Extreme Cold Weather Surplus Sleeping Bags

Discussion in 'Functional Gear & Equipment' started by RouteClearance, Jan 12, 2018.

  1. RouteClearance

    RouteClearance Monkey+++

    This thread is going to deal with one of the most important pieces of equipment that a soldier, survivalist, prepper, or even a off grid homesteader can have, the sleeping bag.

    If their is one single piece of field gear that is universally found in any soldier’s ruck, a BOB, a 72 hour kit, or even in a winter kit in a car. The lowly sleeping bag is it, and I would like to start this thread by comparing two of the most widely available surplus military sleeping bags, the ECW down/poly mummy bag, and the newer ECW Modular Sleep System.

    So, I will start this review of the older down/poly bag. This are available for around $100 on the surplus market and are rated for -10 Fahrenheit. What I have done during the cold snap we have had is to shut my bedroom door and opened all windows and simply slept in both bags during the nights with single digit/below zero temps. Now, my bedroom does not have any heat registers, so I tacked a couple of heavy comforters on both side of my bedroom door to keep the cold air from getting into the rest of the warm house.
    0908B702-0820-4B30-964A-ECAFE78B964C. 999DF875-F9AF-4F79-A863-F531C94DB0D0. FA8907BC-4574-4AAA-9223-6EB9B1130D37.

    The pros with this bag is that it is a very warm bag to sleep in. For my night clothes, I slept in a set of issue poly pros and a good set of wool blend socks. Not once did I wake up cold. This bag is also very roomy and allows for a lot of wiggle room to get comfortable.

    During my first AD enlistment, this was the bag that I had issued to me even though I served my entire enlistment at Ft. Bliss TX. For all the field problems I did, the ECW bag I was issued served me well.

    For the cons. This bag is HEAVY, I am talking 10.5 pounds heavy and with it’s heft, it is also bulky. This issue bag would take up quite a bit of room in my old a.l.i.c.e. Large ruck, or my issue duffle bag.

    This bag does not come with any type of water repellent cover and because of the Down filler, if this bag gets wet, you will loose all it’s insulative properties, but I do have a Gore Tex bivy sack from a MSS that I keep with the bag, but as I will go into more detail later, the MSS is my go-to bag.

    I would also like to see some input from others on what you use, even if you have the ultra expensive Wiggys and other civilian brands.

    Coming up in a few days will be a full review of the ECW Modular Sleep System.
  2. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grampa Monkey

    I really like those old bags, but like you point out, they are best in a camp area, Static! With the size and weight, they are difficult to move with, especially if you have to hump any serious distance! For this reason, I have an older R.E.I. Down bag with divided foot box and head box! This bag is rated to -40 deg. but reality is about -15 to -20. For super cold, a Wubby is THE addition to have, but sleep sacks can be used as well. There are many good high end bags out there, but the most important factors to look at are the type of down used, the weight of fill, and the ratings of ground cover and water repellency! I have seen $500 North Face Artic bags less effective then my R.E.I. and I have seen $100 bags that are just as good, so you are well served to do your home work.

    My R.E.I. weighs just over 6 pounds, and the bed roll I use comes in at 1.6 pounds! The nice thing is the rolled diameter is right at 8 inches which can then be rolled with my tent and rain fly/pack cover! With this set up, I am good to go in any weather, and I am water proof for most conditions! for super cold or artic type use, an old school wool blanket between the bed roll and wrapped over the top can take the temp rating down to -50 exposed, and the wool has the advantage of working even when wet, and that can save your ass when it gets that cold!

    Good review R.C. Honest and with both good and bad, its fair!
  3. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    I am not familiar with .MIL stuff having never served, HOWEVER, the absolute Best bag I have found for Cold Wx was designed by my sister, and friends in her Climbing Club, back in the late 60s... They used them on Mt Mckinley on the Notorious Wilcox Expedition... I knew all those folks and climbed with them on Mt Rainier, while they were training for the McKinley climb...
    The bag has a Qualo-Fill Lower, with a Down Upper... The mating zipper for the two halves is recessed back from the Down Bag edge about two inches, so as to allow the down to cover the zipper seam, to keep the internal heat from escaping thru the mating zipper seam...
    Down does NOT insulate near as much, when compressed, so you do tend to lose heat thru it if it is compressed into the frozen ground or snow. The qualo-fill mitigates that issue, completely, so a Sleeping Pad is not needed, as well. I still have the one she made for me, somewhere, in the Emergency Storage, along with my Ice Axe, crampons, and Ice Screws that I haven’ t used since I got married, and gave up High Altitude Climbing... 40+ yearsago... and I still have pieces of my 200’ GoldLine Climbing Rope, around here, as well...
  4. UncleMorgan

    UncleMorgan I like peeling bananas and (occasionally) people.

    I'm in Florida, so it doesn't get very cold.

    But it does get cold enough to kill people that underestimate the danger of 60 degrees (F) with just a hint of drizzle and a dash of wind-chill.

    My usual bedroll is a wool blanket, plus a fuzzy blanket, and a combo ground sheet/rain fly that I can drape loosely enough (usually) to sleep dry. And, sissy that I am, I use my clothes-bag for a pillow.

    Warm is all about keeping a sheath of heated air around you.

    I used to travel with just a wool blanket. Not everyone knows how to wrap up in one to best effect.

    Here's how:
    Gator 45/70, Zimmy, oldman11 and 7 others like this.
  5. duane

    duane Monkey+++

    I have slept quite comfortably in cold down to 0 with wool blankets, ground pad, and a regular sleeping bag. In my limited experiences, rain and dampness, heat and humidity, insects and snakes that want to share your warmth, etc, are harder to handle than cold. I have never used the military sleeping bag systems, they look great, but when I was in we used our wool blankets, shelter half, and some big safety pins and I was fairly comfortable down to the lower 30's sleeping on the ground. Usually we had wooden floored tents with tent heaters and cots and just used wool blankets when we roughed it, but at Yuma, the heat and sand were the worst problems. For the most part if you are tired enough you can sleep leaning against something with your poncho and a blanket, keeps the ground contact down and the weapon available. There is a great difference between being comfortable in the long run, and surviving the night in the short run. In my car in the winter I have a military poncho, a liner for it, wool blankets, 8 ' by 10 ' tarp, sleeping bag, para cord, an entrenching tool and a camp axe. While not optimal, I think it would suffice to keep me alive over night here in NH under any conditions that I might face, in my car or out of it, except wind, fire or flooding, but it is not all really part of my get home bag.
  6. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    Sorry for the thread deviation....I hope you'll forgive.

    I have never found many crocodiles above the snow line. I have slept comfortably in sub freezing temperatures in an Australian Army sleeping bag / bivi bag combo. The Australian Army Vietnam era sleeping bags were more suited to tropical / mild weather use, and later sleeping bags tended to be sufficiently warm for cold (but not freezing) conditions, but were heavy, and bulkier than the load bearing equipment at the time could easily accommodate. Soldiers who cared about their creature comforts bought good quality civilian sleeping bags at their own expense.

    My favourite was an army surplus German 'Shlafsaecke' which I used for a number of years in the infantry. It had arms that could be pulled outside in, into the bag itself, if not required, when asleep. At 'stand to', the arms would be outside the bag, and the legs/feet also outside, yet be able to keep the body core tolerably warm. It was a godsend in the cold hours of darkness when having to go to the latrine to void one's bladder / bowels.


    Start at 1min.25secs

    I only had the synthetic inner, together with a silk sleeping bag liner, was usually adequate for most purposes. Adding a goretex bivy bag made for comfortable sleeping down to -5 or so degrees centigrade ambient temperature. I had one such bag that was rubberised and didn't crackle like the one in the YouTube clip.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018
  7. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grampa Monkey

    Surprisingly, some of the best Gear we found was Australian, particularly the heavy Wool trousers and coats, also excellent rain gear! Best investment I ever made was an Out Back Duster with hood, and I was sure to "borrow" a few pairs of Woolies, so thanks Chello, I promise I will return the gear some day! LOL
  8. MountainMariner

    MountainMariner Clearly Ambiguous

    I’ve got four of these bags if anyone is interested. I’d like to free up some storage space and I’m not likely to ever use them as I have 2 Wiggys Antarctica bag systems. (Those have been used in -50 degrees and work very, very well.)
    Gator 45/70, Zimmy, oldman11 and 3 others like this.
  9. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grampa Monkey

    Wish I had known about that! We just bought a pair of those -40 Alaskan bags! I just put one in my Decathalon Denali Scout!!!
    Gator 45/70, Zimmy, oldman11 and 3 others like this.
  10. Andy the Aussie

    Andy the Aussie Monkey+++ Founding Member

    What bags is use depend on what I am doing (assuming all in cold weather). I have two of US MSS (complete - one Woodland one ACU). They are very very comfortable and effective and I use one more than any other combination AS LONG as I am working out of my truck, they are just stupid big to carry around ...LOL If I am to go from my pack I use a custom Mont down bag and light weight Platatac bivvy bag. The Mont is rated to -15/-20C and I have slept out in it down to -10C (I did most certainly put off that pee I needed from about 3am onward though). Mont is an Australian company BTW .... Sleeping Bags | Mont Adventure Equipment ...they made my bag up for me in around 1996, at the time it was normal to have the foot part of the bag's shell to be made from a lightweight "goretex like" material, at my request (and cost) they made the whole shell from this for me. This bag is actually just on the way back to them for some replacement down to be added as, over the years, it has moulted a good bit and it showed when I was in New Zealand last year.

    I have a whole bunch of other sleeping bags including a couple of one of the more recent Australian issue "ECW Bags" and a Dutch issue bag. I struggle to take them out in the bush as I am so happy with all the well used combinations I have.
  11. apache235

    apache235 Monkey+++

    I second the Wiggy's. The down bags we had in the Army for our winter training in the mountains of Utah really really sucked. I like that the Wiggy's can get wet and still keep you warm and to clean them just toss them in the washer, try that with down. Down will also collect water and if it's really cold it will freeze over time.
  12. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grampa Monkey

    Pro Tip! To renew your down fill bags after a wash and air dry, toss them in the dryer with no heat and toss in 5 or 6 tennis balls and run a cycle! Your bag will be as good as the day you got it! This works with any down fill items, and as I under stand it, it will also work with polly fill and other types of insulation!
  13. Meat

    Meat Monkey+++

    The Finlander rescued 3 US Army mummy bags from a bonfire. He couldn’t stand to see good things go to waste. Funny that I turned out just like him. Anyway we would use these bags camping outdoors and indoors too. Indoors you’d wake up in a puddle of sweat because you would zip it up all the way. Idiots! Good memories though. In fact I’m going to call him to see if I can get one. *dials the Finlander*
    Jackpot!!! He’s shipping one my way. :D
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018
  14. RouteClearance

    RouteClearance Monkey+++

    I will be sleeping in a military MSS(modular sleep system) tonight with the temp expected to break record lows in my AO. This will be done in my bedroom with the heat vent blocked and all windows open.
  15. hot diggity

    hot diggity Monkey+++ Site Supporter+++

    I have both the intermediate cold down/poly GI bag and the new modular sleep system. Here on the beach I haven't needed one in a couple decades, but I got plenty of sleep in them in Virginia and Norway. The down/poly bag is the equal of either half of the modular bag alone, and has the same issues of wicking, cleanliness requirements and external sweating in extreme cold. The nylon bag is lighter, dries faster, and is warmer when wet. I lived in Norway with only half of the modular system when much of my units gear didn't get unpacked from the commercial airliner. Many of is had to split a bag and do the best we could to sleep with only half of the system. Since it's actually three parts, one would have a bag and waterproof bivy sack while the other had a bag only. Neither was good, but the guy with the waterproof and draft proof outer bag usually slept better.

    The USGI modular sleep system is a pretty well thought out design. There is enough room for your feet and your folded uniform inside and with the stuff sack it will pack up quite small for its size. Paired with a Thermarest sleeping mat, I'd be happy to sleep out in the snow again. You do absolutely need either the black wicking layer, socks and a head scarf or a protective sleeping bag liner if you want to keep the bag from getting solied and becoming useless.

    If you go with the black GI wicking suit (looks like black long underware) be warned, it will make you feel colder than you've ever felt in your life if you jump out of your bag and try to do anything more than get dressed. We had such nice weather some days in Norway that I took off on my walk from my tent to my bunker one day in just the black wicking layer under my utilities and flak jacket. I wasn't half way there when I realized what a bad move it was.

    In my AO it's a poncho and liner, with maybe a Mylar sheet and my full length Thermarest.
    Gator 45/70 likes this.
  16. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    The USAF had a larger bag built like this for CASEVAC. If you can score one of those, you are set.


    full wrap zipper, insulated (down and polyester filled), olive drab, fake fur lining around head, side carrying handles, rated to approximately -60 degrees F, DLA 120-86-C-4455, NSN: 6530-01-109-9039, approximately 72" x 30",

    On line price only $400 - free shipping tho....

    I worked in the field as a unit Medic and had one of these in the trailer (yeah, I was a "Hollywood medic", but then, I was a Zoomie) - never had to use it - but it will keep you very warm....
    Gator 45/70 likes this.
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