When I first started winter camping in really cold winter temps (0F or below) I didn’t have a truly warm bag. I had an old REI “0F” sleeping bag that I picked up at an REI garage sale used, that was definitely a survival rating of 0 not comfort, and I’d have to combine it with my 10+ year old synthetic North Face Cats Meow 20F bag. The total weight on this combo was 8 1/2 pounds! And even cranked down in stuff sacks it took up 1/2 the volume of my backpack.
So last year I started researching winter bags and seeing what sort of options were out there that would keep me warm and comfortable to -10F. I quickly realized that with anything involving sleeping bags you face the classic 3 traits problem, ie “Lightweight, Cheap, Warm, pick 2 out of the 3”. Winter insulation is definitely a pay to play item. The well regarded bags are made by companies like Feathered Friends, Western Mountaineering, etc, and their bags at 0F or below cost $500+ dollars. While there is a used market for them availability is low as people who buy these type of bags do so for a reason and they retain value very well.
You could go the synthetic route for a bag but at these low temperatures you’d be packing a ton of weight and bulk. A 0F Wiggys bag is close to 8 pounds and you’d need a hydraulic press to get it into a stuff sac and in your bag.
As I kept researching I came across a company called Timmermade. They are a cottage vendor owned by a former bike racer name Dan. I knew about them because I had one of their awesome but funny looking Waterbear hoods. This is a down hood with a synthetic “breathing tube” that sticks out that I use when winter camping. It pre-warms the air a bit so you dont get a dry scratchy throat sleeping outside and helps cut down on condensation to your bag and tent when its real cold out.
I emailed Dan to ask about his false bottom designed bags. He sells two different versions. The Wren with horizontal baffles and the Thrush with vertical baffles. The idea is similar to the theory behind backpacking quilts. That the insulation underneath you ultimately gets compressed so its essentially useless weight. This is fine in normal 3 season weather but in winter the slightest draft can lead to cold miserable nights. For this reason most people dont push a quilt past about 20F.
Dan as a cottage vendor, I believe, makes most of his stuff on demand and customizes everything. When I went to the site I didnt see an option for a -10F bag so I sent him an email to see if it was something he could do. He got back to me the same day and walked me through sizing, overstuff, the design and how to measure myself for a custom fit. Overall he was super helpful in helping me design the bag for my purposes.
After some back and forth to finalize sizing he gave me my quote for the bag, it came out to $400 including shipping. A lot of money, but 1/2 the price of some of the pricier standard commercial options. I paid him on April 15th and had my bag shipped out on May 21st. Here is what my bag looks like, I should note I was able to pick out colors. Total weight for the bag came in at 2 pounds for a -10F bag!
I’ve now had this bag for a most of a full winter and have had the chance to use it in some really cold nights. All told I only have 7 days in this bag. Temp ranges for those days have varied from a low of -16F up to 10F. I would say that the -10F rating on this bag is the comfort rating. The few nights I took it past there I was still pretty warm but I wouldnt want to push it to -20F or lower without some other insulating layer.
Other random thoughts:
- The measurements I used for my bag were 50/64/38/38 x 72. Thats the width at the shoulders, the middle, the knees and the foot x length. If I had to do it again I’d add an extra inch at the shoulders. The idea is you cinch that cord and the top envelops the shoulder.
- This thing paired with the Waterbear hood is fantastic. I can toss and turn with that cinch cord cranked down and still stay warm thanks to the hood that extends below the neck a bit.
- The pad attachment system works pretty well. I was able to fumble around at night and get it to work. If I could change only one thing it would be to permanently attach one end. Otherwise you can unclip both while groggy at night and not realize it…
- It compresses really well. I can fit into a sea to summit stuff sack size L easily, thats the only size I have but the thing compresses down to about the size of a soccer ball.
- Dan was really easy to work with and helped me get what I was looking for.
- The false bottom does a great job blocking out drafts.
- The only time I got cold in this thing was at 5am on a -15F night when my sleeping pad started losing air due to the cold.
- Its sized the way it is so you can go fetal at night. Plenty of room to kick your legs around within the bag.
- No zipper on this bag to keep the weight down. Basically you wiggle your way into it. You can be active in your tent with the opening underneath your arms. Then at night when you go to sleep you just tuck your arms in.
Overall I would highly recommend this bag. If I needed another winter bag this would be the first company I’d look to. It packs down super small, its lightweight, incredibly comfortable, and a great value.
I know this is a pretty niche item. If anyone has any questions feel free to ask me and I’ll answer the best I can.