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Backpacker Magazine – November 2010

Time-Tested Gear: Sleeping Bags and Pads

Many starry nights–and a handful of miserable ones–revealed the best bags and pads over the years.

by: Alex Geller and Kristin Hostetter

PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Marmot Col MemBrain (Courtesy Photo)
Marmot Col MemBrain (Courtesy Photo)

Tried and True
Marmot Col MemBrain

Nothing makes you appreciate a really warm bag like a really cold night. Our testers’ first experience with Marmot’s down bags and their exceptional performance—thanks to great loft, meticulous construction, efficient shape, and smart details like stiffened draft tubes that don’t snag—was in 1979, when testers used the 5°F Gopher on frigid nights in New York’s Catskills. The same category-leading features continue to make Marmot’s bags—like the -20°F Col MemBrain (pictured) and the 15°F Helium MemBrain—best of class. After hitting several of Colorado’s Fourteeners with the Col, our current testers say that the waterproof/breathable MemBrain shell fabric keeps moisture at bay, yet still allows the bag to breathe so well that the 20-below bag stays comfortable to 20 above. $619; 4 lbs. 4 oz.;

PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

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Reader Rating: -


Star Star Star Star Star
Oct 13, 2013

I have had mine since the mid 90's, before it was made with "membrain." It still rocks till this day! Best sleeping bag I've owned for winter pursuits.(I've got 4 others) I had it out on Mt Wash in -30 weather and I was toasty. Good stuff!

Sep 24, 2012

i have a wiggy's i have had for 10 years, cleans easy, is very warm, can't wear it out, works good when soaking wet.

Sep 24, 2012

i have a wiggy's i have had for 10 years, cleans easy, is very warm, can't wear it out, works good when soaking wet.

Sep 24, 2012

i have a wiggy's i have had for 10 years, cleans easy, is very warm, can't wear it out, works good when soaking wet.

Aug 11, 2012

The Kelty Cosmic is a durable well made down bag.It is a terrific sleeping bag for weekend at Yosemite or a night out on the beach.The bag is really warm and fluffy and washes very well in the washing machine.It squeezes into a fairly compact little bag.However,if you are a really serious hiker you are going to want to spend a couple more hundred dollars and go for a smaller more water resistant sleeping bag. This is a great bag in this price range

More info:

sir hike alot
Jan 09, 2011


Jan 07, 2011

I'm a Big Agnes fan. Like my comfort and ultralight--yes I want it all. Have to be able to afford it though. I have 4 Big Agnes bags for summers in North Carolina down to a 15 degree Lost Ranger down. Love the roomy bag, with a pad that does not move out from under you. Great for "active" sleepers. Great for those who hate mummy's, for those that like to sprawl when they sleep and for those that like very little weight.

Jan 06, 2011

this is a bit off topic..but could someone recommend a bag more suitable for southern climates? Maybe its just a liner...but I'm curious as to what options are available. Thanks in advance.

Tom Scout
Jan 05, 2011

I still regularly use a Noth Face Rabbit's Foot (25F Bag) that I bought in about 1979. With a fleece liner, I have been very comfortable down into the teens. It still has great loft and shows no wear. It does help to wash these things (gently, by hand) occasionally to maintain loft.

Jan 05, 2011

The best sleeping bags overall are Wiggies. I've used other brands, e.g., Northface, USA Army (Down 1960's-70s) and Colorado Mt Sports, but Wiggies even provide warmth when wet through!

Jan 04, 2011

Thomas--Get a MontBell UL Superstretch....I have 3...I'm 6' 220....weightlift...broad shoulders...They are great bags!! They stretch and move w/ you...No more coffins

AT hiker
Jan 04, 2011

I used this back on the AT in 2002. When it first came out the oversize stuff sack, it sure had great loft! But of course it disapeared over the months on the trail. It was a good bag on the trail but after October came, Guaranteed for life... wow, I don't have the bag any more but maybe I would ask if it applies to bags used for 7 months!

Geo Greer
Jan 04, 2011

You did not mention BIG AGNUS. It is actually a system that incorporates a pad of your choice to slip into the sleeve on the underside where there is no down. I use a short mummy pad in my LOST RANGER. Best I have ever owned and very good for ultralight.

Jan 04, 2011

Yes, I know they tend to be too bulky to suit many backpackers, but the best overall bag made is Wiggy's. I do a lot of canoe camping and this is the only bag I'll ever need. Totally washable and nearly indestructible. I have 3, in different weights.

Thomas B
Jan 04, 2011

I appreciate the time and effort that have gone into preparing articles like this, how about a sleeping bag for those of us who don't sleep like mummy's. I used to be a through hiker now I am a lot more relaxed and I can not sleep in the tight confines and position of a mummy bag I am a single person but I use a two person tent. I need room to relax.I spend 97% of my time sleeping in a bed how about a quality sleeping bag that accommodates that?

Jan 04, 2011

I have an 800 fill power down Marmot Col with a Gore liner (I forget which one). I've used it in both tents and in open lean-to's in the Adirondacks at temperatures well below its 0 degree F rating.

I don't give gear recommendations lightly. Generally my gear takes a beating for a few years before I'll suggest it to anyone. This sleeping bag.... it gets my full recommendation. If anything happened to it, I would buy another one in a heartbeat and recommend it to anyone. Based on my experience with this bag, I would also not hesitate to buy another Marmot bag.

I also have a Cat's Meow that lost it's loft many years ago. So much so, that I relegated it to being used as a car camping bag for warm weather. Thanks to Greg's comment, I'll be contacting North Face too.

Eric Nelson
Jan 04, 2011

Good advice. I would very highly recommend the Exped Down mats for below freezing. I never felt even the slightest chill spot and the confort was off the chart. Plus, it is only a few ounces more than most UL foam mats and packs quite small. I don't know if you've ever tested any of the PHD gear and clothing but I would love to see it. Anyone that can make an under 3 lb. bag that is rated to -21C has got to be worth checking out.

Greg Vaughn
Jan 04, 2011

My Cat's Meow lost much of it's loft after several years use. I contacted North Face and asked it if could be refilled. They told me to send it to them, which I did, and North Face sent me a brand new bag, no charge. Guaranteed For Life they said. Awesome.

Jan 04, 2011

I have been very impressed with Therm-a-rest's customer service, however the most comfortable backpacking mattress I own is the Exped Downmat7, comparable in weight to the pro lite 4 but much thicker and better insulation. This Neo must now be trying to compete with the Downmat series.

Dec 22, 2010

I had the bottom of my sleeping bag slide out from under a tarp into the rain once. The plastic bag would've prevented that for sure.

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