Forums The Gear Room Sleeping bags – whatcha using?
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  • #609436
    41 Posts

    Thanks everyone for your replies. Having camped not on snow, but in huts during the winter I’m not sure what may/may not work in terms of the gear I have and/or use.

    The sleeping pad I have is the MEC Kelvin 3.8 Sleeping pad which has an R Value of 3.2. In addition I plan to purchase at least one (or even two) foamies which will add another 1-2 points on the R Value. I think the smart thing to do is a bit of a test-run on an upcoming weekend. My biggest concern was the down not holding its loft over a longer period of time in the backcountry in various weather conditions.

    This may be a silly question.. but still one I need to ask because I’ve heard various responses:

    When combining a foamy and sleeping mat.. what item sits on the ground? Is the foamy on the ground, and you sleep on the inflatable mat? OR does the inflatable mat go on the ground, and you sleep on the foamy?

    225 Posts

    The one with the smoothest flush surface goes on top. Pads with nooks (Ridgerest) should go on the bottom as the nooks catch loose snow, which then melts when you lay on it and soaks your insulation.

    1514 Posts

    I’m suprised that noone mentioned hot water bottles. I boil two nalgenes before bed and stash them in my bag. Sleep with one of those between your thighs and you will have steam coming out of your ears + water to drink.

    If like myself you think fast and light is for pussies and furthermore you like to spread the legs and scratch the nutz on occacsion, these make for dee-luxe sleeping:

    Feathered friends also make the tricked out dual sleepers if you want to get with your old lady.

    Putting the poo in swimming pool since 1968.

    48 Posts

    I prefer a a synthetic bag for Winter Camping (snow caves).

    We use the Mountain Hardware Lamina -15 degree bag.–15-(Regular)/OU8447_R,default,pd.html and an MSR Rocket Stove.

    We survived a cold winter bivy with theses bags and an MSR E-House last Valentines. We would have been simply comfortable had we brought a full-link winter camp mattress, but the was a hut trip so we only carried a half length pieces of ensolite pads and our backpacks for floor insulation

    I know that many will testify that down is great ( and it is….) provided that you mange your condensation in the tent and loose snow in your tent / cave. Down just takes more care to keep dry and maintain loft. Sure your can get a bag with Gore-tex or add a bivy sac but still require extra care.

    However the winter Synthetic bags are heavy so, I have opted for a more creative solution to go with the following system for Winter-Springs Hut trips:

    Exped Dreamwalker 650 – rate to 20 degres
    Also see
    North Face Elephants Foot Bag

    Add a Mountain Hardware Down Parka and Exped Down Mattress for the really cold months (Dec – Feb)

    I looked trying to get the most uses out of the above for hut/emergency bivy.

    I will definitely include a full Length Exped mattress or another ultralight mattress in my kit this winter.

    48 Posts

    Skip the Cotton Liner! You will feel cold and wet! In winter “cotton kills”.

    In contrast a Vapor Barrier Liner (VBL) works great for winter camping, though it is misunderstood.
    The VBL goes inside your sleeping bag.

    Wear a thin base layer (merino wool helps wick and prevent the funky smell) inside the VBL

    A VBL works by creating a vapor barrier which prevents a condensation to your bag from your sweat and more importantly creates a constant humidity for you. A constant humidity means your skin will not have to produce as sweat to lubricate the skin, so your body does not expel evaporative heat loss, it conserves it. You will stay warmer and not as dried-out (thirsty) from the cold dry air.

    If you still do not believe most of us are wear a VBL and don’t even know it; Thermo-molded liners and thin pair of merino wool socks.

    620 Posts

    I use a Golite quilt bag with a z-rest pad.

    I used this on my first snow camping experience on the BeeGee’s trip on the eastside last year and was pleasantly surprised with how warm I was. The best thing is the bag only weighs 1lb 4oz and packs down much smaller than a 2 liter bottle. My old ass down jacket doesn’t get that small. Layering is very important and those wool base layers rock. I sometimes wear fleece pants and down jacket if the temps really drop. This bag is F’n Rad!

    Another important factor that most people don’t realize…Pee before crashing and get up in the middle of the night if you have to. It takes a lot of energy to keep that piss warm in your bladder as well as making you uncomfortable while trying to get in some Z’s…

    I noticed someone mentioned Feathered Friends and I have heard nothing but good things from that company.

    48 Posts

    Here are some good tips and thoughts from’s Lou Dawson (from their Denali Expedition), see

    150 Posts

    I’m hoping to get into some winter camping for the first time this year. I have a 15º Big Anges Encampment. I’ll be somewhere in Northern New England (VT, NH, ME) where it pretty cold every night. Usually 0-15º for the low at night. Will this bag be warm enough in a tent?

    48 Posts

    A 15 degree bag may be on the cool side for below zero temps. However you could add another down summer bag to the Big Agnes.

    Also be sure to include a full length Ensolite pad.

    That said, consider renting a winter bag if your concern about being cold.

    or trying out winter camping, try in Spring (March -April) when temps and days are warmer.

    150 Posts

    What do you think about adding the BA Dual Core?

    I’ll probably test it out in the backyard before heading too far off into the woods.

    48 Posts

    I would simply recommend a very thick ensolite pad and a slightly warmer bag for trying out winter camping. Again try to rent a winter synthetic bag.

    What do you think about adding the BA Dual Core?

    My wife and I have the Big Agnes (BA) King Solomon Double Sleeping Bag with Dual Core sleeping pads on our honeymoon (July 2007) in Vermont. Simply, we were cold with the Dual Core pads.

    So I would not recommend the Dual core for winter camping, however the BA site says ” Add a closed cell foam pad in colder temperatures for extra insulation”

    Since then we purchased the BA Two Trac Pads and we were comfortable with them for winter camping. except… for the the bulk.

    Meaning we go on hut trips and the Two Trac Pads are just to bulky to carry for an emergency bivouc gear. So I just purchased two Exped DownMat 9 from Ebay for this reason.

    Also we carry an 2 x 1/2 length ensolite pads which fits in our ski packs. Ensolite pads have many uses for winter camping!

    I wish we had these Exped DownMats last Valentines Day, as we had to bivouac overnight in below zero temps. We manage to sleep on the 1/2 ensolite pads and our packs with winter bags, but we were still chilled some.

    Bottom line, for first time winter campers, I would try to rent quality winter gear (aka a Synthectic winter bag, thermorest / enslotie pad) from a local mountain shop and plan a short trips into the backcountry and enjoy the experience.

    Short trips because your carrying a lot more gear, and everything takes a lot longer to set up.

    PS Take a white gas stove! I have used the MSR XGK and/or a MSR Whisper-lite for winter camping. These stove work great.

    I also MSR Pocket Rocket (butane canister) stove in our ski pack (for emergency bivouac). The Rocket worked ok the night of our Valentines bivouac, but in the morning the Rocket would not start. I should have taken the butane fuel canister and placed it in the bottom of my sleeping bag, the night before.

    I’ll probably test it out in the backyard before heading too far off into the woods.

    This is a good idea, Try to test your gear wearing your gloves and/or mittens in the backyard.

    150 Posts

    Wow, thanks for all the detailed information! I’ll take your advice and let you know how it goes in a month or so. Thanks!

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