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  1. #1
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    Default Looking for the perfect winter bag

    I've got some extra money that I'd like to put into a new winter sleeping bag.
    Down bags tend to degrade over the years and the one I'm using now (an Exped Swan 800g, 11yrs old) which once was good for -10C now hardly keeps me comfortable at 0C.
    One issue I'm facing at every trip in cold weather is, that the bag gets soaked by condensation, be it inside the tent or camping cowboy style. The colder and shorter the days are, the harder it is to let dry out the bag during the day.

    So now I've come to find this ad that claims the bag to be specially designed for wet conditions:
    https://www.exped.com/international/...c-pro-15%C2%B0
    Aside from the horrendous price, what would you think of this?
    Would it help with the issue of condensation?

  2. #2

    Default

    I would first focus on resolving your condensation issue. I personally hike year round and never have an issue with condensation. Here is my setup and see if anything stands out to you.

    -A stratospire 2 tent or a double wall tent. As well ventilated as weather allows.
    -Exped pad, either the summer light one or a thermal winter version
    -Montbell or western mountaineering bag
    -Winter time the face gets a loose buff over mouth and nose, this catches alot of the condensation that would be expelled into my tent yet the buff dries throughout the night from my body warmth
    Trail Miles: 4,362.7 - AT Trips: 72
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  3. #3

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    Its interesting your comment about down bags degrading. I think down has the rep that if its properly stored that it lasts longer than synthetics. Bags need to be stored in an uncompressed state. Most bags come with an oversized storage bag but it takes up a lot of space so many skip it and ruin the down. The other way to kill down is let it get real dirty. Bags do need to be washed occasionally using proper techniques.

    I agree with Gambit, work out your condensation issues first. WM has Pertex shells which can help but a warm tent in cold weather equals possible condensation issues which is counterintuitive. You need to manage moisture and that may mean opening vents and flaps which means a cold tent.

  4. #4

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    Down bags do not really degrade over time. Here's a pic of my WM Puma bag when brand new in 2007---

    TRIP 69 053-L.jpg

    And here's the same bag 13 years later after thousands of bag nights---

    P1000036.JPG
    And it's never been washed.

    On my long winter trips it's common to get some amount of in-tent condensation (and I don't do much cowboy camp anymore which is a sure way to get dew moisture on the bag shell)---but one tip is to always hang your down bag out in the morning before packing up to "sublimate" moisture and help dry out the shell. Like this---

    trip 90 049-L.jpg

    Or this---in the cold wet humid air on Slickrock Creek---
    Trip 208 (217)-XL.jpg

    Another tip is to habitually vent your shelter so it's colder inside but removes 80-90% of winter condensation.

  5. #5
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    Default

    Well, If I had a solution for the condensation issue everything would be fine. But whatever I've tried, more often than not, the issue is there.
    It widely depends on the weather conditions, and on the campspot.
    During my 3-days-trip last week there was a strong wind from the south which was still cold but brought very dry air and there was zero condensation.
    Last night I've been sleeping on my terrace under the awning and during the night the sky cleared up and fog was rolling in, so everything was soaked.
    When using a tent, I'd try to leave the flaps of the rainfly open, but then usually in the still of the night it becomes too cold and I close the flaps so condensation is building up.
    In really cold temps, I'm using my winter tent and sure enough everything is frosted over in the morning, but then frost seems to be easier to get rid of when breaking the tent than moisture is.
    I've tried to use a tarp but the condensation was about the same.
    I've spent many nights in the desert, cowboy camping, and rarely ever had any condensation.
    I think, the weather conditions here in the Alps might be similar to that what you have in the Whites.

    Regarding the degradation of down bags, I've used (and worn out) several down bags over the decades and can confirm, that for the first few months a new bag is perfectly cosy, but then start do degrade to a level where its just OK, losing a roughly estimated 5C in rating.
    I've tried to wash the down bags my own, but drying posed some issue so now I bring them to the local washing service (they claim to know how to wash&dry down articles).
    Washing the bag seems to improve the loft a little, but never near the level it was as a brand new.
    I'm very careful to keep my bags clean, always wearing long-sleeve Merino stuff and a balaclava.

    Any help is appreciated!

  6. #6

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    Another point about getting the perfect winter bag is to go overkill so if you expect 0F during a trip have a bag rated to -10F or -15F---which is my desire---because I use my down bag 95% of the time as an unzipped quilt and the low temp rating allows me to do this---and then when it's really cold like 0F or -10F I can zip up and get mummified. I'm actually carrying a down quilt and a down bag at the same time. I don't like getting all zipped up and cocooned in a tight mummy bag unless it's really cold---as I toss and turn too much.

  7. #7
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    Default

    Walter - I know your pics and am just wondering how this can work?
    Would be really interesting to parallel you on a trip to find out the difference.
    Your MW Puma bag seems to be of similar age, and much more used than my Exped, and Exped usually makes good quality products - so there should be no difference.
    Maybe the real reason is that I became older and more sensitive to cold?
    BTW, I usually start hiking in the dawn without breakfast, so I'd see the sun only after 2-3hrs of hiking and sure I'll hang the bag and the tent while having breakfast.
    Maybe stuffing the wet sleepingbag into its stuffsack does the "degrading"?

  8. #8
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    Another point about getting the perfect winter bag is to go overkill ...
    And yes, that is my intention too for the upcoming purchase.

  9. #9

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    On cold winter backpacking trips it common for outside air humidity to be 90 or 100% and this more than in-tent condensation is the cause of a moist down bag. You can always tell how much moisture is in your down bag by doing the Stuff Sack test. At home before a trip stuff your down bag in its stuff sack---it's bone dry at home---and will require some effort. Then 4 days into a wet winter trip try to stuff in the down bag and it's easy with room left over. Bone Dry vs Slightly Moist (not just the shell but the down itself).

    On a long winter trip like 18 or 21 days this generally happens---4 days of high humidity and sleet/snow; Day 7 a bone dry wind blows thru camp turning the bag fully lofted again---the next week another sleetstorm and the bag gets "soggy". Day 18 comes another dry spell and the bag lofts back up---all observable by how easy or hard it is to put the bag in its stuff sack.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    Walter - I know your pics and am just wondering how this can work?
    Would be really interesting to parallel you on a trip to find out the difference.
    Your MW Puma bag seems to be of similar age, and much more used than my Exped, and Exped usually makes good quality products - so there should be no difference.
    Maybe the real reason is that I became older and more sensitive to cold?
    BTW, I usually start hiking in the dawn without breakfast, so I'd see the sun only after 2-3hrs of hiking and sure I'll hang the bag and the tent while having breakfast.
    Maybe stuffing the wet sleepingbag into its stuffsack does the "degrading"?
    More sensitive to cold can be solved in part by having a down parka in camp and by carrying several Hot Hand packets for morning shove offs---warmth pouches placed in each glove/mitten etc. When cold the pouches can be dumped out and the packaging burned. Or start the day with a nalgene liter of hot tea next to your body etc.

    I think your main problem is leaving camp too early and stuffing a moist bag without giving it time to dry out in camp (hanging as mentioned). If I had to leave a cold winter camp every morning at dawn I would get up an hour before and still hang out my bag until shoving off. If you stuff a moist bag it will sponge up moisture and never dry out unless you hit a stretch of bone dry windy conditions as you mentioned.

  11. #11
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    Default

    Walter, while I usually don't do so many nights in a row, I still know the exact same thing: A wet bag is easier to stuff.

    Interesting observation:
    Last night sleeping on the terrace, I got cold just before dawn.
    So I pulled a summer sleeping bag (Hollofil, which I had handy for this purpose) over my soaked down bag and had another two hours of cosy sleep.
    When I finally got up, the down bag was dry and the Hollofil bag was wet.

  12. #12
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    Default

    Well, if I waited for the sun I'd lay in the tent until 9:00am, which would give me ~16hrs laying flat - thats a bit too much, and then I'd miss the daylight hours to make hiking progress.
    (OK, another reason is that camping in the wild is illegal here and I prefer not to get caught).
    If there is any sun during the day, I'd use a break to hang the bag anyway.

    I'm not so old that I'd start using artifical warmth. Its just the same as having a "manual" bike, or an e-Bike.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    Walter, while I usually don't do so many nights in a row, I still know the exact same thing: A wet bag is easier to stuff.

    Interesting observation:
    Last night sleeping on the terrace, I got cold just before dawn.
    So I pulled a summer sleeping bag (Hollofil, which I had handy for this purpose) over my soaked down bag and had another two hours of cosy sleep.
    When I finally got up, the down bag was dry and the Hollofil bag was wet.
    Yard sleeping in a down bag without a tent or bivy bag (even with a bivy bag) can be "non-productive" in that nighttime dew and frost will cover the bag and get it soaked. One night and the bag is immediately compromised. If you had to pull 3 more weeks sleeping out every night your bag would be a mess. This is why I use a double wall tent---to prevent dew/frost.

    You bring up a interesting point about how I used to survive sleeping outside in stealth camps as a "dirtbagger" back in the early 1980s i.e. didn't have any money to buy a good down bag. Technique---sleep inside a cheap fiberfill bag and throw an Army feather bag over the top---Warmth thereby gained at the cost of weight and bulk.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    Well, if I waited for the sun I'd lay in the tent until 9:00am, which would give me ~16hrs laying flat - thats a bit too much, and then I'd miss the daylight hours to make hiking progress.
    (OK, another reason is that camping in the wild is illegal here and I prefer not to get caught).
    If there is any sun during the day, I'd use a break to hang the bag anyway.

    I'm not so old that I'd start using artifical warmth. Its just the same as having a "manual" bike, or an e-Bike.
    I used to curse Hot Hands warmth packets until I hit 69 years old and decided what the heck---carry a few in the pack. Hands don't stay warm much anymore.

    And you don't need sunlight to dry off a sleeping bag. A down bag can get pretty dry just by hanging outside---even during a snowstorm if it's cold enough and the snow flakes are pellets etc. The main thing is to let outside air ventilate your bag and get it out of the stuffy tent. Down Bag Tip #668---When getting to camp, remove bag from sack and thoroughly shake bag 30 or 40 times to loosen up down clusters and reloft.
    TRIP 117 080-L.jpg

  15. #15
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    69yrs... Still 5yrs to go for me... And yes, hands pose some problems, usually I carry 3 sets of gloves (one set are winter industrial rubber gloves, just for braking the frosted tent)

    Thanks for the hint about hanging the bag even w/out sun. Will give it a try!

  16. #16
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    At first glance, I thought you had a bear checking out your campsite.

  17. #17

  18. #18

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    I've heard of folks who hike with their bag draped over their shoulders, to help the bag air out. That might be a way to keep moving, while still giving your bag some air time.

  19. #19
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    I haven't hiked with my bag draped over my shoulders (I can't even imagine doing so), but I have draped it across as I eat some breakfast.
    fortis fortuna adjuvat

  20. #20
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    Default

    I don’t know perfect, feathered friends 0 snow bunting might work.

    thom

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