Archive for the ‘Sleeping Bags’ Category

Sleeping bag questions, sleeping bags, down bags, synthetic bags, sleeping pads and more.

Sleeping warm winter camping in Alaska

Monday, January 27th, 2014
Sleeping in a winter sleeping bag on snow in Alaska in January, a camper is tucked up and bundled up tight in his down sleeping bag. Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Sleeping in a winter sleeping bag on snow in Alaska in January, a camper is tucked up and bundled up tight in his down sleeping bag. Mountain Hardwear Ghost sleeping bag, Exped Sim Comfort 10 LW. Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

It’s January, and Alaska can be a rough place to sleep outside during this time of year. Temperatures can easily be down below zero F, even into the minus 30’s and 40’s, or colder. So sleeping outside is not to be taken lightly.

Bring a good sleeping bag. A REALLY good sleeping bag. If you predict temperatures of zero (F), I’d go with a sleeping bag rated to minus 20 degrees F. I prefer a down sleeping bag over synthetic bags, but the key is a high quality, and well rated bag. If you have a good synthetic fill sleeping bag, use that. It’ll be heavier, and less compatible, but you can deal with that. You don’t want to have to deal with being cold.

Your bag is your last refuge against the cold. Don’t skimp on it. Bring “more” sleeping bag than you think you need.  I do like the goretex or similar shells for winter bags, and highly recommend them.

Bring a good sleeping pad. A REALLY good sleeping pad. Jake, above, is using (well, half using) an Exped Sim Comfort 10 LW, which I highly recommend if you’re not packing it into the backcountry. If you need to haul it (snowshoeing, skiing, backpacking, go with an Exped Downmat 7 or even the Downmat 9). An insulated pad insulates you against the cold snow underneath, where even the best sleeping bag won’t offer much protection – once you lie down in the bag and compress the insulation underneath you (be it down or synthetic), it offers little insulating value. So a high quality insulated pad makes a huge difference. You want it to be about an inch or more thick.

Although it’s not generally needed with a high quality sleeping pad like this, I often like to throw a hard cell foam pad under the inflatable. It adds a little extra insulation, but mostly a little protection against a leak or anything. It’ll definitely ad to the life of your sleeping pad. Unlike Jake, above, don’t slide off the sleeping pad. You’ll get cold. 🙂


Pack your sleeping bag

Saturday, April 9th, 2011
Backcountry campsite, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska

A snowy campsite on the high alpine tundra of Wrangell - St. Elias National Park. Termination dust covers the ground, or fresh fall snow, and Mt Jarvis (13 421') of the Wrangell Mountains stands dominating behind. Backcountry campsite, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. On a backpacking trip in September. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey folks

A lot of people heading to Alaska inquire about the “best” sleeping bag to bring; i.e., what temperature rating to bring. My recommendation has always been for a warmer bag than many people typically expect. My advice for a summer bag in Alaska is 20deg F, (about -6deg C) and no warmer.

That is, 20deg Fahrenheit minimum! don’t bring a 32deg F bag (0deg C).

Surely it’s not going to be below freezing in July, I hear folks respond?

Well, hopefully not. But it certainly can be, especially if we hike up in the high country at all (which we typically do, because that’s where the views are, and where the brush isn’t). And the altitude needn’t be that high; 5000 feet is alpine country in Alaska.

But the reasons for a warm bag go beyond merely snow and cold. Some folks will say they’d rather bring a warmer bag, like a 32deg F bag, as it’s lighter weight, and they can always wear extra clothes to bed if need be. They’ll be bringing warm clothes along anyway, right? Sometimes, this is true. But there can easily be times when it is not true. How about your fleece jacket is wet? Or you lose it (yes, I’ve seen that happen)?  (more…)

Down Versus Synthetic Bags

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Star Trails over McCarthy, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks

I get asked all the time which kind insulation fill is best for a sleeping bag for someone coming to Alaska. Like almost all these kinds of questions, the answer is pretty subjective, and I really don’t think it matters too much. What matters is that you make the decision that best fits your particular set of circumstances. That said, here are a few notes that may help you in your decision-making. I own both down and synthetic bags, and I honestly don’t find the type of fill to be the deciding factor in how I like a bag. (more…)

Sleeping bags and Sleeping Pads:

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Fall Colors, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

Hey Folks,

I think a 20deg bag is essential for a summer trip in Alaska. 32deg bags, and warmer, often aren’t warm enough for alpine trips here. In fact, a 15 deg bag is even a good idea. it varies a lot with the individual, and also with the temperatures for any given trip, obviously. Temperatures can easily dip into the 32deg range, even in mid-summer, and while this isn’t too often, it’s not uncommon. If you’re planning a trip with for the shoulder season, such as late Aug/early Sept, even a 10deg bag isn’t overkill. (more…)


Owner and guide Carl Donohue.


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