Choosing a down bag

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kpeter
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Re: Choosing a down bag

Post by kpeter » Sun Oct 25, 2020 12:28 pm

Yes, I am still mulling this one over after the better part of a year. I've decided against a quilt and in favor of a regular bag with at least a 3/4 zip.

I thought I had it down to three conventional alternatives, then I came across a Zpack option that sacrifices the hood and saves 8 ounces of weight and considerable expense. I have very rarely ever used the hood on any of my existing bags--I wear a fleece hat, so the Zpack alternative sounds interesting. It puts the zipper underneath, which is a little quilt-like but this model does have a draft tube. There is another Zpack model with 3/4 zip and no draft tube that is even more quilt-like and lighter yet. Hmmm.

1) Anyone have experience with Zpacks bags, with bags without hoods, etc?
2) What is it with the REI Magma, that is $150 cheaper, warmer, and no heavier than the WM or the FF versions. Is there something wrong with it?

The alternatives I am considering are:

Zpacks Full Zip, 22 ounces, full zip no hood, 20 degrees, $409 list, 900 fill, 55" shoulder girth (also broad 60" version.)
https://zpacks.com/products/20f-full-zip-sleeping-bag

Feathered Friends Swallow, 27 ounces, full zip and hood, 20 degrees, $529 list, 900+ fill, 60" shoulder girth
https://featheredfriends.com/collection ... eeping-bag

Western Mountaineering Ultralite, 29 ounces, full zip and hood, 20 degrees, $525 list, 850+ non hydrostatic, 59" shoulder girth
http://www.westernmountaineering.com/sl ... ultralite/

REI Magma, 28 ounces, full zip and hood, 15 degrees, $379 list, 850 fill, 63" shoulder girth
https://www.rei.com/product/148248/rei- ... g-bag-mens
Last edited by kpeter on Sun Oct 25, 2020 6:40 pm, edited 9 times in total.








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bobby49
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Re: Choosing a down bag

Post by bobby49 » Sun Oct 25, 2020 1:05 pm

Over the years, I've owned sleeping bags from each of those four companies. They are all decent vendors, so I don't think that you can go wrong with any of them. There is a whole pile of sleeping bags stored in my equipment room.

Currently I use a Zpacks 30 degree bag. They used to have an odd way of describing the bag length that led to confusion on the part of the customer. I called that to their attention, so they made it right with me and then changed their advertising. This bag carries at a hair under 16 ounces.

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Re: Choosing a down bag

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Oct 25, 2020 2:14 pm

Is the down equivalent in all the bags? Goose down is more expensive then duck down. Cost also goes up with higher "fill power".

I personally would not use a bag without a draft collar which is usually a part of the hood. Even if you can keep your head warm in a fleece hat, the gap at your shoulders will let in cold air. I know you can wrap a blanket around your neck, but how do you keep it there if you move around a lot when sleeping? Although I do not regularly use the hood, If it gets down to 20 degrees, I really NEED it. Minimum temperature ratings are based on having the hood cinched up. I am surprised that a hood would add 6 ounces- that seems more than I would expect.

I would not even consider the difference in cost unless you are truly strapped for money. My bag cost me nearly $500 about 15 years ago and the extra cost is a long gone memory. The bag has as much loft now as it did initially and I have washed it two times.

At the cost of good quality sleeping bags, you really need to try it out first particularly if you choose a quilt and have never slept in one. I think you need to just decide, buy one, and then try it out at home on the carpet, keeping all tags on. Then return it if you do not like it and try another. You could probably find the REI bag locally and try it out at the store.

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paul
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Re: Choosing a down bag

Post by paul » Sun Oct 25, 2020 5:16 pm

Look carefully at dimensions. If memory serves, the Zpacks bags are quite narrow. And while a narrower bag is warmer, all other things being equal, that doesnt mean it is comfortable for you. We all have our preferences in that regard. Zpacks, FF, and WM all have excellent reputations. REI maybe a notch lower but still good. The photos i have seen of the Magma make me think the baffles are rather widely spaced, so I wonder about down shifting if that is the case. But I have not handled one.

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bobby49
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Re: Choosing a down bag

Post by bobby49 » Sun Oct 25, 2020 6:33 pm

Paul brings up a good point. If you are a skinny person, then you would probably prefer a narrow bag since it will be more efficient. If you are a big person, then you probably need more girth in the bag.

Otherwise, I have a good REI -20 degree bag that I purchased in 1980, and it is still perfect. Back in those days, the price of sleeping bags had been fluctuating a lot. Early on, the goose down was harvested in Poland, because they eat a lot of goose meat there. Then China got into the act and began shipping the raw down to REI and similar U.S. companies (since this is where the market is). The bags were fabricated here, but then the cost of labor was rising. China offered to do the sewing there and ship the finished bags here. So, one day the price of down was going up, and then it was down. (pun intended)

Back in those early days, we were perfectly happy to get 600 fill power. Now I've been using 850 or 900 fill power for several years. As always, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that higher fill power means that the whole bag is lighter in weight. The bad news is that the higher fill power down tends to be a little more fragile in the event that it gets damp.

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kpeter
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Re: Choosing a down bag

Post by kpeter » Sun Oct 25, 2020 6:47 pm

paul wrote:
Sun Oct 25, 2020 5:16 pm
The photos i have seen of the Magma make me think the baffles are rather widely spaced, so I wonder about down shifting if that is the case. But I have not handled one.
Good point, just counting from the pictures the Magma has about 10 baffles below the shoulders, the WE and FF more like 15. That sounds like a significant difference.

The Zpacks bags have vertical and not horizontal baffling. I've seen that advertised as a good thing, but those baffles are very, very long and look to me as if down could shift up or down pretty far.....

What does FF mean when they brag that they have "continuous baffling" to allow you to shift the down where you need it. That sounds like a disadvantage to me, if you are always having to shove the down around inside your baffles to get it where you want it, rather than having it anchored in place....

Great advice, folks.

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Re: Choosing a down bag

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Oct 25, 2020 6:55 pm

Being able to shift the down within a baffle is desirable if it allows you to put the down where needed most. My WM bag has horizontal baffles that encircle the bag. I usually open the zipper and then shake/stroke the down away from the underside to get more warmth on the top. I suppose the idea of a vertical baffle is to be able to shift down up or down depending on personal preference. For example, my feet and lower legs get colder than my mid-section.

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bobby49
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Re: Choosing a down bag

Post by bobby49 » Sun Oct 25, 2020 7:55 pm

If a sleeping bag is constructed and filled with the correct amount of down, then it should not be shifting anywhere. My Zpacks bag has horizontal baffles (made out of thin cuben fiber), and there is no problem.

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TurboHike
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Re: Choosing a down bag

Post by TurboHike » Mon Oct 26, 2020 9:32 am

If you buy the Zpacks unhooded bag, you could always add a goose down hood later, about 2 ounces in weight. Some people prefer a separate hood for side sleeping.

The Zpacks bag has a cord that can be cinched around the neck to keep out drafts. To use it, you need the bag to be long enough since it has to wrap around your shoulders. Something to think about if you go this way. In my experience, if the bag is too short, it will stretch the fabric and compress the down, possibly leading to cold spots.

Another thing about bag length is sleeping position. Back sleepers usually have their feet pointed skyward, more or less, while stomach sleepers have their toes pointed in line with their body. In my experience a stomach sleeper needs the bag to be about 5 or 6 inches longer than a back sleeper, all else equal. A back sleeper will need a more roomy toe box since toes are up. Size of feet also matter.

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Re: Choosing a down bag

Post by kpeter » Mon Oct 26, 2020 6:08 pm

Does anyone have a sense of the main differences between Western Mountaineering bags and Feathered Friends bags? They look to be nearly identical in price, specs, and materials....

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