One gear decision came easy to us – our Western Mountaineering sleeping bags. As noobs we had no idea what to buy, but the experts at Dynamic Earth did. Their recommendations have not let us down. When we asked about sleeping bags, their advice was quick and definite. Don’t buy anything but Western. Once we snuggled up in these, it was over. These bags were certainly the best we’d seen, by a huge margin. The guys at Dynamic Earth were right once again. We love our Western Alpinlites.
Western mountaineering is one of those companies that makes fine products, and their attention to detail is evident in every stich, no loose threads, or places where the zipper might snag, and of course a YKK zipper. With draft protection around the neck, and around the sides, Western covered all the areas where cold air might sneak into the bag. Continuous baffles allow us to move the down to areas where we want more or less protection from the cold, ideal for using when the weather is warm. Western supplies a canvas bag for storing the sleeping bag when at home. The bag also comes with it’s own stuff sack, but we opted to purchase a compression sack.
Advertised as mummy style, this bag sleeps like a standard. I don’t ever feel constricted, or like I don’t have enough room, even when I sleep with my knee bent. The Western signature 850 down fill provides loft like no other. Soft down surrounds me, and the collar, when not in use, makes a great pillow. If I could use a word to describe how the bag feels, I’d pick “cushy”. That probably is not even a word, but that is the first thing that comes to mind.
So does it keep me warm? Yes, and Yes, and Yes some more. I’ve slept out on some cold (to me) nights, and not once did I wake up shivering or cold in the least. I will say that every night during my September RMNP trip, I slept with my beanie on my head. This was not because the hood was not adequate for warmth. Rather, I am weird about having blankets on or constricting my face, it freaks me out. So the hood is not really the best option for me. With that said, my head stayed warm in the beanie; and my body – I woke up a couple of times near sweating. The temperature hovered below or right at 20º most of those nights. When I would unzip the collar, a cloud of steam would rise up out of the bag. For some reason, I found this highly entertaining on those solitary nights and mornings. A small disclaimer here, I did sleep in 200 (basically a mid-warmth) merino base layer (Arc’teryx merino pants and Icebreaker merino top). On warmer nights, (30º or above) the base layers are too much, and the zipper has to open. The continuous baffles also allow me to move the down where I want it, but I haven’t went this route yet. I am nervous about moving my down! This bag does its job, it keeps me toasty warm! I also bought a bag liner for those sub 20º nights. So far, I haven’t need it.
Weight and Packability – At 1lb 13oz who could complain about weight? It is easily one of the lighter bags on the market that keeps a person insanely warm. My 5’6” bag compress down to just a bit smaller than a football; Dustin’s 6’6” bag, it packs to about football size. These are the smallest compressed things we carry. No gripes here for the pack space it takes, because it is is nil.
Durability – The gentleman that taught our backpacking class has had his Western Bags for a long time. One bag, that his daughter sill uses, is approaching 40 years old; it still works like a charm. Western makes products to last, and all of them are crafted here in the United States! More than one person has told us, this will be the last 20º bag we buy.
My only complaint, the foot box is closed. The zipper doesn’t go all the way open, so using this as a quilt is not an option. Dustin and I bought the opposite zippers so we could zip them together on warm nights, and use it like a quilt. With the foot boxes it doesn’t seem like all that cool of idea to me. Personally, I have unzipped it all the way, and used it liked a blanket, but my feet were restricted to just that foot box area. Not that it was really any big deal, I didn’t lose sleep over it.
The price tag is a little high, but when this is the only thing keeping you from the cold, the sting to the pocket book doesn’t hurt as much as the thought of freezing to death. Not to mention, it will last forever. When we make another sleeping bag purchase (probably one more suited for colder nights for elk season) it will be a Western.