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WM Versalite, Alpinlite, Apache or Marmot Helium
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Matt Kowalewski
(LostLands) - F
WM Versalite, Alpinlite, Apache or Marmot Helium on 06/19/2012 10:32:22 MDT Print View

I realize there are plenty of threads on these bags. Sorry for the rehash, but I could use a second opinion or two. I’m also open to alternative suggestions.

This will be my first down bag, as I’d previously been terrified of the prospect of wet down in the Coast Mountains of BC. I’m planning to use it on a PCT thru-hike attempt next year (possibly SOBO), but also for general mountaineering when I get back.

A few things to consider:

1. I’m 6’0”, 190lbs, and tend to move in my sleep a fair bit.
2. I can be hard on gear, which is the reason I’m considering the extra weight (durability?) of the microfiber Apache.
3. I’d like this bag to be a workhorse (3+ seasons, backpacking and mountaineering) that will stand up well over time. I probably won’t be buying another bag for a while.
4. Any added water resistance would be a selling point.
5. I don’t really mind a little extra weight as long as it provides versatility. That being said I don’t want anything appreciably over 2lbs.

The only WM dealer in Canada is MEC, which doesn’t really have sales, so these prices should be pretty stable.

(All prices CAD after taxes)
Versalite $510
Alpinlite $538
Apache MF $520
Helium $448

As of right now, I’m leaning towards the Versalite or Apache if I can manage the dimensions without feeling cramped. The Apache seems like it might be a bit too restrictive. The Alpinlite’s higher price tag is putting me off what would otherwise be my most likely choice. The extra roominess is definitely appealing, but I am a little concerned about the durability.

From what I’ve read about the Helium, some people say it’s just as good as the WM bags. I don’t know if I’m convinced of that, but if the difference is minimal, the savings of the Marmot may be too much to pass up.

Sorry for the long spiel. Any thoughts?

Stuart .
(lotuseater) - F

Locale: Mountains
WM 3 season options on 06/19/2012 10:53:03 MDT Print View

I went through a similar quandary recently, having moved away from a Big Agnes 15F bag that was heavy due to its rectangular cut. Feedback I received here was that the Alpinlite would be the most versatile single bag for three seasons at altitude in Colorado. What did I do? Ignored the advice, bought a Megalite and froze in early season conditions. So I recently picked up a Versalite to compliment it. Almost identical weight to the Alpinlite but 10F wamer due to a slightly narrower cut. I realized I like wider cut bags in summer, when I tend to flop around, but during shoulder season I am comfortable in the narrower Versalite. I did look at the Apache, and rejected it as being too narrow for me. The Badger was a better cut for me, but 8oz heavier than my limit.

If you are a cold sleeper, then maybe the Versalite is right for 3 season use, but as a warm sleeper I know I'd roast in temps much above 40F in that bag. The Alpinlite's usable range would likely be up to 50F - still warm for the southern end of your trip, though.

Your other consideration is durability. The Microfiber series are less prone to damage than the Extremelite series, but a lightweight bivy would provide an extra layer of protection. I was disappointed that I couldn't find a WM 15-20F microfiber bag in a decent width under 2lb, so I chose lightweight over durable, knowing that it's a compromise.

Have you considered Feathered Friends? Their offerings seem to be more customizable.

Matt Kowalewski
(LostLands) - F
versalite too hot on 06/19/2012 15:05:01 MDT Print View

Thanks for the response. You've more or less confirmed my thoughts on the Versalite.

I tend to agree the versalite may be too warm on some nights, but the lower price and negligible weight increase were driving me in that direction. I figured as long as it has a full zipper and can be converted to a quilt on hot days, I could get a lot of range out of it. Especially if you shift some down around. I've done this a number of times with a 0F synthetic bag (the quilting, not the shifting), though admittedly not at 50F and it was not a conservatively rated WM bag.

I will admit to being somewhat of a novice when it comes to sleeping bag ratings. Mostly I've had to make due with whatever I could beg, borrow or steal. If the consensus is that the versalite is too hot, I may have to rethink things.

As far as Feathered Friends, I did consider them and I can't really remember what steered me away. I'm not sure which outfitters in Vancouver carry FF, but I'll have another look. Someone must, since they're made just down the road. :)

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: WM Versalite, Alpinlite, Apache or Marmot Helium on 06/19/2012 16:03:45 MDT Print View

If you are willing to spend that much money on a bag, you owe yourself to also consider

Josh Thomas
(JtPeso) - M

Locale: Louisville, Ky
Apache on 06/19/2012 16:06:51 MDT Print View

FWIW, there's an Apache for sale in Gear Swap right now.

Tom Lyons
(towaly) - F

Locale: Smoky Mtns.
2 bags on 06/19/2012 16:07:44 MDT Print View

I think it's very hard to use one bag for such wide-ranging conditions.

So, I use a 2-bag system which gives much versatility, and only pays a weight penalty at the coldest conditions when needing to pack both bags.

I have a WM Alpinlite and a MontBell UL Thermal Sheet Spiral down hugger.
For summer conditions above 50*F, I use the MontBell alone, and it's very light at ~13.5 ounces.
For conditions below 50*F but not much below 20*F, I use the WM Alpinlite alone, at just under 2 pounds.
If I'm going into real winter, and I might need to get 0*F comfort, I bring them both, and put the MontBell inside the Alpinlite, and it's nice and cozy. Or, if you wanted to, you could use it as a quilt on top of the Alpinlite. Whatever you wish.

Yes, having the two bags does cause a small weight penalty when carrying both if it's really going to be cold, because there are two shells involved. But in the summer you get a great weight reduction with just the MontBell, and you have a normal weight load in the regular conditions with the Alpinlite.

I find it to be a very good compromise, which has at least as much benefit as drawback, and since I do more camping in warmer temps than really cold, it works out great for me.
It does cost more to buy the two bag system, though.

Edited by towaly on 06/19/2012 16:10:47 MDT.

Doug Reeves
(strawman) - F

Locale: God's Country
Pricing? on 06/19/2012 16:08:55 MDT Print View

Are you sure about your prices? Usually the Versalite is about $15.00 more than the Alpinlite ($480 USD for Regular Versalite vs $465 USD for Regular Alpinlite).

Scott Smith
(mrmuddy) - MLife

Locale: No Cal
WM Versalite, Alpinlite, Apache or Marmot Helium on 06/19/2012 19:31:55 MDT Print View

Seriously.. You owe it to yourself to call FF.. They are super helpful, over the phone .. and very knowledgable.

I own a Versalite ( which I love ! ) and a FF bag .. for "warmer nights" which I also love.

Truth be known, you can't go wrong with either Maker.. However, FF does give you the GREAT option of customization ..( Color, fabric, Down rating, sizing, .. the list goes on and on .. I even had them add on a "custom pillow sleeve" built right into the hood of my bag.. )

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Helium on 06/19/2012 19:44:28 MDT Print View

I've had a couple of WM bags and they are of the highest quality, but I own several high end Marmot bags and they are also of the highest quality. The Helium is cut generous enough you shouldn't have any problem w/ room (including room to add insulating layers), I can tell you that the 20F rating is very accurate.

you'll save a lot more $ as well then the price you have listed, that's full retail. it doesn't take much effort to find the bag at 20%+ off, you will rarely find WM bags that discounted

here's one for $349, you can find them cheaper yet w/ a little looking

here's another for $279 for pre-order (ready in August)

WM makes fine bags, they just are long ways from $200 finer than the 850 loft Marmots IMO

Chad "Stick" Poindexter
(Stick) - F

Locale: Wet & Humid Southeast....
Re: Helium on 06/19/2012 20:07:30 MDT Print View

I agree with the quality of the Marmot Helium. I have one and it is a sweet bag. I use it for my winters here in the Southeast and I have used it comfortably down to 10F, granted supplemented with "heavy weight" long underwear and inside a tent. However, I have used it a number of other times in temps in mid teens under a tarp, in a shelter and even cowboy camping. I love it and glad to own it...

Although, WM sure does make some nice bags too...and one day I will own the Kodiak... But, I really think that you won't go wrong with any of your listed bags, so really, IMO, it depends on what you want the little tag on the bag to say, and how much you want to spend on that tag.

By the way, I am 5'10" and weigh 195 lbs and the Helium is plenty big enough for me, even if I wanted to wear my MB UL Down Inner parka inside it... As well, I usually toss and turn in my sleep and this bag has presented no issues with this...

Good luck with your decision! :) And enjoy your new down bag... they are so comfy, and warm...

Matt Kowalewski
(LostLands) - F
Thanks everyone on 06/20/2012 00:05:15 MDT Print View

Thanks so much everyone for your thoughts. I appreciate all the input, even though I find myself with more options now than I did before.

I have another question for those of you who own the Helium. Did you find the lack of a draft collar to be noticeable? I think that’s pretty much the only thing that makes me nervous about it near the bottom of its range.

@ Mike Moore
Unfortunately, the cost of shipping to Canada + taxes means it would have to be one hell of a deal to equal any savings on my end. The numbers I quoted may seem high, but keep in mind they include dollar conversion and 12% sales tax where I live. For instance, that $350 on CampMor

Shipping and handling to Canada is a $12 minimum for orders up to $100. Above $100 the shipping cost is 12% of the order value. This would not include any import tax or provincial sales tax that may apply. These charges are determined and collected by customs and are based on the size of the order and the current exchange rate.

350 x1.12 = 392 before exchange rate and taxes. Add another 2% for the exchange rate and you’re at $400, which is the retail price before taxes at my local outfitter.
The only real way I’ve found around that would be to order to a US post office, drive down to pick it up, and then neglect to mention said purchase at the border. Not a terribly good idea, and self-defeating given the cost of gas.

I’m not sure what happened with the second link you posted, but it quotes the same $350.

@ Doug Reeves
I don’t understand it either. Not sure why, but that’s the listing on MEC’s website. If the Alpinlite was the cheaper of the two, I would take it in a heartbeat.

@David & Scott
Feathered Friends do seem to offer some really fine bags. Unfortunately I would run into similar problems with the cost creeping up. 400USD (Reg. Swallow or Swift) quickly approaches (possibly surpasses) the cost of equivalent or warmer WM bags with shipping, etc. That being said, if I lived in the states I would probably go with FF. I really dig the snap hood closure. I may still drive down, pick one up and spend a few days in the Cascades waiting for my 48-hour duty exemption (up to $800) to kick in.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
prices on 06/20/2012 07:58:56 MDT Print View

well that's too bad on the prices :(

the Helium doesn't have a traditional draft collar (it's slightly cheaper cousin the Pinnacle does though 800 vs 850 down), but instead uses a "passive collar system"- basically the draft tube continues across the chest and around the hood- I haven't had any problems w/ it at all- I have had it to 15F, but not below.