Gear Review: Brooks-Range Elephant’s Foot
Model: Elephant’s Foot
This unusual system isn’t for everybody—it’s a ¾-length, zipperless, 850-fill DownTek bag paired with a BYO puffy jacket—but its biggest fans found the Elephant’s Foot to be the perfect lightweight solution for fast-and-light endeavors like high-altitude backpacking and mountaineering. “You carry half a sleeping bag and a jacket—which you would anyhow—add gloves and a beanie, and bam! A cozy sleeping system,” raved one Arizona tester. Features are minimal: Elastic suspenders cinch over your shoulders to keep the bag in place, and a drawcord around the top draft tube tightens to seal out chills. Ounce-counters loved the football-size packability and barely-there weight, even while allowing that sleeping half out of your bag takes some getting used to. Some testers grew to appreciate the freedom of movement: “There’s zero restriction, so you can toss and turn however you like,” said a Central Cascades tester. And sleeping in your puffy lessens the shock of a cold morning: “With temps in the 30s and a stiff wind coming off of Marie Lake at the base of Oregon’s Diamond Peak, I could slide right out of the Elephant’s Foot and stay warm while making coffee,” said one tester. Others lamented not being able to snuggle down into the bag (several testers ducked out of the suspenders in the middle of the night and burrowed down into the bag for greater comfort). Venting options are myriad for warmer weather, as testers could loosen the drawcord or unzip their jackets to dump heat. The Elephant’s Foot performed well in wet, humid conditions, drying in a flash and protecting testers in foul weather: “I stayed warm in temps near freezing in the Glacier Peak Wilderness with rain misting into my tent through the side vents,” reported one. Caveat: Even some self-professed hot sleepers reported cold spots, particularly in the footbox, in temps well into the 40s. And after six months of hard use, some clumps of compressed down were visible under the semi-translucent, 20-denier shell. $299; 1 lb. 3 oz.; 25°F; brooks-range.com
Ted Alvarez: For the average backpacker, it fails the basic test: Comfort in the backcountry in changing conditions. While I recognize its versatility and weight savings, don’t expect a good nights sleep below 40 degrees. Comfort is compromised by not having a swaddle around you.
Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan: Cool feature of this design is ability to easily turn around entirely and sleep however you want —not restricted in any positions. But the suspenders were annoying—I found myself tangled up in them in the morning. It was really hard to find a comfortable place to put my arms (and you need to remember mittens). When it got wet, it dried really quickly.
Dan Larson: Breathability is great. You can just use the bag (which went up to my armpits and even almost over my shoulders). You can also wear the jacket (of course) and vent with the jacket zip and pull the bag down a bit if you get too warm. It’s versatile and easy to adjust temp and comfort. I would reserve this one for temps below 35 or for windy, cold conditions, perhaps for climbing.
Nick Sutton: A great bag for ultralighters. Easy to ventilate, and it was so easy to toss and turn – similar to being on a regular mattress! You were free to roam and roll as much as you wanted. I didn’t get tangled up in the elastic cords, which I thought I might.
Eli Zabielski: It’s a polarizing bag. I think this bag could be perfectly comfortable for some with a good jacket, but the 3/4th length is not for everyone. I found it very difficult to sleep in, since it does not provide the “sealed in” experience of a normal sleeping bag.