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30F Bag Comparisons--which to buy? (with spreadsheet!)
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David Drake
(DavidDrake) - F

Locale: North Idaho
30F Bag Choices--which to buy? (with spreadsheet!) on 03/09/2014 11:53:43 MDT Print View

I'm in the market for a new bag. I have two: a WM Ultralite I rarely use; and a Golite 1+ season that has become my regular three-season choice (have had it to mid 30s using the usual tricks).

My wife will be backpacking with me this summer (Cascades, Seven Devils) and will use the Ultralite. She's comfortable in it, it's plenty warm for conditions, and it fits her "no quilts" requirement. I could stay with the Golite, but at 19 oz the warmth:weight is not ideal. Plus, for versatility, I'd prefer a bag I could take maybe 10F lower, or use in the 30s with less hassle. If I get a new 30F bag, the Golite will likely become my daughter's (or I'll sell it).

Being a member in good standing of the Church of BPL, I've made a spreadsheet of my choices:

30F Bag/Quilt Comparisons

(If the text is too small, I've also placed it as a PDF under gear lists in my profile)

The spreadsheet is sorted by temp, then total weight (lowest to highest), then fill weight (highest to lowest), then price. All specs are from manufacturers.

It looks like the EE Enigma hits a sweet spot. Any input, esp. from members with experience with any of these bags? It would be great if construction quality and actual performance vs. specs could be addressed.


(edited for clarity; edited to add FF Vireo)

Edited by DavidDrake on 03/09/2014 14:43:01 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: 30F Bag Choices--which to buy? (with spreadsheet!) on 03/09/2014 13:51:24 MDT Print View

I'd throw the FFriends Vireo into your mix. I bought a bone stock Vireo Nano over Christmas and have been quite impressed thus far. The design works; the lower 2/3s is a very slim 20 degree bag, and the design of the upper part really cinches around a puffy well. Select an appropriate coat, and taking it down to 20 or lower is very comfortable. Construction quality and detailing is exceptional all around. Cheaper than anything you've listed, as well.

rick .
(overheadview) - F

Locale: NYC
Re: 30F Bag Choices--which to buy? (with spreadsheet!) on 03/09/2014 14:07:39 MDT Print View

I'm sure people will chime in on build quality, but I know which one I'd chose: Any of the sub-20oz bags with 2" loft and 2 more ounces of down / $100 less than their competition.

The Enigma is working some fabric magic to make the shell with 5oz. My guess is most of the savings is in an efficient sewn footbox.

I think if you had all of the exact lofts, that would be the best initial sort method, direct contributor to warmth. If one was 1.9" and another was 2.1" and both published 2, that would be very misleading in the chart. That's the one spec I wish everyone was held to test and publish dead accurate numbers. But with the data you have the sort is correct.

If the jacks'r'better loft is accurate, that's a bargain bag, at a 'sacrifice' of 24oz. I'd have a hard time not taking that one for colder trips and keeping the golite for summer. (or use the $100-150 "saved" to buy most of a sub-16oz one!)

Anyway, good info!

David Drake
(DavidDrake) - F

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Re: 30F Bag Choices--which to buy? (with spreadsheet!) on 03/09/2014 14:56:55 MDT Print View

Thanks for the Vireo suggestion, David; I've edited the above to include Nano and UL. I'm not too familiar with FF, so didn't notice it before. Interesting concept. Hard to know where to place it on the list, given the variable temp--it appears to be cut generously to allow layering, and as you say, the price for Nano (or UL) is pretty nice.

Rick, I agree that what Tim manages to do for warmth/weight/cost is hard to believe. But he has the reputation here to back it up. I like that the "cost" per ounce between Revelation and Enigma is $10--or, put another way, the weight "cost" for a fully-openable footbox is only 2 oz.

I've tried to measure loft on my own bags--there's enough guesswork there I don't know if 0.1" accuracy means anything. Maybe if there was an industry standard for *how* to measure...

Edited by DavidDrake on 03/09/2014 14:57:28 MDT.

Owen McMurrey
(OwenM) - F

Locale: SE US
Re: 30F Bag Choices--which to buy? (with spreadsheet!) on 03/09/2014 16:00:52 MDT Print View

I wanted a 30-40F quilt, and ended up with the Katabatic Palisade. While I hesitate to call buying such a wonderful piece of gear a mistake, as a very warm sleeper, it's actually a 15-20F quilt for me.
Only had it since January 25, and this winter has been colder than normal in the South, so the 6 nights I have spent in it were from 0-24F. Great so far, with the addition of a down jacket on the coldest nights, but I'm concerned that it will be too warm over 40F and that Katabatic's Chisos model might have been a better choice for me.

Some of the features are worth mentioning, since you asked for comments. The cut of the bag naturally cocoons your body while the overstuffed collar and system for clipping the quilt to the pad seal out drafts. As an active sleeper, I've had no problem with drafts after locking the quilt down on the supplied cords, and drawing the clips close together underneath. Because the quilt narrows above the shoulders, there's no sensation of having it bunched around the neck when using the snap and drawcord.
The overstuffed trapezoidal footbox...well, my feet were warm at 0F in midweight Smartwools, so I guess that feature deserves an endorsement, too.

It's my first quilt, so I have no basis of comparison to others aside from noting the more obvious differences, but the quality of materials and construction is impeccable. 'Course you would expect that from a quilt that was $470(regular/wide size with 850 fill). btw, it came in at 20.32oz, just a bit under the advertised 21.1.
I'm highly critical of my gear, and quick to point out shortcomings of even my favorites, but aside from potentially being too warm, I have yet to discover anything I would change about the Palisade. I don't know that any piece of gear is "perfect", but the word certainly comes to mind.

Jeremy Mader
(JeremyNoVa) - M

Locale: NoVa
HG on 03/09/2014 17:19:56 MDT Print View

Look into HammockGear's Burrow line

Burrow 20° $249.00 74X50(regular size) 12oz fill, 17.1 oz total

Burrow 40° $219.00 74x50 (regular size) 7oz fill, 11.6 oz total

Edited by JeremyNoVa on 03/09/2014 17:23:33 MDT.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: Re: Re: 30F Bag Choices--which to buy? (with spreadsheet!) on 03/09/2014 17:26:06 MDT Print View


Edited by rmjapan on 06/21/2015 10:29:32 MDT.

John Vance
(Servingko) - F

Locale: Intermountain West
Re: Re: Re: Re: 30F Bag Choices--which to buy? (with spreadsheet!) on 03/09/2014 18:21:25 MDT Print View

I have a Chisos wide with 2oz over fill and it is warm into the low twenties with little extra clothing. I had a Sawatch that at 23.5 oz was warm to zero with a light puffy and thermal tights. Having owned now 5 (with a new Alsek wide), the Katabatic bags have been much warmer than stated and the construction is beyond reproach and second to none.

I have purchased everything out there for comparison, with the exception of the new Enigma, and while more money, I still feel Katabatic is the best overall value. I can also highly recommend Feathered Friends bags as well and the Viero is a great value and superbly constructed.

Anthony Weston
(anthonyweston) - MLife

Locale: Southern CA
nano on 03/09/2014 19:02:15 MDT Print View

I have a Nano Vireo and was greatly impressed how well it sheds water\condenstation\sidespray. I don't know if the UL Vireo has that ability.
I'm using it with a Helios and was quite warm at 28 degrees.
Not much loft in the top half of the bag but I compared it with a few other bags
side by side in the snow, it was the warmest.

I also have a Katabatic Alsek and love the clip system for comfort and I plan to
use it in the summer in the Sierra.

Mitchell Ebbott
(mebbott) - M

Locale: SoCal
Re: 30F Bag Choices--which to buy? (with spreadsheet!) on 03/09/2014 19:31:47 MDT Print View

It looks like your spreadsheet is using the 800FP version of the Enigma. Myself, I have my eye on the 750FP version. It's only a .75 oz difference in weight (for a regular length/regular width) and you save $65.

weight on 03/09/2014 19:36:19 MDT Print View

When you get a kit down to 7 lbs and want to get to 6, the ounces dont come cheap.

The $100 for a quilt thats 3 oz lighter or so, is actually a bargain. Consider you possible future weight goals when purchasing.

rick .
(overheadview) - F

Locale: NYC
Re: Re: Re: 30F Bag Choices--which to buy? (with spreadsheet!) on 03/09/2014 20:23:05 MDT Print View

>I've tried to measure loft on my own bags--there's enough guesswork there I don't know if 0.1" accuracy means anything. Maybe if there was an industry standard for *how* to measure...

I agree that a ruler and a scrap of cardboard doesn't yield meaningful results. There'd have to be a standard, but look at the setup they have now to test EN comfort level! and the inconsistency in that.

Loft is A (the?) critical factor in warmth. And it is a single distance measurement. Do it on an airhockey table with a laser scanner, and average the whole bag, I dunno. There's less variables in that than a dressed dummy with sensors!

I imagine it's rounded .24" or more, if measured with any care at all. Meaning two bags can vary .48" before anyone would blink at both of them stating the same number. That means you're comparing a 2.2"/25f to a 1.75"/40f at the same stated 2" loft, price and maybe even weight (before anyone considers it a "lie"!). 25% difference in spec without doing anything shady. Both manufacturers call them 30 because one is shady and the other one is conservative, or their dummy test rigs differ.

If the loft were given to .1" accuracy for every bag, you would know that, for example 1.9-2" = 30f for me, and buy accordingly.

/rant -sorry to derail...

I agree Tim's reputation precedes him, and from the things he's posted I know he takes care in carefully designed bags. Fabric Magic was meant as a compliment!

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Loft on 03/09/2014 21:08:14 MDT Print View

Hmm, I remember reading a Nisley post where he emphatically stated that loft was NOT the be all end all measurement. That density of packing counted, too. Did I misunderstand? If not, the implication was you couldn't arrive at definitive judgments based on measurements of loft alone.

Edited by Bolster on 03/09/2014 21:08:52 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: Loft on 03/09/2014 21:24:47 MDT Print View

he said that the amount of down fill worked better ... accounting for the size of the bag of course

and of course en-ratings are the "best" for RELATIVE comparison to each other ... since they are actual tested values of the entire bag ...

not just assumptions based on correlations ...


Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
"I'm Your Density." on 03/09/2014 21:46:33 MDT Print View

Right...I think he was talking jackets (at least in the post I read) and what caught my attention was density of fill being an important factor, not just loft. I wish I could find the post.

So a bag that's "overstuffed" may not have any more loft, but may be considerably warmer.

EDIT: Aha:

"Trying to determine the warmth of a garment by just measuring its loft is a measure of futility. For example, the Patagonia Polarguard Delta Pullover and a Wild Things Primaloft One sweater both have a loft of .6”. The Wild Things sweater is more than 27% warmer. The Montbell Alpine jacket has 2” of loft and box baffles yet the New Balance Fugu, which uses sewn through construction, and only has 1.5” loft is 64% warmer. The Montbell Alpine Jacket and the Montbell Permafrost Parka both use box baffles and have 2” of loft; the Permafrost Parka is 41% warmer. A Polartec 300 jacket has .25”loft and a Patagonia Polarguard Delta pullover has .6” loft and yet their insulation value is the same. The only two cases in which the loft is relevant is if you want to compare synthetic garments using the same insulation type and quilting. The other case is base layer garments; their warmth is correlated with their thickness."

From the infamous thread 18950.

Edited by Bolster on 03/09/2014 21:56:32 MDT.

John Vance
(Servingko) - F

Locale: Intermountain West
Re: "I'm Your Density." on 03/09/2014 22:50:55 MDT Print View

Yes, Richard's thread is the one that sent me to do more research on insulation factors beyond the typical assumptions. After a fair amount of research it was clear that loft as THE indicator for warmth was flawed.

I put my money where my research and limited knowledge led me and ordered a new quilt with overfill. This added the warmth I was looking for at the least possible weight and the added down density stabilized the down, eliminating shifting and cold spots, as I tossed and turned throughout the night.

According to a number of studies, down could be compressed up to 2.5x and still maintain most of its warmth. The standard 30% overfill could be greatly increased without increasing the baffle height while still receiving the benefit of increased insulation.

In actual use I have found this to be true in bags/quilts and jackets. While my testing would be considered anecdotal at best, I have found that personal experience is my preferred method of developing trust in equipment - particularly repeatable results in varying conditions.


Locale: Western Michigan
30F Bag Comparisons--which to buy? on 03/10/2014 08:13:26 MDT Print View

First I have updated your data that remained blank or was incorrect for the 30* bag you have chosen. (Revision #3)

.30 degree bag analysis

"What is the best bag is the question?" I believe "best" can be BEST evaluated from the stand point of three variables: 1.) down quantity, 2.) down quality and 3.) final product weight. The other options of bag w/wo hood or quilt, shell fabric and cost you must determine based on your needs and preferences.

You have chosen many of the top rated and excellent bags and any one would serve you well

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: 30F Bag Comparisons--which to buy? on 03/10/2014 08:27:38 MDT Print View

I have the Montbell ULSS#3 and couldn't love it more for three season backpacking. At ~ 1.5 lbs and one of the more spacious bags I've slept in, hard to go wrong with it.

I'm in the market for a 0* bag. After visiting the Feathered Friends store in Seattle, it'll be difficult to choose between buying another MB bag or the Ibis EX0 from Feathered Friends.

David Drake
(DavidDrake) - F

Locale: North Idaho
Great feedback on 03/10/2014 20:29:04 MDT Print View

Thanks to all.

Owen, John, and others--thanks for confirming Katabatic's reputation for quality. I'm not opposed to spending over $400 on a bag, but if I do, I'd like it to be one of the last bags I buy (well, at least for another twenty years).

I hadn't considered overfilling a Chisos--it's an interesting idea and I recall the Nisely research Eric and Delmar mentioned about down density increasing warm for a given loft height. However, since I'm right at the edge of Katabatic's size range for small (I'm 5'6") I wonder if overfill won't shorten the length of the quilt enough to cause problems. If I jump up to the next size, and then overfill that, the (slight) weight and cost advantage of overfilling a Chisos vs. buying a small Palisade disappears.

I considered having the Vireo overfilled as well, so the top half would be a few degrees warmer, but realized that would prob. make it harder to use in the 40s, since there's no zipper or other way of opening it for ventilation. The Vireo is still a very intriguing bag--I'd prob. have to get a warmer puffy than my MB Down Inner to use into shoulder seasons.

Rick (NYC): I understood you to mean 'fabric magic' as a complement. The Enigma's still high on my list--plus, I remember when Tim Marshall was just a guy posting quilts he'd made on the MYOG forum, so it's great to see him turn it into a successful company. With regard to your larger point, I'd like to see manufacturers specify baffle height rather than loft. That combined with fill weight (and fill power, to some extent) would make it pretty easy to compare, AND get some sense of how overfilled the stock bag is.

Eric, as far as I know, EN ratings don't apply to quilt-style bags. Don't know if they apply to hoodless bags or not. And even if they did, the expense may put EN rating out of reach for cottage makers. I don't see how assuming more or less the same temp rating for two bags with the same fill weights, baffle heights and fabric types is problematic. Nor do I see how a non-EN rating company could maintain its stellar reputation for decades, resist the pressure to move production overseas, continue to command premium prices, AND get away with exaggerated temp rating vs. EN rated bags. But I realize this is an old debate.

Rick M. and Ian: I was a little worried about some of these choices being too narrow--then I measured my Golite: 49" at best. And it works for me. So I think any of these choices will be okay, if not roomy. Most of the hooded bags (including the Montbell) are there for comparison, rather than something that's really on my short list--I don't like hoods enough to take the weight penalty.

Ken Larson: Thanks for the updates to the spreadsheet. A couple things: the length of the Vireo I'm looking at *is* actually 62" (5'2") rather than 6'2". And I'm (perhaps naively) considering any fill from 800 on up to be more or less the same under field conditions. I appreciate companies (like EE) that offer treated down as an option, but don't see myself as an early adopter. In the case of Katabatic, this means going for a nominally higher FP. In the case of EE, going for nominally lower.

Again, thanks to everyone for commenting.

Edited by DavidDrake on 03/10/2014 20:31:06 MDT.

John Vance
(Servingko) - F

Locale: Intermountain West
Re: Great feedback on 03/10/2014 22:25:07 MDT Print View

If you are thinking of overfill and are 5'6", I would recommend going up to the next size. My overfilled Chisos "shrunk" 3 or 4 inches when compared to my non overfilled Alsek and Sawatch. In actual use it really isn't noticeable but but since you are at the end of the range for a short bag it may prove to be the better choice.