The single most expensive item I need for the race is a -30C (-20F) rated sleeping bag. Rock and Ice is a staged race, so every night we get to sleep in a tent, but the tents have no floor and minimum heating. Basically, you have to put your sleeping pad on the snow and you sleep on that. I heard from past racers that sometimes the heater stops unexpectedly during the night and it can get pretty nippy in the tent.
For all those reasons, one can't really take a chance. I need to know that I can slip into my bag and be warm.
I had been looking around for a sleeping bag for a while. My plan was to buy it later, but someone told me that they can be hard to get in the Winter months so I decided to bite the bullet. I have to say that in the end, I didn't have too many choices. It basically came to a choice between the North Face Solar Flare ($750Can at Europe Bound) and the Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) Thor ($480Can). Both are filled with down and had good reviews. I know someone who has a Solar Flare and he has only good things to say about it. The reviews for the Thor are all outstanding.
It just happened that there was a North Face sample sale in Toronto yesterday. The sale was cach only so I got there at opening time with loads of cash in my pocket. After waiting over an hour outside the store to get in, I found out there was no Solar Flare. They had a Tundra for $220, which is filled with synthetic material instead of down. Some of the reviews questioned the -20F (-29C) rating. I just couldn't take a chance. I imagined myself shivering all night and put it back on the rack. So much for saving money. They had no base layer items whatsoever, so I couldn't get the Merino wool shirt I had hoped to find. Pretty much all the clothes are MEDIUM in a sample sale. In things like winter jackets, medium is a bit tights for me so no luck either.
On the way home, I decided to detour to MEC, where I ran upstairs and got a Thor. Done. The Solar Flare was seemed nice, but in the end I just couldn't justify spending that kind of money ($750) on one item. On the way to the cash register, I detoured to the trail shoe section and looked at them longingly. Why? I have shoes already. I have a running shoe fetish!
Last night I slipped in my Thor for a few minutes and it feels nice and cozy. It's a left zip, so I can operate the zipper with my right hand. Couldn't stay in it long because one gets a bit toasty at room temperature. I might buy a Vapour Barrier and a liner to prevent my perspiration from getting the down wet. I tend to sweat a lot when I sleep.
When nights start getting below freezing, I'll get a bivy sack (also on the list) and sleep in the back yard to try it out. Maybe I'll get lucky and we will get some snow soon! The only thing that scares me is racoons. There's a family of 4 living near my house and they will for sure investigate this potential source of food. If they sniff in the face opening and I wake up I would probably freak out. They probably would know better, but I keep imagining it.
So this was the story of my sleeping bag. Next on the list are the Snow Shoes (already purchased) and the ongoing backpack saga. Then, all the other stuff!