Backcountry sleeping bag

Brenton96

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Dec 10, 2018
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Eastern Pennsylvania
I'm trying to get some gear together for an eventual backpacking elk hunt. The hunt will most likely take place during archery season in September, however, I would like to be able to also use the same bag during the rifle season in November if need be. My girlfriend is waiting for me to decide on a temp rating before she orders one for me (this will be my Christmas present from her). I'm stuck between a 0° bag and a 15° bag. I feel like 0° will be too warm for September, and a 15° might be too cold for November. What would you pick and why? Or should I look at a different temp rating all together?

P.s. the hunt will most likely take place in Wyoming (8,000 to 9,500 feet)

I appreciate any feedback.
 

AggieOutlaw

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May 22, 2016
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I think 15-20F is a good "all-season" bag knowing that you will be too cold for true winter and too warm for true summer. If you can ONLY have one, I guess I'd pick the 15. But recognize that this will limit you in severe weather. I wouldn't take my 15F bags below 20-25F without additional insulation. And I wouldn't take my 0F bag below 10-15 without additional insulation.

Another approach is to get the 0 deg bag to never (almost) be cold. The problem with this approach is that 80% of the year you'll be carrying extra weight and be uncomfortably warm.

I have three good down bags...a 0, 20, and 40. It's a good mix for me, but I realize not everyone can afford this. So, get a good mid-weight and use down jackets, merino, and other good insulators in the winter and be prepared for possible discomfort. Unzip in the summer. Just my $0.02
 

sneakypete

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Get the zero bag, here's why in the early fall use it as a blanket with your pad. When the temps drop you'll be cozy.
 

NoWiser

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Feb 12, 2013
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I can very easily take my Marmot Helium 15 degree bag down to 15 and sleep comfortably without base layers. With a Woobie I can take it down to 0. If you have a sewing machine you can easily make a homemade version of the Kifaru Woobie for pretty cheap. That, combined with a 15 degree bag, will cover almost everything. I could never handle a 0 degree bag. Just too warm 90% of the time. But, I sleep fairly warm. My biggest issue with the 15 degree bag is that I sweat too much.
 

belly-deep

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I’d go 15 degree and then plan on wearing some of your layers to bed in November.
 

grizzly_

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Feb 18, 2013
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My wife and I bought these for a WY backcountry elk hunt this year. Probably the single best purchase I've made in years. https://enlightenedequipment.com/convert-custom/

We got the 0 degree because they're inherently lighter than many comparably rated bags and are so easy to open up and vent during early season if its warm. Take a beanie if its cold as they don't have the "mummy" hood of a traditional bag.
 

nrpate05

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Jan 5, 2015
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I'd go 0 but I get cold. You can also go 15 then add a liner for the rifle hunt or sleep with some layers on.
 

wyoboypt

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Oct 4, 2017
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If you’re skinny like me go 0 degree. If you have some body fat you’d probably be fine in a 15.
 

Sytes

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IMO, a quality 0* is important for cold weather though for archery season, an inexpensive 20* Kelty does the job just fine. Lightweight bag liner is a nice emergency unit to pack... Beats the heck out of crappy emergency blanket reflective square doodads and if needed during archery season, makes a 20* a quick 0*.
 

Brenton96

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Dec 10, 2018
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Eastern Pennsylvania
Thanks for all the feedback! I guess the best thing would be to get 2 bags. One for early season and one for later. I'm a very skinny guy and do get cold fairly easy. Maybe I'll get the 0° bag for now and test it in different temperatures as the weather gets warmer this spring, and then decide if I should get something a bit cooler. Again, I appreciate the replies.
 

GlockZ

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Jul 31, 2016
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New Jersey
Personally i have a 20 degree bag that i've used in temps as low as 10 degrees and have been comfortable, it might just be me, but a bag between 15-20 degrees should do you just fine.
 

the nikster

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If you get too hot, you might be sleepy all day. If you get too cold you might be dead. I would get the warmer bag if I only get 1.
 

shaffe48

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Jan 26, 2018
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Personally i have a 20 degree bag that i've used in temps as low as 10 degrees and have been comfortable, it might just be me, but a bag between 15-20 degrees should do you just fine.
It depends on who you are and how warm you sleep. I also sleep fairly warm.
 
Joined
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100% I'd go with the 0 degree bag. You'll be much much happier during those cold November nights and if it's warm in September use the bag as a blanket rather then a cocoon. ;)
 

wllm1313

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Absolutely go 0 degree. I have a 15 and a bag liner and I’m sleeping with all my clothes + rain gear in October in the high country. You can always sleep with your bag unzipped all the way.
 

MTTW

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Montana
If you get too warm sleep with your bag open. If you actually experience 0 degrees with no heat source it will take all of the bag you have even if you have a zero rated bag, plus all of your clothes to stay warm, in my experience. If you get too cold to sleep, your odds of being there the next night are very low.

I would go with zero degree and make sure you have 2 pairs of socks, if zero is a possibility.
 

wllm1313

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What would be a typical night-time low temperature for Wyoming elk country in September? November?
Huge range in "elk country" but generally speaking I would say average nighttime low of 30 degrees in September and average nighttime low of 10 degrees in November. Obviously temp will change with slope aspect, elevation, temp, etc...

Just some food for thought, here is the rating tag on a marmot 15 degree bag. Marmont is suggesting that women will be comfortable in this bag at a low of 28.6 degrees, men will be comfortable down to 17.6 degrees and the bag will keep you alive but cold (not sure if that's how they would phrase it... you definitely aren't sleeping) to -15.3. Basically the manufacture is suggesting that at 15 degrees the average person will be cold in this bag.

Everyone runs a bit different personally I find that with just base layers I'm happy in a bag 15 degrees above it's rating, with all my clothes including down layers I can go to the rating, with a liner I can go 5 degrees below. (Sleeping solo with just my rain-fly and tent poles)

bag rating.jpg
 
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wyoboypt

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Oct 4, 2017
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^ this. It is very common to wake up to snow in September here. In fact the last 2 years in a row it has happened to us. Some days the highs are in the 30’s with thick frost in the morning. You can always open the bag if it’s hot.
 
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