2014 Montbell Down Hugger 800 #3 Sleeping Bag Review

Since getting my Montbell Down Hugger 800 #3 sleeping bag last year for my birthday, I have now used the bag about 12 nights total:

  • At home I have used the bag 4 nights: 3 outside in a tent, and 1 most of the night inside my house.
  • 1 night in the bunk house at the NOC
  • 3 nights on my hike from Newfound Gap/441 to Max Patch (inside a shelter each night)
  • 3 nights on my hike from Carver’s Gap to Dennis Cove Rd/Kincora Hostel (2 nights inside a shelter and 1 inside my ZPacks Hexamid & Hexanet)
  • 1 more night on my most recent hike from Iron Mtn Gap to Erwin, TN (under my MLD Duomid, tarp only).

Of these nights, the temps ranged from 32 F to mid 50’s… and the night in the bunk house at the NOC… well, it was a bit warmer…

As I mentioned in my initial impressions write up, I had wanted a Montbell “stretch” sleeping bag for quite a while, however, when I was finally able to actually pull the trigger on one, the one I wanted (the old #2) was no longer available, so I moved on. Over the years, there were several changes made to these bags, namely advancements/changes to the “stretch features,” doing away with a few models, and then finally updating their sizing structures: regular length is now for users up to 6′ (as opposed to 5’10”) and long is for users up to 6’6″ (as opposed to 6’4″). And then it happened, last year I was finally able to score a Down Hugger 800 #3 for my birthday (big thanks to my loving wife!). But, by this time, some other (minor?) things were yet again updated on the 2014 model of this bag:

  1. The color changed: teal to green.
  2. The material changed: 12D Airlight Ballistic Nylon to a 20D Ballistic Rip-Stop Nylon.
  3. The DWR changed: their signature “Polkatex” DWR to their “Standard” DWR treatment.
  4. The bags are now EN rated!
  5. They are a bit heavier than previous years versions…

Of these things, the things that made me go: “Hhhmmmmmm….” the most, was the changes to the material, and the DWR treatment. To be honest, I was kind of happy about the slightly higher denier material because I felt like it would prevent down leakage better than some lower denier materials, and maybe even have a better overall water resistance. However, I wasn’t so sure about the “standard” DWR treatment over their “Polkatex” treatment. To be totally honest though, I thought the Polkatex treatment sounded fancier, but also to be fair, a few of the Montbell down jackets I had also used the Polkatex DWR treatment, and it seemed to work pretty well. So, I contacted Montbell, and after a bit of time, and this is what they told me about the different DWR treatments:

Hello Chad

All of the durable water repellants utilized on the sleeping bags are intended to provides a small amount of protection in case of accidental spills (the moisture would bead and roll off allowing you to dry the area before the down could be compromised). In no way is the use of any DWR designed to create a waterproof or weather resistant product and they are never to be a substitute for mindful care and use of your sleeping bag.

These two DWR’s are slightly different in composition yielding performance values that show the Polkatex having about twice the longevity as the standard application. Please be aware that ALL durable water repellants wear off over time and are impacted by dirt, sweat, body oils, and cleaning.

If you are in need of a product that touts a high level of weather resistance and requires a little less protection there are many brands in the market making such attempts. For optimal thermal performance all Montbell sleeping bags regardless of vintage should be shielded from any form of moisture.

Cheers,

Montbell Customer Support

In my opinion, his/her reply was a very honest reply, and it did answer my question… And… to be honest, I was kind of bummed out about it, but, at this point in time, it really didn’t matter. I already had the sleeping bag, and unless I found one of the prior year’s version, getting another one would have the same “standard” DWR treatment. So, I went with it and figured I would just see how it does in the field… besides, they do make wash in treatments to restore DWR, so there is technically a back-up plan!

Inside the Overmountain Shelter on the AT

So, after using this bag in the field, I have a few thoughts about it, which I wanted to share here. I have decided to make a list of pro’s and con’s, as well as a few other notes which I don’t really consider to be either a pro, or a con, to help share my thoughts. To begin with, here are the pro’s:

  • The bag is pretty accurately rated, for me. This bag is rated to 30 F, or more accurately, according to its EN rating, 31 F (Lower Limit – rating for average male user). The coldest night I have slept in the bag was 32 F in the barn loft at the Overmountain Shelter, and while I did get a little cool that night, it was the SynMat UL7 that wasn’t pulling its weight, not my sleeping bag. Other than this, I have used it a few other times in the mid 30’s and was fine. I have slept inside the bag with nothing but my skivvies, other times in a pair of Patagonia Cap 2 long bottoms and top, and even the above mentioned night in my down pants. After these nights, I feel like this bag is accurate for me. With this in mind, this sleeping bag will more than likely be my go-to bag for hikes in which I expect the temperatures to be around the 30 – 50-ish F mark…
  • The shell has good water resistance. As discussed above, this was something that I was concerned about… I don’t have much issues with the foot end of my sleeping bags getting wet from rubbing against my tent, but the chest area takes a hit almost every night from all the humidity in my breath. As well, many nights here in the Southeast, the air is saturated from all the humidity in the air, and at night it settles on everything! There was no exception in my use with this sleeping bag so far… However, by the loft of the bag, it appears that so far much of the moisture has remained outside the bag, on the shell, rather than actually soaking in. As well, a little sun time, or just from my body heat when crawling back in, seems to do a great job at keeping the bag dry, and lofty. According to the Montbell customer service rep, the standard DWR has only about half the life expectancy of the Polkatex treatment, but like I also mentioned, it is possible to reapply another DWR treatment once this one seems to start wearing off. Other than the DWR treatment though, I feel like the slightly heavier, 20D material also aids in a bit of water resistance too…
  • The zipper works pretty good. Not much to be said here, but the zipper doesn’t seem to snag quite as much as on my other sleeping bags… Sure, it could be better, but I can’t really complain so far… So, this is a “pro” to me!
  • The hood is pretty nice. The hood has enough fill to keep my head and neck nice and warm (in appropriate temperatures). It also cinches up around my face well enough to block drafts, yet not cause any discomfort…. (Except on my chin, discussed later). I have also learned that when cinching the hood down, I pull a little more on the cord that goes around my head more than the one that goes across my neck area. This helps relieve some “pressure” on my chin when cinched down really small, and also creates more of an upside-down “U” shape rather than an “O” shape, which fits around my head better.
  • There is adequate girth throughout the bag. Not to be confused with the stretch feature, but there is enough room for me to lie on my back with my arms relaxed next to my sides (about a 50″ girth) without compressing any of the down along the sides or the top of the bag. I can move around with ease inside the bag, and there is enough room for me to wear a down jacket, pants and socks inside the bag if so desired.

So, those are the pro’s I have listed, and here is the one and only con I can come up with:

  • The sewn bias is uncomfortable. I understand that the whole concept of these bags are based on the diagonal orientation of the baffles, and that is fine. However, being that I do plan to use this bag in temps closer to around 50-ish F, I will (and have) sometimes sleep in this bag in just my undies or a pair of shorts. When lying on my side, the diagonal baffles are very obvious on my legs, and I constantly feel like the bag is twisted up around me. I will admit that I only really notice this when I first climb into the bag and am trying to get comfortable… by the time I fall asleep, I can’t really tell it anymore… I guess anyway… I am asleep after all…

P1050039At Tricorner Knob Shelter on the AT in the GSMNP

As I mentioned in the video, there are also a few things that I felt were worth noting, however, I didn’t really view them as a pro or a con… just something to note:

  • The stretch feature is total hype. To be honest, the stretch feature was one thing that really drew me to this bag. The listed shoulder girth on this bag is 59″ – 75″ however, I find this to be a joke. To be fair, I have not measured it with a tape, but according to the specs, there should be 16″ of extra girth when stretched… and to be completely honest, I just don’t see that at all. In fact, there doesn’t appear to be any stretch whatsoever, at least not horizontally… which I guess makes sense? Since the bag is sewn on the diagonal, I guess the stretch is on the diagonal? If this is the case, it doesn’t seem to make much sense to me… As well, at 59″ when relaxed, I expected this bag to be a much closer fit that what it actually is. Like I mentioned above, when measuring around my shoulders and chest, I am about 50″ so of course it won’t be form-fitting… but it should be closer than what it is… And it’s just not… So, the reason I note it here is to tell anyone that if the stretch feature is a deciding factor on this bag vs another one, then don’t. Try to check one out in person first if possible and go from there…
  • The weight is a little high. I really don’t want this to come off as negative, but that also doesn’t mean that I don’t wish it were a couple of oz’s lighter either… On my personal scale, it comes in at 24.2 oz, which is 0.2 oz over spec, and not an issue at all! (Plenty of other bags weigh much different when actual weight is compared to listed weight… but this one is almost dead on.) The previous years models were a couple of oz lighter, however, as I noted above, in 2014 they started using a heavier denier material (20 vs 12), and the bags are now EN rated (I am not sure when Montbell started EN rating their bags, but it can’t have been too long ago…) If I am not mistaken, I think the 2014 bag does have slightly more down than the previous years (maybe due to the EN ratings?), so that may also account for some of the extra weight to the newest version of this bag. Either way, I am ok with the weight of the bag now that I know that it is accurately rated for me, and considering the slightly heavier shell, which I do like.
  • The overall length is almost too short for me. This is something that kind of surprised me, and almost caused this to fall into the con list, but I do fit, so it didn’t. Again, as mentioned above, Montbell finally got with the program and went with the standard sizing (for the US): regular length for users up to 6′ tall, and long length for users up to 6’6″ tall! However, after actually lying inside the bag, I wonder if they actually changed the length of the bag, or just the description. As odd as it is, when one lies down, they are a little taller than when standing. Gravity releases its hold, muscles relax, the joints and bones aren’t as compressed, and the feet relax and flex slightly forward. Considering this, I am 5’10” (when standing) so I should easily fit inside my regular length Montbell sleeping bag, which is described as fitting users up to 6′ tall. I don’t have any issues when lying in my other regular length (up to 6′ tall) sleeping bag, but it’s not the same in the Montbell sleeping bag. Instead, my head is almost pressed into the top of the hood, and my toes are pressing against the foot box more than I would like, but not enough to cause any real concern. But, it’s definitely worth noting…
  • Elastic cord in the hood cinch would have been more comfortable. As I mentioned above, when cinching down the hood really small, the piece of (nylon?) cord that runs across the neck ends up resting on my chin. The tension on the cord kind of presses against my chin, and due to the lack of its give, it is a bit annoying. I think if the cord were an elastic cord, it would at least give a little, and not be quite as annoying… maybe. Since I won’t be cinching the hood up all the time, it is simply a “note” though…

P1050686At Moreland Gap Shelter on the AT

So, after using my Montbell Down Hugger 800 #3 sleeping bag over the last few months, these are my thoughts on the sleeping bag. Overall, I am actually quite happy with the bag, and look forward to using it more on future hikes. As I said above, this will very likely be my go to bag for hikes in temps ranging between 30 – 50 F. So, until I get it out for more hikes, thanks for stopping by!

~Stick~

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Montbell in any way, and as I mentioned, this sleeping bag was purchased with our money, while on sale. The statements in this review are my own, which I formed after personally using the bag. I am in no way being compensated for writing this review, at any time.

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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3 Responses to 2014 Montbell Down Hugger 800 #3 Sleeping Bag Review

  1. Pingback: Custom GooseFeet Gear Down Anorak First Impressions | Stick's Blog

  2. milligan308 says:

    Great review Chad, I have always wondered about a few of the topics you touched on, the sewn bias and the stretch. I really appreciate your opinion and honesty, admittedly I have no plans to stop using a quilt as a ground dweller. Thanks.

    Like

  3. kabeiser says:

    I have the old #3 (almost 10 years old now) and I always liked it. I usually use a quilt now since it’s the same weight and 10 degrees warmer (much bulkier though). But I think the Montbell bags were well made and measurably the super stretch might be inaccurate but I find the Montbell bag to be less restrictive than other bags on the inside likely due to the super stretch construction.

    Like

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