Author Topic: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?  (Read 2278 times)

goat_music_generator

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Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« on: January 12, 2021, 07:26:10 PM »
I did a bunch of backpacking as a kid and I'm excited to get back into it.

I dragged my spouse on a couple very short overnights in the past couple years. Unfortunately... they did not go well. The sleeping bags we picked up should have been OK for the shoulder season -- they were rated for ~15F, it was October in Northern California -- but we were way, way too cold. On one occasion, it was so cold that neither of us could sleep, even wearing all of the clothing we'd brought (my spouse resorted to putting on his shoes to help get that little extra bit of warmth) and we ended up packing out at about 5 AM. Spouse has basically refused to go again until I get the cold problem figured out, which seems fair, considering. It seems like the two of us sleep very cold, and just need bags that are rated for lower temperatures.

(We have a reasonable tent, and already have inflatable sleeping pads that keep us up off the ground, so that wasn't the problem.)

I've started researching backpacking sleeping bags, and had some pretty bad sticker shock. It seems it's pretty hard to get bags rated below 0F for under $500. So we'd be looking at spending $1k for the two of us just to be able to go at all.

Are there ways to score something for cheaper? Or should I just bite the bullet and get an expensive bag -- and if so, any recommendations?

314159

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2021, 07:35:10 PM »
I'm not sure I can help with the sleeping bags. But for sleeping pads, be aware that an inflatable pad will exchange a lot more heat with the cold ground than one made of foam or designed for extra insulation. After some googling it appears this metric is called "r value". It might be worth looking into how to increase that insulation as you also look for new sleeping bags.

mlipps

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2021, 08:16:54 PM »
REI sells used (returned) gear!! I got my favorite coat there for half price and there's lots of great stuff on there regularly. Patagonia also sells used gear but it's not as well stocked in my experience.

mlipps

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2021, 08:17:44 PM »
I'm not sure I can help with the sleeping bags. But for sleeping pads, be aware that an inflatable pad will exchange a lot more heat with the cold ground than one made of foam or designed for extra insulation. After some googling it appears this metric is called "r value". It might be worth looking into how to increase that insulation as you also look for new sleeping bags.

Also true, I upgraded my sleeping pad after a very cold trip to the UP of Michigan this fall.

PMG

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2021, 08:46:55 PM »
I can get slightly discounted REI gift cards through my discover card cash back rewards. Pair that with their outlet or a good sale and their own cash back loyalty club and you can get a pretty good discount.  The high tech gear is still so expensive though.

Can you add a silk liner which will gain you a few degrees. Try things out car camping so you can add extra layers as needed.

crimp

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2021, 09:00:34 PM »
Use two sleeping pads, something like a zlite foam pad on the bottom and your inflatable pad on top. This will help a lot if your bag is on the margin of warm enough.

If not, your best bet is likely to be trying to find a sale or craigslist. If you look at the markets for places with large numbers of outdoors people you might be able to convince those folks to ship to you. People moving away from New England often sell great winter gear for cheap on their way to Colorado or Seattle.

Others have mentioned REI garage sales. If youíre planning on a trip in New England after the pandemic I can sync you up with a group that rents out serious adventure gear at cost, just send me a PM and Iíll give you the info to see if itís of any use to you.

crimp

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2021, 09:04:32 PM »
While Iím thinking about this ó  if youíre boiling water on a stove, boil enough to fill a nalgene or two, stick it in a wool sock, and put it at your feet inside the sleeping bag.

mountainmama

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2021, 09:12:00 PM »
As mentioned, REI's 20% coupon member sales can really help if you get your heart set on a certain bag. Also, if it's appropriate for the place you're visiting, bring your dog!

draco44

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2021, 09:29:19 PM »
Don't be afraid of used gear. Sleeping bags can be cleaned if needed. Try putting an "Ask" post in your local Freecycle or Buy Nothing Group first. If you get no bites, proceed to Craigslist as someone else mentioned. Step three if that fails is to go online for used gear. Ebay may have something, but you'll probably have better luck on a site that specializes in used outdoor gear in particular, like Gear Trade or MEC Gear Swap. Here's a post with other ideas: https://hiconsumption.com/best-used-outdoor-gear-stores-online/

FINate

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2021, 09:41:09 PM »
Temp ratings on bags don't mean squat unless independently verified (or at least tested to EN standards). Most cheap bags are not independently rated, can pretty much put whatever number they feel like on there.

Real temp ratings usually sometimes have a comfort vs. survival rating. The survival rating is just that...you *probably* won't die if it gets down to that temp, but it will be the most miserable night of your life. So plan according to the comfort rating.

Even legitimate ratings are somewhat subjective because everyone sleeps hotter or colder. If you sleep cold then you need to go up a step. E.g. if you're planning on it being in the 20s then get a 0 degree bag.

No bag will live up to its rating if used improperly. Make sure you are cinching it tightly around your face and shoulders, there should be no air gaps. And get into your bag before it gets very cold out. It's way more difficult to get warm once you're cold.

If you run cold and really want to stay warm in cold temps you need a quality down bag. You want something like 800 fill down. Synthetic is heavy relative to the warmth, doesn't compress very well, and in my experience it never quite works as well. But you need to ensure a down bag doesn't get wet, though this shouldn't be a problem since you have a good tent. First order of business when you get to camp should be getting the tent up and the sleeping bags protected inside.

Finally, you don't need to spend $500/bag to get good quality. OutdoorVitals makes quality bags at a reasonable price. Their 0 degree bag ($280) is under 3 lbs and works great for my wife who sleeps very cold. I took the family backpacking this fall in the Northern Rockies, with overnight temps just below freezing and 25 with wind chill, and for the first time ever she was too hot and had to vent the bag.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2021, 10:12:06 PM by FINate »

nereo

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2021, 05:22:20 AM »
Cheap ways of getting good quality camping equipment:

1) Steep and Cheap Deal of the moment (they telegraph what they will have)
2) Craigslist / FB Markeplace (bags can/should be occasionally washed, unliked mattresses)
3) REI garage sale

As others have said, a proper pad will do more for you than a colder-rated bag, as most of your heat is lost there.  When I camp outside in sub-freezing temperatures I typically have a solid-foam pad and my thermarest inflatable on top of that.  The solid pad boosts the R-value and does double-duty of protecting my pricy inflatable pad from punctures.  The cheapest solution though is two solid foam pads stacked together.

Also (as has been mentioned) a silk bag liner, hot water bottle will both do wonders.  Finally, DONíT WEAR YOUR SWEATY DAY-CLOTHES in your bag.  Cointerintuitively, you will be warmer stripping down to your undies than wearing the same stuff youíve been hiking in all day.  OR (and better) - keep a fresh set of wool/silk thermals just for sleeping in, and change into them right when you jump in the sack.  The clothes you were wearing hiking will have lots of moisture (mostly your sweat/perspiration) that will continue to evaporate and cool you down.

Oh, and wearing a hat at night is important too.

cool7hand

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2021, 05:41:00 AM »
+1 on using something other than an inflatable pad. Those things are super cold!

chemistk

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2021, 06:33:08 AM »
I did my fair share of cold weather camping when I was in Scouts - I agree with the above comments that the temp. ratings are subjective. I have a bag probably from Dick's that probably cost <$100 at the time, and it's 'rated' for 0F. I wouldn't trust the thing to keep me warm at 0F but at 20F it was plenty warm (and that was before I developed a bit of a biological insulation layer). It's synthetic and definitely a heavier bag, probably in the 3-4lb range. I still have it and it's still very warm, but I can't imagine it's going to be as effective as it was when new.

The nalgene tip is great, so is the synthetic thermal. I absolutely can't stress enough the need to have separate sleeping gear if you can swing the weight/space. My biggest thing has also always been that my feet are cold, so the most significant thing I can add to this conversation is that it's crucial to have fresh (warm) socks to change into before you get into your bag.

goat_music_generator

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2021, 07:55:44 AM »
Thanks for all the advice, this is super helpful! Sounds like we need to try using additional sleeping pads + look into some more options for getting bags for cheaper. Had no idea that inflatable pads tend to be much colder, that's really good info.

mntnmn117

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2021, 11:26:12 AM »
I've been curious about the discount brands on amazon. I see 0 Deg 650fill down for about $200 from Hyke and Byke, but would really want to look at it before buying.

Like other commenters suggested adding a cheap folding foam pad under an insulated inflatable or thermarest is helpful.  Also adding a down quilt over both of you allows you to combine your heat.  Last tip is to close the vents on your tent.  In an unscientific test on the last backpacking trip by slowing the air exchange the tent was about 5 deg warmer than outside temp.

Agreed on having separate sleeping thermals can help too. I nice set of long underwear and clean shirt can boost your rating a few degrees. When it's really cold I've put on the puffy instead of using it as a pillow.

crimp

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2021, 01:03:56 PM »
I've been curious about the discount brands on amazon. I see 0 Deg 650fill down for about $200 from Hyke and Byke, but would really want to look at it before buying.

Like other commenters suggested adding a cheap folding foam pad under an insulated inflatable or thermarest is helpful.  Also adding a down quilt over both of you allows you to combine your heat.  Last tip is to close the vents on your tent.  In an unscientific test on the last backpacking trip by slowing the air exchange the tent was about 5 deg warmer than outside temp.

Agreed on having separate sleeping thermals can help too. I nice set of long underwear and clean shirt can boost your rating a few degrees. When it's really cold I've put on the puffy instead of using it as a pillow.

My only comment here:
If the tent is fully sealed and it's below freezing, your breath might frost the inside of the tent. This is fine if it stays below freezing the entire time you're in the tent, but if you wake up to a sudden shift towards warmer weather, that frozen condensation might end up dripping all over your sleeping bag. This might not be a problem for an overnight but could present a real issue if you're staying out more than one night, particularly with a down bag.

Daley

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #16 on: January 15, 2021, 01:47:50 PM »
I'm surprised nobody's mentioned reflectix (a reflective mylar coated bubble wrap available at hardware stores) yet for an insulation layer under the existing inflatable mattress.

The stuff's cheap, light, thin, and though it's only about R1 on its own, combined with an insulated air gap between you and it, does help boost the existing pad R value by reflecting heat back. It's a favorite of both DIY camping and survivalist folks, along with tyvec, duct tape, and double-sided velcro strips.

It basically works like those emergency blankets, and it's a great way to improve a cheap cooler's performance, too, especially sticking a sheet of it under the lid of the cooler.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2021, 01:49:52 PM by Daley »

FINate

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #17 on: January 15, 2021, 09:00:51 PM »
I've been curious about the discount brands on amazon. I see 0 Deg 650fill down for about $200 from Hyke and Byke, but would really want to look at it before buying.

I don't have any experience with Hyke and Byke but... they explain their ratings on their FAQ:
Quote
Our bags are rated in accordance with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 23537 standard testing protocol.

The survival limit for our 32 degree line is 32F (~ 0C) and the comfort range is 40F (~ 5C) to 70F (~ 20C).
The survival limit for our 15 degree line is 15F (~ -10C) and the comfort range is 32F (~ 0C) to 50F (~ 10C).
The survival limit for our 0 degree line is 0F (~ -15C) and the comfort range is 10F (~ -10C) to 32F (~ 0C).

The ISO standard is good, but they market their bags at the survival limit which is a bit misleading. That 32F bag may only be comfortable for some at 70F?! That's an enormous range of 32F to 70F!

Whereas Outdoor Vitals uses both ISO 23537 and the European EN13537 standard, but they market their bags at the lower comfort range. So their 30F bag should be good for around 40F (higher end of comfort) down to 20F (survival). Even if you add an additional ~10F for cold sleepers that's still a much more reasonable range.

314159

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #18 on: January 16, 2021, 10:18:50 AM »
I'm surprised nobody's mentioned reflectix (a reflective mylar coated bubble wrap available at hardware stores) yet for an insulation layer under the existing inflatable mattress.

The stuff's cheap, light, thin, and though it's only about R1 on its own, combined with an insulated air gap between you and it, does help boost the existing pad R value by reflecting heat back. It's a favorite of both DIY camping and survivalist folks, along with tyvec, duct tape, and double-sided velcro strips.

It basically works like those emergency blankets, and it's a great way to improve a cheap cooler's performance, too, especially sticking a sheet of it under the lid of the cooler.

Reflectix is a good suggestion. I encountered it for the first time just last weekend. I went for outdoor seating (around 20 įF) at a brewery, and they had some Reflectix mats to sit on at the picnic table benches. Sitting on that felt much warmer than sitting on the bench alone.

Cranky

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #19 on: January 17, 2021, 03:01:45 PM »
If you know someone who gets Blue Apron, their bags are made from reflective bubble wrap. Iíve used a bunch of the to make thermal cat beds, and Iím pretty sure theyíd make good sleeping bag pads, too.

Mr. Green

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #20 on: January 24, 2021, 07:14:24 AM »
You may also consider a top quilt, rather than a full on sleeping bag. Theses are rising in popularity now that sleeping pads with decent R values are more widely available. Less fabric and down means the price is typically a little less. I personally use one because down sleeping bags are too cocooned and restrictive for me. My quilt, which is actually an underquilt meant for the underside of a hammock, forms a perfect seal around my pad and keeps me pretty toasty. Best of all, if I get hot I can pop a leg out or just compromise the air seal in a spot to let cool air in without having to unzip or dramatically alter the position of the bag. Sleeping bags typically have less flexibility for that kind of stuff.

Mike in NH

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #21 on: January 25, 2021, 05:02:28 PM »
I think everyone has provided solid information already:

I would reiterate checking into the R value of your sleeping pad or adding a second one to your system. Instead of replacing your bags expensively, take a look at liners. A good sleeping bag liner can add 10-15 degrees to the rating of your sleeping bag. I use a sea to summit reactor extreme. That's $50-$75 instead of $500 and it is a versatile piece of equipment, in the summer it can serve as a standalone without a bag to sleep in. It can be combined with a bivy for emergency shelter/safety purposes. Boiling water in the nalgenes and tossing them down into the toebox is something I do quite often.

I also wanted to provide a few sites that I trust for gear reviews: outdoorgearlab.com & sectionhiker.com. If you are anywhere around an REI their staff is usually very knowledgeable, lots of people go in to kick the tires on stuff. 

ice_beard

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #22 on: February 03, 2021, 02:53:13 PM »
If you are in the Bay Area (you mentioned N. Cal) there is a Mountain Hardware/Columbia factory store in Richmond.  Technically, you need an "invite" to get in, but it's not that difficult to get one.  If you are in healthcare, they are offering them now.  That's a good option, and Mountain Hardware sleeping bags are quality. 

I'd be interested in knowing what temp it actually got down to the nights your were so cold.  A zero degree bag seems overkill for the fall.  I would use my zero bag for winter overnights and a 20 or 30 with a bivy would suffice for cool fall nights. 

A quality bag very much matters as does your sleeping pad.  I use a z rest foam pad + the REI Flash in all seasons and have slept on snow and stayed warm.  If you don't have a good pad setup, the ground is going to suck all the heat right out of your body. 

I went cheap on the first few sleeping bags I bought and learned my lesson.  I was given one (was very old) then got a heavily used one at a university club sale and froze a few nights.  I've also forgot my sleeping bag once or twice, yowza!  Once I spent some coin on a good summer bag and got my sleeping pad situation dialed, I slept so much better and hence enjoyed my nights in a tent or under the stars much more. 

I found in about every single outdoor recreation form I've gotten into (skiing, climbing, backpacking, etc.) I've ended up replacing my initial cheap stuff with better stuff and ended up with gear clutter and wasted money.


goat_music_generator

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #23 on: February 03, 2021, 06:39:58 PM »
If you are in the Bay Area (you mentioned N. Cal) there is a Mountain Hardware/Columbia factory store in Richmond.  Technically, you need an "invite" to get in, but it's not that difficult to get one.  If you are in healthcare, they are offering them now.  That's a good option, and Mountain Hardware sleeping bags are quality. 

I'd be interested in knowing what temp it actually got down to the nights your were so cold.  A zero degree bag seems overkill for the fall.  I would use my zero bag for winter overnights and a 20 or 30 with a bivy would suffice for cool fall nights. 

A quality bag very much matters as does your sleeping pad.  I use a z rest foam pad + the REI Flash in all seasons and have slept on snow and stayed warm.  If you don't have a good pad setup, the ground is going to suck all the heat right out of your body. 

I went cheap on the first few sleeping bags I bought and learned my lesson.  I was given one (was very old) then got a heavily used one at a university club sale and froze a few nights.  I've also forgot my sleeping bag once or twice, yowza!  Once I spent some coin on a good summer bag and got my sleeping pad situation dialed, I slept so much better and hence enjoyed my nights in a tent or under the stars much more. 

I found in about every single outdoor recreation form I've gotten into (skiing, climbing, backpacking, etc.) I've ended up replacing my initial cheap stuff with better stuff and ended up with gear clutter and wasted money.

Unfortunately not in the Bay Area anymore -- we moved to Maryland a few months ago.

It was late October the time we were coldest, and we were camping at Black Mountain in the South Bay foothills. We bought a bag from REI right beforehand, and the sales guy assured us a 20 degree bag would be sufficient. I seem to recall the projected low temps were 30ish degrees overnight. I think the problem is just that both of us sleep very, very cold. We're cold people in general, so it's not too surprising.

Think we're gonna try the "extra pad" approach and see if we can do better. I want to try to do a trip this spring sometime -- we'll see if we manage to find time, since we're also moving soon.

nereo

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #24 on: February 04, 2021, 05:12:05 AM »
For ďultra-frugalĒ (or more accurately, to judge the effects of additional sleeping pad insulation before buying) Iím reminded of what a friend of mine did when he discovered he had forgotten his thermarest:  Cardboard.


Several layers of cardboard will boost the R value between you and the ground and dampen the annoying rocks and roots beneath you.  Obviously itís not a great backcountry solution (pack ability) but for car camping itíll let you see how more insulation beneath you can really improve your comfort

bunging

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #25 on: February 05, 2021, 07:00:54 PM »
For expensive options:
The NeoAir XTherm pad has a high R-value (6.9), feels like you are sleeping on a mattress, and is very lightweight for what you are getting (def. on the pricey side - 200$. You may be able to find it used online/on the facebook group Backpacking Gear Fleamarket once and awhile though). My DH sleeps cold and has this pad. Drawbacks are that is it is a bit crinkly sounding. It is pretty sturdy - we sleep with our dog in the tent and no punctures. https://www.thermarest.com/sleeping-pads/fast-and-light/neoair-xtherm-sleeping-pad/neoair-xtherm.html

My DH also splurged on a sleeping bag from Feathered Friends (a smaller company out of Seattle) that I envy.

You can also get custom down gear from GooseFeetGear: my DH also splurged on an awesome tailor-made down coat from him that at 7oz weight with 5 oz of down keeps him warm when outside the tent for cooking/setting up and helps on cold evenings in the sleeping bag (again pricey though). I highly recommend getting a piece of gear like this, especially if you tend to be cold.

Cheaper options:
I have started making my own down clothing and gear since I get sticker shock on these items. So far have I made a down vest, pillow, blanket for our dog, and taken out the old down from my old sleeping bag and overstuffed/replaced it. I wouldn't consider myself a super experienced seamstress but know how to use a sewing machine and everything has turned out well, though perhaps not super professional looking :) The sleeping bag you couldn't tell I did anything with it though and it only took 4-5 hrs to completely change the down.

One frugal option for you here is to buy an old bag with old down that was rated to 0F for cheap (that way you know the baffles are the right size), take out the down, and add in new down that you buy. I've bought down from here (https://www.downlinens.com/products/premium-washed-down) and it is 110$ for 16oz of 800+ grey goose down. You would probably need 1.5 lb/sleeping bag for the warmth rating you are looking for.

You also might want to consider buying a two person sleeping bag since this might save some money and also may increase warmth.

One of my favorite blogs (in the CA area too!) has some information about their gear and what they use - she made their two person quilt from scratch and may have a link to the design. http://doingmiles.com/gear-the-big-three/


cheapbarb

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #26 on: February 25, 2021, 11:08:34 PM »
I've never tried this idea, but you could double up your bags. Put one cheap sleeping bag inside of another one. Another thing to try is wearing baselayers to to sleep in.

norajean

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #27 on: February 26, 2021, 07:00:24 AM »
I did years of winter camping when younger, most around 10F but down to -30. All I had was a $35 Army surplus down bag. It was cold at-30 but otherwise fine.

Have you considered camping in summer? Much more pleasant. Doesnít sound like your spouse is into it much so I wouldnít waste too much on equipment.

valaraukar

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #28 on: March 20, 2021, 10:18:29 AM »
non-inflatable foam sleeping pad

surplus Army poncho liner to line the inside of your sleeping bag.  They pack a lot of warmth for their size.

jpdx

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #29 on: March 26, 2021, 12:40:52 AM »
Have you considered camping in summer? Much more pleasant. Doesnít sound like your spouse is into it much so I wouldnít waste too much on equipment.

Bingo. You might spend a lot of effort and money trying to solve this problem -- in a futile attempt to make your spouse comfortable -- when the obvious solution is to camp when the weather is nice.

jbfishing

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #30 on: March 28, 2021, 09:45:17 PM »
Camp in the summer.

Sleep with a winter hat on.

Double bags, one inside the other, very cozy.

Closed cell pad. Warmest if on top of your inflatable not under. Insulated inflatable pads don't help much in the cold, still sleeping on cold air.

Ensure bags are cinched around your head.

SEAK

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Re: Frugal ways to get sleeping bags for backpacking?
« Reply #31 on: March 29, 2021, 09:43:12 AM »
+1 REI Used Gear. Great deals on nearly new gear!