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Which Sleeping Bag

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
I've got to get me a nice light 3-season sleeping bag for canoe tripping and such. Which of these 14 brands should I get. The North Face and Woods are the only brand I recognise.
post #2 of 35


You need to look at where you will be going and what temp ranges you can expect.

That said, for canoe camping, anything but down. Stay away from down at all costs.

Qualofill/Hollofill and the new synthetics will drip out pretty quickly if they get soaked and they will still offer some protection if damp. Down collapses into a soggy mess that takes days to dry and offers no comfort when wet. The only sacrifice with the synth bags is that they don't compress as well and take up some room.

Canoes fill up fast with gear so minimize and go small with other items, a coleman camp stove has merits cooking for 6 out of the back of a truck but get small gas micro stuff for canoeing. Just remember to keep the gear low and lashed in. Rough water or a sudden gust can put you over with a high center of gravity.

My boats are a 1939 Old Town cedar (very fast but tippy), an Old Town 12' solo and a Mad River kevlar.
post #3 of 35
Whichever one comes with a mosquito netting face cover.

Otherwise, what ^he^ said.
post #4 of 35
i have a few bags - and the one i always seem to default to is the north face cats meow. its warm, relatively light (not the lightest, but not the heaviest).

its a real solid, comfortable 3 season bag. i use it with a silicone tarp/tent set up, and a bug net if i am not too lazy to set that up. in the colder fall days i have a fleece liner bag i put in it to give it boost if i think i will need it.

north face cats meow gets my vote

for the summer months - i just use my fleece bag liner - its light, breathes well, and has a opening at the bottome for my feet if it is too hot. i picked that up from REI.
post #5 of 35
don't let the mosquito net feature be a deal breaker. Get yourself one of the little personal mosquito nets. (little steel rings to pop open a hood) They look real funny when on but they work well.

post #6 of 35
Thread Starter 
I'm was very tempted to get down, but I think I'll take the advice.
post #7 of 35
I've heard the down advice all my life and I've always heeded it, but i've been thinking lately, if my synthetic bag got soaked would i even sleep in it? Or would I throw on some extra clothes and sit by the fire?

So i've changed my mind, if it could be a survival situation if your bag got wet then yeah, synthetic. If you would be uncomfortable than down. I've been backpacking and camping my whole life and never seen anyone get thier bag soaked. I think the compressabilty, lightweight and comfort of down outweigh the danger of getting the bag soaked.

p.s.-none of this applies to canoe camping, go synthetic.
post #8 of 35

down with down !

At least when it comes to canoe or costal camping. I have had a few trips ruined by down. All "top shelf" products by Gerry and North Face so it wasn't a matter of quality.

On a costal trip in Maine, just camping out of the car while touring in September, the down bags and sweater were collapsed after a few days due to the coastal moisture.

If you are going to be on a remote trip like the Allagash, where you are three to five days out while canoeing and you have a chance of taking water, it's just not worth the risk. I did that trip in early April with snow on the ground and occasional sleet and freezing temps every night ... no problems with the synthetics.

Thank god the days of itchy wool and down are behind us. Gimmie that fleece and fluff.

Since switching over back in the early 80's, I've had countless trips in the boats and lived on an island in Casco Bay for the summer, always warm (sometimes a bit damp, but warm), in synthetics. I still have (and use) my Slumberjack mummy, but with a bad (aging) hip, I'm finally going to have to fork out for a higher volume bag this year.

If you were to offer me a free "upgrade" to the highest quality down for wet camping .... I'd just say thanks, but no.
post #9 of 35
I have both down and Synthetic bags.

If there's a risk of moisture, and I don't have a weight, size restriction, I go Synthetic, If I know it's going to be a dry trip and I'm back packing, I go still go with down. I have yet to find a synth bag that is warmer, compresses smaller or is lighter than an equally rated down bag.

post #10 of 35
Ghost, listen to Yuki. For canoeing he's got it right.

I've use a North Face Cats Meow (good call clarkenstein) for fall (extended) canoe trips up in Canada and it's served me very well, even on mornings in which we woke up to snow on our boats. Stuffs pretty small, adds little weight, reasonable price (usually on sale at campmor).

Here's a friendly tip; pack your sleeping bag in a quality waterproof bag (not a garbage bag), and also your clothes, then put in your pack. I learned this the hard way in a rather unfriendly set of rapids. Was able to dry out my bag though,,, thank you polar guard.

And the pack? No external frames, your boat will thank you.
post #11 of 35
There are some very good down bags out now with water resistent breathable covers. I would probably use a synthetic for a canoe trip. A great canoe trip is around the the Bowron Lakes chain in BC.
post #12 of 35
Rick, ever use the Ziploc BIG bags?
post #13 of 35
Go light and synthetic. Avoid the "canoe camping" syndrome that appears as an excuse to pack plastic coolers, cast iron frying pans and dutch ovens, multi burner camp stoves and heavy tents etc. as some do. I frequently passed these folks on my trips to the Quetico and Boundary Waters with their enormous stacks of gear at the portages. Their experience was one of limited range and ponderous movement while I, with my light, portable gear, had this wonderful feeling of freedom and mobility, looking forward to the portages and the lakes beyond. I remember passing a family on one of the portages who were headed out unhappily with a truckload of gear. It seems a bear had gotten into their coolers and eaten all their steaks. My food bags were full of rice and oatmeal, dried figs, tea and soybeans and probably weighed less total than one of their coolers. I have a kevlar Wenonah Voyageur, a 17'-6" solo canoe, which I highly recommend, also a Sawyer Autumn Mist solo and an Old Town Berrigan C-2. The Quetico is the neatest place I've been in a canoe.
post #14 of 35
Originally Posted by comprex
Rick, ever use the Ziploc BIG bags?
Yep, all the time Comprex. Great for small items like camera, wallet, TP, etc.

Oisin,,, One trip portages are the ticket. I have a Old Town solo royalex. About 35 lbs. Fantastic boat, tough as nails, I love it.
post #15 of 35


It's summer tangents are allowed!

Rick, what kind of paddle are you using with the solo? My OT beaver tail did nothing but spin me around. For now I am/was using a set of shortened folboat doubles. In a stream with a single paddle it's ok, but on a lake it was just doubling the distance, that's why I switched.
post #16 of 35
A three season bag should not be warm. I hate cooking in my bag. A down bag is for warmth and lightness. I add a fleece if its cold and use synthetic. I also like a full zip to keep cool.
post #17 of 35
Originally Posted by Yuki
It's summer tangents are allowed!

Rick, what kind of paddle are you using with the solo?
I use a long handle, double blade kayak paddle. Just a cheapy, but it works great. Breaks down in the middle for easy packing. With it the maneuverability is astounding for a canoe. I can spin the boat 360 degrees in place very quickly, I just motor through narrow, winding streams. And for lake crossing it makes keeping the boat on track a breeze. Did I say I love this boat?

Yuki, is your Old Town Solo the "Pack" model?
post #18 of 35
I've never used a double paddle except in a kayak. The Wenonah solo tracks beautifully and fast due to its length (17'-6") and relatively narrow beam. I have found a bent shaft model paddle the most efficient by far. Wenonah has some graphite models available that are incredibly light. Although these bent shaft paddles work well in performing a j-stroke, the favored technique among long distance canoers and marathoners as well is to switch sides every fifth stroke or so. This insures that no effort is wasted in unnecessary steering and the change of sides allows you to rest certain muscles. If you've never paddled a really fast solo canoe you owe yourself the experience. Wenonah <> is one of the largest mfr's of fast touring and racing canoes. They are available in graphite, various kevlar layups as well as royalex. Check out their website.
post #19 of 35

water stuff

It is the pack model, I bought it at the OT factory in about 86' as a "blem" for $200 and they tossed in the paddle and a life jacket.

the Mad River Malecite is lighter, but the kevlar scares me from using the boat more than I intended ... rock/puncture issues ... probably more paranoia on my part. It does get tossed a bit in the wind.

Still, the old cedar 39' OT is the fastest and best tracking boat I been in (though I have never tested any new performance canoes) ... I fiberglassed it years ago (before I knew).

Bent paddles .... $$$$$ ... I've had them in my hands, but it's like the first time you found out the price of real skis ... I chickened out.
post #20 of 35
Thread Starter 
I am extremely jealous. I have an 85 lb barge (aka coleman canoe). My daughter and I have jointly agreed to avoid portages. We will be going to the Massassauga. We will not be entering any canoe races. We will be taking the one-burner propane stove and a small mess kit and will be leaving the cooler at home. This will be our second canoe trip. We went to the St. Lawrence Islands National (Canadian) Park last time, and overpacked, but at least we went downstream and downwind with no portages.
post #21 of 35
Ghost, that trip sounds great! Anytime you can get on the water in a wilderness area like that with your family is a special time you and they will always remember. Good for you to provide experiences like these to your daughter. You could be planting a seed that might stay with her for life.
post #22 of 35
I'm a paranoid type. I've used both down and synthetic bags on various flavors of kayak/canoe trips over the years. Regardless, the sleeping bag always gets its own water resistant bag inside a small lightweight dry bag inside a main gear drybag. Sleeping bag sized drybags are pretty light. These days, you can also get cool waterproof compression sacks - I think they are made by Granite Gear. Very nifty & weigh almost nothing (have a one way valve so the air escapes as you compress). A tiny bit of insurance goes a long way...

All that said, I'm a fan of modern synthetic bags. Cat's Meow has been a solid value for years. Two of my kids use them. Similar bags from Marmot and Mountain Hardware are top notch too (last I looked anyway)

And since I can't seem to agree with Rick on anything , I'd argue against a twin blade paddle in a canoe. Hard to be efficient - no way to get the paddle anywhere near vertical. If paddling tandem, you have a coordination challenge to boot.

Of course it has been way too long since I've done an overnight canoe or kayak trip - let alone an extended one...
post #23 of 35
Originally Posted by spindrift
And since I can't seem to agree with Rick on anything , I'd argue against a twin blade paddle in a canoe. Hard to be efficient - no way to get the paddle anywhere near vertical. If paddling tandem, you have a coordination challenge to boot.
Oh no, do I have to propose ANOTHER race! :

Just kidding.

At least we agreed on the sleeping bag (Cat's Meow). I do believe that was our first time Spinner! Was it good for you?
post #24 of 35
Thread Starter 
I could see how a twin blade might save fractions of a second and possibly save a canoe from a big rock in mad rapids, but I'm not doing that. Other than that I have no need to change sides that often; my J-stroke is just fine.

I prefer fairly huge-area paddles with a long handle, and I bought one such instrument on sale, the canoe came with two fairly standard wooden paddles with fibreglass tips for wear. I would like to try out a bent-shaft some day, but it's down on my list; I'm spending all my money on GPS, skis, lifttickets etc.

I'm not averse to advice on which wood or other construction would give me a lighter paddle though, just in case my daughter ever gets some stamina and I have to spend a long day on the water (She has some stamina; she can swim for miles and miles, but she seems to get tired of paddling after only a half dozen hours or so, and she can't ski all day either : . Maybe it's a question of effeciency.).
post #25 of 35


That looks like some nice, nice ... one more time ... nice water!

I'm not going to get anything like that for a long time.

When the double paddles pay for themselves are on long hauls when you have to make time. With doubles working the front and rear you can put some serious water behind you. Or, when you are into the wind and can't use cover to hide behind.

That April Allagash trip was a challenge because the river flows mostly dead north and two days were spent with a strong wind dead out of the north. We didn't have doubles and it was a forced march since we had to be at a get out point a few days away. If you backed off the power, you went backwards (upstream).

Watch out fer' them snakes! ...
post #26 of 35
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Yuki
That looks like some nice, nice ... one more time ... nice water!

I'm not going to get anything like that for a long time.

When the double paddles pay for themselves are on long hauls when you have to make time. With doubles working the front and rear you can put some serious water behind you. Or, when you are into the wind and can't use cover to hide behind.
I can see how they would be useful in that situation.
Originally Posted by Yuki
Watch out fer' them snakes! ...
Thanks for the warning. It's the only place in eastern canada with rattlesnakes. I'm still not packing my boots. Heck if that Ausie guy can go around barefoot, I'm wearing sandles.

I got a bag, and I have to say it's the cat's meow. Got a water filtre pump too. The GPS actually wasn't in stock; it's on order. I hope it gets here before I go, It certainly would be reasuring to know exactly where you are; a lot of those islands with the green trees on 'em look the same.
post #27 of 35
I think the downside of a double paddle may be the windage, especially on a windy day. Each time a blade goes into the water another goes up to catch the wind. Rick's setup sounds neat though. You can't beat royalex for durability and the ability to portage both boat and gear in one go would be great. The downside is probably limited cargo capability but a friend of mine once kayaked across Canada from Alberta to Hudson's Bay in a slalom kayak. As you can imagine, those don't have much carrying space at all but he managed so I guess its all in how you do it.

A light graphite paddle weighs about 16 oz. They are not cheap though. I'm lucky to live in an area surrounded by lakes. I can go canoeing after work or at lunch if I want to and I have mumerous choices of lakes so, just like with ski equipment, the expenditure seems to be worth it.

I think you are wise to go with a synthetic bag. Down bags can be great for superlite overnites but why put yourself in a potentially hazardous situation which is what you will do if you are depending on the bag to keep you warm and it gets wet. Not really an issue in summer for the most part but a real issue in colder weather.
post #28 of 35
Actually, I don't think windage is an issue. Most double bladed baddles are feathered to one degree or another. Once upon a time, 90 degrees was the norm. These days anywhere from 30-ish to 70-ish is typical. As one blade powers through the water. the other slices (or somewhat slices) through the air. There are two major issues. One is solved by lower feather angles -- that is wear and tear on your wrist with a 90 degree or so feather. The other issue is that a really strong gusting cross-wind can do evil things with a more feathered paddle.

The real problem with double bladed paddles in "conventional" canoes is that it is hard to develop a truly efficient stroke. The width of a typical canoe and the fact that you kneel (or if you sit, the way you sit) means you need a pretty long shaft - all of which makes your stroke relatively inefficient since you tend to "sweep" your strokes. This can be mitigated by a boat that tends to track straight (vs a typical ww boat), but you still tend to have a lower turnover rate and to waste a fair bit of energy because the sweeping nature of the stroke wants to turn the boat rather than drive it forward.

If I were going to get back into canoeing I'd get a nice wood & glass bent shaft paddle for lakes and quiet rivers and I'd order a glass paddle from Hank Hays at for anything resembling whitewater - or anyplace I really did not want to have a paddle break. He's a very experienced canoeist and builds canoe paddles the way he likes them - light and strong. They are a great value. In the past, he's been willing to do custom stuff as well (lengths, reshaping blades, etc).
post #29 of 35
BTW - I'm not saying that a double bladed paddle isn't a perfectly fine way to push a canoe around. Just that it is not especially efficient.

Having said all that - anyone here ever seen a really good canoe poler? Amazing stuff...
post #30 of 35
I first started using a double blade paddle when I got into whitewater kayaking. Right off the bat I was advised to use off set blades because of the wind issues oisin brought up. At the time the paddle I had could be adjusted to be used either 90 degree off set or straight (no off set). Because the paddle allowed it, I tried it both ways. I personally found it much more comfortable paddling with no off set (because of the less wrist twisting spinner mentioned that was required), and did not find the wind thing to be at all an issue, so I stuck with a no off set setup.

I never used a double blade paddle when canoeing until I got a solo boat, but as soon as I did I was instantly sold. It felt very powerful compared to a single blade, offered what I felt to be much superior maneuverability, and I love the total upper workout it provides that continuously works both sides of the body equally.

Spinner, I don't profess to be a great paddler, but I find that using a double paddle when I'm soloing seems very efficient and I execute quite vertical strokes without a great amount of effort or extra lateral movement. Just my experience, but I know I won't be going back to a single blade for soloing, I like doubling way too much. As in any sport, much of equipment selection has to do with personal preference and usage techniques. As such, I'm not going to endorse one over the other for anyone here, just suggest you might want to try both, if you haven't, and decide for yourselves.
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