Sleeping Bag For "Shoulder Season"

vftt.org

Help Support vftt.org:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.

DayTrip

Well-known member
Joined
May 13, 2013
Messages
3,692
Reaction score
121
With my 20% Off Coupon and REI Dividend at the ready, I will in the very near future be replacing my very old and thoroughly compressed sleeping bag (an old REI synthetic insulation bag I never really liked). Looking for recommendations on brands and/or features for a bag I'd like to use early Spring to early Summer and again early Fall to early Winter. I have a good lightweight bag for the warm season but need something to extend the length of the non-snow camping year. So I guess a bag that is cozy down into the teens to maybe the low 40's. I should point out that I get colder than most people so I'll likely get a bag with an EN rating lower than many of you would and the bag will really be mostly for car camping so super low weight is not a major consideration (and I have a very good pad already). Durability would probably be an important consideration. I don't see any real consensus for a pick in the many reviews I have read.

Some possible bags I'm looking at: North Face Inferno (like the center zipper design, seems durable and well constructed albeit maybe for a bit colder range than what I'm looking at) and the REI Igneo (has a lot of water resistant features). Western Mountaineering is another brand I have seen recommended in several reviews but I am not at all familiar with them. I haven't bought a bag in well over 10 years so I'm really not up to speed on the better brands, best warranties, etc.

Looking for a little first hand experience and a "sales pitch" from anyone who has a bag they are really happy with. Appreciate the feedback as always.
 
Western Mountaineering is hard to beat for a high end down bag. They seem to be the PCT favorite. They also offer several widths and at least two lengths, If I do the PCT in few years, WM is what I will carry unless some new tech shows up. They rarely if ever go on sale and usually are excluded from the EMS club sales.

Marmot also offers a series of superlight down bags, I have a Helium but its borderline for three seasons, also very tight in the shoulders. Its incredible how small it stuffs. It is 30 degree bag. The used to offer a Hydrogen version that was 15 degrees. The degree rating is nominal at best and assumes a tent. I find the rating is bit optimistic when used in open shelters.

I haven't heard of any super synthetics that match down yet. Beans now sells Downtek treated down which is water resistant for wet applications.

Durability is major issue, lightweight equals fragility and down always seems to find a way through fabric. Pertek shell seems to be the standard these days
 
Western Mountaineering is hard to beat for a high end down bag. They seem to be the PCT favorite. They also offer several widths and at least two lengths, If I do the PCT in few years, WM is what I will carry unless some new tech shows up. They rarely if ever go on sale and usually are excluded from the EMS club sales.

Marmot also offers a series of superlight down bags, I have a Helium but its borderline for three seasons, also very tight in the shoulders. Its incredible how small it stuffs. It is 30 degree bag. The used to offer a Hydrogen version that was 15 degrees. The degree rating is nominal at best and assumes a tent. I find the rating is bit optimistic when used in open shelters.

I haven't heard of any super synthetics that match down yet. Beans now sells Downtek treated down which is water resistant for wet applications.

Durability is major issue, lightweight equals fragility and down always seems to find a way through fabric. Pertek shell seems to be the standard these days

I love Marmot gear and clothes but I find all of their stuff very snug for my less than athletic fit. My summer bag is their Nano 55. I think I'll take a closer look at the Western Mountaineering line. I've seen it highly rated in a few reviews now.
 
I have a NorthFace Inferno that I got last year with my REI dividend. I like it. It seems very lightweight and not as puffy as a similar 20 degree Mtn Hardwear down that I once owned, but it holds up to its temperature rating. I sleep hot, so ymmv. I used it through the spring and fall shoulder seasons of 2015 and just switched it back into rotation for spring 2016. Overall, it's a nice, functional 20 degree bag. Fortunately, REI carries TNF, so your dividend can purchase you a new bag. Sadly, REI doesn't carry some of the cottage brands that people love.
 
I have a NorthFace Inferno that I got last year with my REI dividend. I like it. It seems very lightweight and not as puffy as a similar 20 degree Mtn Hardwear down that I once owned, but it holds up to its temperature rating. I sleep hot, so ymmv. I used it through the spring and fall shoulder seasons of 2015 and just switched it back into rotation for spring 2016. Overall, it's a nice, functional 20 degree bag. Fortunately, REI carries TNF, so your dividend can purchase you a new bag. Sadly, REI doesn't carry some of the cottage brands that people love.

What are your thoughts on the center zipper on the front? And roominess? This is another important consideration for me and this bag seems good for that. I like the zipper feature but have never owned a bag with it. The Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Flame and Torch models also have this feature in a synthetic bag that is about half the cost (and REI has these as well). Supposed to be very good for wet weather, which of course we get plenty of in NE.
 
What are your thoughts on the center zipper on the front? And roominess? This is another important consideration for me and this bag seems good for that. I like the zipper feature but have never owned a bag with it. The Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Flame and Torch models also have this feature in a synthetic bag that is about half the cost (and REI has these as well). Supposed to be very good for wet weather, which of course we get plenty of in NE.

Ooops! I didn't know what you meant by the zipper, so I checked my bag. Inferno/Furnace.... similar sounding names. My bag is actually a TNF Furnace which has a normal zipper and behaves as I outlined above. Sorry for the confusion.
 
Ooops! I didn't know what you meant by the zipper, so I checked my bag. Inferno/Furnace.... similar sounding names. My bag is actually a TNF Furnace which has a normal zipper and behaves as I outlined above. Sorry for the confusion.

Yah they all seem to do that. The Hyperlamina has the Torch, the Flame, the Spark, etc depending on the temperature rating. Thanks for the clarification. I think I'm going to go with the Hyperlamina. It is synthetic but at half the price with essentially the same features it is hard to ignore. Reviews make it sound like it performs very well in wet conditions which will probably be beneficial.
 
What are your thoughts on the center zipper on the front?

I frequently (on warmer nights) sleep with my conventional zipper partially unzipped, then zip it up as the night temps and my body temp drop. A center zipper probably wouldn't work for me.
 
I have the Hyperlamina Flame, I think I've only used it once or twice (when you have four bags, that happens). Nice bag, comes in tall. I'm a fan of synthetic except for the very cold bag. (ETA: I also have a 45 degree Lamina that I very much like.)

Note it comes with a compression sack; as with all synthetic bags, don't use it.
 
I have the Hyperlamina Flame, I think I've only used it once or twice (when you have four bags, that happens). Nice bag, comes in tall. I'm a fan of synthetic except for the very cold bag. (ETA: I also have a 45 degree Lamina that I very much like.)

Note it comes with a compression sack; as with all synthetic bags, don't use it.

Item description indicates it has a stuff sack and a larger "storage" sack. With my old bag lack of use and leaving in the compression sack was a major contributor to ruining it. Was thinking of putting it loosely in a very large tote or something similar when not in use to keep dry and as uncompressed as possible.
 
I keep my bag in the storage sack, which is mesh, and doesn't compress it. I do put it in the compression sack when carrying it... Presumably, this is what the manufacturer intends.

Tim
 
My TNF Dark Star would literally take up the entirety of my 80 L winter pack if I did not compress it for backpacking. It gets stored loosely in a (very) large bin when not in active use. That bag is not going to last forever, no matter how well I treat it. But I haven't seen reliable information that compressing it hard half a dozen times per year will decrease its life by much.

BTW, don't buy that bag for shoulder season. It will take up your whole car and then cook you.

For shoulder season, if you're using it mostly for car camping, there's the TNF Furnace ($240) - a down bag with 550 fill, which is fine if you're not using it much for backpacking when space/compression matters. Or the Hyperlamina Torch ($260) is pretty much the same bag but with synthetic fill. I think you'd find these bags perform really similarly. Price is the same. The down bag will last longer, but the synthetic bag will work better in damp conditions. So consider what kind of conditions you're most likely to find yourself in.

The boutique down bags (WM and FF) are really, really nice. But it would be a waste to buy them for car camping.
 
My TNF Dark Star would literally take up the entirety of my 80 L winter pack if I did not compress it for backpacking. It gets stored loosely in a (very) large bin when not in active use. That bag is not going to last forever, no matter how well I treat it. But I haven't seen reliable information that compressing it hard half a dozen times per year will decrease its life by much.

BTW, don't buy that bag for shoulder season. It will take up your whole car and then cook you.

For shoulder season, if you're using it mostly for car camping, there's the TNF Furnace ($240) - a down bag with 550 fill, which is fine if you're not using it much for backpacking when space/compression matters. Or the Hyperlamina Torch ($260) is pretty much the same bag but with synthetic fill. I think you'd find these bags perform really similarly. Price is the same. The down bag will last longer, but the synthetic bag will work better in damp conditions. So consider what kind of conditions you're most likely to find yourself in.

The boutique down bags (WM and FF) are really, really nice. But it would be a waste to buy them for car camping.

I went with the Hyperlamina Flame over the Torch. It is highly unlikely I'd be camping below 20 deg F and the design of this bag is much like the Inferno at half the price. And considering the frequently wet conditions in NH it is probably a better call for me anyway. Should have it tomorrow. Some of the Inferno models, the Western Mountaineering models, etc do indeed look like great bags but ultimately I decided it would be a waste of money in my case. On the occasions I actually backpack camp it is usually in the peak of Summer where my Nano 55 or the Flame will be more than fine.
 
Are you saying "Thou shalt not use it" or "I have a personal preference not to use it" and why?
"I highly recommend not using it for the sake of the bag's life." My personal opinion is that synthetics get a bad rap for longevity partly because they're all shipping with these compression sacks now that allow one to really yard on the straps and "pack down to the size of a softball!" Synthetics are constantly improving but still don't do too well with lofting back up after repeated strong compression. When on-trail, I tend to use a (noncompression) stuffsack that's larger than the one that comes with the bag, allowing it to expand out into the crevices of the pack. Apparently this is a bit of a thru-hiker trick to allow the bag to pack down more or less based on how much food there is.
 
When on-trail, I tend to use a (noncompression) stuffsack that's larger than the one that comes with the bag, allowing it to expand out into the crevices of the pack.

I do the same thing with my three-season bag. With my winter bag, I use a compression sack that's one size larger than the sack that was supplied, but only compress it enough to fit in my pack's sleeping bag compartment. Nothing wrong with using a compression sack if you don't damage the insulation by over-compressing.
 
Top