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Sleeping Bag UPDATE

Well... I went camping over the Xmas holiday weekend.  Turns out, my sleeping bag is just not what I thought it might be.  It left me cold and uncomfortable.  In the end... I just warm up water and toss it in the stainless steel canteen and into my sleeping bag to keep warm.  But Annette and I were both uncomfortable in a manner of speaking.  She more from the cold than I was.  Nothing life threatening, however, my version of uncomfortable came from what to expect on the trail and what cold nights might lie ahead if I did not get a quick hold on a new sleeping system.

We spent the next 2 days, and I mean the whole 2 days pondering what sleeping bag we wanted to buy.  First we started out with lower rated bags.  We reviewed using our current bag as a summer bag and buying a 0 bag for the start of the trail.  We went round and round on different bag builds and different manufacturers.  We looked at 800 Down, 650 Down, and even synthetic to review our options.  Higher down means more $$, and synthetic means big time savings.  However, synthetic means big time weight problems, and down means weight and volume savings.  Round and round we went... until we reached one manufacturer whose reputation could not be more perfect, more solid, made in the USA, and with the highest quality and standards that apparently exist in this market for the past 30+ years.

Western Mountaineering from San Jose, CA was our choice.  We reviewed and reviewed the options and bag types they have.  They have a large batch of options and we wanted to check them out.  In the end... we went with the ULTRALITE 20 degree Fahrenheit model.  You can see the bag properties HERE.  Also the photos compared to our old bag are below.  Now please remember, this is not a perfect comparison.  Not only is the Western Mountaineering bag exceptionally well made, with killer nice down, but it is 20 degree bag.  Our old bag is a 30 degree bag.  You can check out that information on our previous post here.

 If you take a look at the Western Mountaineering on the right hand side of the above picture, you see that it is FULL, and STOUT.  The Montbell bag has a sewn through construction which inherently leads to overall heat loss.  Sewn through construction is the green color sketch.  You can see how the stitching creates low spots that allow the heat through.  While the continuous baffles allow for consistent height throughout the bag.

To read more about how this technology affects warmth, check out this link.
 Another issue that I had was the way that the bag hit the bridge of my nose when I close it down in mummy fashion around my face to stay warm when the temps dipped.  Now keep in mind on this trip it was in the low 20s, maybe even 20.  So this well exceeded the allowable temperature rating for this bag.  We had taken a few extras along and that sleep system will be reviewed in the next few posts in regards to our insulation clothing.
 Just to take a notice to what is called the draft tube.  This is the tube that runs the zipper.  It is a tube running parallel to the zipper that keeps draft from coming through and stealing warmth.  The Montbell draft tube is very small... about the size of 50 cent piece or close to it.
 The Western Mountaineering has 2 types of draft tubes.  One that is about twice the size of the Montbell, and runs down the zipper line.  The other runs perpendicular to the zipper and goes around the back of your neck and the front of your neck.  This tube is nearly 3" or close in diameter.  It is seriously amazing stuff.  If you see the black line running along the blue tubing... that is the draft collar, as they call it.  The black line on the draft collar is the draw sting.  The genius for me lies in the fact that you can cinch down the draft collar itself to keep air from coming in from the top.  While the draft tube along the zipper keeps the zipper warm.
 In this above photo you can see a great shot of the draft collar and the head portion of the bag.  What I really love about the head portion of the bag is the way the other cinch device lets me close the bag around my face.  With the Montbell, I only got 1 cinch cord and when I got it down real tight around my face, it hit the bridge of my nose, and was very uncomfortable.  I would deal with it... because staying warm is better... and it was not that bad... but annoying.  So when I tried the second cinch cord on the Western Mountaineering bag... this changed my view of what it means to close yourself up in the bag.  This one hovers nearly 1 inch above my actual face.  This action caused my face to be surrounded by soft down and as the face cinch cord closed down... it close around my face... almost literally framing my face.  But regardless of this, the cord hovered above my face and did not hit the bridge of my nose.  For me... genius.
 No draft collar and for the most part... very small draft tube on the above Montbell.
The true difference in down amounts is that the Montbell has 10 oz of down and the Western Mountaineering has 16 oz of down.  The bag came with a stuff sack, a large blue linen sack with the company name on it, and a nice sticker that is now on my netbook.  So everywhere I go, people see that looking back at a proud owner.

On some things in life, you just down skimp... please if you are reading this because you are going to buy a sleeping bag.  At least order your top choice & the Western Mountaineering.  Put them side by side, and I bet you choose the Western Mountaineering.  Are they expensive?  YES.  But if you take care of your equipment, I truly believe in this instance, it will take care of you for years and YEARS.