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Old 08-07-2010   #1
Fanta Se', New Mexico
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: May 2010
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Sleeping bags

What are the best sleeping bags that you use for self support trips? Down or synthetic? I am looking for a bag that can pack down small to fit in the stern but able to handle a cool evening. Any specific brands?

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Old 08-07-2010   #2
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New Castle, Colorado
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I have a Ledge brand 20 degree synthetic bag. It weighs less than two pounds and comes in a compression sack that makes it about the size of a football. I am a "warm" sleeper and it is great on the sand on 40/50 degree nights. I have used it inside a tent on a 2" pad below freezing (probably not 20 degrees) and I do pull it over my head. I would avoid down on the river because it is completely useless if it gets wet.

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Old 08-07-2010   #3
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Colorado Springs, Colorado
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These work great, and they give you a few different options for various weather conditions, and come in a compression sack.

I used the modular sleep system when I was in the Army, and also for a November Westy trip, but I was able to throw it on one of our gear rafts. Never tried them on a self support.

OH, and the Bivy sack in the Modular Sleep System is gortex and quite waterproof, and can be used by itself, with just either the green or black sleeping bag, or with all 3 together to provide the warmest combination for those extreme cold and wet days.

Modular Sleep System:
Buy Military Modular Sleeping Bags at Army Surplus World

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Old 08-07-2010   #4
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Eagle, Colorado
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20 degree down Mtn Hardware. Sicko bag that packs super small. I carry it inside of my watershed stern floats (I sometimes throw it in it's own dry bag, although it's overkill).

Low temp synthetic bags have a huge size problem.

I have a...

Mtn Hardware Phantom Down 30 degree bag and a Mtn Hardware 0 degree synthetic 3rd Dimension. I can't pack the later in my sternfloats.
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Old 08-07-2010   #5
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Seattle, Washington
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You pretty much have to go down or top of the line synthetic to make the size requirement for a significant self support kayak trip. That being said, I pulled off Upper Cherry with a huge, cheap synthetic bag. I went back the following year with a tiny 30+ REI brand down bag and I love it. It's cheaper than the Mountain Hardware and probably wont last as long (the material feels pretty light), but it's been getting the job done.

Make sure to get a Watershed bag for at least the sleeping bag. You definitely want to keep the down dry!

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Old 08-08-2010   #6
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Wolcott, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2006
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Best sleeping bags for self support kayak

Here is a link to a previous discussion. I like the Marmot Helium. A little more pricey but super light and packs small.
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Old 08-09-2010   #7
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SE, Wyoming
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Here's a copy of my post on that thread:

My ultra-light Western Mountaineering bag is a masterpiece: super-quality down, excellent fabric, beautiful cut. It stuffs unbelievably small for the warmth. I've slept in it (really slept, not just dozed & froze) in a bivy sac at 11,000 ft. in the low 20s with snow and wind.

A good river combo is an ultralight bag (the Big Agnes bags are also excellent), a bivy sac with netting and a bit of headroom, and an ultralight tarp (I've got SILTarps and a SILShelter from Integral Designs that fit in a coffee mug. I've camped out with them on South Island NZ in bloody downpours and stayed reasonably dry).

The key difference with a synthetic bag is that if it does get soaked, you can press out the water and sleep in it. It'll be damp at first, and might stay damp underneath, but for the most part it'll dry out with body heat. Which can save your life. A wet down bag is impossible to dry without considerable heat and fluffing. If you get down, get the best possible lightweight drybag for it.

Integral Designs used to have some super lightweight synthetic bags as well. I got a roomy but light Primaloft model that works to mid 30s, with a liner bag that takes it into the 20s (for me, anyhow).

A few added notes: if you'll be running western US desert rivers, with dry conditions on the banks and few extended storms, down offers more comfort for the weight. You need to dry it out each day before stuffing it.

But if you're running rivers in deep shady gorges in areas of high rainfall and humidity (west coast NZ, British Columbia or SE Alaska, NE coast of US, or the Tropics) then a high-end synthetic bag is a better choice, since it will mostly dry with body heat.
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Old 08-10-2010   #8
Paddling Since: 1975
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The only thing I can add from my experience is when buying a bag, the temp. rating is usually about 20 degrees off, if the sleeping temp is going to be around 20 degrees get a bag rated to 0, and you should stay warm as long as it is dry. Stay with the synthetics, wet goose down will leave you up tending the fire all night. Your budies will thank you in the morning.

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