View Full Version : Sleeping Bag Field Tests

Ed T
05-11-2005, 12:14 PM
I was in the process of doing a sleeping bag review when things blew up on the other thread. In talking several times with Patrick these past few days, he is going to be testing along with me.

Mel called Patrick to inform him that Moonstone is indeed doing variable thickness layering in their sleeping bags, just what Patrick was proposing to do. So, of course Moonstone wil be part of the test. I just finished speaking with Moonstone and will have my bag next week.

Here is what I am going to be testing over the next six months:

Moonstone Delta Cirrus, a 32 degree Polar Guard Delta bag that weighs in at 1 pound 12 ounces in a regular.

The North Face Fission, a 20 degree Polar Guard Delta bag that weighs 2 pounds 4 ounces in a regular.

Marmot Helium, a 15 degree 900 fill down bag that weighs 1 pound 13 ounces for a regular. The Helium arrived yesterday and I am impressed with the quality and the loft.

I will be testing the long versions of the above bags, as I am on the edge size wise and like the little extra room a long provides.

All the tests will be done using a Taylor Minimum Reading recording thermometer. I will also be trying various clothing additions to see just how far down we can go with each bag and still have a good night's sleep.

I most likely will also be testing a Montbell bag as well.

Reports will be posted here as the testing progresses as well as a final write-up next Fall.

Ed T

05-11-2005, 12:41 PM
What, ultimately, do you want to accomplish?

Ed T
05-11-2005, 12:58 PM

Just a comprehensive review of several sleeping bags that look ideal for rambling. How accurate the stated temperature ratings are, actual weights if different from specs and overall performance of the bags. How well they handle moisture, durability etc. Also to develop a system of clothing additions to lower temperature ratings as several here on the MB have described.

Ed T

05-11-2005, 01:01 PM
Awesome..thanks for doing to footwork.

Woodland Girl
05-12-2005, 08:12 AM
This might be a dumb comment, so I preface it with that note. I think that the coloring of a sleeping bag has a place in considerations. My "ramblings" are usually done in full camo and I like a bag that can pass the camo test. Ive been backpack camping with friends and one woman has a nice warm comfy cozy bag, but you can see her sleep spot from miles away! That doesn't pass my camo test. A bag doesnot have to be camo. pattern, but the coloring is very important to me. Just a thought.

Woodland Girl
05-12-2005, 08:14 AM
P.S. When we camp, it's always open air, unless weather warrants a tarp.. camo of course. So sleeping bags are usually visible.

Ed T
05-12-2005, 08:37 AM
Woodland Girl,

Sleeping bag color is also important as far as solar drying goes. Dark colors of course are the best for this.

Ed T

Rusty Hook
05-12-2005, 10:12 AM
Ed T, A few questions: Are you going to do your review with the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Pad? And if so,would you consider including the BA Mica bag in your test? Or, do you already have enough experience with that bag to compare it to the others in the up coming review?

Of the bags listed,the Mica was not one of them, the mica is the only bag designed to be used with the air core pad. It offers some protection for the pad and would insure that the sleeper will stay on the pad all night. It being a 20 degree Polar Guard bag, like TNF Fission, within 6 or 8 ounces of to nomore than a pound of weight compared to the lightest bag in your review, and compressing down to less than 8x10 inches, it might be more representative of what most hunters would choose to use for a hunting bag, rather than a 32 degree bag.

As you stated, part of the reason for the review is to determine how far down these light bags will go, and how clothing can be used to augment their warmth. We have to carry the clothing anyway, so why shouldn't we use it to up our bag's rating. Draping or wearing a vest over you might have accomplished what Patrick was trying to do with the extra Lamalite, but it would not be as light as adding extra insulation to the shoulder area of a bag would be.

Thankyou for doing this review. It will prove to be a valuable service to all of us. Thanks, again, Rusty.

Ed T
05-12-2005, 10:35 AM

I will be doing the tests with a BA IAC pad and adding a closed cell pad as needed.

I will be happy to include the Mica, though I believe it has been discontinued by Big Agnes. I spent two weeks this Spring in a Mica and it is a very good bag. The coldest temperature I used it in was 22 degrees while camped along the Salmon river. I got cold that night and draped my Patagonia Puff Jacket over the top of me. There was a possible reason for being cold though. We set up camp at 1:30 AM and my Black Lab parked her self on my shoulder area so I couldn't get it zipped all the way. I was too tired to fight with her, so I just pulled the Puffball over us.

My take on the Mica is that it is a good 25 degree bag. 20 degrees might be a bit optimistic. Mine is a long and it weighs 2 lbs 15 oz. if I remember correctly.

I have seen some very good buys on Micas in the past few weeks on the internet.

Another method to use with the BA pads in a non-BA bag is to slide the pad inside the bag. This of course works only if you have the mummy pad. I have breifly tried this with my Mountain Hardware 32 degree bag and it works OK. For side sleepers though, you end up with the same problem with this as with a BA bag, you turn inside the bag so the hood doesn't move with you. I sleep about 50% on my back, 50% side so it works pretty well.

Ed T

Rusty Hook
05-12-2005, 11:27 AM
Ed T: That's a great idea! I would never have thought of that. Thanks, and thanks for the quick responce...Rusty.

11-25-2005, 09:49 PM

Any updates for this thread?

I'm pondering a synthetic bag in the 0 to 15 degree range. I'd like more room (somewhere around 64-66" shoulder width).

The ID bags look pretty good but I'm not sold on Primaloft yet. How roomy are the Moonstones? Anybody use the Montbell stretch bags?

And before anyone bothers I will not consider a bag from JW so don't even waste your time.

Ed T
11-28-2005, 10:24 AM

A short up date as to what I've found is on the wiggy thread: http://forums.kifaru.net/ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=4;t=000535

My post was on Nov. 22

More to follow.

Ed T

08-17-2006, 01:06 PM

The wiggy thread is gone. And it's time to start thinking about winter bags again. Do you have an update to these tests?


08-18-2006, 09:13 AM
Hi - that topic still does exist as "Kifaru Special - what temperature bag is it?"

Kifaru Special (http://forums.kifaru.net/ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=4;t=000200)

08-18-2006, 01:05 PM
Thanks Maggie, but that's a different, albeit entertaining, thread. /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/laugh.gif

At the beginning of this thread Ed T said he would be testing various sleeping bags and posting results. Then his last message said that the results were posted on another thread that has since been deleted. His link gives me the following message. "You have requested a topic that does not exist!".

08-18-2006, 01:51 PM
Hey Ksnake, I thought I'd jump in here with an update for you. We will be unveiling our new Kifaru sleeping bags for the first time, on Sep 30/Oct 1 at the Beach Demo & BBQ out here on the West coast. The new bags are Kifaru designed and will be built by Kifaru. Stay tuned /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/wink.gif .


08-18-2006, 03:08 PM
Hi Ksnake - I just want to be sure....
the deleted post was one within this topic, and not simply an older thread that cannot be found?

08-19-2006, 11:40 AM
Hi Maggie,
Correct, I was refering to this post from above:

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Originally posted by Ed T:

A short up date as to what I've found is on the wiggy thread: http://forums.kifaru.net/ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=4;t=000535

My post was on Nov. 22

More to follow.

Ed T </div></div>That link is gone.

Good to know. Thanks! But I was looking for a new bag for my upcoming trip in Sept. Which is prior to the kifaru release. /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/frown.gif

08-19-2006, 05:29 PM
Ksnake, It might be an entertaining thread now /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/eek.gif but was quite a shock at the time after making my first WG purchase a "Kifaru Special". I'm looking forward to seeing the new Kifaru design!

08-19-2006, 09:07 PM
Greg, Agreed! "Entertaining" was the only word I could think of at the time. I'm sure the more articulate on this board could be more poetic.

08-19-2006, 09:31 PM
Ksnake, "Entertaining" works. New gear and better days ahead!

Ed T
08-20-2006, 06:47 PM

The sleeping bag test is kind of obsolete, with the new Kifaru bag coming out in a little over a month. I have had the chance to spend quit a few nights in a Kifaru prototype bag and I think everyone should be pleased with the final product.
(Unless you are a sleeping bag manufacture /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif )

They will be the state of the art synthetic bags.

If you are looking for a down bag. I have high praises for the Marmot Helium and the BA Stillwater.

Ed T

Woods Walker
08-20-2006, 07:29 PM

If you get a down bag death is only seconds away. I have been killed many times using my down bag. Sometimes death comes from freezing as water just floods the bag even if there is not a drop of rain or snow. Other times I wonder around in the woods until exposure kills me rather than risk sleeping in the darn thing.

08-20-2006, 09:36 PM
This is why down bags have zippers that close them up completely. /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/eek.gif :p

08-20-2006, 10:00 PM
LOL -- /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/laugh.gif

Woods Walker that cracked me up!

08-20-2006, 10:33 PM
WW, that's the purpose of a pertec shell on a down bag. It doubles as a body bag.

I spit fizzy water all over the keyboard reading your post.

08-21-2006, 08:44 AM
Well I don't want to die if it rains, so thanks for the warnings Woods! Plus I'm allergic to down. So synthetic it is.

I wish the Kifaru bag was available sooner, it sounds perfect. But since my trip is prior to the release, I'm SOL.

Also, I'm getting the vibe that talking about other bags that will be in competition with Kifaru is no longer an option. Ok, got it.

I hereby volunteer to be a prototype tester /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/laugh.gif

Ed T
08-21-2006, 05:25 PM

There is no problem in talking about other bags, they just won't measure up to the soon to be released Kifaru bag.

The North Face Fission is a Polargaurd Delta bag that I can recomend. It was spot on at it's 20 degree rating and weighed 2 lbs. 6 oz in a regular. The cut was a bit snug and the zipper too short for good ventilation IMO, but a fine bag overall.

The Moonstone bags were also good, but Moonstone is no more. You might find a killer deal on a closeout thou. The Moonstone bags were tru to temperature rating but a deal over the specified weights.

Ed T

08-21-2006, 05:46 PM
Woods Walker, I have to disagree with you regarding death by down. It is not seconds away, but a slow, excruciating, lingering death that allows you to painfully reflect on your horrible mistake of passing over "the only sleeping bag safe to sleep in" (I think that phrase might be trademarked by the way) in favor of - gasp - down. I think the last word that passes from your lips starts with "W" or perhaps "S" or "F", regardless it is horrible. If it was a quick death, there would be a lot more down users. For my part I have had to give up all air travel due to my current use of a down bag. You never know when you might crash in arctic waters and soak all your gear leaving you totally hosed unless you have "the only sleeping bag safe to sleep in".

Looking forward to the Kifaru bag! It's been a long time coming.

Woods Walker
08-21-2006, 08:00 PM

You may be right. I have never chanced a full night in my down bag. Safer to just lie in the snow and moan like a wounded elk. But there is one up side that has not been fully addressed with down. Protection from animal attacks. We all know that bears and especially wolves crave human flesh about all things. They think it is ambrosia. This danger is mitigated by down as technically the pack of wolves eating your frozen wet body will be scavenging. Let us not forget the ever-present danger of the rattlesnake. We all know that these devils go into sleeping bags for warmth. However the down bag is instantly turned into a frozen wet brick the second you remove it from the stuff sack. No rattlesnake would want any part of that. On the issue of artic waters my advice would be to dump the down bag ASAP, as it tends to be about 12 degrees colder than the North Sea.

Donít forget to sleep in the buff. Even a pair of underwear can be fatal. Once slept in a set of thermals and died in about 40 minutes. Keep in mind that this was in a synthetic bag so the danger in a down bag is nothing short of suicide and could earn you a one-way trip to hell.


I would like to see what Kifaru has to offer but there are lots of good synthetic bags. I.D makes a nice one. In fact I donít own a good synthetic bag. I have an ok Coleman Exponent summer bag, a cheap but fair Black Pine sports bag and a crappy Military MSS. I think a good synthetic bag should have a nice zipper with something to prevent the zipper from binding with the bagís shell. It should have less insulation on the bottom but more on the top. A draft collar and those other modern things would be nice. The bags should not be too tight; as for me I would compress the insulation. A mummy hood with quality draw string. A good insulation that would dry some if wet and not go flat. A shell that is water resistant but can breath some too. A realistic rating that is not for Emperor penguins but humans. Low weight but not at the expense of durability and temp rating. I canít stand junk that has a small pack size and low temp rating but is nothing more than a marketing ploy to get the sale. Sounds impossible but that is what I want.

08-21-2006, 08:23 PM
Woods Walker, Good points. However if you combined public nudity and moaning like a wounded elk, I would most likely be shot and therefore spared the agony of actually spending a night in a down bag. On the bright side, some yo-yo would think they'd solved the mystery of Bigfoot. Thanks for the tip. Perhaps we should consider a book entitled "Death by a Thousand Feathers?"

P.S. Nicely done bringing in wolves on a sleeping bag thread. /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/laugh.gif

08-21-2006, 08:45 PM
I do hope that Patrick is going to send one to Grand Junction so we can have a proper evaluation in a future newsletter. With luck I will survive the many nights that I have planned in my down bag between now and that newsletters appearance. Woods has me worried....

Woods Walker
08-21-2006, 08:48 PM
I would also like the bag to be in color that don't make me want to vomit. Maybe something like CB or OD or just plain old black. No silly reds or blues etc.

08-21-2006, 10:08 PM


PA Scott
08-22-2006, 08:58 AM
Re: photo

That's not funny....

it's sick.

08-22-2006, 12:39 PM
...all that's missing is a pair of red Crocs-

08-22-2006, 12:55 PM
Ed T.

Thanks for the info!

Rusty Hook
08-22-2006, 01:10 PM
I had a recent experience getting a down bag wet at 10,400 feet elevation in the late afternoon. It wasn't the bag's fault that I was acting like an idiot. You see my tackle pack had come unzipped and a very expensive fly reel, my patagonia Dragonfly shell, TurtleFur neck gator and topo map and Angler's Guide had fallen out and were lost. That unhinged me so much that I neglected to put the fly on my tent even though it had been rainig for a while. All I could think about was getting back up there and finding my lost gear.

I managed to find the shell but nothing else was found, shortening my trip by 3 days because I couldn't fish with out a reel. It had been rainning and sleeting the whole time I was away. There were puddles in the tent, with standing water in the valleys of the BA Insulated Air Core Pad. The water on the outside of the bag was no big deal. But when I got up that morning I hadn't closed the bag. The rain falling on the inside of the bag was absorbed as there was no water repellent treatment applied to the bag's liner.

I hastily put the fly on the tent, dumped the water out of the pad and spunged it out of the tent with an absorbant cloth. Still steaming and wet from my hike back to camp in the rain, I climbed into the bag to try to dry it with body heat as much as I could.

A break in the clowds produced some sunshine for about 20 minuets, so I set the bag out in the sun and wind. When it started raining again, I brought the bag in and got back in it. I spent a warm comfortable night in spite of getting my bag wet. It wasn't all the way dry when I went to bed that night, but the bag was good and dry again by morning, so you can act like an idiot and get a down bag wet with out the world coming to an end for you...Rusty.

08-22-2006, 03:49 PM
The good news is "W" is getting better (back on the meds?)

His latest news letter, didn't berate any other bag maker. He only stated how he was the only sleep bag maker left in the country. And something about a discount thru September?

08-22-2006, 07:34 PM
I'm not interested in starting another down vs. synthetic debate but things aren't as simple as most of us have read.

I've also had a down bag "dry out" as I slept in it.

Backpackinglight.com did an impressive study where they took a Patagonia Micropuff vest (syn) and a Western Mountaineering Flash vest (down) and basically handwashed them in a tub for 20 minutes to get them as completely saturated as possible.

They then dryed the vests by hanging them outside in shade. The Micropuff retained more loft right after the soaking but in 30 minutes the down Flash vest was pretty dry and loftier than the Micropuff. Loft = warmth so even a damp Flash is warmer than a dry Micropuff.

Breathability of the shell fabric and surface area of the insulation appear to matter at least as much as the fill.
LINK (paid membership article) (http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/wet_weather_performance_down_vs_synth_vests.html)

Not trying to knock the Micropuff. I have one and like it a lot.

08-23-2006, 10:23 AM
Add body heat and the layer next to the skin will dry faster. That is part of the secret to soft shells. They can be wet, but as long as there is a dry layer to stop the heat conduction they stay warmer than you would expect.

Rusty Hook
08-24-2006, 10:18 AM
I had another experience on the same trip that illustrates what rambler_wannabe is talking about. I was damp and quite chilled when I made camp the first night. I had pushed myself too hard and my energy reserves were way down. Solid food was gagging me; all I wanted was water and lots of it.

I put on a fiber fill vest and it pulled the moisture out of my wet supplex shirt in the wind pretty quickly. I set up the tent and crawled in. My merino wool socks were also damp. Laying on top of my bag, the wind whistling through the mosquito net top of my tent cause my feet to become really cold because of evaporative heat loss. I put on some dry synthetic liner socks that weren't 1/6th the thickness of my wool socks and my feet started warming up emediately. Nothing that's wet is as warm as it is when it's dry, and having a warm dry layer of air next to your skin makes a huge difference, even though there may be considerable wetness on the other side of it...Rusty.

09-03-2006, 11:38 AM
I have the Marmot helium as well and agree that it is a fine 3 season bag but I only use it when the weather is very clear and i use it in a tent. I have been waiting for the kifaru bag for some time now and look forward to laughing at the rain.