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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Quilts and Blankets > Nunatak Arc Ghost sleeping quilt > Owner Review by Richard Lyon
NUNATAK ARC GHOST SLEEPING BAG
PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
Male, 63 years old
I've been backpacking for 45 years and regularly in the Rockies since 1986. I do at least one week-long trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do forced marches too. Recently I've been actively reducing my pack weight, though I still often include my favorite camp conveniences and always sleep in a floored tent.
PRODUCT DESCRIPTION and DETAILS
The Ghost is one of Nunatak's Arc Concept bags, which the company describes as "adjustable girth quilts." Two straps across the underside of the bag provide the means of adjustment: tighten the straps to cinch the bag closely around the body for warmth, or loosen them in warmer weather for increased ventilation. The Ghost's temperature rating, 32 F (0 C), places it squarely in the middle of Nunatak's roster of seven Arc bags.
Nunatak's motto is "Ultralight down backpacking gear built in the U.S.A." The Arc Concept line was designed and is marketed on two lightweight/ultralight principles. The first is multi-tasking: save weight on the bag by eliminating features whose function can be replaced without loss (or much loss) of functionality by another item that will be in your pack anyway. The Ghost and its siblings in the Arc family have no draft tubes or hoods. Headgear and, if dictated by the temperatures, a sweater or jacket, furnish the insulation lost by not having these features. The second principle, specific to a sleep system, is that down compressed underneath a sleeper's body provides limited insulation. Away with it! Because an Arc bag's underside has the adjustable straps, zippers aren't needed either, so they're gone too, further reducing weight.
My Ghost, which I bought used, has the standard size Large dimensions and has one extra ounce (28 g) of down. As I have noted in other reviews of Nunatak gear on this site, this company is a custom house. Variations from the products in the catalog are commonplace and encouraged.
Manufacturer: Nunatak Gear LLC (www.nunatakusa.com).
In the past I have been partial to rectangular and semi-rectangular sleeping bags. I've shied away from ultralight bags, indeed most mummy bags, because of mild claustrophobia, because I am a restless side sleeper known for tossing and turning through the night, and because I sleep very cold. I finally decided to try an Arc bag for warmer temperatures, thinking that with my head not shrouded in a hood perhaps I could tolerate the close fit. As for tossing and turning, by securing the straps over my sleeping pad maybe I could at least keep the pad with me. Finding this Ghost at a bargain price on an online forum nudged me into giving it a try.
Nunatak proudly proclaims the Arc Ghost as the bag that "has broken the one pound [454 g] barrier." Even though the overfill on my bag lifted it just above this benchmark, my Ghost is less than half the weight of the next-lighter alternative in my gear closet. I set out in spring 2009 to see if I might reach lightweight status for my sleep system at least.
SLEEPING WITH A GHOST
The Texas Hill Country in spring proved to be a good choice for first use of the Ghost in the field. At low elevation (rarely above 1000 ft/280 m) and with relatively warm temperatures there was little chance of a meteorological surprise that might have serious consequences. On overnighters in March and April the nighttime temperature never got below 45 F (8 C). As pajamas I wore lightweight merino wool underwear. My bedtime base layer top has an attached balaclava-style hood, and with that I didn't need a hat. I used an Outdoor Research inflatable CustomFoam Mat, short, tucked under loose straps on the bag. (This is the bag shown in the top photo.)
The Ghost made it to the Rockies in early July, on a three-day, two-night backpack to Silver Lake, in the Absaroka Mountain Range in Montana. Temperatures at night were about 35 F (2 C). On this trip I used a Stephenson's Warmlite Down Air Mattress, half length, resting my feet on my pack. Again I wore merino underwear, this time under a lightweight down sweater and with a fleece cap atop the merino hoody.
My next trip with the Ghost was three nights in the Slough Creek Valley in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, in early August. Nighttime temperatures hovered around freezing, and we had a bit of snow one night – cold enough to add a merino sweater and hat to my merino underwear at bedtime. I used a three-quarter length non-insulated self-inflating pad.
After the surgery on the Ghost described below I used it on a three-day packrafting course on the Yellowstone River, Montana, and the following night camping in the Absarokas. During the course the temperature each night was about 50 F (10 C). I used the CustomFoam Mat and wore a merino hoody and shorts. A cold front blew through the last morning of the course, and my final night was at 30 F (-1 C), so I added a merino sweater and hat.
On all trips I slept in a walled and floored tent (a four-decade habit I have no desire to break).
Staying warm. At the temperatures at which I've used the Ghost the Arc Concept has worked well. My cold sleeping has meant packing a bag rated ten or fifteen F degrees (6-9 C degrees) below the anticipated low temperature to compensate. The Ghost, however, has kept me warm right down to the freezing point, its rated temperature. I attribute some of this to the fact that usually my torso temperature determines whether I'm hot or cold, and my torso has been protected at lower temperatures by a down or wool sweater in addition to the Ghost. I've been skiing in a blizzard at 0 F (-17 C) wearing only long johns and waterproof-breathable shell pants and kept the shivering at a manageable level with adequate insulation for my upper body and head. When sleeping in the Ghost I have awakened with a chill only twice, and I solved the problem by adding another upper body layer. Another reason is Nunatak's target market. I haven't inquired of Nunatak about this, but I strongly suspect that its ratings are based on tarp and bivy use, those favorites of the ultralight crowd, while I've been out of the wind and inside a shelter that has a floor and contiguous walls. I was similarly pleasantly surprised with my Back Country Blanket. Nunatak's comfort ratings aren't standardized or explained; maybe the company is simply being conservative.
Restless behavior. The underside straps do work to keep the pad with the bag, whether or not I'm interested in ventilation (loose straps) or warmth (tight straps). In either mode they have kept my pad underneath me without fail. I can say that about only one other bag I have ever used, and that one has a full sewn-in pad sleeve. The straps are easy to adjust with the pad inside them or not, and they have quick-release buckles so that they can be quickly uncoupled when I don't want to use them at all. Adjustable straps allow me to use any pad I own, even one slightly wider than the Ghost itself, as the straps can extend across the overlap and then underneath. I have found that the best configuration for me is to secure the head end of my pad under the straps but leave the foot underneath the bag rather than inside. The taper of the bag makes that difficult, and I usually pack a short or three-quarter length pad anyway.
The only real problem I've had with the Ghost has been caused by my tossing and turning at night. When I am sleeping on my side (normal for me) I open an area around my shoulders. The effect is something like a square peg in a round hole; when I'm on my side there's space between me and the edges of the bag in front of and behind me. I did contact Nunatak about this, and owner Tom Halpin suggested adding non-insulated draft flaps around the arc. Right after my Yellowstone trip I sent the bag to Nunatak for this work. The plaid fabric used for the flaps makes it easy to see this aftermarket work in the photo to the left. I had sent this fabric to Tom as a possible component of a custom sweater he is making for me. We chose another fabric for the sweater, so this was on hand to upgrade the Ghost. It's super-soft cashmere ordinarily used for a suit or scarf so it adds to the coziness factor as well as a draft protector. These flaps added four oz (113 g) to the Ghost's weight, probably wrecking any chance of my being accepted by the SUL crowd. That's OK though; this modification accomplished its task, as I didn't notice any drafts even on a wildly windy final night in Montana.
Customer Service. This post-purchase custom work is typical of every encounter I've had with Nunatak – work especially suited to my sleeping style that resulted in a truly custom product. I never consider any bag or sweater in Nunatak's catalog as anything more than a prototype waiting for whatever I especially want.
The Arc Concept. The Arc Concept has been a big hit. I really like how it keeps my sleeping pad under me. As I had hoped I like having my head outside the bag, and so far have kept warm right down to the Ghost's rated limit. I doubt I'll be sleeping in the Ghost when temperatures drop low enough to require additional head insulation (although Nunatak offers a down balaclava should I change my mind about that).
Durability. So far so good, though a feather escapes every now and then. Nunatak's superb workmanship shows on this bag – no loose stitching anywhere. The Ghost hasn't been the target of rain, snow, or a beverage spill, and I am always careful to pack any down bag in a waterproof stuff sack, so I can't comment on water resistance.
Cleaning. After my last trip I cleaned my bag following my standard practice for down clothing and gear. First a bath in cold water on the "gentle" cycle in my front-loading washer, using a non-detergent soap. Then gently wringing out excess water and kneading out any down that's clumped up, followed by air drying with the bag hanging over a shower curtain bar until dry enough to lay it flat on top of a blanket. The draft flaps haven't affected this process as they dry considerably more quickly than the down.
Summary. For three-season camping I am converted. Consider me an Arc sleeper from now on, with an occasional straying to true quilt use when it's really warm or when I'd like a wrap for camp or a blanket for two.
WHAT I LIKE
How the Arc Concept keeps my sleeping pad under me.
Accurate temperature rating.
WHAT I DON'T
Like my Back Country Blanket it's tight across the shoulders. If I had ordered this bag from Nunatak I'd have specified a few more inches/centimeters there.
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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Quilts and Blankets > Nunatak Arc Ghost sleeping quilt > Owner Review by Richard Lyon