2008 Three-Season Sleeping Bag Reviews - Backpacker

2008 Three-Season Sleeping Bag Reviews

Best All-Around

GoLite Adrenaline 20
The world consists of two kinds of people: side-sleepers and back-sleepers. Yet most sleeping bags are made with the latter in mind, and the former end up in a tangle of nylon. This 20°F, 800-fill down bag is made with a half-length center zip, which reduces weight and bulk and pleased both back- and side-sleeping testers. During a week in the Tetons with lows in the mid 20s, our tester reported, "The bag was plenty warm when I wore just a light base layer. When weather was warmer, the half-length center zip ventilated just fine, and it was easy to reach when I was semi-conscious." Waterproof/breathable Pertex Endurance protects the hood and foot against condensation. $325; 2 lbs. 1 oz.; 20°F

Best Buy

Macpac Sanctuary 500 Light XP
If you covet the performance of a weatherproof, premium down bag but think the price is out of range, put this bag on your to-snooze list. It's stuffed with 750-fill feathers and covered with a waterproof/breathable shell. Our tester cocooned inside for nine straight hours on a night in the mid-20s and reported no cold spots (though he said all but the warmest sleepers should consider the bag's 10°F rating optimistic by about 5 degrees). So where's the tradeoff? Interior space. Don't expect to roll around much in this slender sleeper. Bonus: It comes with a seam-taped, roll-top stuff sack. $275, 2 lbs. 4 oz.; 10°F

Top Ultralight

Feathered Friends Hummingbird Nano
Ounce for ounce, this is one of the warmest bags we've ever tested. The trim, high-lofting 850-fill mummy lived up to its 20°F rating despite its summer-sack proportions: "It stuffs so tiny I could throw it into my hydration pack as an emergency bivy for long trail runs," one tester said. The microfiber Nano cover doesn't totally block wind, but it repels light rain and tent condensation thanks to an effective DWR treatment. Cool feature: the snap hood closure, which never scratched faces or worked loose. Sizing note: The narrow cut is best for slender folks. (The Egret is the women's version, and Feathered Friends bags are available in numerous zipper and fabric options.) As tested: $334; 1 lb. 10 oz.; 20°F

Best for the Wet

Mountain Hardwear Spectre SL 20
Five years after this 800-fill, 20°F bag won an Editor's Choice Award (4/03), it continues to set the high-bar in weatherproof sacks. Credit goes to the ample high-quality down, efficient yet roomy cut, welded baffles, and seamless waterproof/breathable Conduit cover. The construction eliminates cold spots and stops water dead. Compared to the competition in this rarified category, the Spectre is amazingly effective at shedding full-on rain–as well as snow, frost, and condensation–thanks to details like overlapping double zipper flaps and a Conduit-lined hood that wards off moisture from exhaled breath. Our only (minor) gripe: The hood doesn't lay flat for venting. $390; 2 lbs. 12 oz.; 20°F

Best Synthetic

Mountain Hardwear Ultralamina 15
The women's version of this bag kept our coldest-sleeping female tester warm right down to its rating on autumn trips on Utah's Awapa Plateau. One reason she stayed so toasty is the sack's laminated construction, which avoids baffle seams–and the accompanying cold spots–by gluing the Thermic Micro synthetic insulation directly to the shell and liner. Testers also raved about the dual half-length zippers that run down each shoulder. "They were good for creating more space when I didn't want to zip in," one tester commented. "And they make great armholes for cooking or reading." Bottom line: An amazingly versatile synthetic at a good weight and price. $195; 2 lbs. 14 oz.; 15°F

Best for Couples

Big Agnes King Solomon
Our staff newlyweds were happy to test this two-person bag on car camps and treks in the Rockies. The verdict? "It's more comfortable than the last bed we owned." With two thick self-inflating pads underneath, they said the 600-fill down bag was plenty warm–almost too warm–on nights that came close to the King Solomon's 15°F rating. Downside: It's bulky, so it's best for car camping and paddle trips. For backpacking, use it with a big-load pack (more than 4,500 cubic inches) and put it in a compression sack. $320; 5 lbs. 3 oz.; 15°F

Big Agnes Skinny Fish 20*

This roomy, semi-rectangular bag is made almost entirely of recycled materials, right down to the stuff sack and its drawstring. Only the thread and zipper are virgin polyester. The Climashield HL Green synthetic insulation kept our tester plenty warm on sub-freezing nights in Utah's La Sal Mountains. A free-hanging yoke-style collar keeps warm air in and breezes out. Like all Big Agnes bags, it has a sleeve on the bottom designed to fit a 20x72-inch rectangular pad. Bummer: Despite its name, the Skinny Fish is bulkier and heavier than comparably rated synthetics. We also didn't like the way the hood cinches down into a horizontal slit rather than a round face opening. $180; 4 lbs.; 20°F

Exped Woodpecker

"Toasty right down to its 20°F rating," our tester noted after several late-fall nights sleeping out at 9,000 feet. He credits the Woodpecker's 750-fill down, distributed thickly on top and lighter underneath, and he also praised the shell's weatherproofing: "After a light two-hour rain, all I had to do was shake the drops off and go back to sleep." The water-resistant nylon cover is augmented by waterproof/breathable fabric at the hood and foot, which protects the areas where tent condensation accumulates. Ample width allows roll-around room, and the hood opens flat for venting and sprawling. A smart internal chest pocket is wide but not deep, so you don't have to dig for stuff. $280; 2 lbs. 3 oz.; 20°F

Kelty Foraker 15

This 15°F down bag is a bit heavier than the competition, but the extra ounces are easily justified. First, it's overstuffed with 750-fill feathers, which kept even our cold-sleeping tester warm in frosty treeline camps in Colorado. Second, durability is excellent, thanks to a tough, DWR-treated underside fabric that wards off ground moisture. Condensation-resistance is also bolstered by waterproof/breathable fabric at the foot and hood. Third, the cut is not coffin-tight. Add a full draft collar and ground-level side seams to minimize cold spots, and you get a go-anywhere sack that packs a lot of warmth. Gravy: It comes with a siliconized nylon compression sack. $300; 2 lbs. 13 oz.; 15°F

Lafuma Pro 950

On an October trip in Idaho's Sawtooths, this 15°F, 750-fill down mummy impressed our tester with its weatherproofing and warmth during a wet snowstorm. "By morning there was a lot of condensation under my tarp," he commented, "and the bag's water-resistant shell got soaked on top, but the loft wasn't affected. In temps in the 20s I was very warm in just a single top and bottom layer." Testers also liked the comfortable cut of the bag and the clean-closing hood. Bottom line: It's a great price for a light, warm, high-performance bag. $280; 2 lbs. 2 oz.; 15°F

Women's Bargain!

Mammut Ajungilak Kira 3-Season

Even our coldest-sleeping tester found warm salvation in the women's-specific Kira. Credit plenty of synthetic insulation, an efficient cut, and a high "turtleneck" insulated collar that closes with simple snaps and seals gently without constricting. She also liked the twin two-way zippers that serve as armholes, which make the sack jacketlike in the chilliest temps. "I really liked that I could hang out in this bag and still have both arms free," she said. Fit was roomy in the right places for her 5'5", 120-pound frame, but left no excess space to heat. The men's Kompakt ($159) is similar, but lacks the collar. $169; 2 lbs. 8 oz.; 25°F

Marmot EcoPro 15*

Several companies introduced eco-friendly synthetic bags this year, and this is one of the best in terms of warmth, price, and weight. The 15°F mummy is made with 100-percent recycled shell and lining material and 80-percent recycled EcoPro 100 insulation. It proved plenty warm, even on howling, sub-freezing October nights in Utah's Escalante high country. "There were no cold spots when I rolled up tight against the wind under my tarp," our tester said. He found it comfortably roomy in the shoulders and elbows even with the hood cinched. Quibbles: The stuff sack is a tight fit and the zipper is a little sticky up near the face. $165; 3 lbs. 3 oz.; 15°F


Marmot Pinnacle

Short of an electric blanket, you can do no better than this 800-fill heater. After four cold nights atop Utah's 11,000-foot Boulder Mountain in this 15°F mummy, our tester reported, "The last night dropped to 20°F with wind gusts to 30 mph, and I never even shivered." Double-layer baffles around the footbox let him skip the booties he'd normally wear in such conditions. The draft collar is satisfyingly poofy and uses snaps, not Velcro closures, so it doesn't catch hair or beards. The thick draft tube and zipper are virtually snag-proof, and a smart pocket atop the draft tube has a loop to help you pull the shoulder around for easy zip-up. $299; 2 lbs. 8 oz.; 15°F

MontBell Super Stretch Down Hugger #1

Restless sleepers, here's a mummy that doesn't feel like one. The 15°F down bag has stretch baffles that gently constrict the lining around you, eliminating dead air space and allowing unusual freedom of motion for knees, arms, or cross-legged sitting. With a 40-denier nylon shell and 650-fill down, it's a more economical and durable alternative to MontBell's Ultralight line of stretch bags (also a favorite of our testers). Dual draft tubes with anti-snag stiffeners make short work of frantic exits. A drawstring at ankle level lets shorter people cinch the bag to a 64-inch internal length, increasing heating efficiency. $250; 2 lbs. 14 oz.; 15°F

Sierra Designs Trade Wind 15

This overstuffed 800-fill sack won a recent field test of weatherproof bags (8/07) for its all-around performance. It's not as rainproof as the Mountain Hardwear Spectre (above), but the DriZone laminated shell does what most campers need: It sheds condensation, snow, and light showers, and it kills wind on open bivies. The Trade Wind (Solar Flare is the women's version) is conservatively rated, keeping testers warm as much as 5 degrees below its 15°F rating. It's comfortable, with a cut that's roomy enough for restless sleepers yet still plenty efficient, and the hood cinches cleanly around the face. Bonus: It has enough insulation on the bottom that midnight tossers can roll around without getting cold on the backside. $239; 3 lbs. 1 oz.; 15°F

Sierra Designs Verde 20*

With a soft, fleecy Cocona lining–an antimicrobial fabric made in part with a coconut-husk byproduct–this 20°F mummy is one of the coziest of the new eco-sacks. Recycled content in the Climashield Green insulation and nylon shell fabric round out the Verde's green cred. And we can vouch for its warm cred: The women's version, called the Déjà Vu 20, kept our female tester toasty with its efficient cut. "I slept warm well below freezing because I didn't have to heat up excess length and chest space, and there were no cold spots along the zipper or seams," she said. Only nitpick: The hood bunches up a bit when cinched down to snorkel size. $179; 3 lbs. 2 oz.; 20°F

The North Face Fission

The holy grail of insulation? A synthetic fill that rivals down's compressibility and warmth-to-weight ratio. This bag's new Climashield Neo insulation comes darn close. The 20°F half-zip mummy weighs just a few feathers over 2 pounds, stuffs almost as small as competing down bags, and testers reported zero cold spots on 25°F nights. Neo's secret sauce: It's made of hollow and solid fibers formed into sheets, which mimics the loft and thermal efficiency of down. The contoured hood snugs gently around the face, and a wide zip vent at the foot lets you ventilate in warm weather or penguin-walk short distances around camp. Bummer: The 15-denier ripstop nylon shell is slippery on pads. $239; 2 lbs. 4 oz.; 20°F

Western Mountaineering Apache Super DL

If you're in the market for a one-bag quiver, this is it. Light, warm, and weatherproof, this 15°F mummy can handle everything from chilly shoulder-season conditions to soggy bivies to summer fast-and-light outings. Credit 850-fill down; a narrow, hyper-efficient 59-inch chest girth; and a Dryloft waterproof/breathable cover that kills wind and adds warmth. Caution: Some weight is saved by reducing the amount of down on the bottom, where it gets flattened anyway. That idea works well for back-sleepers, but is less effective for side-sleepers. Size note: Folks taller than 5'8" should opt for the long. $385; 2 lbs.; 15°F