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Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: New 2009 Mont-Bell Down Bags on 03/10/2009 17:44:56 MDT Print View

Tom wrote above: "Maybe they use loud and bright colors so that no one will notice that there's not enough down fill to ever leak out."

Truth be told, I was a bit indignant reading the above -- but quickly remembered my own initial reaction when my No. 3 (30F) bag first arrived. Having been burned by Kelty's "rating optimism" -- a supposed 25F bag that felt cold once temp got into the low 30's -- I was extremely concerned that the MontBell too would leave me cold at night. The bag was so light and it just didn't loft all that much.

On its maiden trip to the Wind Rivers,WY -- I brought extra insulation layers just in case -- but to my pleasant surprise, the bag's rating was spot on -- keeping me comfy at around 30F.

Edited by ben2world on 03/10/2009 17:47:30 MDT.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Re: New 2009 Mont-Bell Down Bags on 03/10/2009 18:34:02 MDT Print View

To back up Ben's comment, there are many posts by Richard Nisley with examples which illustrate that loft is not necessarily a good indication of warmth. The main factor is the fill weight (and quality) and the cut of the bag (roomier bags need more fill for the same temperature rating). I believe Montbell bags have a similar fill weight as WM bags, so it should not be surprising that most users agree that the bags meet their spec'ed temperature.

Edited by ashleyb on 03/10/2009 18:35:16 MDT.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Montbell Vs WM Fill Weights. on 03/10/2009 19:06:01 MDT Print View

What makes the Montbell Spiral Down Bag #3 so intriguing is that the fill weights are almost identical to the two WM bags I'm looking at:

WM Summerlite - 32*, 9 oz fill in the Reg. Narrow cut bag
WM Megalit - 30*, 12 oz fill in the reg, 5 inces wider cut
MB Spiral Down #3 - 30*, 10 oz fill in the reg narrower unstretched than the Summerlite, wider than the megalite when stretched.

MB claims 800 Fill Power; I can't find anyhwere on the WM site that indicates bag fill power. For their jackets they say 850. I assume the same for their bags.

When you take into account the 2" shorter length of the MB bag, the amount of fill comes pretty close. How that fill spreads out when the bag streches is another story.

The only thing that makes this a debate in my head is that like Tom, I have read a few times where people complain about quality control in the Montbell bags. Just often enough to make me feel like I'm taking a chance.

I've never seen a negative comment about WM quality.

That said, I really hope Down Works carries the new Spiral Down. Maybe I'll have a new bag by Saturday night.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Montbell Vs WM Fill Weights. on 03/10/2009 19:21:53 MDT Print View

James:

I too have read some of the negatives - and I believe it's a combination of (1) not used to seeing a bag that lofts so little and so light and yet so warm, and (2) bona fide quality control problems. Given the legions of undying fans, however, I feel the latter is uncommon.

If you are intrigued enough, then why not order both MB and WM and do a real comparison -- maybe lay down inside in your own backyard or something -- and then choose the one you really like? Depending on your physique, if the MB bag works for you, then having a truly ultralight but less constrictive bag can be a very good thing.

In any case, return postage is minimal -- esp. given the purchase price.

Edited by ben2world on 03/10/2009 19:24:16 MDT.

Peter Gurin
(intheswim) - F
good idea on 03/10/2009 19:24:23 MDT Print View

Do it! Do it! 8)

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Montbell on 03/10/2009 19:34:07 MDT Print View

Many of the quality issues - re: underfilled baffles was on the 725 fill bags 2006/7. I have not heard one negative on the newer 800 fill bags. I looked over a #2 SS UL Hugger recently and could not find any underfilled baffles and the loft was more than the Marmot Hydrogen next to it in the store (of course, the MB does have a higher fill weight).

The zipper track has been improved compared to the 725 bag and I can't see snags being a problem which they can be on the WM bags. Very nice IMHO and I was one of the individuals that criticized my previous #3 725 for underfilled baffles on these forums.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Montbell Spiral Down #3 on 03/18/2009 21:56:06 MDT Print View

I just received my new bag that I picked up for 25% off at BackcountryGear. Montbell UL Spiral Down #3 in Long. I'm debating between this and the WM Summerlite, which I have looked at in a store, but do not have here to side by side compare. The MB bag is very appealing as it has a significantly lower price (even w/o the 25% discount) to the Summerlite for almost identical specs:

The Summerlite is rated at 32*, the MB at 30*, but I doubt one could tell the difference in the field.

The Summerlite weighs 19oz in the Regular, which is the size I'd take. The MB also weight 19oz in regular, but I have to use a long, b/c the 5'10" length of the Regular is a hair to short. My long is spec'd at 20 oz by MB. On my non-digital postal scale, it comes in at 20.5 oz, so pretty close.

After letting it loft for 45 minutes, I used a tape measure and got ~3" of loft. Some spots were close to 3.5", but overal I'd say 3" WM claims 4" for the Summerlite. Some picturess:
MB Loft
mb2
mb size
Next to my REI 1.75" trekker.
Sack 1
sack 2
In Stuff Sack

Holding it up to the light, the light fabric showed through spots where the down was thin on it was just fabric against fabric. I assume with a bag this light, with 10oz fill, this is just the case. I tried it with the summerlite in the store, but the inner lining is black, so I didn't see any light through it.

The MB bag has a draft tube, but it is not down filled. The Summerlite has an 'insulated draft tube' which I assume means down.

Neither has a collar. The #3 has a draw string at the neck that pulls pretty tight.

The big negative about the #3 to me, which I did not notice looking at the photos, is that the zip stops 2' from the bottom of the bag. I prefer a full-zip so I can use the bag as a quilt in warmer temps. I also like to be able to vent my feet. The summerlite is a full zip.

I'd be happy to (attempt to) take any more detailed pictures anyone wants.

Of course, the main measure of the bag - will it perform - I can only find out by taking it out in the field and rendering the bag unreturnable. I may have to order a summerlite to put them side by side.

Edited by jrmacd on 03/18/2009 21:58:39 MDT.

Ali e
(barefootnavigator) - F

Locale: Outside
"New 2009 Mont-Bell Down Bags" REI Flash pack on 03/18/2009 22:06:53 MDT Print View

I hope you dont mind me spying on your personal space but I happened to notice your flash pack in the backgroud. That happens to be my all time favorite pack. Have you or are you going to use it for weekend trips? I have been looking for a super small 40 degree bag that would make it work. Last summer I used a Lafuma 45 synthetic and it kinda worked but I was always a bit chilly. Ali

Praveen M
(prav66) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Montbell Spiral Down #3 on 03/18/2009 23:18:20 MDT Print View

Just picked up the new Montbell spiral #3 to try. Overall it's OK but I've decided it's going back. The loft is a little underfilled in areas and it is definitely less lofty than a friend's WM Summerlite I've used in the past.

I'm still hunting for a summer bag and it looks like it will have to be a nunatak quilt with overfill for the same weight, despite the higher price. I'm not crazy about the feel of the shell of the montbell bags & it's not as comfortable or cozy as a good quilt even with the stretch.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Montbell Spiral Down #3 on 03/18/2009 23:56:59 MDT Print View

James and Praveen:

Just something about our penchant to equate bulk and heft with warmth? And even within the UL community!

Time and again, the Japanese prove themselves the masters of "miniaturization" -- in cars and electronics and apparently sleeping bags too -- without sacrificing function.

When I first got my MontBell No. 3 UL down bag -- I too was a bit suspicious that something so light and "underfilled" could be true to its temp rating!?!

I view myself as an average sleeper -- neither sleeping overly hot or cold. On the bag's maiden trip to the Wind Rivers -- I brought along an extra layer of clothing "just in case" -- and the 30F bag proved true to its rating -- with me wearing just ultralight silk long johns.

Warmth is definitely subjective -- but I highly encourage new owners to approach their bags with an open mind -- and perhaps put on a new paradigm. Bigger/heftier is not necessarily warmer. MontBell touts the "efficient design" of its bags -- and I (and many others) have since been firm believers. Give your bags a real field test (maybe bring an extra layer just like I did) -- and then judge for yourselves.

Finally, regarding the shell -- I wonder if MontBell has made changes? If so, that would be a pity -- as their shell/lining material is actually extremely soft and comfy -- very noticeably softer and comfier than Western Mountaineering.

Edited by ben2world on 03/19/2009 00:02:10 MDT.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Montbell stretch bags... on 03/19/2009 00:47:17 MDT Print View

Ben -

My son just bought a UL Super Stretch #3 (not the spiral) and the one thing that surprised me was how rough they were inside. The elastic stretch material runs inside the bag and if you are wearing light clothes you can definitely feel it. My son didn't seem to mind but it would bother me. I hope they've improved the inner lining in the new Spiral bags.

We were very skeptical about the rating on this bag. We did the same "light test" that James did and it certainly looked like there were serious gaps in the down fill. My son decided to test it outside that evening with the notion of taking it back if it performed poorly.

It was in 0C (32F) and he was in a light T-shirt and light pants and socks. It was windy and he was lying with a BA Insulated Air Core mattress on a ground sheet. After two hours he was completely warm and could not find any cold spots. Since the bag is only rated at 30F we both figured this bag was a winner. We actually dropped the digital thermometer into an air space in the bag (no contact with his body) and it came out at over 80F!

I don't know how this bag can be so warm when it looks so thin but I'm now a believer (and my son loves the stretch).

Michael Landman
(malndman) - F

Locale: Central NC, USA
Re: Montbell stretch bags... on 03/19/2009 07:34:57 MDT Print View

FWIW...I have an early 30° MB UL SS #3 (that is a lot of letters for an abbreviation!)bought late in 2004. I have slept in it down to 22° using an InsuMax pad on unfrozen ground wearing a FF Hyperion vest, thick wool socks, MW long sleeve top, LW bottoms, hiking pants, a beanie hat and a hiking shirt under the vest (should have put it over the vest, this was also all the cloths I had with me except my Precip jacket). I slept in my SMD Lunar Solo pitched tight to the ground in an open pine forest with little wind and clear skies. With that clothing, I was at my limit in the bag. If I had an insulating jacket, it would have been fine. At lease the condensation stopped as it was freezing solid to the tent. in just a base layer bottom and a tee I have been fine at the rated temps.
YMMV, but I am happy with my bag choice - price/weight/comfort/quality

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
MB on 03/19/2009 09:04:40 MDT Print View

The comparisons to WM need to be taken with a grain of salt. First, you can't hold those bags up to a light to look for fill as the fabric is black. Second, most of them (the lite series) are exceptionally narrow in comparison to even a 'relaxed' MB stretch bag such that the wider bag with the same fill is going to appear less lofty. MB gets around that by having two layers of fabric - one to hug and the other to remain fairly stretched to allow the inner fabric to have 'movement' laterally. Did you know that the baffles are not sewn through? You can actually move the down around if required. There is a picture on these forums showing a comparative WM to a #3 MB UL SS. The WM appears to be a bit more lofty. Of course it is several inches narrower.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: MB on 03/19/2009 11:21:32 MDT Print View

(Ed. for clarity)

I was concerned at first when I was in the store and comparing a SS#3 to a Summerlite. But I realized I was being silly, that the see through was due to the light-colored fabric, where the summerlite is lined with black. I'm new to high-quality sleeping bags. My old bags were always of the synthetic SportsMart variety. My first down was a Marmot Sawtooth last year. It's a 15* bag, so I was used to that loftiness/amount of fill.

If my new Spiral Down #3 was underfilled, it would weigh less than the spec'd weight, which it does not. I was trying for a bit last night to move the down from the bottom of the bag to the top, with limited success. But it was my first try.

As the Spiral Down is not a stretch bag, it doesn't hug the same way the SS model did. The Spiral Down doesn't feel much narrower inside than I recall the summerlite feeling. I have broad-ish shoulders but am otherwise a fairly narrow guy, and I didn't have much issue with the narrowness of the summerlite. My girlfriend, who watched me try on both the summerlite and the SD#3 said that I looked less constricted when moving my legs around in the SD#3 than the summerlite, in which I could move around but was straining at the seams a bit more.

The primary difference to me is that the MB is not a full length zip. My feet are actually one of the first places where I feel overheated and I like to be able to vent them. When I looked at the picture of the MB bag online, I mistook the hanging loop at the bottom of the bag for the zipper pull and assumed a full length zip. I closer examination the picture would have made my mistake obvious. (Also, the SD bags don't have the cinch cord at the bottom to seal off a feel inches if the bag is too long)

I'm not sure how I was describe the fabric of of Spiral Down. It's not slick. Its' got kind of a texture. You could call it 'rough', but I wouldn't. It feels like the surface of the REI trek mat, actually. It feels durable despite being 12 denier.

The question is, is the full zip worth paying 40% more for the summerlite? From a quality/fit standpoint, I don't think it would be. The zip is just a personal choice.

Edited by jrmacd on 03/19/2009 11:22:55 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: MB on 03/19/2009 11:39:55 MDT Print View

Pray tell, is the Spiral Down a 2/3rd length zipper? Yeah, for me, I would want a full-length zipper for a 3-season bag -- for maximum ventilation options.

Edited by ben2world on 03/19/2009 11:47:38 MDT.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Re: MB on 03/19/2009 11:59:09 MDT Print View

Yeah, the zip stops 26" from the bottom of the bag. In other words, for a 5'10" person in the 6'4" bag, it comes almost all the way up to my knees. It does have a double zip for venting.

It's the question I'll be debating this weekend: is that full length zip worth the signficant extra money? Camping either on the CA coast or in the Sierra above 7,000', I won't likely be facing nighttime temps that get above 50*, I think. (and above 50*, I could probably using a sleeping bag liner + my AMK Thermolite bivy.) So will I need that extra venting? I'll just have to spend an hour or two while watching tv tonight laying in the bag. If I can stay comfortable in 65*, I'll not worry about the length of the zip. If I'm too warm, then I'll clear off my back porch and spend an hour out there this weekend with lows in the mid 40s a night. If I'm still warm then, it's time to return the bag and get the summerlite.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: MB on 03/19/2009 12:29:03 MDT Print View

James:

As stated, I dislike 2/3rd zips. However, in all my camping up in the Sierras (late spring to early fall) -- I've never felt the need to open up my bag for max. ventilation.

Best of luck with your final decision!

Praveen M
(prav66) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Montbell Spiral Down #3 on 03/19/2009 13:22:19 MDT Print View

Hey Ben,

I hear you on keeping an open mind and letting the bag prove itself. I'd have reconsidered except I just didn't find it THAT comfy or roomy to begin with compared to a good quilt or my Valandre bags.

I've been bitten plenty from past similar experiences to become much pickier about consistent loft. Case in point is the Golite Ultra 20 quilt which BPL & plenty of others reviewed favorably. The one I originally received was underfilled in some chambers & I froze my nuts off when temps dropped below freezing. The weak spots were acting as sieves draining all the warmth over the course of a night at the cold spots even using a bivy to block all drafts. And yes it weighed to specs but didn't perform so.

No such problem with a friend's summerlite which was substantially more lofy!

So what I saying? This stuff isn't always obvious and appearances can sometimes be deceiving but it ain't all magic alchemy either. There nothing special about Montbell's down that will compensate for the minimal loft & cold spots I felt in the bag (PHD, Valandre, etc use noticeably better quality down for what it matters). Quite likely most folks sleep warmer than I do so these failings don't matter as much.

We all gotta act on our own individual experiences in the end...

Edited by prav66 on 03/19/2009 13:26:36 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Montbell Spiral Down #3 on 03/19/2009 13:48:20 MDT Print View

Praveen:

I wrote my response up above because most people's initial reaction (my own included as well) is that MB bags appear "underfilled". Methinks that MB down is as good as any -- although even the best still must follow the laws of physics. MB can get away with using less down not because its down is so special -- but because of its efficient bag design.

But "underfill" is apparently not your only concern. Since you also find the bag less than comfortable/roomy -- then it's obviously the wrong bag for you.

One quick caution -- given how you are comparing the MB with "a good quilt" and find the MB not roomy enough -- it'll likely be a "ditto experience" with the WM Summerlite as well.

We all have our own preferences. For example, I crave interior space in my tent. I've purchased and then sold off quite a number of solo tarptents because as much as I am seduced by their UL weight -- I just can't feel comfy inside. After all the agony, I settled for carrying a few extra ounces and am much happier overall.

If you feel the same about space inside a sleeping bag -- then maybe shop for another Valandre or even a quilt???

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Re: New 2009 Mont-Bell Down Bags on 03/19/2009 14:14:27 MDT Print View

"I must be odd.
I like the bright colours."

Hmmm, memories of green and black tights come to mind...

I don't generally like WB colours (except the black), but find I get used to them when I actually own and love one. My patrner has that shiny metallic weird green down UL inner that looked soooo gross when it arrived, but now I think it looks pretty cool. I even got used to Roger's old avatar.