For someone who doesn't do extreme camping, or really much camping at all, and might be in a tent during a Michigan winter, do you have an "if you only own one bag, this is it" suggestion? Shelley Ann Arbor, Michigan
Which also tells me you may have leverage, as in, "OK, I'll go ice fishing/snowmobile camping/Northern Lights-watching, but only if you buy me a really good sleeping bag." And he, of course, thinking you are about to become an enthusiastic devotee of whatever bizarre winter pastimes he enjoys, claps his hands together and says, "You bet!"
Anyway, a winter sleeping bag is not something you can take lightly. And face it, most women sleep a little "cold," so need more insulation than men. So I'd start with a zero-degree bag as your baseline minimum. (The one problem with this approach is you'll roast just about any other time of the year.) Still, one good choice might be Sierra Designs' 7th Heaven, a zero-degree bag designed specifically for women (wider at the hips, more insulation around torso and feet). It's a down-filled bag that uses good-quality but economical 600-fill down, keeping the price to a not-unreasonable $280 (www.sierradesigns.com). And, it uses Sierra Designs' "flex" construction for stretchy straps that hug you lightly, allowing you to move around in the bag without sucking in cold air. Marmot's Never Summer ($249; www.marmot.com), also has a zero-degree rating and 600-fill down, but boasts slightly simpler construction so costs a little less. This is an excellent buy in a cold-weather bag.
If you really want to go top-drawer, Western Mountaineering's Dakota Super MF is the ticket. It's rated to minus five, uses absolutely top-quality down and materials, and weighs less than three pounds (the Sierra Designs and Marmot bags come in at around four). All that adds up, of coursein this case $445 for a bag that fits a person up to five-foot-six in height (www.westernmountaineering.com).
Don't forget a good pad, toothat can be as important as a bag in terms of keeping you warm. Insul Mat's Max-Mtn 1.5 sleeping pad ($69; www.pacoutdoor.com) will do nicely, and is shaped and cushioned for a femme sleeper.
So there you go. Stay warm out there in the Michigan winter wilds!
For more chill-bustin' bags, check out Outside Online's all-new Sleeping-Bag Buying Guide.