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Western Mountaineering Versalite and condensation
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Ryan Viser
(RViser) - F
Western Mountaineering Versalite and condensation on 02/12/2007 12:54:36 MST Print View

I just got a WM Versalite and used it for the second time this weekend. I was camping next to a river and the low got down to about 20. When I woke up I was concerned to find a layer of condensation on my bag which seemed to be worse up near the facehole. When I tried to dry it off it seemed to just get absorbed by that super thin fabric. I'm worried the moisture may have penetrated through to the down. Does anyone else have any experience w. this type of bag and the shell materials resistance to water? Thanks!

Steve .
(pappekak) - F

Locale: Tralfamadore
Re: Western Mountaineering Versalite and condensation on 02/12/2007 13:14:04 MST Print View

Ryan, I just tested my WM Ultralite Super by making an indentation away from the seams and pouring some water in low spot. It beaded up without a problem.

All sleeping bags, that I'm aware of, will leak water in at the seams.

This link discusses water resistance of different bags.

Ryan Viser
(RViser) - F
Re: Re: Western Mountaineering Versalite and condensation on 02/12/2007 13:49:02 MST Print View

Well, it definitely beaded up. But when I took a t-shirt and tried to wipe it off, it seemed like the fabric just absorbed it. I wasn't sure if the down had gotten wet and perhaps I should throw it in the dryer w. some tennis balls.

Robert Spencer
(bspencer) - MLife

Locale: Sierras of CA
Re: Re: Re: Western Mountaineering Versalite and condensation on 02/12/2007 14:08:20 MST Print View

Instead of the dryer I'd just air dry the bag inside your house for a day or two. That should do the trick.

Keeping a down bag dry in the field is very important, but a little condensation should not be a disaster if you can air the bag during the day sometime. It becomes more of an issue when more moisture is encountered day after day obviously.

Rule of thumb at home following a trip... air dry the bag inside for a few days ensuring the down and shell are fully dry before storage. Your bag should fluff up to its old self in no time. No worries.

Steve .
(pappekak) - F

Locale: Tralfamadore
Re: Re: Re: Re: Western Mountaineering Versalite and condensation on 02/12/2007 14:24:03 MST Print View

Alternative to air drying

Edited by pappekak on 02/12/2007 14:24:33 MST.

Zack Karas
( - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
RE: WM Versalite Condensation on 02/12/2007 18:58:49 MST Print View

I've always found that condensation around the face/neck area is due to breathing on the fabric throughout then night. There is really no way that the moisture can penetrate the fabric enough to cause the down to clump up requiring the use of a clothes dryer. You can just air out the bag in the sun while on a break during the day if you are really concerned about it.

Mary Simpson
(maryphyl) - F
Re: Western Mountaineering Versalite and condensation on 02/12/2007 19:43:00 MST Print View

Don't rub it--you are working the moisture into the fabric. If you do not have to stuff it immediately it will dry in no time in the sun. The moisture is just on the outside. If you pack it wet the moisture will enter the bag just like when your mother used to dampen the clothes for ironing. mp

Gordon Dunn
(Egads) - F

Locale: South East
moisture on Bag shell on 02/13/2007 19:01:31 MST Print View


I believe that you experienced your own water vapor migrating from your skin through the down & condensing on the cold surface of the bag shell. I've experienced the same thing with no rain or fog, and a totally dry fly. I stopped the dampness on the bag by wearing my breathable rain gear which acts as a vapor barrier. Don't worry about the moisture. Let the bag dry out in the morning or later in the day during a break or lunch.

Edited by Egads on 02/13/2007 19:03:49 MST.

Michael Febbo
(febbom) - F
Re: moisture on Bag shell on 02/14/2007 09:15:11 MST Print View

I just got back from 4 days of using my Marmot Lithium (same fabric as the Versalite) in constant sub-freezing temps and was going to post a similar topic. It appears as if most people agree that the condensation around the face opening is from your exhalation trhoughout the night. I noticed this both over the past 4 days in my Lithium, and two weeks ago in my Helium. Though I did not breath into the bag/fabric, there was either ice or alot of moisture on the bag around the face opening.

But, like Ryan, I considered this to be a problem. Whether ice or drops, I could not just stuff the bag without attempting to remove the moisture as it would all be forced into the insulation. Gentle removal (shaking, wiping) would get the large drops off, but there was clearly some wetting out underneath.
By the 3rd day, due to this, the loft around the face of the Lithium had decreased and the bag felt damp there. Given that this was due to exhalation, VBLs would not likely help much.

Temperatures never got above freezing, and the sun never really came out, so it was not possible to dry the bag. Also, not every trip (climbing) allows for the time needed to do so. This also occurred last winter in my Helium bag. I dont think it is always possible to dry out a bag in the winter or on every trip, and the moisture does eventually get into the down in select areas and will make the area damp and deflated (in my experience). This does tend to take a few days, but it keeps happening to me.
Note- if the sun is out, the bag will usually dry adequately in a few hours, but that is not always a possibility.

I was going to ask what people do in these situtaions. I am thinking of either using a bivy, or a bag with a more water-resistant shell fabric. However, every bivy I have used gets frosty (Equinox ultralight being the one I have used the most), and both options add 5-7 ounces. If such weight additions are necessarry, a light synthetic bag (SD Volt maybe) that could be used as a clothes dryer (perhaps supplemnted with a hooded down jacket) may be a better option (cheaper, more utility, no VBL needed).

Given that ones exhalation in sub-freezing temps can in fact cause loft issues around the face of the bag, and drying out is not always possible, what does everyone suggest?

NOte: I wish other makers offered "Drishell inner panels at head to protect against breath soaking the down". That may be the lightest solution.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Re: moisture on Bag shell on 02/14/2007 14:01:39 MST Print View

>Given that ones exhalation in sub-freezing temps can in fact cause loft issues around the face of the bag, ... what does everyone suggest?

How about a silnylon bib that can be clipped onto or tucked into the top of the bag? That should be only a fraction of an ounce and it's waterproof so you can simply shake it off in the morning. Since it only covers a small area, it's not going to significantly impact the breathability of the sleeping bag. Anyway, that's what I'm going to try next time.

Matthew Swierkowski
(Berserker) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Western Mountaineering Versalite and condensation on 02/15/2007 11:02:02 MST Print View

I've been using Versalite for a couple of years. I also own and use a WM Caribou. In general I have noticed that the Versalite seems to absorb condensation a little more readily than the Caribou. On a typical moring where I get condenstation (usually that's every morning here in the SE) the foot and facehole area will be damp to the touch. I can't confirm whether or not this is getting the down wet. I do know that hanging the bag out for a short amount of time in the sun seems to dry it out. I mention the Caribou because its shell is made out of the microfibre material that WM uses, and it seems to be much more water resistant. I normally can shake off most of the condensation in the morning. The Versalite does have a DWR so it repels some of the condensation, but if the moisture is allowed to sit there for a while it will soak through the shell material. So anyway, with the Versalite I have just come to accept that it is more prone to getting damp due to the shell fabric being less water resistant.

Ryan Viser
(RViser) - F
Re: Re: Western Mountaineering Versalite and condensation on 02/15/2007 12:13:27 MST Print View

I have to admit that this is somewhat frustrating, to spend that much money on a bag just to realize it's prone to being affected by moisture and what not. I may have to think about selling this while I can since it's only been used 3 times.

Michael Febbo
(febbom) - F
Re: Re: Re: Western Mountaineering Versalite and condensation on 02/15/2007 20:54:05 MST Print View

I sympathize... but before selling, really consider how to deal with the issue. If, for instance, you decide that an ultralight bivy is the way to go, the Versalite would be ideal. If you do sell and go for a bag with a more resistant shell, you may be at the same weight as the Versalite and a UL bivy anyway. My Marmot Helium with an Equinox UL Bivy weighs the same as the Helium EQ (measured all by me). And the EQ shell fabric did not breathe worth anything (after 5 days out, the bag began to lose loft from my internal moisture).

I have struggled with this due to the somewhat conflicting demands we place upon a down bag's shell fabric. It has to transport our internal moisture through itself as easily as possible (even with VBLs there is always some moisture, espcially from clothing). This points to ultra-breathable fabrics like Quantum. However, we also need some protection from external moisture, be it our own exhalation, frost, condensation, rain splash or what have you. This points to water-resistant shells that likely breathe less well than Quantum etc.

For me, I go with a breathable shell and breathable bivy. This has some issues, as I always slide around, the bivy floor almost always frosts up, and I find it a bit constricting. But it has been the best solution thus far. I just wish that I could protect the face opening better on my bag (I have the old Equinox bivy). I know it sucks that you may have to spend more money to get an expensive item to work well, but if you sell the bag you will just be in the same situation (unless you get a synthetic- never used one, but have been thinking they may solve all of this).

Matthew Swierkowski
(Berserker) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re: Re: Western Mountaineering Versalite and condensation on 02/19/2007 10:45:50 MST Print View

I wouldn't get to frustrated, and I wouldn't recommend selling the bag. Usually when I get condensation on mine it's under very damp conditions. I have had mornings where it is 100% dry. So it's not always going to get damp. Also, as another poster suggested you may want to try some different configurations to see what works best. It may just be that your current configuration is prone to attracting moisture.

Gene .

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: moisture on Bag shell on 02/19/2007 15:43:32 MST Print View

Just use a Paktowel or the like in a large enough size to fold a long enough flap away from your face after getting into your bag. Any breath onto it during the night will be absorbed by it and easily dried out during the morning hanging off your pack in the Sun.

The WM Micro Fiber fabric is MUCH more resilent against wetting out, as someone else stated, than the Exteremelite fabric. Everything's a tradeoff, including fabrics used in UL gear.

Wayne Kraft
(WayneKraft) - F
Down v Synthetic on 02/19/2007 16:11:00 MST Print View

Perhaps someone with more experience can set me straight if I have this wrong, but it seems to me that, pound for pound, slightly damp down is going to insulate just as well as slightly damp synthetic. Yes, down will lose more loft than synthetic material, but for the same weight, down has more loft to begin with. You can afford to lose a bit. I think the real advantage of synthetic fill arises when the bag is completely soaked. A bag with synthetic fill can be wrung out and will dry more quickly. The down bag will need to be treated more gently and will take longer to dry out. If the issue is merely condensation from breathing and perspiration, I think you're still ahead with down. If you are planning for a possible dunking or drenching miles from any bail out point, then you may want to consider synthetic (and a heavier pack).

Personally, most of my experience has been with down in fairly benign conditions and I've had little trouble. I recently tried a synthetic bag and found that it isn't all that warm for its weight.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Down v Synthetic on 02/19/2007 18:12:24 MST Print View

Wayne, check out the following article Drying Characteristics of Select Lightweight Down and Synthetic Insulated Tops. While the results of the experiment may not apply to sleeping bags and may depend upon the quality of the down and other factors, it does seem to support your hypothesis. It was interesting to note that it did not take long for the wet down to dry enough to equal the wet synthetic and then surpass it in loft. I've used both synthetic bags and down and I prefer down. I've not had a problem keeping my down bag or quilt dry, though I haven't really been truly tested. My clothing has synthetic insulation because I feel I am more likely to wet it out than my bag or quilt and it would provide some warmth while my down dries if it happens to get wet. Hopefully I'm smart enough not to get my bag wet in the winter.

Edited by ericnoble on 02/19/2007 18:14:24 MST.