Showing results for 
Show  only  | Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Membership now as great as the outdoors!
Already a member? Take a look at the Co-op Members section of the community.
Ready to join? Explore all of the benefits here.

Preparing for a backpacking trip - have a few questions!


I am a newbie to backpacking and have an upcoming 3-day backpacking trip in upstate NY, I currently have a Kestrel 48 pack and would like to know a couple of key details as to how to prepare the bag most conveniently. I purchased a Coleman north rim sleeping bag but the pictures made it look smaller than it actually is, therefore, it doesn't fit in the sleeping bag compartment or on the outside of the bag. Do you know of any sleeping bags that best fit in that compartment and are top-rated? Also if you have any tips or tricks that a newbie backpacker should know to be most comfortable and convenient that would also be appreciated. Thank you for your time!

5 Replies

Hey there @Aymenm23!

Sounds like you have a nice trip planned for yourself!  Sorry you have run into a little trouble with your sleeping bag. 

I am just curious if the bag came with a compression sack or if you have already attempted to get it in one and down to it's smallest size.  Understandably a 48 liter pack could potentially be a tight fit with a larger bag.  If you have yet to look into a compression sack, I would start there.  Something like a Sea to Summit Compression Sack might do the trick. If this is not a viable option, let us know so that we can provide some additional advice.

I am also going to link here a previous conversation about Backpacking Essentials! Some of our very experienced users offer some great tips! There is also a fun feed where our users talk about their Five Favorite Pieces of Backpacking Gear!

Hope this info is helpful and please reach back out to us with any additional follow up questions!  


At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@Aymenm23 What is the typical overnight temperature in the location where you will be backpacking?  You definitely want a bag that will meet or exceed that temperature.  Very generally, you want a bag that will keep you warm at 30F and weigh three pounds or less.  This will be a down or high quality synthetic, mummy style bag and it won't be cheap.  On a frosty night, warm and snug within your bag, you will be glad you spent the dough.  Also important is the insulating pad beneath the bag.  I find a closed cell foam pad quite satisfactory, but inflatable, thicker (and more expensive) pads are quite popular.

Typically such bags are carried in a compression stuff sack which reduces the volume considerably, to the point that they fit within most lower compartments

The expert advice section of this website has real good stuff,nearly all of which I heartily endorse.

I would only add that you try out your gear in a benign environment, like your backyard, before embarking on your trip.  This will give you familiarity with your goodies and allow you to iron out any kinks.

Have a good time and smooth sailing!!


Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@Aymenm23 well, well, where to start.  This bag (sold as a zero degree bag for $45.00, weighing in at 6lbs.), I think I had one of these for car camping many years ago.  It's really just a car camping bag, meaning HUGE & HEAVY.

First this is not a backpacking bag due to weight and size.  Second, it's probably good to around....maybe 20F, at zero, you just won't freeze solid, just freeze.

If you're looking for a not so expensive bag, try a used backpacking gear site on facebook, or maybe in REI returns (?), and try to get a 20F down bag.

I really recommend an air mattress for a good nights sleep.  Anyone (well, most everyone) over the age of 12 will suffer on a closed-cell foam pad, but... you can get a ridge crest for about $20.  Most folks take those for extra padding/insulation or for cutting down into sit-pads.

Looks like you can get a 20F bag from REI for under $200.

But like I said, look for a used 20F down bag first.

Here's a link to backpacking gear flea market on FB, I saw a couple of good deals on bags:

Now here's some pictures from my backpacking trip this week.


Good luck.


REI Member Since 1979

@Aymenm23 Best I can find the Coleman north rim sleeping bag is a 5lb+, 0 degree synthetic bag.  That makes it bulky and you will need a much larger capacity backpack. if you wanted to backpack with it. 5lb is considered very heavy for a backpacking sleeping bag.   Less than 3 lb is more typical.

The problem you will have is that a 48L backpack will only work for a 3 day trip if you have non bulky gear which can get expensive.  I had that trouble when switching from car camping and was originally sold a 50L pack but could not fit my gear in it so I got a 70L pack which I still use because most of my trips involve carrying a bear to keep that bear somewhere!

I don't know what it is like in update NY in the summer (I assume that is what you mean by upcoming) but generally you only need a 0 degree bag in the US in the winter or in alpine mountains (10000 feet +)   Most people default to a 20 degree bag for general 3 season use and for summer you can generally get away with a 30 or 40 degree bag or just a fleece blanket depending.  As @hikermor says you need to know how cold it gets where you are going.  Down is preferred for lightweight packability but if it is humid or rains a lot where you are going synthetic bags are probably a better choice.  You have to keep down dry for it to work.

If you want to buy a good value reasonable quality backpacking sleeping bag it will typically cost between $100 and $200 with the best bags costing $400+.  If you are on a budget one thing it consider is renting a sleeping bag.  Not sure if that is going to be possible this year.  Used as @Philreedshikes  suggests may be a way to go.

As an example, a good value down bag that REI sells is the Kelty Cosmic 20 down bag which is available in various sizes.

These are reasonably light, reasonably warm and reasonably priced.  I have an older similar Kelty model that works well. The woman's bag is more like a 30 degree so bear that in mind if you are of that persuasion.   Women tend to be cold sleepers and need a warmer bag for the same temperature.

The thing you will definitely want is some kind of sleeping pad.  How insulating these are can matter as much as the sleeping bag.  For summer use you can get away with an R value of 1 or 2 but for 3 season use and altitude you want 3 to 5 and winter use 5+.  Inflatables ($50 - $200) are much more comfortable than closed cell foam (< $50) but make sure to take a repair kit and know how to use it. 

You don't mention who is supplying the shelter and if you will be carrying it but you will need one and for solo carry you want something not too bulky that weights 3 lbs or less.  You can use  heavier car camping tent (6lb) if shared between two which is what I did at first.  If insects are not a problem you can use a tarp and ground cloth as an alternative which can be light and cheap but is a somewhat acquired taste and requires some skill/practice to pitch so you would need to research that.  You can also rent tents.

Currently I uses a Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2P tent which is quite luxurious for one.  It weighs less than 3lb and packs small but it is a bit on the expensive side.  There are lots of choices so it depends what you need and what you budget is.

Hi @Aymenm23,

Backpacking is so much fun, I'm super excited for you! I just wanted to make you aware of a response to a similar post that I made a few weeks ago that lists some of the items I consider essential for backpacking. The response is on p. 2 of the post I am linking here. 

Hope this helps, and have fun on the trails!

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.