Sleeping Bag Review
By Robert Hanneman
Each of us has a different preference when it comes to sleeping bags that we take on a backpack hunt. Some guys like to use synthetic bags, while others prefer down bags. Most hunters use a sleeping bag anywhere from 0 to 30 degrees, with a 15 degree bag being the most popular for backpack hunts. For me, the journey to find the perfect sleeping bag has been a long one. I have spent too many sleepless nights on the mountain with an inferior bag. I started out in my backpacking career with a synthetic zero degree bag. This bag was extremely heavy, weighing over 6 pounds. Then, in the late 90’s, I bought my first quality down bag from Marmot. After experimenting with different down bags I settled on a Marmot zero degree bag, which I have used from 2006 up until this review.
Early in 2014 Huntin’ Fool® approached me about doing a review of the best 15 degree 800+ fill down mummy sleeping bags on the market. The other hunting consultants and I had been using Montbell and Marmot sleeping bags, so those were some of bags I planned on reviewing. Shortly after we had a plan we found out that KUIU was going to be introducing a down sleeping bag to the market. After talking to Jason Hairston at KUIU I had one of their prototypes on its way.
To try to make this review different from all the other sleeping bag reviews, I decided to use all of the bags throughout my fall and spring hunts to see how they performed in different conditions. Each bag was used a minimum of 10 nights in the field. For a sleeping pad, I used a Therm-a-Rest ProLite 4 for all of the testing. What is EN testing? The European Norm (EN) is a test designed and performed by an independent third party that seeks to standardize the way temperature ratings are established for sleeping bags. All of the sleeping bags in this review have been EN tested and certified to the temperature ratings listed below. The listed temperature rating is the lower limit which is based on the lowest temperature an adult male can have a comfortable night’s sleep. I would not recommend purchasing a sleeping bag that has not been EN tested. All of the listed weights are based on a regular-sized bag. For weights on the long-sized bags, check the manufacturers’ websites that are listed in this review.
Down Hugger 800 15 degrees bag
The Montbell bag has their patented super spiral stretch system which allows for the bag to stretch and fill like a larger bag than it really is. This bag does not feel like a regular mummy bag and would be a better choice for a hunter who is more claustrophobic and does not like a tight-fitting sleeping bag. Of all the bags tested, this bag had the lowest fill down used at 800. This is the only bag in the review that does not use a water-repellent down. The sleeping bag I used last year got slightly damp due to condensation buildup during a backpack hunt and had to be aired out daily. The outer fabric does have a durable water repellent that helps in keeping the bag dry. This has been a go-to bag for the hunting consultants for many years. Of the three bags tested, this bag was my wife’s favorite as she found it to be the most comfortable due to the spiral stretch system.
Super Down Sleeping Bag 15 degrees
All of the camo clothing I wear is KUIU, and I feel that they only produce high quality gear, so when I heard they were producing a sleeping bag, I could not wait to get my hands on one. I was lucky enough to get one of the few prototypes they had produced. My goal was to put this bag to the test and see what it was capable of. I spent more nights in this bag than any other last fall. I only had one cold night’s sleep in this bag, and it was early November in Colorado where the temperature dropped well below zero. If I would have had a zero degree bag, I would have slept like a baby. The fabric used in the construction of this bag is Stunner Stretch, which allows for a two-way stretch that makes the bag feel much larger than it really is. The KUIU bag was the lightest weight bag of all the bags I tested. Toray Industries created a water-repellent finish for down feathers called Quixdown that makes each down cluster essentially waterproof and keeps the down from clumping together and losing its loft. With the Quixdown and Toray’s water-repellent shell, this bag was the most water-repellent bag of all the bags I tested. KUIU designed this bag for the backpack hunter, and this is the only down bag I would recommend for a hunter who is planning on hunting in extremely wet conditions.
I was a little biased toward the Marmot sleeping bag when I started this review as their bags were the only bags I had used in years. Just like all their bags before, this was a high quality bag. One thing I was excited about was that this was the first Marmot bag I was able to use that had the Down Defender treatment. This specially-treated, highly water-resistant down offers an extra level of moisture protection for down exposed to wet environments. Down Defender helps prevent down from clumping and losing its loft when exposed to water. The treatment coats the individual plumes of the down cluster with a durable water repellent. The finish is durable, allowing the down to maintain its water repellency for over 20 washes. Marmot continues to produce some of the best down sleeping bags available on the market today.
All of the bags covered in this review are high quality bags. It’s really up to the hunter as to what he is looking for. If I was looking for the best all-around bag for any conditions, I would go with the KUIU bag. If the KUIU bag is out of your budget, then the Marmot bag would be a great choice. A well taken care of bag will last most hunters 10+ years.
The only other thing I want to address is the temperature rating of the bags I personally use. I only use a zero degree bag on all of my hunts. When hunting the high country, the weather can always change and the zero degree bag is just an extra insurance policy for me. In the early season, I open the bag and use it as a comforter to sleep under. To me, the extra 1/2 pound of weight is worth the extra 15 degrees of warmth.
Sleeping bags are much like optics, you really get what you pay for. Do yourself a favor and buy a quality sleeping bag and sleeping pad. No matter how good of shape you are in, if you are not getting quality sleep, you are going to have a tough hunt.