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8/8/12

Prepping on $40 a week: Sleeping Bag


A good sleeping bag is an oft under estimated thing, but if unable to sleep because you're freezing your butt off, you will be wishing for one. Of course, a sleeping bag is useful beyond that-camping, crashing at a friend's place, etc. They are handy things to have around, and every family member should have at least one.

Standard big box store sleeping bags are both too heavy and too bulky. Backpacking brand sleeping bags are nice, but they generally run well over our budget. Some budget minded folks instead go with poncho liners or surplus wool blankets, but in my experience, neither are a great substitute for a decent sleeping bag. 

There are luckily some good options for sub $40 sleeping bags, and of those, the USGI Patrol Bag is amongst the best.



The Patrol Bag is the lighter weight bag from the military sleep system, good down to a claimed 30 degrees. Like all sleeping bags, the rating will vary depending on real world conditions--sleeping surface, what clothes you're wearing, individual tolerances and so on. It's a good rating for a bag to use in a wide range of conditions--comfortable enough for summer weight, sleeping indoors, and with enough warmth for sleeping outdoors in a variety of conditions. Large portions of the 'states don't get much below freezing all year, and if you do find yourself in really cold conditions, a good shelter and warming fire would help keep you alive.

The Patrol Bag is a mummy style, but not so restrictive that you can't move around, sleep on your side or skip using the mummy hood. I'm not a small guy, and the Patrol Bag has plenty of space for me; big muscle-y Marines use these too, so you'd have to be a pretty big boy to have fit problems.

Because its issued to big ol' Marines, known for their penchant for destroying anything, you know the Patrol Bag is going to be a tough piece of kit. The zipper is the heaviest duty that I've ever seen on a sleeping bag--a nice, big YKK zipper. The materials in general are quite good.

Despite the rugged build quality, the Patrol Bag still manages to maintain a backpacking-friendly weight at under 3 pounds.

My personal Patrol Bag set me back $27 shipped from an eBay seller, and you can find them on Amazon for around the same price point, maybe a few bucks more. They are a great bag for the price.

As another plus, the Patrol Bag is part of the Military Sleep System, so you can purchase the other components to get down to colder temps if you desire--black Intermediate bag, Gortex bivvy and stuff sack. The complete MSS is rated down to -30 degrees for those living in the frozen north. 

If you do live somewhere extra cold where a 30 degree bag will struggle, you probably want to pony up the few extra bucks the black Intermediate bag instead of the Patrol Bag--the Intermediate bag is rated down to -10 degrees. They typically run about $10 to $20 more than the Patrol Bag.

Cost: Varies depending on the seller and the price, but should be around the $30 mark. 
Bank: We'll stash the leftover $10 in our savings, bringing that total to $20.36.

If you've already got a good sleeping bag...

An extra sleeping bag isn't a bad thing -- they're a great thing to have stashed in the trunk. If you're squared away on bags though, how about a sleeping pad? While sleeping on the cold, hard ground may seem like the "tough guy" thing to do, it's not only uncomfortable, but sucks heat right out of you. A good, backpacking weight sleeping pad is a handy thing to have, and makes your night's sleep more comfortable. 

I use a ThermaRest ProLite that I've had for 6 or so years. It's a bit thin for my tastes, so I fold it in half, giving my torso a double-thickness of mat. Not a pillow top mattress, but better than the ground. 

14 comments :

  1. Would you believe that I'm not aloud to order this SLEEPING BAG because I live in Canada lol. Sucks living up here sometimes lol, not often but this be one of those times. Could you suggest a bag I COULD purchase in Canada off the top of your head lol. Thanks

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    1. I lol'd way to many times there

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    2. Look at ebay or your local surplus store.
      Canada has a very similar modular system that is rated down to -40C, and is commonly available at surplus stores, or online.

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    3. You can buy almost anything on eBay my friend.

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  2. Really enjoying this $40 series. Purchasing right alongside ya, with a few tweaks! Keep up the good work!

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  3. Keep in mind that military sleeping bags are meant to be carried on trucks, not the back

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    1. I do't know what military you were in but in the Army that bad boy goes with you in your ruck everywhere as does all your field gear. My ruck usually weighed in at about 65 lbs on an average deployment.

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    2. As a Marine we carried this exact bag along with the bivy and black bag. On our backs with 60lbs of extra gear.

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  4. You can usually get a 30 degree bag to go a bit lower if you have a good sleeping pad under it. Remember that the degree rating is just a comfort level not an exact temp that the bag will go down to. You can usually get a bag to preform below the rated temp if it is properly taken care of and not kept in the stuff sack all the time compressed. Put the bag in a large trash bag and store it loose with air space and lofted up as much as possible.

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  5. Very nice review. Where we live, cold is not a huge issue, only cold enough for a bag about two months out of the year (and even then you sleep on top of bag some nights). I've got an old Cabelas Lumberjack bag that is pretty tough - and extremely heavy to boot, about 9 pounds. Very big size, definitely overkill for nights over freezing.

    I'll check this one out - thanks.

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  6. I have this bag and the rest of the sleep system that goes around it (the liners and goretex shell). It is a beast. High quality when you put the whole thing together but it's no ultralight. Upside is you don't need a tent with the bivy.

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  7. Great review and comments. Just ordered mine for $14. Thanks!

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  8. Just ordered two for myself and the wife--$40 shipped for the pair!

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  9. Not very often can you find quality sleeping bags for under $20 each! Thanks for sharing :)
    -Jon

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