With the current situation in our country, I have never been more proud to be a hunter. Hunters have the uncanny ability to be able to thrive in the harshest environments, whether that is in the mountains on a backpack hunt or on lockdown at home. However, one thing we need to survive is the ability to stay warm both during our daily actions as well as at night while we rest.
Keeping warm and comfortable while we sleep on our hunts is much easier if we have a sleeping bag that matches the temperature ranges we encounter. That range can vary greatly from hunt to hunt. If someone doesn’t have the means to buy multiple sleeping bags for their varied hunts, it’s smart to err on the side of caution and buy a sleeping bag rated for the lowest temperatures they may encounter and then regulate the temperature on warmer hunts by simply unzipping the bag.
There are a lot of companies out there who make great sleeping bags, so many that we could fill the entire magazine with sleeping bag reviews. Being I have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with backpacking gear, I would love that, but for the sake of saving a few pages for other things, we only put five of our editors in sleeping bags to try out. What follows are their findings.
Remi Warren – Stone Glacier Chilcoot 15 – $549
The Chilcoot 15 is an excellent bag for a variety of seasons and hunts. I tested the bag on numerous backcountry trips throughout the season, including an alpine tahr hunt in New Zealand, and an archery elk hunt in Montana. On the first trip with the bag, I encountered cold conditions, well below freezing with high humidity and snow. The previous year I experienced similar conditions in the same area and froze my butt off in an older bag with the same temp rating. This bag did a great job of trapping heat and blocking wind. This bag had almost too much room, but I stored my clothes and some camera gear in the bag with me and was comfortable.
The bag has an exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio. If you are the type of person that likes a roomy sleeping bag that is both light and warm, then the Chilcoot should be at the top of your list.
My favorite features of the bag are the neck seal system which allows you to prevent warm air from escaping, trapping your body heat, as well as the fact that the bag weighs only 2 lb 3 oz and can fit a person up to 6′ 5″.
If you are smaller (I am 5’ 11”), there is plenty of room in the bag to keep your clothes warm. The articulated foot box allows more room than most bags. I will often keep camera batteries and my phone wrapped up in my bag with me on cold hunts. This works great because I am still comfortable and have room to keep essential electronics from losing battery power at night.
The downside: while lightweight, it does not pack down as small as a tight-fitting mummy-style bag because it is such a large bag, but it is only a marginal difference.
Chris Denham – Exped Trekkinglite Summer – $249
Exped may not be a household name within the hunting community, but they have been providing expedition quality gear (hence the name Exped) for close to four decades. The new Trekkinglite Summer is an economical duck down sleeping bag perfect for late spring through early fall. The advertised comfort range is +20 to 50 degrees. I was comfortable without any additional insulation on a chilly Arizona night that got down to 35 degrees.
The Trekkinglite Summer has a single full-length YKK zipper that allows you to open it up completely like a blanket. It weighs in at a scant 17.6 oz for the medium (up to 5’ 9”) and 18.3 oz for the large (up to 6’4”). I love products that can serve multiple purposes. This bag, given the full-length zipper and lightweight, would be a perfect liner for a basecamp style sleeping bag or cover blanket on colder winter nights.
Colton Bagnoli – First Lite/Nemo Stalker – $519.95
The NEMO Stalker sleeping bag offers the backcountry hunter a sleeping bag rated for the cold late season nights we commonly find ourselves in during peak hunting season here in the Rockies. The Stalker bag utilizes an 800FP Hydrophobic down fill that is waterproof and offers added warmth in extremely cold conditions. With a large foot box, this bag offers extra room for comfort and has plenty of insulation to keep your feet warm and dry compared to standard mummy bags. The Stalker also stuffs the hood and collar with extra fill to help keep the warmth in. Even with all the extra fill, I was still able to pack this bag down to around 16”x 9” with a weight of just over 3 lbs. Compared to my early season bag at 14”x7” and just over 2 lbs, the extra weight and room are worth it for the added warmth if you are a cold sleeper like I am.
Offered in Regular (72”) and Long (78”) sizes, you will find this bag has ample room to stretch out and stay warm; as opposed to the curled fetal position I usually find myself in when the mercury falls below 10 degrees. I particularly like the 30D Nylon interior fabric with its soft feel and extra stretch around the legs for side sleeping. The only thing I wish the bag had was a pad compartment, I am used to my bags having this feature as I often find myself sliding off the pad and getting a cold draft once I am on the ground. Overall, the bag is a quality product that is well designed and well manufactured to hold up to continued use in the backcountry for years. With its treated down and high-quality outer shell fabric, I would expect this bag to last double the life of my traditional down bags that have torn frequently and lost warmth over the years of hunting and guiding for 5-6 months every year.
Zach Bowhay – Big Agnes Anvil Horn 0˚F – $369.95
Having used several Big Agnes products in the past, I have to admit I had a pretty good idea that I would like the Anvil Horn 0˚F before I even received it. It turns out I was right. I have used a couple of their older bags that incorporated their pad sleeve and have liked that this feature keeps me from slipping off my pad. My only issue with the pad sleeve is lack of stretch in the material which over time caused issues with tearing. They have remedied this problem on newer models with the new “flex pad sleeve” which added some stretch material, making them capable of accepting pads from 20-25”. My particular sleeping bag is the long model and my 25”x78” pad fit nicely and provided a comfortable night’s sleep.
Comfort is where the Big Agnes bags excel, especially for a bigger guy like myself. This particular bag weighs 3.3 lbs and has an advertised compressed size of 6.5”x9”. In my stuff sack, I got it down to 7”x12” but this bag is rectangular instead of the typical mummy shape. I like this feature because it provides me enough room to move around and I don’t feel claustrophobic like I do in some other bags.
I was able to use this on some September elk hunts as well as some October mule deer hunts. The Anvil Horn is made from 650FP DownTek, making it capable of being compressed small. The treated down repels water and in turn maintains its insulation value even when the bag gets wet. It is worth noting that with the integrated pad sleeve, there is no insulation or down on the bottom of the bag. The reasoning for this is that the pad is providing insulation on the bottom, thus rendering the extra down unnecessary. This also helps cut overall weight from the bag. Another feature I enjoyed was the pillow barn, which is a compartment that holds my pillow or jacket in place under my head.
The only downfall for me is that this bag is a little heavier than some, but that is due to the added room you have inside the bag. For me it’s worth it, while others will have to decide if the added room is worth the weight. Personally, for a later season bag, the Anvil Horn 0˚ has everything I am looking for.
Todd Harney – Feathered Friends Flicker UL Quilt 20˚ – $424
Going into the 2020 season I found myself in the market for a new sleeping bag for a number of upcoming hunts between July and November. My previous two bags were 15 and 30 degree down bags, of which one tended to sleep a bit warm for my liking and the other wasn’t quite warm enough for all of my hunts. Therefore I was shopping for 20-degree bags, of which there are a lot of appealing options on the market.
My previous bags were made overseas and I liked the idea of upgrading to one with a nice little Made in USA tag sewn into the seem. The two most well-known and high-quality USA sleeping bag manufacturers among backpackers and mountaineers are Feathered Friends (Seattle, WA) and Western Mountaineering (San Jose, CA). I shopped both of their 20-degree offerings and one stood out as a great looking choice: The Feathered Friends Flicker UL20.
This is a 20-degree Pertex shell bag using a very high-quality 900 FP down. What’s cool about the design of the Flicker is that it can be fully unzipped for use as a quilt on warmer weather hunts. Which I was excited to utilize early in the year. That would reduce the warmth of the bag and allow extra freedom of movement beneath for a less restricted night’s sleep. I’m a side/stomach sleeper so the lack of a hood was actually something I liked the looks of. One thing about the bag that was somewhat concerning at first was that it doesn’t use water repellent treated down, something that’s heavily marketed in the hunting industry. However, both Feathered Friends and Western Mountaineering have some great articles published explaining why neither of them use DWR treated down. The main takeaways are that their down is extremely high quality, protected by a very water-resistant material in Pertex, and down is naturally water-resistant anyway due to the oils in the goose’s skin.
To make a long story short, I was extremely happy with the Flicker throughout the year. With the quilt configuration option and the ability to open the footbox and walk around without getting out of the bag, it had more useful features than I’d ever experienced in a sleeping bag. The shoulder room is above average and it’s also extremely light for its temperature rating which was important for my backpack hunts. Even though numerous back-to-back rainy days and nights in Alaska I never saw a loss in loft due to moisture in my tent. I’d buy this bag again in a heartbeat and recommend it to anyone who can live without a hood on their bag.