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Wonderland Trail Backpacking Sleeping Bag

Hi there,

I am doing the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier from July 20-29 and was looking for advice about sleeping bags. I currently own an older Marmot Electrum 30*F sleeping bag but was wondering if I should potentially get something warmer. I am a woman, and I do typically run cold but wasn't sure if it was worth buying a new bag or not.

Please let me know any thoughts that might help!



6 Replies


Welcome, Jenna! Thanks for reaching out!

What a great backpacking trip you have planned! We have a couple of members of our community who have either done the Wonderland Trail or who are thinking about it. We'll tag them here so you all can connect and maybe share some ideas: @AdventureMama @nealos @happyhiker @bigAl2 

In terms of a sleeping bag, you're going to understand your needs best. A 30° sleeping bag should be adequate for the Wonderland Trail in July, but that will depend on your personal needs and how warm you are able to run. If you do go with a colder temperature sleeping bag it will likely take up more space in your pack and be heavier. One benefit of a colder temperature sleeping bag is that it can be easier to cool off a sleeping bag (open the zippers and vent some heat) than it is to make a sleeping bag warmer (i.e. use a sleeping bag liner). 

Here are some tips to getting the most warmth you can out of your sleeping bag:

  1. When you get in the sleeping bag at night, make sure you are getting in the sleeping bag warm. A common misconception is that sleeping bag will 'make you warm' and that is not the case. A sleeping bag is simply an insulating layer and, as such, if you are cold when you climb inside, it will keep you cold. This is particularly important for people who run cold, or struggle with circulation. The best thing to do is to move around and get your blood flowing before you get in the sleeping bag. Jumping jacks, a brisk walk around the tent, or a short hike to use the bathroom will all help. If you're too warm after you get in your sleeping bag you can always vent out some heat.
  2. Fueling up before bedtime can help as well. Eating a snack with fat in it (cheese and summer sausage, a little butter in hot cocoa, etc) will have your stomach burning calories slowly through the night and help keep you warmer.
  3. You can add warmth to your sleeping bag by using hand warmers or putting warm water in a Nalgene bottle and keeping in the sleeping bag with you. If you locate the water bottle or hand warmers between your legs or in your armpits it will help warm the blood in the veins close to the surface of your skin and carry that warm blood to your extremities.
  4. Lastly, and the most important (just ask @Philreedshikes, he'll back me up on this one), is to remember that the weight of your body will compress the insulation on the bottom of your sleeping bag. That means you need to make sure your sleeping pad system has a good r-value and can help reflect your body heat back to you at night. If you struggle with the cold, a closed cell foam pad under your inflatable sleeping pad can be very beneficial to retaining warmth.

Hopefully this helps, we're excited to see what other members of the community have to say!

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

@bigAl2 thanks for the follow-up question over email:

@REI-JohnJ Can you recommend a pot I could purchase for heating up water for freeze dried meals for 2 persons and making some other items like spaghetti - this will be for our trip at the Wonderland in late August. I already purchased a Pocketrocket stove kit which includes a .75-liter aluminum pot and 16-ounce bowl. Would like to get a larger pot large enough so the stove kit would fit into it. Would like it to be large enough so I could make spagheti in it. A lid would be nice also. I own a old alum pot now which can contain about 9 cups of water (doesn't have a lid}, but would like to purchase a better one, I looked at the GSI Halulite 2 l pot ( httpsi//, but it weighs 0.89 ib. It would work great for spaghetti, not sure if it would work for heating up water for freeze dried meals and hot coco. Can you recommend something? Thank you - Allen

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

@bigAl2 Chiming in on pots to go with the Pocket Rocket.   Sounds like you already have the PR2 Mini Stove Kit.  There is a larger version of this pot available (1.2 Liters) sold separately and it will allow you to put your stove, pot grabber, and 8oz IsoButane canister inside.  It also has the outer cup & is called the Trail Mini Duo Cookset from MSR.  Three other good options from MSR are Trail Lite 1.3 Liter Pot, the Trail Lite 2 Liter Pot or Big Titan Kettle (2 Liter's & really light weight!).



You got some good suggestions from @AdventureGuy about some pot options. I would recommend the MSR Trail Lite Pot - 2 Liter, as it holds a lot of water and is taller and narrower for fitting into your pack more easily. You can also consider the MSR Ceramic Solo Pot - 1.3 Liters, which is a little bit smaller but still holds a good amount of water. Both of these pots come with strainers on top, which is super handy when cooking noodles for spaghetti.

Both of those pots are currently on backorder but should be back in stock in the next 30 days. If that is cutting it too close for your trip, you could go with the MSR Fusion Ceramic 2-pot set which comes with a 2.5 and a 1.5 liter pot.

Hopefully this helps, let us know what other questions you have!

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

@jlechowicz, hello there!  I'm so jealous!  I had a permit to do that trip a few years ago, but had a family situation at the last moment and had to cancel.  You should love it!

Everything @REI-JohnJ said is true, please read his advice slowly and carefully, especially if you're a cold sleeper.

One thing you're certainly going to have to do is find out what the average night temps are during that time frame.  I would just call the back-country rangers and ask them.  I don't know why people are so reluctant to just go to the source.  The rangers are always so helpful.

According to the visitranier website

average nighttime temps are 43F.  That means to me you need a 20F or at the least a 30F (be prepared to put on a hat, thermals, etc.)

Also bear in mind the coolest part of the day will be during breakfast, meaning down jackets and beanies.

Of course this all varies and will depend upon where you are during the week and your camping elevation.

Check the forecasts everyday before the trip ( can give you great point extrapolations) and adjust accordingly on the days leading up to departure.

good luck! and post photos!


REI Member Since 1979

@jlechowicz Given that  your trip is in a few days you've probably already addressed your sleep system need, but if not the first place I'd recommend starting is making sure you have a higher R-Value sleeping pad.  People often blame their sleeping bag when their cold but in reality are actually losing their heat to the ground.  A sleeping bags get's it's ISO/EN temp rating using a 4.8 R-Value Pad.  Being a cold sleeper I'd recommend a pad with at least a 4.4 RValue.  You can also get this by adding two pads - one closed cell and one air pad.  A great combination would be the ZLite Sol and an air pad with at least a 2.4 RValue which will give you a 4.4 level.  The Therm-a-Rest XLite is a great option for 3 season backpacking for colder sleepers and is only 12 oz and already has a 4.4 RValue or a 5.6 in the women's model. 

If you've already got a warm enough pad and are still cold in the 30 degree range adding clothing layers helps + a hat.  Evening temps on the Wonderland could get close to freezing or below depending on the weather, so considering a 20 degree bag or quilt might be worth investing in, or add a quilt/blanket like the Therm-a-Rest Corus over the top for added warmth.  Good luck and have a great trip!!!!