Sleeping bag for AK, Central/North BC Coast?

Discussion in 'Gear Talk' started by JohnAbercrombie, Dec 11, 2017.

  1. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    What are you folks using for sleeping bags for places where you might get a lot of cool and rainy conditions?

    Synthetic/down?

    'Temperature rating?' - the published numbers don't seem to mean much. For spring/fall on S. Vancouver Island, I've been using a MEC Raven duck down bag that's rated at zero C (or a bit below?) and it feels about right, so I'm probably a bit of a 'cold sleeper'.

    I've been thinking that a synthetic bag like the MEC Centaurus (rated EN Comfort -2C, EN limit -9C) might be a good bet if I want to move to a synthetic bag.
    https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5041-035/Centaurus--9C-Sleeping-Bag

    I have an unused Wiggys (bag/overbag) system that I bought when I thought some winter camping was planned but never used it. So, it is being sold (I hope) and there's a spot on the shelf for a synthetic replacement.

    Thoughts?
    Thanks!
     
  2. AM

    AM Paddler

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    John, why not use the down bag with the overbag? That way you have a bit of extra warmth, plus you prevent the down from getting too wet. You can add a liner for another few degrees.

    What I don't like about the MEC bag you is the size. It needs a 20 l compression sack, which is getting pretty big.

    Cheers,
    Andrew
     
  3. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Andrew-
    Thanks for the reply.
    It's complicated!
    Using the Wiggys synthetic overbag is an option, certainly. If I don't sell the Wiggys combo I may consider doing that.
    However....
    The Wiggys overbag is not extremely compact - it's a zero C rated (long/wide) bag on its own (though I know it wouldn't be enough to keep me comfy warm, judging from the loft). It compresses to a 11" diameter 9" long stuff sack. And there's the weight and bulk of the non-insulating part (zipper, fabric) of the overbag. But, it does give another (fairly bomb-proof) second bag which, with some clothing, could do the job for sleeping if the down bag was unusable. So it's certainly worth keeping in mind as an option.

    Liners aren't an option for me - I used one years ago for a couple of nights and got twisted up in it. I'd need to sew in attachment loops, etc. . Anyway, it's not cold temperature that's the issue I envisage, it's the 'two weeks of rain every day' problem. I might take my GoreTex simple bivy bag to deal with problems with touching the bag to damp tent walls, but that also risks condensation problems inside the bag.
    And, for me, vapour barrier clothing works when it's really cold, not above freezing and rainy...so that's not an option.

    Actually, equipping for 'below zero' F camping in snow in Ontario was simpler than for temperate rainforest kayaking in cool weather.
     
  4. Kayak Jim

    Kayak Jim Paddler

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    Unless weight is a huge consideration (i.e. backpacking which I do very little of) I never use my down bag. I've slept in a soaking wet synthetic bag (under a tarp) and had thermal protection. That give me peace of mind. The dual bag works, adding bulk and weight as you say. You could replace the Wiggy overbag with a lighter synthetic. I also rely on wearing extra clothing in the bag rather than have a warmer bag with warm clothes sitting idle in a stuff sack.

    Yes cold camping is much simpler.
     
  5. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    The eternal dilemma: down vs synthetic / one thicker bag or two thinner bags.

    Given that your trip is multiday -- what, two weeks on the water or longer? -- I would go with a synthetic fill bag, roomy enough inside that you can layer up with synthetic garments to handle the coldest temp you are likely to encounter. Assume the synthetic will be reasonably dry, and expect that if it gets wet, you will shiver through one night and be OK. If the bag is inside a secure compressor dry bag, the chance of it getting seriously wet is very small.

    That arrangement allows you to adjust to fit the conditions easily, and if your synthetic garments get a little damp, one night wearing them inside the bag should dry them out.

    In addition, one bag with smaller dry bags containing the camping fleece will pack more easily/efficiently than two sleeping bags.

    Finally, in a really desperate situation, the extra fleece will layer up underneath your dry suit and add sufficient insulation if your tent and camping bag are destroyed or separate from you on an overlong day jaunt from the tent.
     
  6. Tangler

    Tangler Paddler

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    I'm sure a week or more in damp conditions will decrease the insulating capabilities of a down bag. An overbag will probably contribute to the problem as moisture doesn't just come from outside. Just how much so is hard to say as is how much it will affect you.
    There are often dry days when you could try and regenerate a damp bag, but maybe you would rather travel on those days.
    I would be tempted to go with a synthetic bag (and did for many years), especially given the level of commitment involved in paddling up there. It's not like you can paddle back to the car in a day or so...
    I used to have an old MEC -15 bag. It would fit in the front of my XL one bag forward of the footpeg runners.
    I expect the Centaurus would work well.
     
  7. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Yes, plenty of water vapour from the sleeper, into the bag. Where that moisture ends up, depends on the dew point/temperature. Most of the research has been done in very cold conditions, I think.
    This is an interesting paper on sleeping bag performance in Arctic conditions:
    http://cradpdf.drdc-rddc.gc.ca/PDFS/unc17/p520372.pdf

    The moisture from the sleeper issue is why I'm a bit hesitant to use a cover (GoreTex or not) over the bag to keep it from getting wet if it touches the tent wall. I've noticed (with not many nights of data) that tent size makes a difference. When travelling solo, it's a luxury to use a 2-person tent. With a larger tent, there's less chance of touching the walls, but in a smaller tent the sleeper warms up the interior space better, so condensation is less likely (in a good tent).

    Yes, I think my Mariner Max could fit a bigger dry bag just aft of the forward bulkhead, like your Mariner XL does. If not, there's quite a bit of space in the forward compartment, usually.
     
  8. Tangler

    Tangler Paddler

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    Interesting paper.
    I guess the take home message is don't go camping in very cold conditions for long periods of time unless you have a group of friendly companions and a bunch of animal hides...
     
  9. eriktheviking

    eriktheviking Paddler

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    I ended up buying a synthetic bag for this purpose after having used down bags or climbing/backpacking for years. The prospect of a long damp trip with limited drying opportunity forced that choice. Not so much an issue about weight, but the extra volume needed is an issue. I was able to get one from the MEC Gear Swap that is similar to the 0C Centaurus. Unless you are travelling well into spring/fall side seasons, even that is a pretty warm bag. Ditto on the 2-person tent, especially when weathered in. Splurge on the thicker thermarest-type mat though- makes a world of difference.
     
  10. designer

    designer Paddler

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    It's not about the cold and it even isn't about the condensation from warm vapor coming off a bag in cold weather. One time on Vargas Island, B. C. I woke up to a day where the water just hung in the air, but not raining. Everything was wet. That's the challenge. And it could be many days before there's a chance to dry things out.

    That said, I've sold most my synthetic bags and go for down in my top and bottom hammock quilts. But I also carry a full shroud - which is like a single wall tent. I use down but I go on trips in the summer and usually for less than 2 weeks. So I can suffer a little if it comes to that.

    When I was using the synthetic bag, it would have it's own dry bag that had a waterproof opening at the bottom. So I could stuff the bag with that open, then close it up after the dry bag top was rolled and buckled. it fit just in front of my foot pegs in the Mariners.

    Though I'm a believer in "less clothes makes a warmer body" in a sleeping bag, I do have a set of what I'd consider winter jammies (I always wear jammies - easier to wash them than to wash the bag). I'm still playing with wearing clothes in the bag vs lighter night wear and letting my body heat created an oven around me.
     
  11. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Agree on all counts. The data on condensation in extreme cold have little bearing on coastal paddle camping, I suspect, but illustrate the problem. On multiday ski trips on high ridges, WA Cascades, four or five nights of sleeping in ordinary down bags was the limit. Soggy goose fur is PFU those last nights. John's jaunts in very cold air might have fared better, inasmuch as Cascades winter air is pretty moist, comparatively.

    In any case, GoreTex really only works best when it is the barrier separating a strong heat source which pumps water vapor through it into a cooler outside air mass. As the exterior surface of a down bag, it is a really good moisture barrier. The thinnest ripstop is a much better choice.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2017