10.4 L):

http://www.rei.com/product/847520/sierra-designs-zissou-12-sleeping-bag

 

 

Edited by ilias

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10 years ago, I picked up an REI Kilo plus. 800 fill, 2.2lbs 0 degree and compresses really small. It still serves me well to this day. I recently picked up a Mountain Hardware HyperLamina spark 32 and just sleep with a puffy, etc when it gets cold. I've found that the 32 degree is more versatile over a wider range of temperatures. For a synthetic bag, it actually is lighter and compresses better than my down bag, but noticeably not as warm. Full on winter-friggin cold, I'll roll with the 0, but overall the 32 is a better fit to my style. I roll around a lot and tend to sleep on my side and overall I am more comfortable in the Lamina with a center zip

 

Of your listed options, I'd probably take the Igneo.

 

http://www.mountainhardwear.com/hyperlamina-spark-35-regular-1568251.html

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For those in Canada - Taiga made a pretty similar bag to the Vireo:

 

https://www.taigaworks.ca/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=129

 

Same idea - it's a half bag that comes up to my chest (I'm 5'9). Looks a bit less refined than the Vireo, but it was also half the price...If they're not making them anymore, shoot them an email - it'd be nice to see them keep it in their product line.

 

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Spend as much money as you can on a down bag that meets your needs. 12 years ago I was a college student but I scraped together a few hundred bucks to get a top of the line bag (on sale). It's the only piece of gear that was lasted over 10 years and I expect to get 10+ more out of it. Today the same bag would cost twice as much.

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