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I am planning a backpacking camping trip when the quarantine is over. And looking for some cool gear while indoors, that is to say a 30-40F sleeping bag is also needed.

There a lots of sleeping bags with 32F temperature rating, quite similar features and absolutely different price tag. I mean Oaskys sleeping bag that costs $25 and expensive Western Summerlite for $400.

The only significant difference between them is that Oaskys is made in China and Summerlite is the US-made sleeping bag.

Do we really pay extra fees for only a gear to be made somewhere else except China?

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    The only difference? Did you compare the filling material and the mass? – gerrit Mar 26 at 12:56
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    The big difference between those particular bags is that the Western is down while the Oaskys is cotton fill. That's really unsuitable for anything but slumber parties, and verges on dangerous for use outdoors. It's definitely silly since a poncho liner or fleece blanket will be warmer while being about 5% of the size and weight. – Matthew Gauthier Mar 26 at 15:51
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    This is certainly a valid question, but keep in mind that, at extremes of low prices, items often have issues. They can be immediate, and identifiable through the feature list, as some of posters have pointed out with your $25 bag. They can be more subtle, like lower manufacturing quality, even with apparently similar materials and features. For example, a friend's backpack strap broke on our first weekend out with it. This is true for a lot of things, not just camping gear. High end bling may be too $$$$ to be worth it, but a sweet spot between $25 and $400 is a better bet. – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica Mar 26 at 20:37
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    The difference? About four pounds. – Mark Mar 26 at 21:29
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    One might reasonably ask how the temperature rating of the $25 bag was determined. Or indeed, it was determined by anything other than the marketing department. – jamesqf Mar 27 at 3:44
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There is various features that can cause a huge difference in price for seemingly similar pieces of equipment. The place of manufacturing can play a role but rarely to such a huge extend.

Material used
The first difference between cheap and expensive equipment is almost always the material used. Cheap synthetic fill or even cotton will keep you warm as well but it is a lot heavier and a lot more bulky than down or high quality synthetic such as primaloft. If you have to carry your sleeping bag around, this makes a huge difference.
In a higher quality sleeping bag you can also expect that the shell and sometimes even the filling are at least a bit water repellent. Therefore your sleeping bag will hold its temperature even when slightly moist.
And as gerrit pointed out, a bag with a wider range of temperatures due to higher quality down filling is a lot more comfortable.

Temperature rating
Not all bags with the same rating are necessary equal. Interpretation of standards can be conservative or rather "liberal". See the question How are sleeping bag temperature ratings determined

Design
Even with a similar rating, the design of a sleeping bag can make a huge difference. The following two pictures are from a test for two sleeping bags that look very similar on paper but the thermal image is very different:
bad sleeping bag better sleeping bag
source ( models 1 and 2)
While the second bag is not an example for a perfect construction, it does have a lot less leakage (identifiable by red spots) than the first one. Each leak means a potential cold spot. A better constructed sleeping bag will therefore feel a lot more comfortable. One particularly problematic area (at least by my own experience) is the feet which is leaking a lot more in the first sleeping bag than with the second.
On a 25$ sleeping bag a complex constuction is unlikely to be found. See also the amazing link on sleeping bag construction provided by Weather Vane

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    Another difference can be the quilting method. A sewn-through bag is the worst as there is no effective insulation at the stitching. – Weather Vane Mar 26 at 20:01
  • I cannot tell which sleeping bag is supposed to be better from the thermal images. The first one is inefficient, the second looks like it has wide variations of temperatures. I expect a very good one to be uniformly blue or grey, with yellows at most. Assuming the range of thermal colors is the same for every picture. – Eric Duminil Mar 27 at 6:42
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    The second one is not an example for a perfect sleeping bag, just a better one. The less red areas and the less intensive, the better the sleeping bag is. The first one has some areas that are basically not insulating at all – Manziel Mar 27 at 7:56
  • On the thermal images, what is the scale being used? Typically white means the hottest, and dark blue the coldest, but what are the values used in the photo as the high and low end of the scale – Ferrybig Mar 28 at 9:36
  • Unfortunately I do not know. I took the images from the linked sleeping bag test but they do not give any details about calibration of the thermal camera – Manziel Mar 28 at 10:03
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To answer the particular case of the bags in this question, the main differences between these bags are:

Properties of a $25 china made "32 degree" bag:

  • Low quality synthetic insulation (ie. less warmth for the same weight and bulk)
  • Heavy / thick face fabrics
  • Heavy zippers
  • Single sheet construction (insulation is a single layer sandwiched between the face fabric, not made with overlapping layers of insulation)
  • You mention manufactured in China where labor costs are very low, so a simple design requiring little labor will be very inexpensive
  • Temperature rating likely exaggerated (no standard used, ie. EN 13575)

The result of these design features is a "very" bulky (ie. the size of a 20lb propane bottle which will not fit in a 30-40 liter backpack), "very" heavy (can't find the specific model you mention but I would guess 4+ lbs). For someone who is looking to use a bag for a trip where they are not going to have to pack the bag into a backpack, or carry it very far, or endure any extreme weather this may be a great option. This category of bag is what is sometimes called a "car camping bag" used for camping at campgrounds where you drive your car next to the tent site, usually in good weather.

Properties of a $400 Western Mountaineering bag:

  • Down with a high fill power
  • Extremely lightweight face fabric
  • Lightweight zippers
  • Complex design features (baffles, complex shaping of the head/neck area, anti-snag features for the zipper, etc.
  • Overlapping layers of down (this construction requires considerably more labor no matter where the bag is made)
  • Made in California, where labor is very expensive and these bags have a lot of labor
  • Ironically Western Mountaineering doesn't use a sleeping bag warmth standard either but their ratings are consistent with the expectations of most backpackers in my experience

The result of these features is a bag that packs down extremely small (ie, the size of a water bottle), is extremely light (1lb 3oz which is "crazy light") and extremely comfortable. For certain people who carry a backpack every weekend, or up mountains these features are well worth $400. This category of bag is sometimes called a "mountaineering bag" and is used for lightweight backpacking and mountaineering.

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    I'd like to see how big your water bottle is. – Joshua Mar 28 at 15:15
  • Where are you sourcing the qualities of the zippers etc? Is it personal experience, or is there a spec page that you can share with us. – TankorSmash Mar 29 at 2:59
  • @TankorSmash - Personal experience with the zippers. Manufacturers will usually only claim "lightweight zippers" or something and not the actual model of zipper used but the difference between a quality lightweight zipper (ie YKK 2CF or 3CF size) and the bulky metal coil zippers used on car camping bags is apparent when you hold each in your hands. – spicylad Mar 31 at 18:02
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I was looking at sleeping bags in a real shop only a couple of weeks ago. My budget would rule out the $400 bag, which I assume is down-filled, but even at the lower end there's a big difference. I was comparing 2 synthetic bags, both mummy-shaped for a tall person, rated to a very similar temperature,and from the same manufacturer. One weighed about 50% more than the other, and was nearly twice the volume when packed (not compressed). It cost half as much. The difference in bulk would be very significant in my case as I'd be using it for bikepacking; the cheaper one wouldn't fit in my saddlebag. On your back, the cheaper one would eat into your weight budget a lot more.

Your specific example of an expensive bag is a down one. They're meant to be much more comfortable, as well as very lightweight for the insulation. While I can't identify the exact Oaksys, it looks like it would be 3-4× heavier than the expensive bag (up to about 1.5 kg/3-4 lb extra).

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    This answer would be improved if you briefly addressed why down is an advantage compared to synthetic. In a cheap sleeping bag, you might be sweating if 10°C or 5°C above the rated temperature. In a down sleeping bag, you will be comfortable over a much larger range of temperatures. – gerrit Mar 26 at 13:36
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    @gerrit having never owned a down bag (or jacket) I don't feel qualified to answer the comfort aspect in any detail, but I can add a little. – Chris H Mar 26 at 15:08
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I still use the very expensive down sleeping bag I bought in 1972. I've used it an average of at least 30 days a year for nearly 50 years. Of course, I treated it very well between uses: It reposed in a fluffy pile in a cool, dry dark place with nothing weighing it down or crowding it. It was dry cleaned maybe every 5 years or so. I can't remember how much it cost, but it was expensive for that time; easily the 1972 equivalent of $400. It was rated to zero degrees F.

I've never had an inexpensive sleeping bag: this was my first and only. But it is not farfetched to say that the difference between a $25 bag and a $400 bag is like the difference between $25 shoes and $400 shoes -- not fashion so much as durability. Whether the durability difference is worth the price difference depends on your plans, priorities and current pocketbook.

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When shopping for sleeping bags you take into consideration 3 things; weight, warmth, and cost. Pick the two that matter to you - you can't have all three. For me, ultralight backpacking is my thing, so I choose lightweight and warm, which means down, which means more expensive. Car camping on the other hand, I have a huge, heavy, cheaper synthetic bag that's plenty warm.

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1

It's not about the origin of a product, it's about features you need for your backpacking trip, that is to say: weight, comfort, breathability, reliable zippers and so on. And if you go on your feet you need your backpack packed as lighttweight as possible.

In case of WM Summerlite you pay for 19 oz weight while Oaskys weighs 3lbs! Goose and duck down bags are always more expensive since it harder-to-get material than synthetic, but these bags are much warmer and comfortable. There are also dri-down bags (kinda synthetic down or smth) but I haven't tested any yet.

Retailers often mention temperature rating in Celcius on purpose for a person from the US to think it's Fahrenheits. Oaskys' back label says it's comfort temperature rating is 10-20 degrees C which is 50-70F actually. enter image description here

And looks like everyone is complaining about its zippers:

"The zipper doesn’t seem very strong because I often found it unzipped to my hips throughout the night. Will definitely invest in a bigger higher quality sleeping bag but will keep for the dogs during summer camping season"

"The tab on the zipper came off on its first....and last use."

"ETA: First time using it and the zipper is broken. It’s 49 degrees and I’m freezing"

"Zipper failed and is not a "do it yourself fix" at home"

And you could do a bit more of research to find cheaper yet US made and comfortable sleeping bags. https://wildproofgear.com/best-ultralight-sleeping-bag/

Of, course they weight more than WM summerlite (the WM Summerlite is actually the most lightweight bag I managed to find at the market). But you can also try Marmot or Black Orca. You don't need a down fill sleeping bag for your backpacking trip, but weight is really matters here.

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    "Retailers often mention temperature rating in Celcius on purpose for a person from the US to think it's Fahrenheits" - I don't think that's why they do it. The majority of the global population uses metric. – Aaron F Mar 27 at 11:14
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    @AaronF, I agree and it is difficult to mistaken 10°C for 10°F, it is not like the temperature is given as 10°. – WoJ Mar 27 at 13:53
  • I mean product descriptions on Amazon. I guess that is where our OP made a conclusion. You should just check the product's page - length of a bag is in inches, as well as temp rating in Fahrenheits and it says 20F, lol amazon.com/oaskys-Camping-Sleeping-Bag-Lightweight/dp/… It's not even a mistake, it's a false advertisement. – Paul Blair Mar 27 at 15:06
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I am going to try to give a slightly different perspective than the other answers.

To start with, I am going to make a few assumptions, based on what you said in your question:

  • You are not (yet) an experienced camper, else you would have decided on your own. Furthermore, I am going to assume that means you are likely not (yet) considering highly technically-demanding camping expeditions.

  • You may need to get other camping gear as well.

  • You don't have an unlimited budget, but since you are looking at high end gear, you can spend some money.

Shop by needs/budget, then features

People have been giving you all sorts of reason why a $440 sleeping bag is a worthwhile investment. But, at this point in time, do you need it?

How likely are you to actually need a 32F rating? Are you doing winter camping? That's a whole different kettle of fish and I would get experience with warmer weather trips first. I camped for years before I went winter camping and even then I spent quite a lot of time researching before actually setting out.

Do you need that ultra-lightness? I've done multi-day hiking trips, up to 5-7 days, some with a lot of elevation gain. While 1-2 pounds less is always welcome in a 50-60 pound load, I wouldn't spend a ton on it. Better to be disciplined in what you bring rather than spending tons on extra-light equipment*. Weight saving, in camping gear as in cycling, is where the prices really start to bite.

Of course, if you are a mountain climber or are doing long trips in really cold weather, then that becomes a totally different calculation and you can disregard this answer in its entirety.

Get less features, but better quality.

The manufacturer and retailer won't be selling at a loss, distress sales excepted. So, if you see an average price of $150 for a sleeping bag with your general list of features and another bag at $25, you have to wonder what shortcuts were made to get to that price.

To get to $25 vs $150, the vendor has to cut corners somewhere. They may be citing inflated features. The materials may not be high quality, or there may not be enough of it (lightweight and fragile parts) , the assembly might be cutting corners in methods used.

Quite often, really cheap gear gives out after only a few trips. Friend's mountainbike that broke derailer hold on first trail run. Friend's backpack whose strap broke on first weekend out. My own experiences with the store-brand equipment I got from a reputed coop camping chain here. Except for 1 tent that lasted me 10 years, all their stuff fell apart within 2-3 years max.

So, a well-made $100 bag that is a pound heavier than the $150 version, by the same credible manufacturer might be a better bet to save money. Or go up to a 40F rating and get a good sleeping bag mat. A well-made cotton sleeping bag, with its known shortcomings vs down might be better than a same-price, cheaply-made, down equivalent.

The China manufacture? Eh, not as meaningful as one might think. Arcteryx, an extremely pricey, but high quality clothing brand used to make everything in Canada. Now, mostly the design is done here but the manufacture is mostly in Asia. Has the quality gone down? Well, they still offer a lifetime warranty and I don't really think so. Certainly, can't say the price has gone down much either. You may have other reasons for not buying foreign-made, and that's fine.

Really high end gear? Probably not worth it starting out.

Yes, people will tell you about that $600 tent they got 20 yrs ago and are still using. Or their ultralight all-titanium cutlery. Like clothing or bicycles, there's quite a lot of bling, tech snobbery and brand mania in camping gear (to be fair, extremely pricey is, occasionally, justified by either the gear or what you use it for). Thing is, a 20 yr old tent is probably way behind the times on materials and design used so it wouldn't sell for anywhere near that price now. Even branded gear isn't always the best, especially when the manufacturer is expanding into new equipment lines.

Right now, if you are purchasing a lot of equipment, it's all going to compete in your budget. Get something that covers your needs and that can reasonably be expected to last 5-10 years. Don't be too cheap, don't be too ambitious in the features you shop for, unless you have an identified reason to splurge for that feature. If you want to save, try doing so at sale events, like Black Friday, rather than getting really low end gear.

Be careful shopping branded gear at big discount retailers. Sometimes a manufacturer has no choice but lower their standards to sell to a big volume chain. One example I saw quoted in a DYI home reno book was American Standard, the bathroom manufacturer, having special lines at Home Depot. Their toilets there are just not as good as elsewhere, though cheaper.

Bottom line:

I'd stay away from a $25 sleeping bag like the plague. It's a disposable, few-use, item and will result in you having to buy a replacement in short order, thus resulting in a $25 loss, rather than any savings. Quite likely it will also make whatever trip during which it fails a rather unpleasant experience. I would also stay away from a $440 luxury/super-technical bag because you likely don't need it yet (I know I still don't) and will not see a return on your investment. When you have more experience, by all mean, shop for high end gear when you know what makes sense for you.

* when I first started camping, I made spreadsheets of what to bring, as a reminder. Over time, I started debriefing after the trips, marking what I had actually used. Excellent way to save weight, just don't ditch safety gear on that basis.

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I know this isn't all thorough like the top answer. I just wanted to add that a difference in price does not necessarily indicate that one is better than the other- at all - for any reason other than consumer choice. As an example look at Gucci sunglasses, belts, handbags....in many cases they kinda suck as every-day handbags, they are however far more expensive than my big ol' purse that cost $5 at Goodwill. Were I stranded and needed a purse that actually held things, I would certainly not have a designer bag with me.

Several factors come into play when pricing a product above and beyond it's functionality and materials used to design it.

  • Brand Name (if established and well-known as a 'leader' or 'trend-setter')
  • Demand (obviously)
  • Supply (if you got a lot of sleeping bags and no demand, goodbye company)
  • Esthetics
  • Jones effect (OOOOO I want what Mr. Jones has!)
  • etc
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