Great budget cold weather bag for front-country and back-country camping
PostedAugust 14, 2014
Location: Huntsville, AL
How would you grade this itemʼs materials, construction and workmanship?
How well this item performed in its intended use, and beyond.
My son and I started backpacking with his Scout Troop, so we needed packable sleep gear to augment our front-country sleeping bags, which are big, heavy, bulky, rectangle bags which work fine in late spring, summer, and early fall, but are not cold-weather suitable nor packable. We live in the humid southeastern US, so down was not a good choice. Looking at synthetics rated down around freezing, I came across the Pinhole 20. After a lot of research into compressible size and weight, I decided the Pinhole was a good candidate for a first packable bag to try. I'm glad I did! I should note that we have the older version, with Thermic MX insulation, and the current version is listed with Thermal Q insulation. Not sure what the difference is, but the weight stayed the same.
I have the long, and my son has the regular. I can fit in both, but the regular is tight across the top of my head when cinched down. I'm 6'2" tall, so no surprise there. My son was 5'2" when we bought these, and he's now 5'10", so he'll be needing a long version soon enough, I'm betting.
We have packed these bags on multiple hikes, as well as using them for front-country camping on colder occasions. With a good compression sack, these get down about the size of about 7x12 inches. I'm using a long and narrow12L compression sack, and it's tough to get the long in the sack, but once it's in, it compresses reasonably well. It will easily fit into the sleeping bag compartment on our external frame packs, and will fit in the sleeping bag compartment of many of the internal frame packs I've seen, too.
Field performance is great, in my opinion. We've used these bags at temps ranging from the 40s (too warm, buying lighter bags for that now) down to the mid-20s. We generally sleep in a base layer and wool socks plus a skull cap in colder weather, and we sleep on self-inflating foam pads with an R-value in the 3.5-3.75 range. I have been cold in this bag once - the first time I used it, and only then did I wake up cold because I did not cinch the lower portion of the hood to keep heat in with the chest baffle. Once I cinched that up, I went back to sleep and was fine. That was the third coldest night I've camped with this bag, as well, coming in at a low of 29deg and wind at 10-15 with gusts to 20. The second night of that trip was 26deg, with wind steady at 10, and I slept through the night and was warm to the point of not wanting to get out of the bag in the AM. The coldest I've camped in this bag was 18deg, with zero wind. I was warm and toasty in my mid-weight poly base layer, socks, and fleece skull cap. There was ice on the bag exterior, from condensation from my breath when I woke. I'd have to say the temp rating on this bag is just about right on the money, in my experience. My son's experience mirrors mine. I always ask him, and he's never slept cold in the bag. He reported sleeping cold in other bags, so I know he'll tell me if he gets cold.
The only complaint I have with the bag is that the zipper is a little tough to get zipped the final 3-4" and can seem to stick overnight. I've discovered the best way to manage this is to keep the hood loose/off my head, and zip all the way up with my left arm from the outside (right zip bag), before hooding and cinching. Unzipping is the reverse - uncinch, stick out my arm, and unzip. The zipper catches occasionally, but I've never owned a sleeping bag which did not catch occasionally so this doesn't seem out of place.
Overall, I can highly recommend this bag as a budget cold weather bag for front- and back-country camping. I don't think you can go much lighter or more compressible in a synthetic for the price, and even in a down bag, it's going to be tough to beat size/weight for anything close to this price point.
I would recommend this product.
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