Other than the ten essentials, one of the most important – and overlooked items that people need for any adventure is a quality night’s sleep. From helping experienced mountaineers to acclimatize or novice hikers to simply rest, a good night’s sleep provides a plethora of benefits, irrespective of whether one is in the front or backcountry. While many factors go into obtaining a good night’s sleep, the main factor is appropriate overnight gear, which in most outdoor adventures means a good sleeping bag. While over the last thirty years sleeping bag technology has advanced with new materials, synthetic materials, and better construction, even in 2016, not all sleeping bags are created equal.
In my experience, the three things that matter the most when selecting a sleeping bag are: performance, durability, and to a lesser extent weight. In terms of performance, what I look for in a sleeping bag is first whether it is comfortable, and equally as importantly, does it perform to the specifications advertised. While it may seem counter-intuitive, some bags are rated to a temperature specification that they simply cannot meet under real world conditions. And, while I listed “durability” as my second qualification, in many respects it is equal with performance in terms of importance. While all sleeping bags arrive out of a package fluffy and warm, many bags face problems over time in terms of being packed, re-packed, and re-packed again. Down can leak or clump; and similarly, synthetic materials can suffer degradation.
All of these things lead to a sleeping bag being less efficient, and therefore less comfortable and useful than they should be. While these problems are generally nothing more than nuisances, it is also important to remember that a sleeping bag in addition to being a general outdoors tool, is also a survival tool, as it may on occasion have to keep one warm in adverse or hostile conditions. In this respect, one does not want to end up with a product that may fail in one or multiple areas at a critical juncture. Finally, in terms of durability, it’s also important that the zipper, ties, and snaps function well and properly over the lifetime use of the bag. Finally, weight to me is the last consideration, because frankly in 2016, most items are at or near similar weights. While one obviously doesn’t want to carry a behemoth backpacking, in reality, several ounces weight saving from product to product aren’t going to make a difference to the casual consumer.
Recently, I was super excited to obtain an advance release of TETON Sports’ new Altos 0 Degree Ultralight Down Sleeping Bag. As someone who spends almost more nights in a sleeping bag than an actual bed, I place my bags through a great deal of wear and tear; and as someone who does a number of activities; I also use these bags on a number of trips in different environments. In testing the Altos 0 Degree Ultralight Down Sleeping bag, I used it over a multi-night river trip down the Colorado River; a multi-night backpacking trip through the Sierra Nevadas in winter; and car-camping through Eastern California. After over two weeks of use, I feel that the Altos 0 Degree Ultralight Down Sleeping Bag is one of the top products of 2016, and perhaps one of the best, if not the best ultralight down sleeping bags on the market.
In terms of performance, the bag performed well under all of the conditions and environments covered above. On my river trip, even though I had my items in stuff sacks, the bag was exposed to water; however, the hydrophobic MTN-DRY down fill did not clump; and retained my body heat well. As a matter of fact, this bag almost retained my body heat too well, in that I had to partially unzip it on several occasions, so as not to overheat. This insulation also worked well during my trip through the Sierra Nevadas; and even though temperatures dropped below 32 degrees regularly at night (25-30F), I was snug and warm in the sleeping bag. Of particular value during that trip was the three-piece ultra-puff hood, which was able to fit snugly over my whole head, allowing me to retain valuable body heat in frigid conditions. During my trips through Eastern California, the bag responded to all of the temperatures at play at night in admirable fashion.
With respect to durability, as mentioned above, despite some external water leakage, the MTN-DRY down fill did not clump either during my first trip, or after. Separately, there was no leakage of down from the bag, nor did the bag rip or tear despite being used on numerous occasions without a ground pad or air mattress. All aspects of the bag – zippers, ties, and the bag itself responded well to packing and re-packing, and even after all of this use is still in excellent condition. Finally, at 3.45 pounds of total weight, this bag is more than suitable for both backpacking and general use. While there are some lighter bags available, there are none available that provide the comfort for the price of the Altos 0. My conclusion, as I stated above is that this is a very solid product, and perhaps one of the best products of 2016. I would strongly recommend this bag for anyone who is interested in any outdoor overnight activity from novice to veteran.
Disclaimer: As I noted above, I was contacted by TETON Sports regarding a pre-production model of the Altos 0. In conjunction with this, they provided me with a free sample of the product, which I then tested. While I was not compensated for this review other than being provided with the free product, readers should be aware of the underlying arrangement that exists, and know that the opinions provided herein regarding this product are based solely on my own experience with the product.