Hiking sleeping bag recommendations if you could only have one!

Hi everyone

I am hoping your expertise can point this newbie in the right direction. I am wanting to buy a sleeping bag that I can use relatively all year round in South Africa. Is this even possible? I would just rather spend more on a bag now than have to have multiple bags in the future.

I have searched long and hard and never been more confused about what to go for. I have searched the web and this forum(Which has been the best source of information) and was hoping you could help me here.

Below is the list of bags I have come down too, the lower the price the better but I am happy to spend more if it means quality. If I am way off the mark in what I am wanting or have other recommendations please tell me that I am being an egg :wink:

1. First Ascent Ice Breaker Down Sleeping Bag @R3995
Comfort Rating= -3
Packed size: 20 x 35 cm
Dimensions: 210 x 82-58 cm

2.First Ascent Amplify Down 900 Sleeping Bag @R4499
Comfort Rating= -3
Packed size: 22 X 39 Cm
Dimentions: 220 X 80/55cm

3. Nature Hike Mountain Path Mummy Down Sleeping Bag (UL800) @R3699
Comfort Rating= -5
Packed size: 40 x ø21 cm
Dimentions: 210 x 80/50 cm

4. Nature Hike NH01 Mummy Down Sleeping Bag DK800L @R3499
Comfort Rating= 0
Packed size: 40 x ø20cm
Dimentions: 205 x 80/50cm

5. Vaude Marwees 700 Down Sleeping Bag @ R3750
Comfort Rating= -1
Packed size: 40 x 22 cm
Dimentions: 220 X 80/50cm

What would you go for if you were looking for a good all year round bag?

Year round is quite a tough one to balance as we have such a range of temperatures. The -3 comfort range probably makes the most sense unless you are planning for some serious cold weather. You can supplement by keeping some layers on and eating well before you sleep if it is overtly cold.

The big issue to me with sleeping bags is finding something that matches your sleeping style, as that is pretty difficult to change. If you are one of those death like back sleepers, something narrow with a defined hood will do you well. Stomach sleeper, that’s going to be a living nightmare with your feet scrunched up and your face buried in a hood unable to breath. If you are a really active sleeper, something with stretch and width is going to be great.

Also in finding a single bag that is flexible you probably want to look at venting. Having a full length zip you can open is handy. In SA I have far more often been way too hot in a bag than I have been cold. Really sucks if you can’t do anything about it because the bag only has a little quarter zip.

From what you have posted the Ice Breaker looks like a nice balance for a more active sleeper. Widish foot-box, 650fp and I think almost a full length (No idea why all our websites and manufacturers think it is fine to have 1 picture of a product they are charging thousands of rand for, but that’s another topic). Bit heavy though.

If you sleep cold then the Amplify Down looks good. I have the light version and the stretch is comfy. The big change here is the differential cut on the bag. So the inner and outer fabric are sized differently, which means that the down is being compressed less. At the end of the day insulation loft is the primary driver for warmth. Pretty heavy and expensive though.

The NH Mountain Path looks like the nice middle ground. Lower weight, middlish price and a near full length double zipper. I’m generally happy with the quality on the naturehike stuff I have (Tents, mats etc). Would check sizing though, as often stuff intended for the Chinese market is designed around a smaller average consumer.

Final thing would be what mat are you sleeping on? When you are in a sleeping bag you compress the bottom down, it doesn’t really do anything in terms of insulation, hence the move towards quilts in a lot of markets. But it means a significant portion of your comfort and warmth come from your sleeping mat. An R value of around 3 is probably good for our climate to cover summer and winter. In summer to drop weight I’m comfy down to like R1.

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Are you using it for car camping, hut-to hut, or trekking?
It the latter, then pack size would matter, and I would only look at FA.
You could always sleep in your down jack to add warmth.

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Thank you so so much @Jaxz for expounding your knowledge and showing me some important aspects I definitely overlooked and @Ian_CT for dropping in confirming my current decision.

Based on the insight about how one sleeps being an important factor, the small dimensions of the NH bags and the importance of smaller size really mattering for trekking, I am now definitely leaning towards the First Accent Ice Breaker Down. With the comfort rating of -3, the smallest pack size and the bigger dimensions I feel this is probably the better option. I like the fact that I can fully unzip it in summer or even partially zip it down for more air.

based on these two current responses I am definitely leaning for the FA Ice Breaker down but I am still open to suggestion.

Thanks again!

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In my opinion out of all those bags listed there is only one which stands out regarding all year, all conditions, tried and tested and that is the ice breaker. It is an extremely popular sleeping bag across south Africa and for many reasons, but most importantly because how versatile it is. From full zip/inter zipping another one, the space it has (I get very claustrophobic in a trimmed mummy shape) and the size it compresses down to.
It sounds like you looking for a jack of all trades and I think you have made the right decision, it is a bag that can last a lifetime if you take care of it and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed…

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I have been researching this for some time too!

My hours online have pointed to a 3 season bag with a limit rating of -6°C (20°F) and a comfort rating of -1°C (30°F). That or 30°F limit. Whatever I pick my wife will get one rated for 10°F less.

Most folks say that liners aren’t worth it. When it approaches freezing it’s your sleeping pad that is costing you not the bag. Also sleeping in more clothing will be better than a liner as well. Making a hot water bottles, pulling your pack over you feet, climbing into your mates tent, lots of ways to get toastier!

Also err on the side of warm. If it’s that hot and you end up sleeping on top of your bag that’s not too bad. Being too cold can be far more of a problem!

In the perfect scenario you would have a few bags and pick the lightest one for your trip. Easy to do when you know the weather. From what I have read about the berg, you just can’t predict the weather! Buy the best you can afford. It will last many many years if you treat it right.

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FA Ice Breaker probably your best bet, just looking at the figures.

Most versatile, good combinition of decent cuin / high down to feather ratio / grams of down used / baffle construction / ability to move down (not a perfect system I am told) and other features like foot box and full zipper, anti-snag YKK zips etc etc Also has a good reputation, FA will repair and refill bag in years to come, if our SA still exists.

The Vaude does have better overall construction, that is for sure. And they’re a good eco-conscious company, perhaps go and climb into them and see how it feels for you? Sometimes the fabric used feels tacky or like plastic underpants. Check it out.

Neither of these two bags are small and light. But that’s not really such a big issue. Being warm and snug is key.

All other relevant facts are covered here, sleeping mats, a good tent/shelter etc will add warmth, your metabolism (high or low) and how much you ate before sleep also contribute.

FA Ice Breaker will definitely cover you.

Hope that helps.

p.s. There’s a guy on Vertical Endeavour selling some unused FA IB bags…

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Great to see a brand presence represented on a platform like this.

Hope to see more posts from you guys.

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Just confirming what has already been said - the Ice Breaker is probably the most versatile bag available and has many years of proven quality. If you venture into very cold places you can add a thermal liner, sleep with warm clothes etc.

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Hi Anton,

Thanks for the feedback, hope we can be of assistance to you in the near future.

Let us know if there is anything we can assist with.

The First Ascent Team

Hi Edwinwatson,

I’m the guy selling the bags on VE :slight_smile:
FA Ice-Breaker bags are great for all year round use in SA. They will cover you for most conditions in SA. I’ve been using them for years. I got the two I’m advertising for a special price, hence me advertising them now. Still using my old Ice-Breaker, bought it about 15 years ago and still going strong. Yes, they are heavier than most modern bags, and yes, they are bigger than typical mountain bags, but you get a solid bag at an “affordable” price when compared to imports.

My regular bag is the FA Blue Kazoo, about 450g lighter than the Ice-breaker and also a bit warmer. We hike in the Drakensberg a lot and I’ve had temperatures lower than -10 Deg C, hence the switch. My son usually “borrows” the Ice-Breaker when I take the kids into the Berg. He’s still alive, so clearly the Ice-Breaker does it’s job well. he’s also used it on A Fishriver Canyon hike when he was just 13 years old, and my Fenix watch typically recorded temperatures way below freezing.

The main differences between my Blue Kazoo and the Ice-Breaker is that the Ice-Breaker is much wider. If you like to turn in your sleeping bag, the IB (getting tired of typing out the name) is fine. I had to learn to turn with the Blue Kazoo as the cut is substantially narrower. It is also 450g lighter, which is a big deal as I always have to carry a lot of extra stuff for my wife, so I tend to count grams!

The one thing to just watch out for with the IB bags (and all bags in this regard) is the length. At 1,97m tall the regular bag is way too short for me, it doesn’t even come up to my shoulders. If you are over 1,9m tall this will probably be an issue for you.

What I do when looking at buying any gear is to draw up a matrix, and the final (hopefully objective) score mostly drives my purchasing decision. If you give a high score for affordability, low temperature survivability and low price, the IB will achieve a high score. If money is no object and you want to save as much weight as possible, the IB will achieve a low score.

PM me if you are interested in a new IB at a reduced price.