A sleeping bag built for two?
November 7, 2012 11:10 AM   Subscribe

What cold-weather sleeping bags allow for two people to bundle together comfortably for serious camping? Zero or under bags preferred.

My partner and I both do a lot of camping. We've got some really impressive gear, in terms of being prepared for very cold weather. But one thing we haven't been able to find is a solution to the age old choice: between cuddling with someone you love and being in a genuinely awesome sleeping bag. MeFites, I rely on you for this solution.

It seems to make sense that sleeping together in the same sleeping bag would increase the effectiveness, rather than decrease it- through providing double the body heat. But the only sleeping bags that seem to allow you the option are pretty flimsy ones that allow themselves to be zipped together.

I accept that the set of "people who are comfortable naked together and also spend lots of time camping" may be small, but I find it hard to believe that there isn't someone catering to it. So has anyone seen this?

Ideally, looking for water-resistant bags as well. The ability to compress easily would be icing on the cake.
posted by corb to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Since we don't know the actual sizes of you and your partner, an IRL option would be to go to EMS on Houston & Bway (there is also one on the UWS, where I think you are near?) and ask to, um, try some out? Without the naked part, obviously.
posted by elizardbits at 11:17 AM on November 7, 2012

Hope you don't like money! Only rated to 30, though.

Compression's gonna be hard to find in doublewides because the feasibility of carrying around essentially 2 sleeping bags on a single pack is not great, but I guess you know that. Buy a good stuff-sack with compression straps, I guess. Cheap waterproofing: big black trash bag, get it caught in the zipper and try not to suffocate.
posted by MangyCarface at 11:17 AM on November 7, 2012

You live near an REI? They have a ton of SERIOUS BIZNESS warm bags that can zip together in pairs. Go try some on.
posted by mollymayhem at 11:30 AM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are you car camping or backpacking?

If you're backpacking, I don't know that there's going to be a solution. Backpacking-weight cold-weather bags means mummy shaping. A true mummy bag for two people seems like it would be miserable - part of the deal with a mummy bag is that when you move, the bag moves with you, so unless you and your partner are in perfect accord about your sleep habits, I think you'd be really uncomfortable even if you could find something.

Basically, I suspect, though I have no proof, that two mummy bags could actually be more efficient than one bag that's sufficient for two people to sleep in.

Maybe you should also look into the alternative "sleep systems" that some ultralight backpackers use, with top quilts and things like that?
posted by mskyle at 11:38 AM on November 7, 2012

MEC has some nice barrel-style bags that zip together.
posted by sportbucket at 11:46 AM on November 7, 2012

Best answer: Just to expand on what mollymayhem says, even a lot of mummy bags can be zipped together, provided one has a left hand zipper and one has a right hand zipper. REI has a bit more information (towards the bottom of that page).

I've never tried it though, so I'm not sure how comfortable it would be. Though at least this way you'd be able to split them up if you were backpacking...
posted by natabat at 11:52 AM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

The reason why you won't find any seriously warm and compressible sleeping bags for two is for these reasons:

1. Sleeping bags take up a lot of room in a pack. I have a midsized pack and I couldn't get two in mine. A double would be out of the question.

2. The reason why the warmest rating go to mummy bags is because they are trying to achieve a closely fitted bag without stretching taught. You want the loft to be as close to your skin as possible. This means you aren't working hard to heat up air that can easily escape through the top when you move around. You also want to avoid pulling the fabric taught as it compresses the filler, making you cold really fast. When you have a double bed, you have a huge amount of free flowing air between you. Also, two people in a tight bag means lots of pulling of fabric.

It seems to defy logic that a double would be colder than a single but, unless you are glued together all night, it tends to pan out that way. That said , Big Agnes has a few with a 15 rating.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:59 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I doubt you'll choose to go this route, but my parents do own a matched pair of homemade down mummy bags. I have no idea how comfortable they are when used together (and indeed I don't think they've ever actually been used together, since there was a 20-year gap between starting the first one and finishing the second one). The one I used worked well enough singly for below-zero camping. I think they were bought as kits, but they might have just been patterns (unfortunately I don't know where my parents bought them).
posted by ckape at 12:08 PM on November 7, 2012

Foam Pants: 1. Sleeping bags take up a lot of room in a pack.
My 19-oz, 900-down mummy bag that compresses to barely larger than a US football laughs at your mortal problems.

It really is a heartless bastard. But warm.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:11 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Similar to the Big Agnes mentioned earlier Feathered Friends makes a double bag called the Spoonbill.

I own one of their -25F expedition bags and can vouch for the high quality of their products. This bag is lighter than mine but they reference the efficiency as you did on sleeping with another person.
posted by firetruckred at 12:19 PM on November 7, 2012


A little DIY involved, but solves the problem in a few ways.

Also (n)-other cottage industry people doing the same idea.

You can do a search for 'ultralight quilt'
posted by anthroprose at 12:49 PM on November 7, 2012

Best answer: I've definitely zipped two mummy bags together in 0 weather. It's way warmer as long as you're ok with cuddling! We used to bring one light weight bag (+30, maybe a pound) for under us and them a -20 for on top. At REI and places most women's bags are sold as leftys and men's as righties so you can zip them together.

Or you can make a quilt and then attach an uninsulated bottom to it to prevent drafts. Check out the blog at Ground Truth Trekking for a good DIY they used for a year in AK.

One thing to consider is sweat, especially if you're getting real cosy in there. If you're going to be out a week or more you need a way to deal with ice building up in the insulation, especially down. Less than a week and I wouldn't sweat it.
posted by fshgrl at 12:58 PM on November 7, 2012

I get the impression from your post that you guys are primarily campers compared to backpacking or something of that nature. If so, your options are pretty wide open since weight won't be a significant issue. If you're car camping I'd look into even cheaper alternatives than what I've listed below.

If both of you already have winter mummy bags I'd try to have one person sell theirs and buy one that's an opposite side zipper. Then I'd purchase or make a 20-32 degree rectangular tapered quilt with no footbox. Go synthetic on this if you aren't worried about weight.

Zip bottom of bags together then drape quilt on top.

What's your sleeping pad setup? I imagine you guys are using some comfy air mattresses if you're primarily campers. Some kind of sleeping pad coupler would really add to your comfort.
posted by zephyr_words at 1:20 PM on November 7, 2012

Best answer: My wife and I have Nanok down sleeping bags, both rated to -5ÂșC. They're mummy types and zip into a double. We have done lots of sleeping in cold weather.

It's generally great for the snuggle factor, but when it gets really cold it doesn't work, for the following reasons:

- There's more free air-space in the bag, which is draughtier
- She sleeps colder than me, so she needs a thicker bag (this is fixable if we upgraded her bag)
- She's smaller than me but the bags have to be the same length for the zip, so she's got a big cold wasted space beyond her feet
- You can't stick an extra bivvy bag or similar over the top for extra warmth / protection

So for really cold weather (near or beyond the temp ratings of the bags) we separate them again.

They are down bags so compress fairly small. Having the fancy zips means they are heavier and don't compress as much as they could, though. I think the bags we have are slightly water resistant, but I work on the basis that down bags aren't great for wet conditions.

Another great advantage of the double bag arrangement, though, is that it's wide enough to fit our reindeer skins inside for extra loveliness.
posted by milkb0at at 2:13 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think a water resistant bag is not a good idea because of all the condensation you'll get in winter camping.

It's hard to believe how much of that there is until you've experienced it.

Back in the seventies, my girlfriend-- by far the superior mountaineer-- got us a pair of Holubar Royalite II bags with opposite zips for our crosscountry ski camping trips in the mountains around Boulder. I believe they were rated to -20F, but the catalog I've linked doesn't include the specifications page for their individual models.

Those long, 15 below nights 10 miles from the trailhead were the most isolated, peaceful, and intensely silent I've ever experienced.

Holubar was bought out by The North Face, which was continuing to produce similar, though heavier bags last time I looked, but I shudder to think how much they might want for them these days.
posted by jamjam at 2:44 PM on November 7, 2012

Best answer: I accept that the set of "people who are comfortable naked together and also spend lots of time camping" may be small, but I find it hard to believe that there isn't someone catering to it. So has anyone seen this?

This set is large! I'm not sure what makes you think this - some kind of people who camp a lot are loners theory?

As many have said, pretty much any quality bag will zip together with another of the same brand (and some, but not all, other brands, as zipper sizes can be different). Any bag that is sold in a left and right zip versions will do this. If you have to buy a new bag or two, you can always keep the old one to throw on top of the whole set-up when it is very cold.

Also, I second the sleeping pad couplers, those are probably the best $10 I've ever spent!
posted by ssg at 11:44 AM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

- She's smaller than me but the bags have to be the same length for the zip, so she's got a big cold wasted space beyond her feet

Also, this is not true of all bags. Some have zippers of the same length on different lengths of bag, which means the difference is in the foot area beyond the end of the zipper.
posted by ssg at 11:46 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer:
jamjam: I think a water resistant bag is not a good idea because of all the condensation you'll get in winter camping.

It's hard to believe how much of that there is until you've experienced it.
Seconding this.

I took a survival shelter course - the weekend was cold and rainy, with temps hovering around 35-40F. Arguably, this is much more dangerous weather than, say, 20F: the air is a poorer insulator above freezing, and of course the drizzle.

We were allowed to bring clothes, sleeping bags, tools, and a sheet of plastic. My partner & I built a great shelter, with fire at the entrance, and a reflective stone pile behind it. It worked pretty well.

But my biggest discovery of the weekend was from the plastic. Every time I pulled it over me to keep the slight dew off, my temperature would go up for 3-5 minutes, then plummet. When I awoke to pull the plastic off, it was wet on my side. After a few (groggy) reps, I learned to just accept the dew.

I still carry a sheet of plastic - but it's for rain emergencies, not cold/damp times.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:26 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: You guys are fantastic and have definitely come to the rescue! For some reason, I'm a little embarrassed to say, but neither of us thought you could zip mummy bags together, because we tried it and it didn't work the way the very cheap rectangular simple bags did. They may, however, have been different brands. We are very excited about this possibility and are going to be visiting REI tonight. Win!

We do occasional car camping (because kid) but backpacking is also important, so serious bags matter (and weight is definitely an issue that I should have mentioned).

Also, this thread has gotten my partner to acknowledge that Metafilter may have a net positive effect. So double win!
posted by corb at 9:01 AM on November 9, 2012

I think a water resistant bag is not a good idea because of all the condensation you'll get in winter camping.

Plenty of winter camping bags have a waterproof-breathable membrane on the outside (e.g. Goretex). Totally different thing than a sheet of plastic and works quite well in my experience. It lets the water vapour out, but keeps liquid water out (imperfectly, of course).

In sufficiently cold conditions you will have condensation no matter what you do and your bag will have water or frost on the outside, which the Goretex prevents from soaking back into the bag. Down is a terrible insulator when wet, so this can be quite important with a down bag.

The downside is that Goretex wears out and a good down bag will otherwise last a very long time.
posted by ssg at 9:34 AM on November 9, 2012

Response by poster: We have new mummy bags that will now zip together, we are assured repeatedly, and that look really nice. Will be testing them out sometime in the next few weeks - I can, if desired, update then about how this has all gone!
posted by corb at 12:11 AM on November 10, 2012

Response by poster: Alright! Tested this out in below-freezing weather. There were definitely upsides and downsides. On the upside, they did zip together really well, and actually were able to kind of keep their mummy-bag nature, in some way that I'm not sure I fully understand - we basically looked like a two-headed person in a mummy bag. It was also really, really warm - possibly even too warm, though I hate saying that.

Downside, as someone had said, mummy bags are so much tighter than regular bags that we were not really able to sleep comfortably. Still, this experience went much better than without you all! Thanks again, everyone who had an answer here.
posted by corb at 12:22 PM on December 8, 2012

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