View Full Version : Questions about Military Sleep System (MSS)

02-18-2006, 01:24 PM
I did a search and only came up with a few hits but none answered the questions I would really like answered.

• Do you like it?
• What are the good things about it?
• What are the bad things about it?
• Would you choose it if given a choice?
• And overall is it a good setup?

Thanks for your time and answers, Mike.

02-18-2006, 02:18 PM
Easy to get

Could be more compactable. depends on your mission for an all around issue piece its okay but you can do better especially if you are looking for a system with extreme cold capacity. its a bit heavier than it needs to be for what you are getting. I did a yahoo search for "extreme cold weather tactical sleeping systems" and wound up with a dakota. My needs are a bit on the extreme end for temp rating but you get alot longer life span on the insulation for the money. I would give honorable mention to the Eagle bags as well.

02-18-2006, 02:39 PM
Personally I think it's a pretty good system. I'm at Fort Drum so it gets well below zero up here. Like zerosix said, it's on the bigger side, but the black "stuff sack" that comes with it can be compressed pretty well. Just yank down on the compression straps and it'll be the size of a popcorn tin...maybe a little bigger.

My only main gripe is because the army's going modular with everything, it's got a bivy, a warm weather part, a temperate weather part and you combine the warm/temperate to make the cold weather part then combine all of them to make the extreme cold weather bag. It's just kind of a pain in the butt, but if you preplan based on the weather it shouldn't be a problem. Also, if you know you won't be in terribly cold weather you don't have to bring all the parts, which makes it smaller. So it's really a double edged sword...complicated/bulky, but customizable based on the weather. Make sense?
Overall I like it, but then again it was issued to me, I didn't have to buy it so just like everything the army has, I'm sure there are better but more expensive systems to be bought.

02-18-2006, 06:49 PM
I've posted on this in the past, a couple years ago.

The Army Sleep System is a somewhat inferior knock-off of a bag made by...a sleeping bag manufacturer in a Western state, sometimes noted for his opinions and mode of expression.

According to sources, in the early 90's the Army blatantly copied his basic modular configuration, with a few changes (added snaps, made "big", 6 compression straps on stuff sack instead of 4, etc).

However, the Army did not use his propriatary format of insulation, for whatever reason.

Also, the Western manufacturer uses a shell material of relatively high-porosity weave nylon, allowing the outward passage of warm vapor. The Army bag, in contrast, uses a very tight, rip-stop weave nylon. I am told that Army Natick Labs had on file a very old fabric specification for COTTON ripstop, with a very tight weave designed to prevent the quills of goose down feathers from poking through, and they simply dusted off this old spec but used nylon instead of cotton! Result: A durable fabric, but does not allow body vabor to escape.

I once conducted an informal, unofficial test of the two bags. Over a one week FTX (Ft. Bragg, winter, rain/damp/frosty mornings, on a sleeping pad, in an unheated Mobile-Flex tent). I alternated nights between the Army bag and the opinionated manufacturer's bag. My subjective impression was that the Army bag became damp inside, had cold areas, too big for me (5'8"), and comfort/quality of sleep was inferior. I personally found the non-Army bag was warmer, dry, and also packs up smaller and tighter.

I do believe the weave density / vapor transmission theory.

02-18-2006, 07:48 PM
Great piece of gear, bulky, a bit heavy, but bombproof and very warm. I see no reason to buy anything else if you have one of these already.

02-18-2006, 08:23 PM
I haven't had much to test it against, but I'm very happy with it. The modular aspect of it is one of the best parts. Like Tim83 said, if you know the weather before you set out, you don't have to take the whole thing and in fact, you rarely do.

There might be better bags out there, but I doubt they are THAT much better.

Put it this way, you won't regret buying it.

02-18-2006, 09:12 PM
I agree - the difference is not going to be apparent for the typical vehicle-centric soldier in less than extreme environmental conditions.

Dan M
02-18-2006, 09:37 PM
Have to +1 AbnMedOps. I have both the issued MSS and said opinionated Western manufacturer. The MSS is such a huge improvement over its predecessor that in my unit we bowe dfown to worship and thank the Almighty when they arrived from the depot. The bags from said opinionated manufacturer in Colorado are better, but if you are issued the MSS, I would be reluctant to spend your own coin on something else. Better to spend the money on quality second line gear, or on Kifaru packs.

02-19-2006, 10:10 AM
I believe the MSS system is pretty good system. I usually only pack the black bag and the bivy in the winter. I used it in the winter time in both Germany and Korea with no issues. During the summer I usually just back the green bag which can compressed pretty small.

02-19-2006, 10:57 AM
Abn: I think the spec you mention was for "balloon silk" which isn't and never was silk at all, but a very fine cotton. My first down bag, from Camp & Trail Outfitters, used untreated balloon silk inside and water repellent treated exterior. Completely downproof and luxuriously comfortable. I never noticed any moisture buildup and used that bag for nearly 20 years.

Patrick, I don't know if this fabric is still available, but if it is it deserves a serious look for your new bag design.

02-19-2006, 05:19 PM
I appreciate all the candid answers.


02-19-2006, 09:37 PM
In the two above mentioned systems is the green/FTRSS bag oversized in order to accommodate the liner? I'm considering an Big Agnes inner/outer bag system as I neeed a long size and am leaning toward down for the liner. My concern is that the outer bag I select will be large enough to accomodate the bulkier inner bag.

02-20-2006, 06:46 PM

Woods Walker
02-20-2006, 10:16 PM
I have one and used it on more than a few trips. The over all temp rating is a bit over exaggerated. I have been cold in the thing at -5. I take cold very well so the fault may be with the system or maybe I was it was not my best day. I didn’t die so it could not have been that bad. I will give you a review of the parts. My view is based on about 30-40 camping trips. Sleeping bags are a bit like packs. Not everyone likes the same thing so two different views can both be right.

1. Gortex bivy cover. This is good. Like most gortex things it can fail a bit if covered in frozen snow/rain. This has happened to me as the condensation could not breathe out. It is a bit heavy but well made. Overall I like it.
2. The Black bag. Junk. Sorry but compared to other bags it is way too heavy for the temp rating. I just don’t care for it.
3. Green bag. Very good. I like the over size for an over bag. Makes a great later spring and summer/early to mid fall for New England. I just like large bags. Packs down good too.
4. Stuff sack. It’s ok. Works but nothing special.

Over all the system is a bit heavy but does work. I like the oversized zippers but don’t use the snaps. Nice to know they are there in case the monster zippers fail but I think using snaps on bags for longer periods of time is looking for trouble. I believe the whole thing (new) cost me about 200 bucks in Ebay. Buy the MILITARY one. Don’t be tricked into getting a copy. Buy new don’t get used. Don’t spend 399 on the thing. You can find it for less.

02-21-2006, 04:07 AM
How do you tell the military from the knock off?


02-21-2006, 10:42 AM
Thanks for the fabric tip, Ralph. See you in the 'Daks next month....

02-21-2006, 11:19 AM

check for the label. The knock offs look the same but they rarely go to the trouble to REALLY conterfeit it.

obscurious ronin
02-21-2006, 11:32 AM
i can't speak for their effectiveness as i haven't tried mine out yet, but hopefully will this weekend...but definitely get it on ebay if you're going to get one...i picked up a military one for $175 (postage included) and have seen them go out for as little as $145...

my initial impression is that it's too heavy and too bulky, but it has its place...i got mine cuz the price was right and i wanted to have a winter bag that i could beat up and drag around without concern...can't do that with my WM bag...

02-21-2006, 12:50 PM
I actually like the military sleep system. It's one of the few pieces of issue gear that I haven't felt the urge to replace. The green patrol bag sees the most use. However, I did go on two camping trips with my sons' Boy Scout troop where I used all three bags in combination. One was just after Veteran's Day when I returned from OEF, and the second just this last weekend. Virginia finally got some winter weather and the temp hit -5 F with the wind chill. On both occasions, the system kept me toasty and I didn't have any problems with condensation. I would note that I slept in my ECWCS long underwear in order to reap the full comfort rating of the bags. If you are buying your own system, there are several out there now. Slumberjack is advertising one they claim is better than the MSS; there is that "western manufacturer"; and Snugpak seems to have a pretty good kit. A friend of mine picked up the Snugpak SF system at the French compound in Kabul for about $280 US, which I thought was a bargain. It's very compact for two bags and he seems happy with it. The MSS is big, even when compressed, and relatively heavy. I'd hate to have to hump it any distance, although it was an excuse to get an EMR! /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

02-21-2006, 02:31 PM
I don't have much experience with other bags so I don't have much to compare it to. When you guys say it's heavy (bulkiness is hard to measure) do you guys have any numbers comparing the two? I personally always thought it was pretty light but I guess I just don't know what I'm missing out on.

02-21-2006, 03:31 PM
My comments regarding weight were subjective, meaning the system feels heavy to me relative to what I'm used to carrying. Your question did get me thinking, however, prompting a quick bit of research. The MSS comes in at 9 lbs total, with the bivvy cover being 2 lbs, the patrol bag 3 lbs, and the intermediate bag 4 lbs. That's considerably heavier than my Northface Cat's Meow bag, at 3 lbs, which has logged many miles of recreational backpacking. The closest commercial competitors to the MSS, being Wiggy's and Snugpak, weigh about 5.5 lbs. I notice that the new Slumberjack system is advertised at 3.3 lbs, which would be a neat trick. Of course, greater insulating capability presumably comes with the added weight. My Northface is rated at 20 F, while the MSS is at least promoted as a -30 F sleep system. I knew the MSS felt heavy. I was surprised to see it weighed three times as much as my old bag.

02-21-2006, 08:05 PM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Originally posted by GJNozum:
A friend of mine picked up the Snugpak SF system at the French compound in Kabul for about $280 US, which I thought was a bargain. </div></div>As a Snugpak dealer, I can tell you that's a steal!!

I like Snugpak, but I am a bit bigger around than your average soldier, so I end up getting the Expanda ("fat boy") panel, which negates some of the size advantage of the Snugpak. I recently got an MSS and like the sizing of the bags.

02-21-2006, 08:19 PM

Good info, thank you. Yeah, thats a pretty big difference. Not enough for me to drop a few hundred bucks to replace my MSS, but, if I had to do it over again, I might reconsider.

02-22-2006, 02:35 PM
Get one of the original cotton duck intermediate bags(my first mummy bag via military surplus) and carry it once or twice then try the new version /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

I bought a like new intermediate black bag off E-bay($36) and so far I like it. This is the first bag I have owned with a draft collar(at least I assume that is what the chunk of insulation below the sternum is?) and that is a nice feature along with the extra insulation in the foot box. Not as compressible as some other stuff, but does seem sturdy. Although it is probably overkill I also like the zipper due to the self separating feature and smooth operation.

Get a pair of the extreme cold weather socks(looks like the stuff bear suits are made of.) Not necessary inside the bag(here anyway,) but super nice for getting up in the middle of the night below freezing.