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Posted: 7/3/2008 2:39:25 PM EDT
Headed out to your neck of the woods to do a little camping in and around the Vail area at the end of the month. Trying to figure out what kind of equipment I'll be needing ... it's been a number of years since I've been camping outside of the northeast.

Weather.com says for Vail the highs are typically in the 60s, lows in the 40s during this time of year. I suspect in the higher altitudes that the 40 degree estimate may be on the generous side. Last time I was out camping in higher elevations in Montana we got snow, even in July.

I have two sleeping bags; one 35 degree bag (summer) and one 5 degree (winter) bag. I'm wondering whether I should take the risk on the 35 degree bag (which is a lot lighter and packable than the 5 degree bag). Or maybe spring for a 20 degree bag to split the difference ....

Any thoughts? Think I'll be okay with the 35 degree bag?

Thanks!
Link Posted: 7/3/2008 7:32:14 PM EDT
I lived in Summit County for about six years. I did a lot of backpacking around Buffalo and Red Mountain (Gore Range.) Elevation is about 10,500-11,500 feet. It gets pretty cold up there, even in July. I would also do a bit of car camping w/ the girlfriend around the base of Ute Pass (by the mill) and would still bring a winter bag. If you're hot, you can always just leave it unzipped and open. I can't imagine your winter bag weighs all that much more than your summer bag. If volume is your concern, get a good compression sack. It doesn't get much more miserable than not being able to sleep because your freezing your ass off.

One of the most miserable nights I can remember is when I forgot my sleeping pad on a fishing trip near Salida/BV in early July. I gave up trying to sleep after awhile and just fished all night.
Link Posted: 7/5/2008 10:28:57 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/5/2008 11:01:34 PM EDT by TheAvatar9265ft]
I pretty much exclusively use a (good) 30deg bag in the "summer" (midJune-midSeptember) camping from 10-12K, but I bring a fleece hat and a lightweight down puffy jacket as extra clothing that I can put on if it gets colder. Choose your campsite right to avoid cold air flows, wind, and local low spots. Use a good ground pad.

For temps expect 3-5F colder per 1000ft. Vail is at ~8000.

PM incoming with some suggestions.
Link Posted: 7/10/2008 8:07:13 AM EDT
Guys, thanks very much for the suggestions and advice.

It's true that there's not a big difference between my 5 degree and 35 degree bags. Both are TNF Polarguard bags; the 35 bag is a Polarguard Delta bag so it's quite a bit lighter. I guess I am getting a bit too obsessive about packing light; then again I haven't shelled out the cash for a titanium spork just yet.

I have a Thermarest pad that I will be bringing along, with a winter fleece jacket (just in case) and waterproof shell (Mountain Hardwwear Quark).

Looking forward to the trip, it's coming in <3 weeks now!!!
Link Posted: 7/10/2008 9:59:03 AM EDT
For what it's worth, my Mtn. Hardware synthetic bag, which is my winter bag, probably has a rating more around 25-35 degrees by now. It's been used so much. You'll probably be fine with a GOOD summer bag and some extra layers.
Link Posted: 7/10/2008 9:59:52 AM EDT
I usually take my North Face bag which is good for -20 and for me I can unzip it to cool off but the nights sometimes get real cold so the warmer the better. I made the mistake once by bringing a summer weight bag and I was cold during the nights and that is not fun.

Have a good time out here in Colorado. Watch the lightning storms and seek cover when they hit. We have had like 6 people struck in the past few days in the mountains but they are all okay.
Link Posted: 7/21/2008 6:31:37 AM EDT
Thanks, I will definitely be taking my 5 degree bag. I checked weather.com and they are predicting lows in the 40s for Vail CO next week. Sleeping outdoors and in higher elevations I can see how my 35 degree bag would be cutting it rather close.

I washed my 5 degree bag last night and stuffed it into my new backpack (a Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre 65+15). Fortunately it fits in the sleeping bag compartment. I was worried that it wouldn't fit but it seems like I'm good to go.

I'm also re-thinking my clothing strategy; originally I was going to leave the winter shell/fleece at home and rely on a warm expedition-weight base layer and a summer rain shell (Mountain Hardwear Quark). I'll probably end up taking my winter gear as well; don't want to risk getting stuck without proper gear!
Link Posted: 7/21/2008 9:42:16 PM EDT
We never make plans here based on weather forecasts more than a day in advance and even that is iffy. Next week? You may as well hire a voodoo preistess instead of a weatherman.
Link Posted: 7/22/2008 4:31:55 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/22/2008 4:33:31 AM EDT by stockshift]
^^ Know where I can find a priestess cheap? And is she free for dinner?

I'm still packing but I'm definitely bringing both summer and winter gear. I was originally going to bring only shorts but I'm going to hedge and bring some BDU pants as well. Between those and my fleece jacket and waterproof shell I should be good for all sorts of weather.
Link Posted: 8/6/2008 12:43:30 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/7/2008 7:50:12 AM EDT by stockshift]
Well, I'm back! Absent a bout with altitude sickness I had a great time. I flew into Denver, took a Colorado Mountain Express shuttle to Vail and then went into the woods for six days. Hit a few of the 10th Mountain Division Huts (Uncle Bud, Skinner, and one other I can't recall). Weather held up for most of the time, with rain only on two days. Other days it was nice and sunny. I'll have pics later on!

Edit: I brought my 5 degree bag ... probably should have taken the 35 degree bag as it was rather warm in the Vail area that week. All the same, it wasn't uncomfortable and I still had a great time.
Link Posted: 8/7/2008 7:22:08 AM EDT
Pics!

Trail to Hagerman's Pass



Lunch at Hagerman's Tunnel



Outside Skinner Hut, 10th Mountain Division



Trail to Henderson Park



Clark Peak







Colorado Trail







Here, kitty kitty



Galena Peak (false peak, never made it to the true peak)



Rainbows outside of Uncle Bud's Hut





Timberline Lake views



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