Sleeping bag opinions

needed. I need a roomy bag like the Park series from Big Agnes but am not completely sold on that brand. Any others that are not confining like a mummy? And then the great debate…down or synthetic? I won’t be in anything below 30F.

why aren’t you sold on that brand?
I’ve got a BA Lost Ranger +15 and love it! You know it’s got the air-mattress sleeve. The idea is that the compressed fill under you of the traditional sleeping bag doesn’t have much insolation value. A sleeping pad with a good r-value counters that–puts the bottom side of your sleeping bag to work. My coldest sleeps (in the 30s) have been plenty warm. Plus you’ll never roll off your sleeping pad again. Plus it packs smaller. Plus you save weight. Ingenious. What’s not to like?

I read
a review on the Summitt Park where it was said that the bag did not perform in the range listed and that the down was not baffled properly and shifted off to the sides. I agree that the pad pocket is a great idea yet why haven’t others moved that way. Common sense says to stay away from down on paddle trips but it’s tough to discount the compression and weight factors. I’ve already got a BA 25" sleep pad that’s great so I’m half way there as far as BA is concerned.

I live in an equipment waste land with not even an EMS to check gear out. Forums like this are a great help.

I just threw away my $150 down bag since it got a bit wet during a trip, would not dry out, and got a horrendous mildew smell. I washed it three times in the Down wash, machine dried it against the tag guidleines, and it still smelled.

I went back to using my older Polarguard 3D bag which i felt was too bulky for my hatchs but a brand new Event compression dry-sack makes it quite small.

If you don’t like feeling confined,
you might consider a down quilt. I bought mine from JacksRBetter but there are other good ones around, too.

Lighter than a sleeping bag and pack down to practically nothing.

Buy a Good Down Bag

– Last Updated: Aug-21-09 10:55 AM EST –

One warmer than you intend to use. Store it loose, don't wash it every time it gets a bit of dirt on it, and use your ground cloth INside your tent and your down bag will last you a lifetime. I have a North Face down bag that is 33 years old and an Eddie Bauer that is 25 now. Both will last my lifetime unless a bear thinks I'm a "Burrito" one of these days. I've lived most of my life in humid MO and been on many trips where it rained every day and with a bit of care have never had my sleeping bag get too wet to use; even in a few "Leaky" tents. Opinions are like arses, we all have one. I prefer being able to stuff TWO (his & hers) down bags and a couple small pillows or a down bag, pillow and sleeping pad in the same size stuff sack as ONE synthetic. I usually just use mine like a comforter and zip up as it gets cooler. And no synthetic has the "Feel" of down in a tent on a cold night! WW

sleeping bag option
I’ve been a year round backpacker for years and used to be an outfitter so I’ve owned or borrowed just about every type of sleep system you can think of.

If you are a canoeist or kayaker you definitely want to stay away from down – I only recommend that for people who are packing in the late Fall or winter in dryer clinates and even then I advise taking a lightweight 3-season down mummy slipped inside a light synthetic outer bag.

Same thing for moderate weather camping: a 2-bag system. For sleeping out above freezing I use the lightest synthetic (Polarguard or other) fill oversized mummy or tapered bag for the outer bag and then I put the second bag made of Polartech 300 fleece bag inside. The two bags together are toasty and if you get overly warm at night (which can happen in the summer in the close confines of a tent) you just scootch with the fleece bag out of the outer bag and lay on top of it. The fleece bag (which unzips flat) makes a handy wrap in camp. The two lightweight bags each compress down to about the size of a large loaf of bread so they are easier to stash and transport than one large bag, especially in a canoe or kayak. And, if you get into Fall or winter backpacking eventually, you can use the fiberfill overbag with a 3-season down or fiberfill bag inside it for super warmth (I’ve used that system down to 20 below zero F).

If you are someone who perspires a lot while you sleep or you like the feel of a sheet-like surface, you can add a fabric bag liner (CampMor’s online or mailorder catalog has tons of options for these and all the other bag styles I am describing.) I use a polyester blend sheet liner that folds up into a pouch smaller than a beer can. On sticky summer nights sometimes all I use is the liner and the Polartech bag.

Other advantages of the two (or 3) bag system is you can stash one of the two bags in your daypack for side hikes from base camp as an emergency bag in case you get stranded or someone in your party is injured.

Also, you can place clothing between the two bag layers for more insulation and to dry out damp items with your body warmth as you sleep. And you can slip your foam pad inside the outer bag underneath you, just like with the Big Agnes sleeve. Another plus is the lighter bags can be machine washed individually more easily than a heavy bag AND they will dry quicker in camp if you get them soaked in rain or a capsize.

I disagree about staying away from down
I have backpacked and kayak camped year 'round for years myself and find down to be a perfectly reasonable option.

Just use common sense and a good dry bag.

Used down for years hiking and kayaking, Keep it in a dry bag and buy a kayak with hatches that don’t leak. While getting down wet is certainly a concern if you believe everything you read the world should have a shortage of down since it never dries out! :wink: If you’re that concerned about down buy a synthetic bag, it won’t compress as small but unless you’re packing the kitchen sink it should still fit in your kayak, especially if it’s a 40 degree bag.

As far as the pad/sleeve sleeping bags other companies have done this for years but Big Agnes seems to have the marketing/advertising to finally make more people aware of this.

drying items
If you put a wet item between the sleeping bags and it dries out where does the moisture go? I’m guessing right into the insulation of the over bag.

Sleeping Bags
I recently bought my second BA bag…I’m a convert. Love the space and not getting wrapped up in the bag. Best night’s sleep I’ve ever had camping. Also, even the BA mummy bags are roomy. Next size up are the semi-rectangular types then the large Park series. I like a big bag and the mummy, believe it or not, is large enough for me…I’m 6ft/205lbs. I got the long version. I like synthetic, not because I can’t keep my gear dry, but I sweat alot unless its real cold. I’ve had some issues with down on extended trips when I couldn’t dry them out very well. An hour or two in the sun does the trick with my synthetic bags.

down bags
I use down bags as well. My favorite is a Marmot rectangular bag that completely unzips and can be used like a comforter.

Just put the down bag in a dry bag for river trips, store it loose in a large cotton sack after putting it out in the sun for a few hours after the trip.

Cons and Pros of Big Agnes
I also have the Lost Ranger 15. I find things are not as simple with Big Agnes as they are presented.

Do (or imagine) this in your bed at home: Tuck your blanket in real tight at the bottom and on both sides and slide between the sheets.

Now, if you’re a back sleeper you might be ok. If you’re a side sleeper, I suspect you will immediately notice that the blanket is pulled taught over your shoulders like a tent, leaving air spaces around you. Try to pull the blanket close to you to close the spaces and you will have difficulty, because you tucked it in so tight on the sides.

That’s the main problem with the whole Big Agnes concept of putting the pad inside the bag. You can’t draw the bag close to you because it’s held on 3 sides by the pad.

So which is more important: not sliding off your pad, or having the bag close to you? I think warmth is much more important at 15 degrees.

To avoid that problem, I don’t put the pad inside the bag. Then I can pull the bag close to me. That leads to problem # 2:

If you roll over taking the whole bag with you (rather than turning over inside the bag), your entire back side is exposed with no insulation. There is a clear advantage here of bags that are insulated on the top and bottom—they keep you warm all around, no matter how you move.

Despite those unspoken drawbacks of the Big Agnes system, they are the only manufacturer I know of that makes a bag that is both large and light. For that reason, I’m not disappointed in my Lost Ranger. Once you learn how to work with its quirks, you love the roominess.

If you camp at 30 degrees, a 15-degree bag is advised.

Regarding the 15-degree rating of the Lost Ranger, for me it’s accurate. I can sleep in it down to 30 degrees in shorts and a t-shirt, with no fly on my tent. I’m pretty sure that if I used the fly and put on thermal bottoms and top, the bag would work at 15 degrees. At 30 degrees with thermals I was too hot.

Just what wet item
do you have in mind? :slight_smile: From reading several of the above post, seems like a lot of people have a lot of wet stuff around their camp. I have paddled/camped in the pacific NW,( San Juan’s,the broken group on Vancouver BC, etc. and never hada problem with “wet stuf” If something inadvertently gets soaked, wring it out and put it IN a dry bag to keep from wetting anything it comes in contact with.

I carry my down bag in a waterproof compression dry bag and have never had it get wet.

It is gonna be a . . .
. . . compromise. Down is more expensive but has more insulating power and packs smaller. It also looses insulating qualities more than synthetics when wet.

Synthetics retain some of there insulating qualities when wet and are generally cheaper.

A down bag needs more care. You need a drysack to carry it. You need to dry it in the sun occassionally on long trips because it will always absorb moisture from you body.

I generally go with a down bag. The bag I used on my recent trip was a Kelty Lightyear 45, pretty small. Worked out pretty well. In Minnesota it was gettin’ down into the twenties. I was sleepin’ in all my clothes.

for a lightweight synthetic bag that packs very small for its temp rating and is US made, try Wiggys. A small maker of special design bags for the military. The bags are lifetime warranty for construction and loft. My rocket scientist son used to sell outdoor equipment and became well aquainted with this company. Mine was a present and it is by far the best made bag i have seen. The temp ratings are very conservative.


I haven’t had it down to 15°
so I can’t really speak to that. It’s hard to get those temperatures kayak camping on the West Coast. I’ve only ever been in the 30s where it was toasty warm. I can see where the down could shift in theory–the baffles are just as you described it–but have never had any problem with that. If I did, I suppose I would just fluff it back up. Like others here, I use an OR drybag compression stuff sack to keep it dry; no problems with dampness yet (knock on wood). My only complaint is that–at 51 oz.–it’s heavier than something you might want to take backpacking. But then I’m a wuss.

from the dept of redundancy dept
If I had to list any complaints (beside the 3 lb plus weight) it would be these: 1) I’m not crazy about the zipper; it feels flimsy; I would trade a beefier zipper for more weight. 2) It’s leaked some down. Not much and not enough to to be of any consequence, but I always admire a bag that doesn’t leak its down. 3) It’s something like 600 or 650 fill. Of course 800 fill would be even nicer. :wink:

things get wet
Note that I said “damp” not “soaking wet”. The source of damp items on trips has not been from capsizes or packed items getting wet in the boat. Particularly if you run into rain either while setting up camp or on a hike out of your base camp, it’s not unusual for items like socks, gloves and hats to get soggy and I’ve successfully dried small wool and fleece items with the sleeping bag sandwich. Nylon and fiberfill don’t absorb water per se, it transpires through the spaces in the material. You do get some condensation on the surface but you tend to get that in tents during humid or rainy weather anyway. A fiberfill bag can be soaked in water, wrung out and it will retain nearly 100% insulation value, even damp, Not true for down.

I never thought of that
waterbird…the taughtness of the bag with the pad inside. I fall asleep on my back then roll to either side. The pad could give me grief. I don’t like the idea of no insulation on the bottom if I took the pad out to draw the bag inward like I like to do when I sleep on my side. Who else makes a quality, backable roomy bag? One w/o sleeve for pad. Thanks for the insight WB.