Brand: Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC)
Model: Merlin -3C
You won’t find a better deal on a sub-two-pound, weather-resistant bag unless you get lucky on Craigslist. Indeed, we’ve seen bags that cost at least $150 more and don’t have the performance or durability of the Igneo and Joule (the women’s version). The 800-fill down and waterproof/breathable ripstop nylon shell (it uses a rolled-on coating, not a membrane) kept testers warm and dry in everything from windy bivies in the Sierras to subfreezing temps in Wyoming to the perennially soggy Pacific Northwest. (Note: The bag itself is not completely waterproof because the seams are not taped.)
Moisture from one tester’s single-wall tent didn’t faze the shell, and another tester slept sans shelter through 20-plus-mph winds without feeling chilled. He also got in and out of his bag repeatedly that same night to take photos during an adventure race, and even though he returned to the bag overheated from the exertion, the sweat vapor passed through the shell and he awoke fully dry for each shoot. “The temperature rating is dead on,” reports one tester who slept comfortably on 20°F nights in Montana’s Medicine Bow National Forest. “The differential drawcord on the hood (one flat cord and one round cord to provide better shape around the face) seals nicely, and the draft collar is effective without giving me that restrictive, claustrophobic feeling.”
Durability is high, too: One tester dragged the sack around like Linus while bivying on granite in the northern Sierra, and the shell showed no sign of wear. It packs to volleyball size for easy stowing. Igneo: $329; 1 lb. 15 oz.; 19°F; Joule: $339; 2 lbs. 2 oz.; 22°F; rei.comOur slimmest, most technical down bag blends the magic from our original Merlin and Pharaoh DF lines, and updates it with improved fabrics, fill, and construction. Mountaineers, alpinists, and hikers who prize lightness and performance will find lots to love here. We shaved weight from this bag by dispensing with a neck yoke and rear muff, and overstuffing the first chamber and hood closure to minimize drafts.
*Price is CAD and for regular length