The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 115: Three Three-Season Bags

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

When you go camping in the spring, summer, or fall, you expect it to be warm, but you have to prepare for it to be cool. This week on The WildeBeat: Three Three Season Bags.

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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number one fifteen, made possible by your membership donations.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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STEVE: You hear the term, three-season, often when shopping for outdoor gear. The three seasons they're talking about are usually spring, summer, and fall. So when we're talking about sleeping bags, three-season means they're adequate to keep you warm down to temperatures just a little below freezing. Three testers from Backpack Gear Test recently completed reviews of three-season sleeping bags.

STEVE: Edward Ripley-Duggan lives in New York State. As in all Backpack Gear Test reviews, Edward starts out by telling us about his outdoor experience.

EDWARD RIPLEY-DUGGAN: I've been a keen hiker and backpacker since my teens. My backpacking style is lightweight but not ultralight. I try to keep my pack weight to fifteen or sixteen pounds. I enjoy the off-trail experience, in particular.

STEVE: Edward reviewed the lightest of these bags.

EDWARD RIPLEY-DUGGAN: I tested the Valandre Mirage sleeping bag. It's an extremely elegantly constructed bag. The fabric that used is a beautiful silver-gray polyamide ripstop. It is a mummy bag; it's quite a wide mummy. There's room to layer-up. I was able to wear one of my bulkiest down garments in the bag without any constriction. The weight of the bag is around twenty four ounces. And the bag has an extremely short zip. Essentially, it's a shoulder zip, and this can make getting into the bag something of an exercise in patience. Everything about the construction of the bag is pleasing. Everything is neat; no loose threads or mis-sewn areas. There is no draft tube. There is no draft collar. I think the bag is best summed-up as minimalist in it's construction, but a very refined kind of minimalism. My testing plan was to get out in the field with it as much as possible and in temperatures as cold as possible. It's a good bag for anyone who wants a lighter weight bag for the range between twenty and forty degrees Fahrenheit. This is not a good bag for a three-season backpacker who is only going to own a single bag for all conditions.

STEVE: Our next reviewer is Kevin Hollingsworth of Williamsburg, Virginia.

KEVIN HOLLINGSWORTH: My backpacking and outdoor experience started when I was in junior high school, and after high school I joined the military, and now I go with my family. I do not like to give up the comfort that I'm used to, so I usually carry about a fifty pound pack. I test the gear in either the Shenandoah Valley or the mountains in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky.

STEVE: Kevin tested a bag that might work better in wet conditions.

KEVIN HOLLINGSWORTH: The product I tested was the Montbell Ultralight Alpine Burrow bag. It is a soft, ultralight, mummy-style sleeping bag. It has a temperature rating of thirty degrees Fahrenheit. The exterior is constructed of a light, fiber nylon. It's been treated with a treatment that allows you to wash the bag, they say, a hundred times, and it keeps most of its repellency. The insulation is an Exceloft synthetic insulation that is done-up in what they call a shingle-tile construction. It's supposed to prevent unnecessary heat loss. It's a right side zipper, and there's a single draft tube running along the zipper to keep the air out. One of the unique things about the bag is that at the bottom foot of the bag there is a cord that runs around the bag itself, inside, and this allows you to tighten it around your feet to give it some sort of a booty around your feet. It's very, very light. It's only two pounds. It stuffs into a foot by six inch stuff sack. My testing plan was to take it out to the mountains and seeing how it would do in the different kinds of environments that I go into. One of the surprising things was that even though it was snug around my body, it was stretchy enough so that any time I would move, it would move with me, so I was never really feeling cramped. The durability of it, it would get wet, it would dry really quick. So I believe that it's somewhat water repellent. I believe this would be the ideal product for someone who is an ultralight camper, who is worried about space and weight, and who normally backpacks in temperatures between thirty degrees and sixty degrees.

STEVE: Our third and final reviewer is Andrew Buskov from Madisonville, Kentucky.

ANDREW BUSKOV: I started backpacking when I was in boy scouts many years ago. Since then I have been all over the united states from the Grand Canyon, back up to Main, down to Florida, and I'm also learning now to become more of a lightweight backpacker, and I think that's my ultimate goal. I'm tired of carrying fifty pounds on my back. A few of my favorite places would have to be the Smokies. It's where I visit the most.

STEVE: Andrew tested the roomiest of these three bags.

ANDREW BUSKOV: I was selected to test the Big Agnes Lost Ranger. One of the things that surprised me when I received it was the fact that there is no insulation on the back. The insulation is all in the padding that you decide to use, and it really helps to cut down weight and space, and makes it cooler during the hot season. The bag is a blue, rectangular bag. There's a lot of girth to it. It's not constricted by any means. It's a fifteen degree down bag. It weighs approximately two and a half pounds. It stuffs down nice and small; I can fit it in about an eight by eighteen stuff sack. When I started testing this I had a couple of test sites selected. I planned on using this bag exclusively throughout the test period. I found that the bag didn't breathe as much as I thought it would. After a couple of times out in the woods I found that I was having to vent it quite a bit by unzipping the zipper, even in moderate temperatures of forties and fifties. I also found that having the integrated pad underneath me was wonderful. I think this sleeping bag would be ideal for winter to early spring backpackers. It's not really good as a summer bag, just because of the degree rating. It's not going to be too advantageous to have such a heavy sleeping bag.

STEVE: My thanks to Edward Ripley-Duggan, Kevin Hollingsworth, Andrew Buskov, and the editors at Backpack Gear Test, for making this edition possible. Please remember that these opinions are those of the individual contributors, and don't necessarily reflect those of Backpack Gear Test, or of The WildeBeat. Backpack Gear Test is looking for qualified volunteer testers. To get qualified, you start out by writing reviews of gear you already own. After that, you could be offered free gear to review.

STEVE: We'd like to hear your comments or questions about the gear mentioned on this show, or about anything else we do on the Wildebeat. You can send e-mail to comments at WildeBeat dot net, or call our toll free comment line at 866-590-7373. To find out more about becoming a tester, or to read the original text reviews of these products, please follow the links on our web site.

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Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. If we helped you get into the wilderness, could you help us do the same for others? Just click on our support link and become a member. The WildeBeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham, as a nonprofit educational project of Earth Island Institute.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number one fifteen. Thank you for listening.

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Next time -- camping together.

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