Western Mountaineering Pod 30 Sleeping Bag REVIEW

Review of one of the most coveted "top" bags from premium U.S. manufacturer Western Mountaineering.

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by Stuart Bilby | 2004-12-20 03:00:00-07

Overview

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Western Mountaineering Pod 30

The Pod 30 is an elegant bag that is only insulated on the top and sides. It has a generous 4 inches of loft and is fully featured with a half zipper, hood, and an innovative flap system for securing it to a mat. The shell is very light ExtremeLite 20 denier nylon and the bag weighs only 18.8 ounces (532 gram) for the large size. It is well designed with high quality materials and comfortable to use.

In Brief

  • Very light top bag with plenty of loft
  • An integrated sleeping system of bag and pad. Use the Pod with one of two custom fitted Western Mountaineering pads.
  • Innovative pad tie-down system that allows the bag to contour to the sleeper and reduces air gaps and cold spots.
  • Half-length zipper
  • Light and comfortable
  • Pads that come with the Pod are heavy. Users may opt for using a lighter non-Western Mountaineering pad.

Specifications

• Manufacturer

Western Mountaineering

• Model

Pod 30

• Type

Top bag

• Sizes

Size large tested

Regular fits up to 6'0" (183 cm)

Large fits up to 6'6" (198 cm)

• Girth

Size large tested

SizeManufacturer Specification
shoulder/hip/foot
in (cm)
Backpacking Light Measurement
shoulder/hip/foot
in (cm)
Regular62/53/39 (157/135/99)Not measured
Large63/54/39 (160/137/99)61/51/39 (154/130/99)

• Weight

Backpacking Light measurement

Manufacturer specifies bag alone weighs 16 oz (454 g) for size regular.

Pod 301 lb 2.8 oz (532 g) size large
Full-length standard air-only pad1 lb 2.3 oz (519 g)
Self-inflating foam core pad1 lb 10.5 oz (751 g)

• Fill type

850+ fill power goose down

• Fill weight

9 oz (255 g) size large, 8 oz (227 g) size regular

• Loft

4 inches (100 mm), Backpacking Light measured between baffles

• Manufacturer's Rating

30 °F (-1 °C)

• Outer and Liner Material

ExtremeLite 20d nylon, less than 1 oz/yd2 (less than 34 g/m2) with DWR finish

• Hood

Yes

• Zipper

Half-length

• Model Year

2004

• MSRP

$260

Features

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Pad tie-down system fitted with a lighter weight (than fitted Western Mountaineering pads) standard foam pad

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Pod 30 underside with mat removed showing flaps that secure a sleeping pad to the bag

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Pod 30 with standard pad (inflatable, air only) inserted and air pad alone

Pad Sleeve

The Pod 30 is a top bag with insulation only on the top and sides. It uses an innovative flap system that wraps around the sides and ends of the sleeping pad to hold the pad securely to the bag. The flaps are held to the pad by bungee cords with cord locks. The uninsulated bottom section of the bag is much narrower than on most top bags, only 14 inches wide at the shoulders and hips, narrowing to 6.5 inches wide at the foot.

What's Cool about the Pad Attachment System?

A particular problem with top bags is that a large air gap can form between the sleeper and the edges of the mat. This leads to warm air being pumped out of the bag when you move. The Pod 30 tie-down system prevents this by attaching the sleeping bag to the pad closer to the center of the pad. This adds slightly to the weight of the bag but means that the bag fits more snugly to the sleeper without forming a 'tent' to the edges of the mat. This makes the bag more comfortable for side sleeping than most top bags. The flaps that go underneath the mat are made of a tougher fabric than the shell material to resist damage from hard surfaces.

The Pod 30 is designed to fit a Western Mountaineering tapered inflatable pad, but can be used with rectangular pads. The Western Mountaineering inflatable pads come in two styles, air-only and a foam core self-inflating style. These mats are fairly heavy and more than a few ultralighters will switch them for something a bit lighter. It's not much of a problem to cut down a standard foam pad to fit the Pod 30, or you can just use a rectangular mattress.

When using a rectangular pad, the flaps tend to pull away from the mat in the hip area. However, in general, the system provides an effective seal with the pad. The Pod 30 also works satisfactorily with a three-quarter-length inflatable mat combined with a pack at the feet although it takes a little extra effort to set up the flaps and bungees over a pack.

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The Pod 30 attaches to the mat away from the edges creating less of an air tunnel than most top bags. Left: Pod 30 with back sleeper, Middle: Pod 30 with side sleeper, Right: traditional top bag or quilt tied to edge of the pad.

Fabric

The lightweight shell fabric has an effective DWR coating. Even after many weeks of use, water spilled on the bag beaded up and ran off.

Zipper

I never found myself wishing for more than the half-length YKK zipper. My only complaint is that it does not have a locking head. The zipper slides very easily and if not fastened with the hook and loop at its top, it quickly unzips its full length. Both sides of the zipper have a stiffening tape to prevent snagging. Nevertheless, I found it easy to jam the delicate fabric in the teeth of the zipper. Fortunately, the fabric is solid enough that no damage occurred. There is a single down-filled draft tube on the upper side of the zipper. The zipper is not at the seam where the bag joins the pad and where the sleeper could lie on it, but is high up the side with insulation above and below.

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Pod 30 showing the fitted hood

Hood

The hood is a simple three-dimensional shape with a single drawcord around the opening. It has a reverse differential cut so that it lofts to fit around the head. It is lightly insulated and is tied to the pad at the back of the neck to allow the pad to act as insulation. Because the hood has much less loft than the rest of the bag, cold spots develop, especially near the opening. Wearing a warm hat helps to counter this effect.

A draft collar at the neck would help prevent losing warm air when moving about. A draft collar is included with the warmer model, the Pod 15.

Insulation

Except for the issues with the hood discussed above, the baffle compartments are a series of simple rectangles that keep the down in place effectively. The compartments are well filled with down and the bag has a good 4 inches of loft over the chest and legs.

The measured hip and shoulder girths are a little less than advertised on the Western Mountaineering web site, but the Pod 30 is still sized so that a medium sized person can wear bulky clothing inside it as additional sleeping insulation. It is a comfortable bag, easy to get into and use. On warm nights it is simple to stay cool by unhooking the pad and letting the uninsulated section move to the top. It is much easier to keep the drafts out than when using a quilt.

Performance

In the field, I felt the Pod 30 provided a similar level of comfort to other top bags with a comparable manufacturer's temperature rating.

The pad attachment prevented cold air from reaching my back when I turned over and its unique attachment method reduced air gaps when sleeping on my side. Overall, I find myself pleased to put this light sleeping bag in my pack and, in combination with a variety of clothes, it is just right for a wide range of trips.

Missing from this review (and for all sleeping bag reviews published here, for that matter) will be an assessment of whether or not the sleeping bag performs adequately at temperatures near its manufacturer-reported temperature rating. Click here for the complete Backpacking Light Position Statement on Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings.

Durability

The Pod 30 has the same 20 denier nylon for the shell and inner lining that all the Western Mountaineering ExtremeLite bags use. This particularly light material weighs less than 1 oz/yd2. Western Mountaineering warns that the fabric is not as robust or downproof as typical sleeping bag materials, however no damage occurred during my testing and only two or three feathers leaked out each trip. For the ultralight backpacker, the small sacrifices in downproofness and robustness are well worth the benefits in weight and packed volume. This lightweight fabric does tend to be fairly air-permeable, which slightly reduces its insulating effectiveness.

Value

This is a very light bag with great loft. Using top quality materials, Western Mountaineering provides a top bag with hood and zipper at a competitive price.

Recommendations for Improvement

The changes I would like to see in the bag are:

  • A little more loft in the hood to match the rest of the bag and some design work to shape the hood to better maintain loft around the opening.
  • A neck collar, although adding weight, would improve the rating of the bag. It is important to prevent warm air from pumping out and cold air in with top bags.
  • A locking head on the zipper.
  • A strap for tying the bag more firmly to the mat at the hip.
  • Make available a lightweight fitted foam pad weighing in the range of 8 ounces.


Citation

"Western Mountaineering Pod 30 Sleeping Bag REVIEW," by Stuart Bilby. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/western_mountaineering_pod_30_review.html, 2004-12-20 03:00:00-07.

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