It was just a few short years ago when I started backpacking… and it was very soon after that when I realized I needed to lighten my accumulated gear load up. I began my backpacking career like many others probably did… with an internet search for gear. I was searching for all the “right things” that I needed, so that I could survive for an “extended” period of time “in the woods.” And likely like many others, I ended up with way more than I needed… But hey, we live and we learn…
One of the first things I did when doing my initial research on backpacking, was become a forum member at Backpacker.com. I was amazed at all of the information I was coming into, and grateful for all the folks that was so eager to help me learn. I also remember reading about all of this gear that, to me, at that time, seemed quite a bit expensive. Why did I need a sleeping bag that cost $300, or more, when I could get a “name brand” bag for $75?!
Well, let me say that I learned why…
When I realized that my 3.5 lb synthetic bag, which almost filled half of my, huge, 90L backpack, may have not been the “bargain” I thought it was, I started considering those higher priced bags a little more. One in particular that stood out to me was the Montbell UL Super Stretch Down Hugger #2 (mouthful, isn’t it?) I remember that a few folks had one, and they all raved about them. And that made me want one… To begin with, it was light weight (~ 38 oz) and stuffed with a high-grade, 800 down fill, so it would pack down a lot smaller than my current sleeping bag. Not to mention, it was pretty much guaranteed to be quite a bit more snuggly than my current synthetic bag which felt stiff as a board. The stretchy design was just awesome to think about, and heck, even the yellow color was interesting.
Well, long story short, by the time I had the money to invest in a better bag, these were no longer for sale. Montbell had completely phased out the #2 bags. So, I ended up going with my Marmot Helium, which to this very day I absolutely love, and have no desire to replace.
However, this didn’t change the fact that I still wanted to try one of these stretchy bags…
Up to this point, I had been happily using an enLIGHTened equipment synthetic Prodigy quilt (which weighs in at 18.3 oz) on my hikes in which I expected temps to range between the mid twenties, to around 50 F. I actually enjoy using a quilt in these temperatures, but also wouldn’t mind an actual sleeping bag either, so, I have had the #3 on a long wish list for some time… just to try. Then, just a couple of weeks ago, my wife picked up one of the new, 2014 model Montbell Down Hugger 800 #3 sleeping bags for my birthday!
I was stoked! I finally get to give one of these stretchy bags a try! Since getting the bag, I have spent a considerable amount of time in it… despite that I haven’t taken it on a hike. My large NeoAir XLite has been blown up for about the past 2 weeks, and the Montbell bag has been stretched out on top of it since! I have drug it into the living room where I have laid in it while watching tv. I have taken a couple of (unplanned) naps in it, and have even slept in it one night. Unfortunately though, due to the temperatures, it will be a few more months before I can take it out and actually use it outside…
So, for now, I wanted to share a few initial thoughts on the bag:
- Weight: This bag is the newest, 2014 version of the Down Hugger 800 #3 sleeping bag. It is the regular size which is stated to fit users up to 6 feet tall. According to the Montbell website, the spec’d weight for this bag is 1 lb 8 oz (or 24 oz). When weighing just the bag on my scale at home, I get 24.2 oz (or 1 lb 8.2 oz)! To be honest, for the bag to be this close to the actual listed weight was quite surprising to me. Anyway, this means that this sleeping bag is almost 6 oz heavier than the quilt I am currently using… however, it has some features that I am excited about that may make up that difference…
- Fit: As I mentioned, this bag is the regular size, which is said to fit users up to 6 feet tall. I am a hair over 5 foot 10 inches tall, currently 190 lbs (down from 220 lbs, and still dropping!) and have a shoulder circumference of around 52 inches when lying down. Overall, when lying in this bag, I feel like it is a pretty good fit. There is a bit of room around my torso, which would allow me to easily layer my Ex Light, or similar puffy layer, inside the bag. As well, there is a small amount of space along both sides of my body along the entire length of the bag, naturally decreasing towards my feet. Length wise, I do not feel like I have any extra wiggle room. My feet hit the foot box, likely just enough not to really cause any compression, and my head is right where I feel like it should be in the hood, with no real room to move upwards any.
- Warmth: I am hesitant to write about this, simply because I haven’t actually used it yet in cool/cold temperatures. It is currently 90+ F outside, and will be too hot to use this bag for a few more months yet. Regardless of this, I can say that this bag is stuffed with 11 oz of 800 down fill, and I have measured it to have between 3.5 inches and 4.25 inches of loft. Keep in mind, this is 2 layers, so on average, the top layer would be between 1.25 and 2.125 inches thick. However, I think it’s also worth noting that the continuous baffles allow the down to be shifted as needed, which can/will affect the loft. When holding the sleeping bag up to the light, none of the baffles appear to be underfilled, at least when comparing each baffle in the bag. When comparing my measured info with charts, and my own knowledge of how I sleep, I feel like this bag may be pretty close to accurate for me. Although, until I actually try it, I have no way of really knowing this… only speculation.
As seen on the diagram printed directly on the bag in the photo above, the great thing about these bags are that they will constrict when relaxed, which decreases the amount of dead air space inside the sleeping bag, and have the ability to stretch when it needs to, so that the user has a more than normal amount of wiggle room (up to 75 inches at the shoulders to be exact!) This is the feature that really attracted me to this bag, and has been the reason it has been on my list for quite so long… As well, it is the biggest (but not only) reason that I am willing to overlook those 6 extra oz when compared to my quilt.
However, I have got to admit, I am a little bit disappointed in the actuality of this feature… Don’t get me wrong, the bag does indeed stretch, but not all that much. In fact, I can’t really tell much of, if any, difference between laying in this bag, and in my Marmot Helium, which has a 62 inch fixed (not stretchy) shoulder girth (13 inches less than the Montbell). And in fact, my regular size Helium that also fits users up to 6 feet tall seems a tad bit longer, so I don’t feel like I am at the end of (or almost pushing) the useable length of the bag. As well, the Montbell bag has a listed shoulder girth of “53 inches to 75 inches” which made me think that this bag would relax closer to my body, almost like wearing a coat, but that is also not the case.
I’ve also read of others being able to sit up in these Montbell bags and crossing their legs Indian-style, inside them, however, I cannot do so. I can almost get my legs to cross, but not actually completely crossed, and it’s uncomfortable. I feel like if I were to actually fully cross them, I would either tear a seam, or bust the zipper…not what I want to do!
As well, I have also found that due to the 45 degree angle of the baffles, when lying on my side inside the sleeping bag, I constantly feel like the bag is twisted up around me. This is a bit annoying, and something I will have to learn to get used to I think. At this point though, I don’t think that this is anything worth really worrying about, just something I have noticed.
Something simple that I wish Montbell would have done was to use a bit of elastic cord around the hood. As it is, there is a round piece of non-elastic nylon (?) rope/cord. When I cinch the hood down tight around my face, the cord is pulled tight and is not quite, but almost, uncomfortable across the top of my head, and my chin. If I knew that I wouldn’t mess it up too bad, I would cut the cord out and replace it with shock cord myself… who knows, in time I may do so anyway.
Despite all of these things though, I actually really do like this bag. The material is quite comfortable and has a nice hand, even next to skin. And speaking of the material, Montbell’s own 20D Ballistic Airlight material is a great blend of lightweight, yet tough, material which is quite down-proof, and features Montbell’s standard DWR treatment, which is said to be quite good. (A few other feature’s I’m trading in for those 6 extra oz.)
And despite the “issues” I stated above with fit, and stretchiness… I actually do like the way the bag fits around me. It is quite comfortable, and just as I first assumed some years ago, it’s quite snuggly! I also like that the bag features continuous baffles, which allow me to shift the down to either the top or the bottom, to better accommodate for the actual temperatures. The zipper on the bag is also nice and stiff, and so far I haven’t really had many issues with getting the material caught in the zipper when zipping/unzipping the bag. And of course the bag will compress down nice and small when/if I need it to.
So, while this bag did not live up to all the expectations I initially had of it, it is still nice enough for me to look forward to using it on some future hikes. In fact, I am down right excited about taking it out with me on future hikes, despite the extra weight! I have got to say, my wife did a great thing when she got this bag for me for my birthday… Thank you honey!
Anyway, it may take some time due to our temperatures, but there will be more about this bag here on my blog in the future… so until then, thanks for stopping by!
Disclaimer: This Montbell bag was a gift to me from my wife, however, she paid for the bag with her own money. I am not required to write about this bag. I am not being paid, nor compensated in any way, to write about this bag. These are my INITIAL thoughts on this bag, and will likely change, or strengthen, as I get to use the bag more.