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Out of all the equipment that I have been looking at in order to get started backpacking the sleeping bag is the one that I have been completely blown away by prices. I just would never expect something that is serving as a blanket, to have things that are considered normal consumer products that are $400+.

Is it realistic to expect to pay $100 or less for a sleeping bag that will keep me warm enough for camping in places such as the U.S. Midwest, Yellowstone, etc. in the spring-fall seasons?

I have seen bags that are cheaper but they don't seem to be geared towards backpacking (maybe not necessarily a bad thing). The only thing that worries me about these bags are their pack-down size. I am not really sure what a normal size of a sleeping bag is once in it's stuff sack ... it would be helpful to have a range.

More info: The pack it needs to fit into: Osprey Volt 60

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    If you are concerned about the volume you will most-likely want a down sleeping bag as they compress better. – ppl Apr 10 '15 at 13:54
  • My cheap solution: rei.com/product/870764/rei-travel-sack-sleeping-bag. Tiny, fits anywhere, but it's only a 55 degree bag. Spring/Fall in Yellowstone may still have snow according to Google. Finding a compact below freezing bag under $100 will be a challenge. – Russell Steen Apr 10 '15 at 15:15
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    Note that Yellowstone's idea of when spring and fall are is very different from when the Midwest thinks they are. The old joke is that Yellowstone has four seasons: winter, June, July and August. Wikipedia has climate data indicating that, even at relatively low elevations, the average daily low temperature is below freezing from October to April inclusive. I was there in late June and there were still a few patches of snow in well-shaded areas by the roadsides. – David Richerby Apr 10 '15 at 17:03
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    Voting to close because shopping advice is off topic. – Ben Crowell Apr 10 '15 at 19:56
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It's hard to give specific advice on exactly what sleeping bag you should buy. What I can help with is some general advice on what to look for:

Filling

Probably the most important thing. Generally two types of filling will be offered:

Synthetic is typically much cheaper than down. But it's also bulkier, heavier and less resilient. There are also various qualities of down, so two downs are not necessarily the same quality.

Both types may of been "treated" to make them more water proof, etc.

Materials of outer

Much like the filling the materials that the outer are made of will vary in quality, weight, etc. Again this depends on what you want. If you're going up everest and will be living in your sleeping bag for long periods of time you'll want a good, light, strong outer, if you're camping once a year then a cheaper one will do.

Materials of the inner

This basically boils down to how comfortable it is inside the sleeping bag. Again materials vary considerably from silk to polyester. Down to choice and what you want it for again I'm afraid.

Zip

How strong is the zip, will it break? If you're going to use it a lot you want one that's quite resistant, etc.

Shape

A mummy shape (or other hybrid on this theme) will be more expensive as it's more difficult to make but it also minimises "dead air" and materials, when compared to a bog standard rectangular one.

Range of temperatures

All sleeping bags should come with a range of temperatures that they are made for. Look for one that meets what you expect to encounter. They will also be classified as 2,3 or 4 season. So:

2 season - spring summer
3 season - spring, summer, autumn
4 season - spring, summer, autumn winter

TL;DR


Is it realistic to expect to pay $100 or less for a sleeping bag that will keep me warm enough for camping in places such as the U.S. Midwest, Yellowstone, etc. in the spring-fall seasons?

Yes. Most sleeping bags will be fine for 2 season use. You'll want to pay extra to keep it small and light.

The only thing that worries me about these bags are there pack-down size. I am not really sure what a normal size of a sleeping bag is once in it's stuff sack ... it would be helpful to have a range.

This is vast, roughly, I've seen sleeping bags that will compress down to about 4" diameter to one's that are about the size of a spare tyre. all of the above varies this and typically the smaller the more expensive.

  • Thanks for the answer! Do you (or anyone) have any brands/models that you would recommend for that price range? – nbonbon Apr 10 '15 at 18:58
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    Just a note on cips: KKK/3K zips are generally viewed as the best out there. Hard to bust, reliable/strong, easy to fix, etc. – HarryCBurn Apr 10 '15 at 19:06
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    I want to see a picture of this 4" circumference compressed sleeping bag, I can't even squash one of my socks down that small, or did you mean to say 4" diametre? Because a 4" circumference means you could compress the bag down smaller than a golf ball. – ShemSeger Apr 10 '15 at 20:35
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This question is almost as hard to answer as the question about a good knife. :)

A general rule: The more expensive the sleepingbag, the more expensive the materials involved, the better the ratio between packweight, packsize and temperature.

However this totally ignores the additional costs for the brandname and such.

One company I can really recommend is snugpack. I personally use a SpecialForce 1 for the spring/summer/fall seasons (+6 celsius comfort, 1000g, 16x16cm pack size). In europe it's around 130 euros, but they also have cheaper models like the Merlin or such.

For the price you should try to aim for a cheap primaloft filled sleeping bag. Primaloft, if you can afford it, is almost as effective as down, but doesn't care about humidity that much.

You could try to get surplus military sleepingbags. The US amongst others have a modular sleeping bag system you can use for all climates and seasons. It's a a small summer bag, a winter bag and a bivi bag. Combined these allow for around -30 celsius, but the summer bag is still light enough.

Have a look at the snugpak ones. I am happy with the two I have and preferr them to my Anjingulak or Mamut bags.

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