Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter

Better Bags (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2008)

New sleeping bag designs from Integral Designs, Montbell, Exped, Jacks ‘R’ Better, Mountain Hardwear, and REI show innovative functionality and lighter weight.

Print Jump to Reader Comments

by Mike Martin | 2008-09-02 00:15:00-06

Integral Designs Bag Coupler

Better Bags (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2008) - 1
Two Integral Designs representatives look warm if not exactly comfortable in the new bag coupler prototype.

This unnamed prototype from Integral Designs is an innovative way to reduce weight for couples and very focused climbers. The wedge-shaped panel zips into any of Integral Designs’ bags and allows two persons to share a footbox while each having an individual hood. The top and bottom of the panel connect at the shoulder area to reduce drafts. The concept certainly represents out-of-the-(foot)box thinking. For two people who could actually sleep in this configuration, the weight savings due to shared warmth and reduced total bag surface area could be considerable. This version made from Pertex Microlight and five-ounce Primaloft Sport weighs 20 ounces (566 grams). No MSRP or delivery date has been set. Contact Integral Designs if you’d like to see the concept developed further.

Montbell U.L. Spiral Down Huggers

Better Bags (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2008) - 2
Footbox of the Montbell Spiral Down Hugger. Note the diagonal baffling claimed to allow some stretch to the design.

For Spring 2009, Montbell is introducing a new series of down bags called Ultra Light Spiral Down Huggers. The bags feature a slight mechanical stretch in the 12 denier nylon shell plus diagonal baffling. The combination is claimed to allow the bag to snug around the sleeper without the elastic weight and construction complications of their Super Stretch bags. The “snugging” effect is not as pronounced as in the older bags, but the Spiral bags are about 4 ounces lighter than the corresponding Super Stretch ones, giving them impressively low (claimed) weight for their temperature ratings. The 800 fill-power U. L. Spiral Down Hugger bags will be available in Montbell’s #0, #1, and #3 weights, corresponding to 0 F, 15 F, and 30 F temperature ratings, respectively. MSRP: $390 (#0), $299 (#1), and $229 (#3). Claimed weights: 41 ounces (#0), 32 ounces (#1), and 18 ounces (#3).

Exped Swift and Wallcreeper

Better Bags (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2008) - 3

Better Bags (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2008) - 4

The Exped Swift in bag mode (left) and poncho mode (right).

The Exped Swift is a versatile new bag that doubles as a quilt and triples as an insulated poncho. The Swift uses 250 grams of Primaloft Sport insulation to achieve a EN 13537 men’s comfort rating of 48 F. The two-way, full-length zipper allows the bag to be opened into a quilt, while a side slit forms a head opening for use as an in-camp poncho. Finally, the rectangular cut is roomy enough to use as an overbag to extend the temperature range of another bag or quilt. The Swift certainly deserves points for flexibility, though this comes with somewhat of a weight penalty. Weight: 26 ounces (740 grams). Available March 2009. MSRP: $135 regular, $145 long.

Also from Exped is a warmer, 20 F version of their wearable Wallcreeper. The Wallcreeper 650g contains 650 grams of 750-fill down and weighs a claimed 39 ounces (1100 grams). Available March, 2009. MSRP: $310 for the regular size in 20 F down version.

Jacks ‘R’ Better Winter Nest Under Quilt and Mt. Washington Under Quilt

Better Bags (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2008) - 5
Ryan Gardner experiences an abundance of loft in the JRB Mt. Washington Under Quilt.

Rivaling the versatility of the Exped Swift are products from Virginia-based Jacks ‘R’ Better. Wizards with Omni-Tape (hermaphroditic Velcro), JRB has been building highly versatile down quilts for the past five years that can be worn as ponchos, used as sleeping quilts, or attached to the bottom of hammocks as underquilts. Their No Sniveller was the top-ranked bag in our 2006 Unconventional Sleep Systems Review Summary and Gear Guide Overview.

Keeping away from the bleeding edge of ultralight materials, Jacks ‘R’ Better has instead focused on competitive pricing on products that tend to run a few ounces heavier than those from specialized, semi-custom gear makers. This philosophy has enabled them to be one of the few lightweight, cottage manufacturers that has grown enough to warrant their own booth at Outdoor Retailer.

New this year is their Winter Nest Under Quilt, a 10-15 F rated down quilt with 3-inch baffles stuffed to 3.5 inches of loft. The Winter Nest Under Quilt is designed to accommodate bottom-entry hammocks such as those made by Hennessy Hammock, but is claimed to also fit other lightweight camping hammocks. As with most JRB quilt products, it can also be used as an over-quilt or bag. Incorporating 800+ fill down and 1.1 ounce rip-stop nylon shells, it has a claimed weight of 26 ounces. MSRP: $349.95

Also new from JRB is the Mt. Washington Under Quilt. Lacking the bottom-entry slit of the Winter Nest, the Mt. Washington instead features an aggressive differential cut with radial baffles. A differential cut is where the outer shell material is cut to a larger diameter than the inner one. It results in a more body-contoured design with less material and better drape than flat construction. It is generally more important on high-loft bags than on thinner ones. Featuring the same three-inch baffle height as the Winter Nest, the differential cut and additional down fill of the Mt. Washington allow it to achieve a claimed 0-10 F temperature rating in a 30-ounce package. According to Jack Tier, this makes it the warmest commercially available hammock under quilt. Contact JRB for pricing, availability, and options.

Mountain Hardwear UltraLamina 0°

Better Bags (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2008) - 6
The Mountain Hardwear UltraLamina 0°.

BackpackingLight Senior Editor Don Wilson and I both chose the 15 F version of the Mountain Hardwear UltraLamina bag to use on the Wilderness Trekking III Course last October. The roomy cut that allows layering over high-loft clothing, synthetic insulation welded to the shell, and dual side zips that allow the user to sit up and use their hands while wearing the bag were key features that drove our choice. This year, Mountain Hardwear is expanding the UltraLamina line to include a 0 F version. The UltraLamina 0 F features a 20 denier micro ripstop shell and taffeta liner and weighs a claimed 53 ounces. MSRP $220.

REI Halo Bags

Better Bags (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2008) - 7
Representative of the Halo bags is this men’s 25 F version with a claimed weight of 31 ounces. MSRP: $259.

Outdoor Retailer juggernaut REI is expanding further into the lightweight market sector with the introduction of their in-house designed Halo down bags. Using lightweight (but not too light) materials, and with sparse (but not too sparse) features, the new bags are aimed at the mainstream lightweight hiker looking for solid performance in an upper-end but still value oriented product. While these are not the lightest bags available, REI’s move to embrace the lightweight market bodes well for making lightweight products, and therefore techniques, available to more of the traditional hiking community.

The new Halo bags are offered in a staggering twelve different sizes and temperature ratings. Offered in men’s and women’s versions in regular and long sizes, the bags will be made in 10 F, 25 F, and 40 F varieties. The Halo bags will feature 750-fill down, and will incorporate EN 13537 standards in their temperature ratings. MSRP’s will range from $149 for a women’s regular 40 F version to $309 for a men’s 10 F long. Available Spring 2009.


"Better Bags (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2008)," by Mike Martin. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2008-09-02 00:15:00-06.


Reader Comments

You must login to post comments.

New Visitors: Create a new account
Remember my login info.

Better Bags (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2008)
Display Avatars
Sort By:
Fred eric
(Fre49) - MLife

Locale: France, vallée de la Loire
mirage on 09/04/2008 14:51:23 MDT Print View

I have 2 sleeping bags a mirage for 95% of the time and a 800g of 800+ goose down bag for when its really cold.

i prefered the 35cm mirage to the 3/4 zipper one, usualy when i go to sleep i keep the head and part of the torso out of the bag if its too hot and go inside the bag later in the night when it gets colder.
i have slept to a few degrees C minus 0 comfortably in it wearing odlo cubic ( lightests ) boxer and T shirt, under a spinntwin with no overbag.
but my wife woudnt use it at 0°C without her cocoon hoodie, socks and some long underwear for legs so as usual for a sleeping comfort range is quite personnal.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Re: Re: New Valandre' Products for '09 on 09/04/2008 14:55:08 MDT Print View

I own a Mirage though the old version which used pertex quantum. Quality is what you would exspect from Valandré as already indicated in other posts.
One thing to take into consideration is that this bag has only a short zipper of about 30 cms long. In itself this should be no real problem. But this bag is warmer than exspected and has a narrow cut in the leg area. Too warm for a lot of nights and then it would be handy to have somesort of ventilation. The short zipper makes this not possible.
It makes it certainly impossible to use the bag as a blanket so I often just lay the bag on top of me although this certainly isn't ideal.
So if you would like to use the Mirage in quilt mode and prefer to have a means of ventilating, the 3/4 zippered model could be more interesting.

Edited by Woubeir on 09/04/2008 15:01:15 MDT.

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Re: New Valandre' Products for '09 on 09/04/2008 15:01:04 MDT Print View

Hi Allison-

BPL reviewed the Mirage a while ago. Take a look at Doug Johnson's article here:



Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: New Valandre' Products for '09 on 09/04/2008 15:31:22 MDT Print View

Thanks for that Link Michael

So the Valandre stacks up pretty well all-in-all, but for the exact same dimensions (62 shoulder:53 hip: 38 foot) I am still better off with my WM POD 15. I get 100g more down (all of it on top where it counts), a full baffled zip, and a conservative extra 8 degrees of warmth, for a mere 80 grams extra weight.

Edward Broyles
(edward.broyles) - F
Re: Re: Bag sizes on 09/05/2008 22:29:13 MDT Print View

Yes, thanks. I think based on price vs performance, the REI and Mountain Hardware sound interesting.

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Re: Re: Bag sizes on 09/05/2008 23:06:21 MDT Print View

The men's regular REI Halo bags are 59 shoulder/55 hip/36 foot girth (inches).

The regular length MH Ultralamina 15 degree bag is 60 inches shoulder girth, 38 inches foot girth. (I don't have specs on the new zero degree version)

Both these are manufacturer's claimed measurements.


Dondo .

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Better Bags (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2008) on 09/06/2008 08:37:45 MDT Print View

>>The Halo bags will feature 750-fill down, and will incorporate EN 13537 standards in their temperature ratings.

Kudos to REI. Hopefully, this move by a retail giant will encourage other US brands to adopt the EN 13537 standard,

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: New Valandre' Products for '09 on 09/13/2008 22:08:31 MDT Print View

Valandré is very popular here in Japan and I would long ago have bought one of their bags, due to exceptional quality (definitely on par with Western Mountaineering) and the best fitting I have ever seen in a bag. THe only thing that kept me from buying them here in Japan was pricing (japanese pricing is insane)... average $800.00 is a little out of my price range...

Charles Jennings
(vigilguy) - F - M

Locale: Northern Utah
Valandre' Retail Pricing reduced on 09/15/2008 22:14:57 MDT Print View

FYI, Valandre' has recently adjusted their prices (down) on their most popular bags in order to be in line with the top competitors. The retailers chose to cut their margins so that Valandre' retail prices on the products would be attractive in the U.S. market.

So that I am in compliance with the BPL guidelines, Yes, I am affiliated with Valandre' and am an authorized retailer for their gear.

Jim Sweeney
(swimjay) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Valandre on 10/19/2008 14:39:11 MDT Print View

I think the Valandre bags are very well made, but tried both the Mirage and the Shocking Blue and decided not to get them, for the following reason-- in the torso area it seemed that they were sized to allow one to wear a fairly thick down jacket without compressing the down in either the jacket or the bag. But without the jacket, it felt as if there were too much air in the bag, which would need to be warmed, and, as one moved during the night, would be a medium for carrying off heat whenever it puffed out of the bag.

YMMV, of course, but one should check the fit. In the same weight class as the Mirage, I prefer a NF Beeline I bought several years ago, which is cut narrower and hence warmer--and uses Pertex Quantum. It was also quite reasonable, bought in an outlet store.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Valandre: Bloody Mary picture on 10/22/2008 03:23:23 MDT Print View

First picture of the Bloody Mary on the Valandré website.
Not too much further details currently.

Stephen Klassen
Ultralamin O on 02/15/2009 01:15:13 MST Print View

Mountain Hardware (Canadian) site has some info up.

Showing more like 60 oz rather than 53.

If anyone has one, can you let me know how much your's weighs, and how it has perfomed.