Backcountry Camp – Part 4

Lightweight Sleeping Bag Review

Big Agnes Mystic UL15

In Part 3 of the Backcountry Camp Series, we talked about what you need to know when picking out a lightweight sleeping bag. Here in Part 4, we talk about a handful of lightweight sleep systems. For this review, my intended use is September archery season here in Idaho, so you could have overnight temps in the 20s or in the 50s. September in Idaho typically is fairly dry, so a down bag is usually a great option.  With that in mind I decided to include lightweight sleeping bags in the temperature range around 15 degrees to cover those frequent cold September nights in the Idaho high country. I tested these bags/quilts into the 20s, but most of the time the temperatures hung in the 30s and 40s.

Nemo Disco

Nemo Disco

The Nemo Disco is a really nice lightweight sleeping bag that offers a lot of room for those of you who don’t like the confinement of a mummy bag. The shape is designed to give you extra room to move around, which is especially nice for a side sleeper or one who tosses and turns all night.  I wouldn’t classify the Disco as an oversized bag, but it is cut with a very unique “spoon” shape, giving you more room in the right places.  

The Disco is a bit on the heavy side at 2lbs 11oz, but compresses down nicely.  I did experience some cold spots, but that could have been a product of me not taking the time to make sure the down was dispersed before use.  The shell material is extremely soft to the touch and is a welcomed haven after a long day of hiking or hunting.

Nemo Disco
Things I Liked
  • Waterproof footbox
  • Pillow pocket
  • Super soft material
  • Interior stash pocket
  • Larger size allows for movement
  • Nice draft collar
  • Blanket fold is super versatile and comfortable
Nemo Disco

The Nemo Disco gives you a waterproof footbox, pillow pocket, internal stash pocket, great draft collar, and a unique blanket fold for comfort. I really like the blanket fold feature (surprisingly) and found it to really add to the comfort. The Pillow pocket is a nice idea, but didn’t quite work as I’d hoped. It was a little small and when is use, made it difficult to use the hood to keep my head/ears warm. The draft collar was robust and kept the cold air out very well.

Things I Didn’t Like
  • Zipper wouldn’t stay up
  • No pad sleeve
  • Draw string on hood only closes on bottom
  • Cold spots
  • Weight
Nemo Disco

My primary complaint with the Nemo Disco was that the zipper worked its way down multiple times over the course of the night. For me, this is a deal breaker. For some odd reason, the Disco seemed to use a non-locking zipper. Tossing and turning caused the zipper to work its way down, giving me an unwelcomed draft. I have enough trouble sleeping in the backcountry as it is, and I don’t need another reason not to have a good nights sleep. The bag was on the heavy side, but not too bad given its size and extra interior space.

Nemo Disco

Another small annoyance with the Disco was that the hood, when cinched with the draw string, only tightened from the bottom up. It was slightly awkward and didn’t seem to provide as good of a seal as if the draw string had tightened over the entire hood area. I also wish that there would have been an option to somehow attach my pad. This is personal preference, but I seem to find a way off my pad at night, so straps or a sleeve is helpful for me.

Check out the Nemo Disco

Sea to Summit Basecamp Bcii

Sea to Summit Basecamp BCii

I was attracted to the Basecamp BCii for its versatility. Even at its weight of 2lbs 10oz, it’s still a relatively lightweight sleeping bag given the features and the fact that it’s an oversized bag. With pad straps, the ability to convert to a quilt, a pillow strap, and its extensive interior room, this has the features of an amazing bag/quilt combo. If you need your space to move around at night, this might be one to consider. The Basecamp BCii comes with 750+ fill Ultra-Dry Down, so you get some great loft and high quality down.

Things I Liked
  • Tons of room to move around
  • Top zips off for use as a quilt
  • Pad sleeve and pillow holder
  • Super versatile
Sea to Summit Basecamp BCii
Things I Didn’t Like
  • Large baffles allowed down to clump together
  • On the heavy side
  • No draft collars(for main zipper or around head)
Sea To Summit Basecamp BCii

While the Basecamp BCii is a bit on the heavy side for a lightweight sleeping bag, it can be converted to a quilt to save weight. I was surprised that it didn’t have draft collars at all (on the zipper or around the hood). That likely affected its warmth. The large horizontal baffles seemed to make the down clump in spots offering little to no protection from the cold in some areas. I tried dispersing manually, but I just couldn’t seem to get the down evenly dispersed to all areas of the bag. During testing, I froze even with wearing socks and multiple layers in 40 degree temps. Given that this has a 15 degree rating and the steep price point, it’s safe to say I was greatly disappointed. I really wanted to love this bag.

Check out the Basecamp BCii

Big Agnes Mystic UL15

Big Agnes Mystic UL15 - lightweight sleeping bag

The Big Agnes Mystic UL15 was a design that really caught my eye because of its combination of features and weight. Is there a lighter “ultralight” sleeping bag out there? Yes there is, but this is an amazing lightweight sleeping bag. With the Mystic UL15 you get a full length pad sleeve, built-in pillow pocket, 850 fill Downtech waterproof down, super soft material, and a very warm bag with an innovative quilt-like design.  The loft on the Mystic UL15 was impressive as you can instantly tell you are dealing with high quality down.

Things I Liked
  • Super soft material
  • Perfectly cut dimensions
  • Pad sleeve
  • Pillow Pocket
  • High loft
  • Locking Zipper
Things I Didn’t Like
  • Pillow pocket small
Big Agnes Mystic UL15

Coming in at just 2lbs 2oz and packing down super small, the Mystic UL 15 is a serious lightweight sleeping bag with some amazing features.  Why do I say it’s a quilt like design?  The 6-8 inch portion of the bag that is between your body and the pad is uninsulated, reducing the weight of this true sleeping bag closer to that of a quilt.  This design eliminates the primary complaint of a quilt: drafts. 

The number one complaint, by a long shot, about quilts is that sleepers experience drafts causing a cold nights sleep.  Combine the Mystic UL15’s innovative design with the full length pad sleeve, pillow pocket, 850 fill goose down, the generous cut, and you have a really nice bag.  I would put this bag in the “standard” size category as it gives you, in my opinion, the perfect balance of comfort without being too confining or having too much excess space for your body to heat.  This was my personal favorite of the bags I tested.

Check out the Mystic UL15

Enlightened Equipment Quilt

Enlightened Equipment Quilt
S&S Archery CL Trekking Poles

I wanted to include an Enlightened Equipment quilt in this review because of their rising popularity in recent years.  If you’ve spent any time researching sleep systems, you’ve likely heard a lot of buzz in the backpack hunting community about quilts.  There are a lot of reasons to love quilts, but going into this I was very unsure if I’d like them.  I’d always been a sleeping bag guy.  I’m always open to try something new, so I felt I needed to give these a try.

Differences

The first thing you’ll notice about quilts, and most likely one of their biggest strengths, is the weight savings.  Depending on the temperature rating, quilts can come in under a pound and pack down to the size of a cantaloupe!  Combine that with an ultralight shelter like one of the options in our backpacking tent review, along with one of the ultralight pads in Part 5 of this series, and you can start to see your total camp weight drop well below 4lbs. 

Enlightened Equipment Quilt

My first few nights with the Enigma quilt were a bit of an experiment as they utilize a strap system unlike any sleeping bag.  This strap system is most easily explained by watching this video from Enlightened Equipment .  Basically, the straps are used to increase or decrease how much draft you prefer to allow in the quilt.  I found this incredibly versatile.

Versatility on Display

One night early last September it was in the mid 40s to low 50s.  In a sleeping bag you’d be unzipping your bag, maybe keeping a leg out etc. to keep from overheating.  With the quilt, I simply kept the top strap unclipped and folded back as needed.  On cold nights, you can simply attach the strap to the pad, and then clip yourself in and cinch down the straps to keep drafts out.  This took some experimenting as there are several setup options.  One strap attaches to the pad and the other floats freely keeping the quilt cinched together.  You can put the strap that attaches to the pad on either the top or bottom clip.

Enlightened Equipment Quilt

After trying both ways, I decided I wanted to have both top and bottom attached to the pad, so I purchased a second strap set to attach both the top and bottom securely to the pad.  This seems to offer the most draft-free sleep of all configurations. I ended up loving the Enigma quilt. Now that I’ve figured out the best strap setup for me, I’ll have a hard time going back to a sleeping bag.

Things I Liked
  • Weight
  • Versatility
  • Overall comfort
  • Small pack size
Enlightened Equipment Quilt
Things I Didn’t Like
  • Snap Button
  • Lack of draft collar
  • Draw string comfort
  • Potential for drafts

One thing I did not like about this quilt was the button that was used to snap the top of the bag together (for cold nights).  It wanted to come unbuttoned if I was especially restless at night.  Changing to the strap setup I described above helped this, but it still did happen from time to time.   I’d like to see a better way to keep this from unbuttoning in the middle of the night.

Enlightened Equipment Quilt

I’d also like to see a draft collar at the head of the quilt.  The drawstring did a fine job of keeping out drafts, but it had to be cinched down to do so.  The presence of a draft collar here might make it a little more comfortable.

Check out the Enigma Quilt

Worth Mentioning

A couple lightweight sleeping bags that I purchased, but didn’t field test, are worth mentioning here.  These bags were simply too confining for me as they both fall in the true “mummy’’ category.  I don’t feel like I can give a fair review on them simply because I just didn’t like how restricting these bags were.  With that said, here are a few observations.

Big Agnes Skeeter

A true mummy bag, the Skeeter SL20 weighs in at a scant 1lb 14oz.  If you can handle a true mummy bag, this one deserves a look.  You get the same high quality as the Mystic UL15, just in a slim mummy style package.  You even get a half length pad sleeve that can be used as a stuff sack.  The zipper stays in place, keeping drafts sealed out.  This is a very high quality bag, but it just wasn’t for me.

Check out the Skeeter SL20

REI Magma 10

REI Magma 10

I purchased the Magma for its reputation as a super high quality bag at its price point.  The Magma comes in at an impressive 1lb 14oz and is very high quality.  The first thing I noticed when I laid this bag out was the incredible loft.  You can instantly tell you are dealing with a high quality down bag.  The material is super soft, and the locking zipper stays where you leave it.  The unique zipper shape wasn’t my favorite, but it didn’t bother me.  I was hoping this bag wasn’t quite so restricting because it is clearly a gem.  If I was a mummy bag user, this would be my first choice of the ones I tested.

Check out the REI Magma 10

At the end of the day, decide what fits your needs best and select the kind of lightweight sleeping bag or quilt that will get you the best night’s sleep possible. Check out Part 3 of this series on Selecting a Sleep System if you missed it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *