Modular sleeping bags and Winter Camping

Joined
Aug 21, 2007
Messages
300
Location
Syracuse, NY
November 21, 2013

Hello Nikon Cafe Members,

I want to do winter camping and have the US military's modular sleeping bag system, (The woodland goretex bivy cover, green patrol bag and the black intermediate bag and black stuff sack.)

I was wondering if any member or members have used them and how good or bad they are. Granted they are heavy and bulky, but these bags are much less expensive then a new bag from REI, or Eastern Mountain Sports, or some of the other ultra expensive sleeping bag brands or dealers.

Some -40 to -60 degree commercial sleeping bags are like $800 or $900.00 or more YIKES! The new military versions are selling for around $150 to $250.00, granted the lower price comes with a weight, and bulk tradeoff but the price of the military bags is lower, and I don't mind the weight/bulk issue since the price is so much more affordable.

If any member could give me any tips, suggestions, or comments on these bags if you have used them I would appreciate it.

Thank you for your help.

Steve Zalewski,
Syracuse, NY

P.S. Is the new ACU version much better then the Woodland version, or about the same? thing? Thanks again.
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2007
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Fairfax, VA
Hello Steve,

I used an ACU Sleep system (see this US CAV link) quite a few times. The last time was during a Cub Scout camp out underneath a field expedient hooch (poncho bungee corded between trees) in a driving rainstorm in the low 50s two years ago.

I used both internal bags with the bivy cover and was hot. Because of the uneven ground, my legs slid out from under the poncho but never got wet because of the waterproof bivy sack.

As you mentioned, there are lighter, more expensive options. I highly recommend spending $$ on a decent/good sleep pad.
 
Joined
Apr 12, 2006
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11,909
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Central Georgia, USA
If you are just camping then you might get by with this bag I know nothing about. If you are backpacking,, and doing it in winter weather, the weight will not be your friend, I packed 35/40# depending on season, over 220 miles and only once carried the extra weight of a camera. The added safety and comfort of a low temperature bag in unexpected bad weather can not be overstated. A + for the good pad, they have changed a great deal since I used them.
 
Joined
May 27, 2006
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Where are you planning on going camping, Steve? How many consecutive nights?

I've found that if it's only a night or two, I'll use a down bag but if it's a longer trip I'll take a synthetic bag to better deal with moisture build-up. The warmest bag I have is a -40° F down bag but since I wear some insulated layers during the day I have the option of wearing those inside in a lighter bag to save weight. All 3 bags I have are made by The North Face.

Sean
 
Joined
Aug 21, 2007
Messages
300
Location
Syracuse, NY
November 23, 2013

Thank you all for your comments. I have checked the link provided by Gene, and the prices from that retailer, are some of the HIGHEST that I have ever seen. As a matter of fact one of their reviewers told the readers to buy it somewhere else for a much lower cost.

Thanks again, please add more comments if possible.

Steve Zalewski
Syracuse, NY
 
Joined
Nov 15, 2006
Messages
5,998
Location
Upstate SC
Sean asked the most relevant questions -
When, where, and for how long?

Also, the down of years past is no more. Many (though not all) manufacturers are treating the down with a special polymer that enables it to retain its loft (and therefore its insulating qualities) when wet - not damp, but actually wet. When you do decide to go to a lighter bag, look at Sierra Designs and Big Agnes DriDown bags - and there are more coming as of early 2014.

As far as cost, it's very much like buying camera gear - buy once, cry once. Buy twice, cry more. I've had my Sierra Designs Sierra Light Hiker 20 degree down bag since 1987. Granted, it's now more like a 35-40 degree bag, but it's still in good shape and still gets regular use. I'll be "updating" to a Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed as soon as they ship in January. In all those years, I've never had to deal with a wet bag - simple preparation is the best prevention. As far as moisture buildup with nightly use over a longer period, synthetics suffer the same issue, but with the new down treatment, they remain just as effective.

Nothing can replace the combination of warmth, weight, packability, and comfort of a down bag. I work with this stuff nearly daily, so trust me on this one.

Regarding pads, look at the REI Air Rail. It's the least expensive option in the super light, very packable options. It comes in both an insulated and non insulated model. If you plan to use it year-round, get the uninsulated model. It's lighter and packs down smaller and it still insulates - just not as much as the other.

Now, about bivy sacks - they're really an emergency shelter or for use in extreme environments. Even the best full Gore-Tex sacks build moisture via condensation. If you do use one, keep it as open as the design and weather will allow to mitigate the build up of condensation.

Another option besides bivy sacks is a camping/backpacking hammock. When I'm backpacking solo or have my 5yr old with me, I don't usually take a tent. I sleep in an Eno Doublenest Hammock. When I get my new sleeping bag, I'm also going a little deeper into hammock land with the ExPed Ergo. It's basically an ultralight tent that is suspended. You lose some ground insulation, but the versatility of a hammock is something that will spoil you for life! Oh, and they're infinitely more comfortable than the best tent sites on the planet. You still need a pad for its insulation, but it doesn't really add much in the way of comfort.

Good luck. Every time you start thinking about how expensive backpacking gear is, go to B&H dot com and remember - at least it's not that expensive!
 
Joined
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Messages
300
Location
Syracuse, NY
November 22, 2013

Thank you Vinman for your comments. As I said in my original posting, some high end bags are now going for as much $900.00 (and I have seen a few even higher then that.)

At the site that Gene referenced for me, the older Modular version is $450.00 and the newer ACU version of the Army's sleeping bag is selling for $600.00. That retailer's prices have become absolutely outrageous.

Thank you again everyone for your comments, I hope to get more of them.

Steve Zalewski
Syracuse, NY
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2007
Messages
3,246
Location
Fairfax, VA
November 22, 2013

Thank you Vinman for your comments. As I said in my original posting, some high end bags are now going for as much $900.00 (and I have seen a few even higher then that.)

At the site that Gene referenced for me, the older Modular version is $450.00 and the newer ACU version of the Army's sleeping bag is selling for $600.00. That retailer's prices have become absolutely outrageous.

Thank you again everyone for your comments, I hope to get more of them.

Steve Zalewski
Syracuse, NY
Hi Steve,

I posted the US CAV link as purely informational. US CAV is over priced and you can buy Mil Spec equipment from many vendors for cheaper prices. I would actually lean toward mil surplus shops and find a lightly worn set.

Good luck. :smile:
 
Joined
Nov 15, 2006
Messages
5,998
Location
Upstate SC
Yeah, you're looking in the WRONG place for backpacking gear! Two issues with looking at new military gear - cost and cost. I work with Arc'teryx and they have a spec ops line called Leaf. We can't buy the leaf stuff, but if/when you can find it at a few online dealers or eBay, it's redonkulous. Like - $350 for a pair of Leaf pants. And that's eBay. They go at dealers for more.

The other issue is intended use. The stuff at those sites are built to a completely different standard than even high end backpacking gear. It's also heavier - usually substantially.

You can easily find a 10 degree Sierra Designs DriDown bag for around $250-275. I suspect you're over-buying here. You should be able to buy a bag, ultralight pad, and a bivy or hammock for well under $600. Leave the overbuilt military gear for the guys who need it for survival or want it for some sort of masochistic bragging rights.

Same goes with backpacks. Look at Osprey, Gregory, and maybe Deuter. There are many others, but I'm really familiar with those (and REI). Osprey is my personal favorite.
 

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