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Gear Review: First Ascent Karakoram 20

Sept12_FirstAscent_445x260First Ascent Karakoram 20
OVERALL

4.8

WARMTH

4.5

VENTILATION

3.8

COMFORT

4.5

PACKABILITY

4.0

[best all-around]
Warmth-to-weight-to-comfort. That’s the key ratio for sleeping bags, and this versatile 850-fill down sack nails them. And it does it for less than $300–a sweet deal in this premium-down category. The bag leverages a time-tested design–the mix of vertical and horizontal baffles was inspired by parent company Eddie Bauer’s classic 1950s mountaineering bags–that’s been updated with the latest materials and construction techniques. Here’s how it works: Small vertical baffles (5 inches wide by 27 inches long) in the torso area keep feathers firmly in place over your core to boost warmth in that critical area, but without incurring the cost of more complex full-length baffles (horizontal tubes insulate the rest). Result? The Karakoram kept testers warm into the teens in New Hampshire, and one cold-sleeping tester rejoiced that she was warm enough to sleep without socks during subfreezing nights in the Tetons. The well-tailored, single-cord hood earned praise: “It wasn’t suffocating like in others I’ve tried. I could move my neck and head comfortably, and the blowhole lined up just right, so I wasn’t stuck breathing my own exhaust.” The bag’s exterior is designed to withstand open bivies. The water-resistant/breathable, 20-denier Pertex Endurance shell has a DWR finish that kept one tester’s feet warm and dry despite the footbox pressing against a wet tent wall all night, and the shell stood up to a month in Denali National Park with no noticeable wear. The full-length zip offers ample ventilation and true three-season flexibility: “I slept comfortably in the Grand Canyon in the high 40s,” reports one tester. Nitpick: Two testers found the Karakoram slower to loft than competitors, so be sure to unstuff it as soon as you get to camp. Bonus: It’s available in size short (for people under 5’6”).
$299; 2 lbs. 4 oz.; eddiebauer.com/firstascent

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