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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > Big Agnes Battle Mountain Bag > Test Report by Michael Wheiler
BIG AGNES BATTLE MOUNTAIN
Test Series Report
By Michael Wheiler
Click Here To Go To The Initial Report: December 11, 2007
Click Here To Go To The Field Report: March 11, 2008
Click Here To Go To The Long Term Report: May 4, 2008
December 11, 2007
Big Agnes: "The Mother of Comfort"
Product Specifications For Sleeping Bag Per Big Agnes Unless Otherwise Noted:
Product Features of Battle Mountain Per Manufacturer:
Manufacturer's Warranty: "Our #1 priority is to make dependable outdoor products. If you are not satisfied with any Big Agnes product, return it to Big Agnes for a repair, replacement or refund. Damage due to misuse will be repaired at a reasonable charge."
TESTER'S INITIAL OBSERVATIONS:
The Battle Mountain arrived late in the afternoon on December 6, 2007 carefully packaged and in excellent shape. The Battle Mountain looked like what I expected after viewing the manufacturer's website only shorter in length than I had expected. After a quick examination to make sure the sleeping bag was undamaged, I read the information contained on the hang-tag which provided instructions for pad installation, care instructions, specifications, and warranty noted above.
I then began my examination of the bag beginning with the hood. At the bottom of the hood on the right hand side is a hook and loop closure near the top of the zipper which, when closed covers the top of the zipper and the gap between the hood and the bag where the zipper ends. There is also an elastic draw cord and plastic cord lock on the left hand side of the hood which can be used to reduce the size of the opening between the hood and the bag. The zipper pull has a cloth extension with the Big Agnes logo and name printed on it. This extension makes it easier to find and pull the zipper while inside the bag.
When I crawled into the bag, I found that the bag barely fit my 5'10"/178 cm frame. Unless I pushed my head completely into the hood my feet were right against the end of the bag. While laying in the bag and contemplating its short size, I decided that for me, the short size would be better in an extreme cold weather bag as there would be less dead air space I would need to heat. I was able to roll to both my left and right side without feeling that the bag was binding or restricting my movement. The hood fit snuggly but comfortably around my head. I was able to adjust the opening by pulling on the elastic draw cord and moving the plastic cord lock but it required the use of both hands. The hook and loop closure was easy to use even with just one hand.
Hood with pillow pocket, hook and loop closure and elastic draw cord.
I inspected the attached pillow pocket which is located just below where the hood. My small camp pillow fit easily into the pocket which kept the pillow in place. I am constantly losing my pillow during the night and from what I can tell by the initial inspection, it appears that Big Agnes has solved that problem for me with the pillow pocket.
I also took a close look at the "no draft yoke" which consists of a "c" shaped tube of gray nylon material filled with down. The yoke fit around my neck while laying face up in the bag essentially filling the gap between the top and bottom of the bag created by my neck and shoulders. The yoke fit comfortably around my neck but did not fasten to any part of the bag to keep in in place. As such, when I rolled to one side the yoke had to be adjusted. Pillow Pocket at top of photo and "no draft yoke" on right.
The Battle Mountain also came with a hang tag describing the bamboo charcoal technology which is used as the insulation in the bottom of the bag. According to the tag, the bamboo charcoal fiber releases infrared rays which "improve blood circulation, while keeping the body warm and maintaining body temperature." The tag also states that the structure of "Taiwan bamboo charcoal provides natural minerals which absorb moisture, prevent bacteria growth and reduce odor." Finally, bamboo charcoal yarn "will not be affected by repeated washings."
In addition to the features listed above, I found two loops on the end of the bag for hanging it up to air-out and/or dry. I also located the two interior fabric loops for a sleeping bag liner located on each side of the base of the hood. I then turned the bag over and examined the integrated sleeping pad sleeve. The sleeve consists of black nylon material sewn to the bottom of the bag. There is a full width opening at the top with a hook and loop closure. There is a smaller opening (approximately 7 1/2"/19 cm in length) in the bottom through which I was able to put my hand to assist in inserting and removing the sleeping pad.
Although I thought the process was obvious, according to the instructions on the hang tag, the steps for sleeping pad installation are as follows:
Pad sleeve with Sleeping Giant pad installed
Instructions for cleaning the Battle Mountain were also provided by way of a hang tag. According to the instructions, the bag should only be washed "when absolutely necessary." Big Agnes warns that sleeping bag insulations are fragile and can be "adversely affected if washed too often or incorrectly." According to Big Agnes, all bags should be washed in a front loading, tumble washer not a top loading washer. Oversized, commercial washers and driers are ideal. Water temperatures should be cold or warm. Detergents specifically designed for sleeping bags are recommended. The bag should not be dry cleaned. Down bags should be dried thoroughly at a medium heat setting. Pull the bag out during the drying process and "break up" the wet clumps of down being careful not to damage the down. Big Agnes also recommends throwing a couple of tennis balls in the dryer with the bag to help separate the down. Finally, the company recommends that the bag be allowed to completely dry so as to avoid mildew--this "could take 2-3 hours." The company suggests storing the bag loosely in a storage sack or hanging in a cool, dry place.
I was impressed by my initial inspection of the Battle Mountain sleeping bag. The shell material feels soft but I could not find a single loose thread or feather. The lining of the bag is soft to the touch and felt good next to my skin. Right now the bag appears to be well constructed.
After having been in possession of the Battle Mountain for only four days, we received a winter storm leaving some snow on the ground. During the10:00 p.m. news, the weatherman promised at least -2º F/-19º C temperatures overnight. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. After setting up my tent in the back yard, putting the Big Agnes system together and hauling it out to my tent, I stopped for a cup of hot chocolate. While contemplating my adventure between sips of the creamy hot drink, my wife exclaimed, "There must be something wrong with our marriage." Shaken, momentarily, from my daydream, I asked what was wrong. My wife responded, "If you are excited about sleeping outside in a tent during sub-zero temperatures rather than snuggling with me in a warm bed, there has got to be something drastically wrong with our marriage!" "Hmm," I responded, "I'll ponder that and let you know in the morning." As it turned out, the weatherman was wrong. According to the thermometer hanging near my head inside the tent (and the local news the next morning), the temperature dipped to a chilly -7º F/-22º C.
I'll let you know how the Battle Mountain fared when I post my Field Report which will be appended to this report in approximately two months. Now all I have to do is hope for some more really nasty weather and a good marriage counselor.
FIELD REPORTMy thanks to Big Agnes and BackpackGearTest for giving me the opportunity to test the Battle Mountain.
For those of you who were concerned about my marriage, thankfully, I haven't yet had to retain a marriage counselor and the Battle Mountain was a terrific companion during the early morning hours of December 11, 2007 with -7 F/-22 C temperatures. Much to my wife's chagrin, I slept comfortably warm all night. I was so comfortable, in fact, that I really didn't want to get out of the bag the next morning. I used the Big Agnes Hinman pad with the Sleeping Giant memory foam pad. The total thickness of the two pads combined was approximately 2 1/2 in/6 cm. I found it to be a bit of a task to slide the combined pads into the pad sleeve and I struggled a little to get the pad in place. My only hope, at that time, was that the fabric would eventually stretch so as to make it a bit easier to insert the combined pads. I inserted a small camp pillow in the pillow sleeve located inside the hood. The pillow fit well and gave my head a little added cushion. I slept in cotton briefs and a cotton t-shirt. I did not notice any moisture on or inside the bag the next morning except where my nose and mouth came into contact with the interior of the bag. I did notice that it was a bit damp from the moisture I exhaled during the night.
I next used the Battle Mountain during two over-night cross-country skiing trips in Harriman State Park (elevation 6,270 ft/1,911 m) on January 11-12, and 18-19. Temperatures during both outings ranged between 13 and 19 F/-10.5 and -7 C. There was 5 ft/152 cm or more of snow on the ground but during the second trip we received approximately 8 in/20 cm of new snow overnight. While we were skiing during the first trip, the wind was blowing up to 6 mph/10 km/h. There was little to no wind during the second trip. On both trips, I stuffed the Battle Mountain into a compression sack and reduced its size to approximately 9 x 17 in (23 x 43 cm). I then placed it in the bottom of my pack and stored my other gear on top of it. We then cross-country skied into our destination wearing full backpacks.
During the first of these outings, I slept in a Yurt (a heavy canvass shelter with a wooden floor). I slept on a futon style bunk bed with the Battle Mountain laid on top. There was a wood burning stove available for our use, but after we stoked it up for the night and set the damper so that the temperature was just enough to keep the room temperature from dropping below freezing. I could still see my breath in the morning. I ate a good meal of sweet and sour pork and was well hydrated. I again used the small camp pillow inside the pillow sleeve. I wore light cotton underwear to bed and slept very comfortably all night. I did sleep with the bag partially unzipped due to the temperature inside the Yurt. Again, I used the combined Hinman/Sleeping Giant pads and found it difficult to insert the pads into the sleeve but once in place, the pads did not move. I was able to roll from side to back to side without feeling restricted. Though I am not a stomach sleeper, I even tried sleeping on my stomach for a few minutes and found that I was able to comfortably do so.
During the second outing, I slept in a tent outside a friend's cabin not far from the Park. I used snowshoes to pack a platform in the snow, then I placed two closed cell foam pads on the platform and a footprint ground cloth over the pads. I then pitched my tent over the pads. Kneeling inside the tent, I put the Hinman pad inside the Sleeping Giant and then inflated the Hinman. Once the pads were ready, I attempted to insert the pads in the sleeve of the Battle Mountain. Again, I met with stiff resistance but ultimately got the pads inserted into the sleeve. I had previously eaten a wonderful meal of beef stew and rolls. I was well hydrated with water and added a hot cup of hot chocolate just before bed. I slept in light long underwear. It snowed most of the night and it was nearly impossible to see my tent in the morning. The newly fallen snow dampened any sound and I slept very soundly. I felt no cold spots. I was able to roll over as desired without feeling too restricted or confined.
After coming home from work on January 21, I learned that we were expecting overnight temperatures down to at least -12 F/-24 C. I decided to set-up my tent in the back yard and give the Battle Mountain a real test. I ate a hearty meal of pork chops, apple sauce, and potato pancakes. I drank lots of water as well. At about 10:00 p.m., when I finally ventured outside, the thermometer read 12 F/-11 C with a stiff wind out of the north. I pitched my tent over two closed cell foam pads and a footprint ground cloth. The pads were placed over a small amount of snow that had built up on my patio (at that time, the lawn was covered by about three feet (91 cm) of snow). I then set-up and placed the Battle Mountain inside. I found that it was still difficult to insert the combined Hinman and Sleeping Giant pads. I wore light long underwear and a wool stocking cap to bed. I slept soundly until about 6:00 a.m. When I awoke, I found that my feet were feeling a little cold but the rest of my body was warm. I looked at the thermometer and it read -16 F/-27 C. I had officially slept at a temperature below the rated temperature for the Battle Mountain and with the exception of my feet being a bit chilled, I was still comfortable. I did notice some ice crystals building-up on the bag where I had been breathing onto the material. The draft tube across my shoulders functioned very well by preventing my body heat from escaping through the top of the bag.
In summary, I LOVE THIS SLEEPING BAG. The Battle Mountain is very well constructed. I have not noticed any loose feathers or threads. Nor have I found any signs of wear or tear. The design of this bag is well suited for my winter expeditions. It has provided me with at least the promised temperature rating of -15 F/-26 C. I ordered the regular size and it fits snuggly from head to toe. I almost wish I had ordered a large so as to have a little more room in the foot box for storing clothes. However, on the other hand, the current size has less interior space that I have to heat so it is a bit more efficient and there is sufficient room to store some clothing inside the bag near my chest and legs. The lining material is soft, smooth and comfortable on my skin. To me, the colors of the shell material are pleasing to look at and help to brighten the interior of my shelter.
The zipper pulls easily and while I can't say it never snags, it hasn't been difficult to undo the snag and finish zipping the bag. My camp pillow fits the pillow sleeve well and the sleeve keeps my pillow from wandering. The pad sleeve is still difficult to use with the combined pads but it works well once the pads are inserted. I recognize that the comfort of the Battle Mountain is due, in part, to the combined air-core and memory foam pads. I was a bit skeptical when the factory rep told me that with the Battle Mountain/Sleeping Giant pad combination, I wouldn't even miss my bed. I am now a believer! Keeping in mind that this is a cold weather bag and is therefore larger in dimension and weight than a summer weight bag, it still compresses to a very manageable size for placing into a backpack.
LONG TERM REPORT
(May 4, 2008)
Field Locations And Conditions:
I used the Battle Mountain on February 22-23, 2008, during an overnight snowshoe hike near Kelley Canyon (elevation 6,177 ft/1,883 m). I had planned to leave work early but, as usual, I was delayed so I ate a hamburger and French fries while driving. By the time I reached the trail head, it was completely dark and I had to hike in by the light of my headlamp. The temperature was 26 F/-3 C. It was overcast and threatening to snow but there was no wind. The snow pack, typical for late February, was hard and icy. The trail I chose was fairly flat at first but then climbed steeply to the spot where I intended to camp for the night. I was carrying a fully-loaded backpack (48.5 lbs/22 kg). After about a 3/4 mile (1.2 km) hike, I reached my destination for the evening. I pitched my tent and set-up camp. I used the Hinman pad with the Sleeping Giant Pad Upgrade Kit. After setting up my camp, I went for a night snowshoe hike. The temperature remained pretty constant at 26 F/-3 C throughout the night even though it snowed approximately 1/2 in/1.3 cm. I slept in just light cotton underwear. I was warm and comfortable throughout the night.
On March 21-22, I snowshoed into Lower Palisades Lake (6,131 ft/1,869 m elevation). The round trip for this hike is 8 miles/13 km. Typical spring snow conditions existed--icy hard pack which, during the heat of the day, turned soft and grainy. However, with cold overnight temperatures, the snow froze hard and turned icy again. I was carrying a pack weighing 48 lbs/22 kg and I used snowshoes for the entire trek. While I was packing into my camp site, the temperature was warm enough that I only had to use a light jacket but it was overcast. I was sleeping in a single wall tent with a closed cell foam pad between the floor of the tent and the snow. I used the Sleeping Giant Pad Upgrade Kit with a Therm-a-Rest ProLite 4 pad. This pad is tapered from the head to the foot but it fit well in the Sleeping Giant. When I settled into my tent for the evening, the temperature was 34 F/1 C. That evening, I ate a bagel and spaghetti with meat sauce. I drank nearly a liter of water mixed with Crystal Lite and a cup of hot chocolate. I slept in polypro long underwear.
Due to the warm temperatures, I placed my water inside my insulated boots thinking that would be ample insulation to keep my water from freezing. Sometime during the night the weather cleared and the temperature plummeted. By 6:00 a.m., my thermometer outside the tent read 0 F/-18 C. Both water bottles were frozen solid as were my eggs which were in a plastic container wrapped in my extra clothes inside my pack. I had a second thermometer inside the Battle Mountain and it read 72 F/22 C. I slept well on the Sleeping Giant with the ProLite 4 pad. This combination provided great insulation and a comfortable bed. I was warm all evening. Given the fact that all my food was frozen and it was fairly cold outside, I cinched the hood on the Battle Mountain up around my face, and promptly went back to sleep for another hour. When I got up, I noticed only a small amount of moisture on the Battle Mountain around the hood where I had been breathing and on the end of the foot box where it came in contact with the tent wall.
I next used the Battle Mountain on April 11-12, 2008 in Island Park near Henry's Lake (6,470 ft/1,972 m elevation). After eating lasagna, French bread, and brownies which were washed down with Crystal Lite punch, I set-up my single wall tent with a closed cell foam pad between the snow and the tent floor. While kneeing inside the tent, I unpacked the Battle Mountain, put the Hinman Pad inside the Sleeping Giant and inserted the pad into the sleeve of the Battle Mountain. This task was a bit awkward and difficult given the tight quarters in which I was working. Previously, I had performed the same task while kneeling outside the tent with the Battle Mountain and pad inside the tent. When I retired for the evening the temperature was 24 F/-4 C. Again, given the temperature, I slept in only light cotton underwear. By 7:00 a.m., the thermometer inside my tent read 6 F/-14 C. I was so comfortable and warm inside the Battle Mountain that I really did not want to get up.
During the week of April 14-18, 2008, I used the Battle Mountain while camping along the Clearwater River near Kooskie, Idaho (1,293 ft/394 m elevation). Temperatures during this four-day outing ranged from below freezing to a high of 60 F/16 C. We saw everything from snow storms and freezing winds to warm sunny days with light breezes. We were sleeping in a canvas wall tent with lots of room so I used the Battle Mountain with the Hinman Pad/Sleeping Giant Pad Upgrade Kit and a cot. The temperatures during this trip never really challenged the Battle Mountain. While I have found the Hinman Pad/Sleeping Giant combination to provide ample insulation and padding, the cot increased the comfort of this sleep system and I slept soundly each night. Toward the end of the trip when the temperatures began to climb, I slept with the Battle Mountain partially unzipped. Even so, because the morning temperatures were generally crisp, I found myself zipping up the Battle Mountain before morning.
Of note is the fact that the Battle Mountain was in a compression bag for the better part of 8 hours while traveling to our campsite. We arrived in a cold rain storm, set-up the tent and cot. I removed the Battle Mountain from the compression bag, placed it on the cot, assembled the Hinman Pad/Sleeping Giant combination and placed the pad into the sleeve. We then prepared our meal and visited for while we ate. The Battle Mountain had been out of the compression sack for about one hour and, so far as I could tell, it had regained its full loft. I also tried placing the pad inside the sleeve without the upgrade kit and found that inserting the pad alone was much easier. However, I have become accustomed to the additional form fitting padding provided by the Sleeping Giant and decided it is worth the extra effort to use both.
Clearly, the temperature rating for the Battle Mountain was accurate for me. I slept warmly even though the temperature one night dipped below the rating. Although the temperatures never really went low enough to challenge the Battle Mountain during the Long Term test period, the bag continued to provide excellent insulation throughout the test period. I never experienced any cold spots. The draft yoke fits over my chest comfortably and helps retain heat inside the bag well. The Battle Mountain compresses easily and continues to regain its loft within a short time period. The pillow pocket accommodated my Sierra Design's camp pillow easily and worked well. I also used a jacket inside the pocket with similar results, though I definitely like the real pillow better.
While I have found a few loose feathers inside the tent or on the bag itself after a night's use, feather loss has not been significant. I found no shifting of the insulation in the Battle Mountain. There are no signs of wear or tear on the bag. The zipper worked smoothly with very little snagging. The Battle Mountain was roomy enough to allow me to flop around, switching from side to back to side to front, etc. The pad sleeve kept the pad in place and I didn't have any difficulty with the pad locked into place under the bag. This is a very nice design feature. In the past, with other sleeping bag/pad combinations, I have frequently awakened to find my bag and pad had separated.
Inserting the pad/pad upgrade kit combination was always difficult. The combination makes for a tight fit in the sleeve. However, the memory foam in the Sleeping Giant is definitely worth the extra work. The Big Agnes representative that I spoke with was nearly correct when he said that this sleep system was so comfortable that I wouldn't even miss my bed. While I won't go so far as to say I would rather sleep in this system than in my bed, if I'm going to be in a tent in cold weather, this sleep system is the next best thing to my bed at home!
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