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BIG AGNES BATTLE MOUNTAIN SLEEPING BAG
TEST SERIES BY ARNOLD PETERSON
LONG-TERM REPORT
April 25, 2008

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TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Arnold Peterson
EMAIL: alp4982(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
AGE: 69
LOCATION: Wilmington Massachusetts USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)
BOOT SIZE: 9
TORSO: 19 in (48 cm)

Backpacking Background: Presently almost all my experience has been hiking in New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado USA, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia Canada using an 11 lb (5 kg) day pack. I have backpacked on Mt. Washington and at the Imp shelter located between North Carter and Mount Moriah mountains in New Hampshire. The gear I will be writing about has been used a lot hiking mostly all year around in New Hampshire. I have completed the forty-eight 4000 footers (1219 m) of New Hampshire. My day hikes have been as long as 12 hours covering almost 20 miles (32 km).


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Big Agnes
Year of Manufacture: Fall 2006
Manufacturer's Website: www.bigagnes.com
MSRP: US$ 289
Listed Weight: 4 lb 15 oz (2.24 kg)
Measured Weight: 80 oz (2.27 kg)
Size: Regular Fits up to 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Zipper: Right (doubled ended full length)
Accommodate pad: 20 in x 72 in x 3.5 in (51 cm x 178 cm x 8.9 cm)
Rating: -15 F (-26.1 C)
Material: 75% goose down 34 oz (964 gm) 25% polyester 11 oz (312 gm)
Lining: 100% Nylon
Shell: 100% Nylon

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Items were packed in clear plastic. Items appeared new and in perfect condition. The Big Agnes sleeping bag is beautiful to look at. The top part of the Big Agnes sleeping bag looks like a typical mummy bag. The end is rectangular and looks like there is a lot of space for the legs. The zipper is a 2 way that allows one to open the bottom as well as the top. The operation of zipper was smooth and did not get tangled in itself. The top part of the zipper has a Velcro latch to keep the zipper in place in the closed position. There are even cozies to fit around the neck to keep that part warm. The sleeping bag has a pouch under the bag to accommodate a pad. I used the Big Agnes Deluxe pad with Hinman air pad.
The sleeping bag, foam pad and air pad can be integrated as a unit. This should eliminate the sliding pad problem.

IMAGE 1
Top of sleeping bag

IMAGE 2
Bottom of sleeping bag

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The instruction for installing the sleeping pad was clear and easy to follow. I used a Big Agnes Deluxe pad and Hinman air pad with the correct size for this sleeping bag. A picture shows a stick figure inserting the sleeping pad into the sleeping bag. After inflating the sleeping pad, kneel on the valve end of sleeping pad. Then I opened the Velcro latch located at the head of the sleeping bag and inserted the sleeping pad into the opening. I alternated applying pressure from right to left and with very little effort the pad slid almost completely into the sleeping bag. There was a smaller access hole at the foot of the sleeping bag which I used to pull the pad the remaining short distance. This pad fits in precisely, there is no extra space. There are a few notes on using the proper size pad for the sleeping bag. Big Agnes provides several choices that fit their sleeping bags.

CARE INSTRUCTIONS

The instructions say the bag should only be cleaned when absolutely necessary. Bag insulation is fragile and performance can be adversely affected if washed too often or incorrectly.
A front loading washer and dryer should be used, preferably the oversize commercial ones. Water temperature should be kept below 140 F (60 C). Detergents specially designed for sleeping bags should be used. Dry cleaning should not be used as it prevents the lofting of the insulation.

TRYING IT OUT

I will be testing the Battle Mountain sleeping with a Big Agnes Deluxe pad and Hinman air pad, which will be written up in a separate report. I tried out the sleeping pad and found it to be very comfortable. Now it was time to try the complete package. I placed the bag on the floor in a cool room 55 F (13.8 C). I un-zippered the bag and got in. The comfort was the best that I have ever experienced. Probably as good as or better than any regular beds I have slept in. Then there was this warm feeling that was not only on the top side of my body but on the bottom as well. There were no cold spots or hard places. The warmth I felt was like being at a distance from an outdoor fire where the temperature is the same all over. I found this feeling truly amazing. There was plenty of room to move my legs and draw one to my chest as I do often in a regular bed. I could do all the things I could not do in a typical mummy bag. The area around the upper part of the body was adequate but not as roomy as the leg area. This is indeed a well engineered product provides isolation from rough surfaces with the air pad and then the next layer with the foam providing comfort. The sleeping bag itself has down on the top part where there is very little compression and this keeps the down in a state to provide maximum warmth. The bottom had polyester and works better than down under compression. If there is perspiration it will most likely find itself at the bottom where the polyester is better able to handle moisture. This sleeping system could very well replace my bed.

IMAGE 3
zipper Velcro latch

IMAGE 4
opening for pad

IMAGE 5
end opening for pad

IMAGE 6
pillow in pouch

IMAGE 7
neck warmer

TESTING STRATEGY

The first tests will be at least 2 one night trips in a local forest. We have had nighttime lows of 0 F (-9.4 C). This will uncover possible problems. The next tests will be in a local forest East of Manchester New Hampshire. This is about 40 mi (64 km) North of my house and temperatures are typically about 10 degrees F (-18 C) colder. The tests will then move to the National Forest in New Hampshire. I have spoken with a Park ranger and have 4 possible places for testing depending on the predicted overnight temperatures. Some of these places have had temperatures as low as -20 F (-11 C). These places are located in Grafton and Lincoln New Hampshire. The places I have picked are 1-4 miles (1.6-6.4 km) from a parking spot. If problems occur the test plan will be modified for safety reasons.

IMAGE 8
packed to go

SUMMARY

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two
months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.

My thanks to Big Agnes and Backpackgeartesters for the opportunity to test the Big Agnes Battle Mountain sleeping bag.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

There is a forest in Auburn, New Hampshire where I like to backpack. It is relatively flat, with a lot of rocky hills and several ponds. The trees are a mixture of hardwoods and mostly pine. I also backpacked locally in Massachusetts when the temperatures were near or below 0 F (-17.8 C). My town has a lot of swamp land. There are small streams connecting many of these swamps. Most of this land is under conservation. I hiked and camped in three of these areas. One is flanked on the east side by the railroad. The west side is bordered by the Middlesex Canal (operational from 1793 to 1853). There is a small section of the canal that had been restored but now has gone back to nature. Beyond the canal is a cranberry bog that has not been harvested in over 45 years. Between this and the canal is a swamp once used as an aquifer for town water wells. The wells were closed due to contamination. The brush, thorny bushes and trees keep most people out of this area. Under certain conditions it is near ideal for radiational cooling, which means that the temperature drops lower just before dawn. On the south side of town there is a tract of land known as the town forest. It comprises a baseball field and hill high enough for sledding, skiing, etc. The Middlesex canal also passes through this area and there are some remnants that remain. There is a large swamp which is surrounded by an old pine forest stand. A third place is called Maple Meadows and is mostly owned by a club I belong to. This area has a lot of swamp and pine forest. Since I would be going to these places in the dark and most of this hiking would be without trail markings, I wanted places that I was familiar with. I picked evenings that had temperatures below 20 F (-6.7 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

A cold spell was predicted for the next few days and this was time to backpack at or below 0 F (-17.8 C) conditions. I was also fortunate to receive my Black Diamond headlamp, this meant I could leave after dark. I left after supper and was on the trail by about 8 pm. The ground was completely snow covered and the surface was fairly hard. I put on my Kahtoola traction devices since there were going to be a few icy areas. I took my time as this was a heavier load than I was accustomed to. The wind was blowing at about 9 mph (14.5 km/hr). I had a spot picked out where some evergreen trees provided some shelter from falling snow. I pitched the Tarptent Cloudburst II with 5 stakes. With my knees in the tent and my feet outside the tent I assembled the Big Agnes sleep system. I had very little trouble inserting the Sleeping Giant foam pad assembly into the sleeve of the Battle Mountain sleeping bag. I then found the valve which was easy with my headlamp. I gave the valve a few puffs of air, closed the valve, and placed the sleep system on one side of the tent. I did this to see if this 2 person tent could handle another sleeping bag. I was using almost half the floor area, which left ample room for another sleeping bag or in my case, my backpack and shoes.

I took my shoes off, placed them in the tent. I took off my coat and then slid into the sleeping bag. I pulled a digital thermometer from my pack and placed it so I could see it. It read 17 F (-8.3 C) and dropping. The bag was cold when I first entered, but warmed up quickly. I then found out I had enough room to take off my hiking pants, fleece top and socks while in the bag. I placed them along with my coat at the bottom of the bag where there was a lot of space. I looked at the thermometer and it was still dropping and then as it read 14.7 F (-9.6 C), the reading went to LLL. It turned out that when the temperature got above 14.7 F (-9.6 C), the device started working normally. I was glad I discovered this before taking it on a longer trip. A friend called me on my cell phone. He knew I was going out and wanted to know how I was doing. I was warm and almost toasty. I then realized that I had not closed the front tent flaps. I was too comfortable to get up and close them. I then found the book I had brought and read with the headlamp for awhile.

I sleep on my side, and most of the time it is on my left side. I had requested a left zipper but a right came. When I checked the web site, I noticed they were out of the bags with left zippers. I shift from side to side during the night but tend to spend more time on my left, as I had right shoulder problem at one time. I started on my right side facing the zipper and this worked well. At some point I shifted to my left side and when I woke the next time, I was a little cool on my back. I turned over and checked the zipper. It was cold below the zipper line. I figured that placing my back against the zipper caused the sealing flap to open enough to provide a leak. I then took the clothes I had at the foot of my bag and placed them along the zipper line. That was the end of the draft. The next time I checked the zipper area, it was cool but not as cold, as without the clothes. I found lying on my back was the warmest and most comfortable position, but not one I could fall asleep in.

The small down pillow I had inserted into the pillow sleeve worked extremely well. I prefer to have cotton to put my face on, so I had a small cotton cloth to place over the synthetic covering. I woke up early and checked the ceiling on the tent and found it was free of frozen moisture. I have seen moisture collect on previous occasions. I packed up and went home. It was about 0 F (-17.8 C) when I got home and was probably close to that where I was sleeping out. These temperatures correlated well with those of Hanscom Air Force Base located about 10 mi (16.1 km) west of my location. Temperatures did not rise much during that day and it was predicted they would go even lower during the next night. I decided it would be a good chance to try sleeping out again at a lower temperature. I did things pretty much the same except for 3 things. I started the night with the clothes I had taken off along the inside of the zipper. Also I decided to close the front flaps. Even closed there is still about 18 in (46 cm) of open space at ground level. There was no wind. As the night progressed, I began to feel a cool spot where my hip rested against the sleeping bag. All other parts of the sleeping bag were toasty warm. When I did my temperature correlation it was about -5 degrees F (-20.6 C) colder. The air pad is rated at -5 F (-20.6 C), so the air pad was at the design level. The pad on this system being a part of the sleeping bag makes it an extremely stable system. There is plenty of space for me to move around. The other thing I noticed is that there were large ice scales on the ceiling of the tent. This was a formation I had not seen before. This was at least 27 F (15 C) degrees colder than the weather when I had used this tent previously.

The snow and ice had prevented me from backpacking in a forest in Auburn, New Hampshire, as I could not park within a reasonable distance from the trail. When conditions improved, I did a one-night backpack. I arrived just after dusk and due to cloudy conditions, it was quite dark. It had been warm, so there was some melting, but now it was cold and very icy. I put on my traction devices and headed for the spot I had planned to stay. I needed my headlamp, and had to use the brightest setting. I found the pond which was completely snow covered and locating the edge of the pond, I setup the tent about 12 ft (3.7 m) away. I brought the Battle Mountain, Sleeping Giant upgrade kit and air pad into the tent. Inserted the air pad into the upgrade kit and then gave the air pad a few puffs and inserted the pad assembly into the sleeve in the sleeping bag. In about 15 minutes I was in my bag, comfortable, and ready for some reading. The temperature was about 20 F (-6.7 C), but felt colder due to high humidity. I left the front flap of the tent open to minimize humidity in the tent. I slept very well until 5 am when I awoke, finding myself cold. I put on my second layer of clothes and found that the inside of the sleeping bag had cooled since the time I had gone to sleep. The clouds had cleared during the night and the temperature must have dropped considerably. I was not cold enough to be concerned, but cold enough to want to get up and head out. With the clouds cleared it was a lot brighter in the predawn than the previous night. In the morning I was able to see that the Sleeping Giant pad had protected me from the rough surface of the ground.
IMAGE 1
in local forest

SUMMARY

The Battle Mountain has surpassed my expectations. It has more space and is a lot warmer than I was expecting. The stabilizing effect of the sleeping pad sleeve is great. This comfort means I need to carry more weight in my backpack.

TESTING STRATEGY

I will be doing more backpacks with temperatures hopefully not much colder than -5F (-20.6 C) I will be doing more hikes at night. I will be backpacking with someone in the Mt Monadnock area of New Hampshire. I will also be going to places originally planned, now that the weather is not too severe, as in temperatures below -15 F (-26 C). I am hoping to be using a Big Agnes 3 wire Bivy for the remaining backpacks during the testing period.

This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information. I wish to thank Backpackgeartesters.org and Big Agnes for the opportunity to test this fine product.

Arnold Peterson


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Originally I had planned 3 one night overnight backpacks in the Lincoln New Hampshire area. The good news this year was that New Hampshire set records for snowfall. The bad news was that on 3 weekends when I traveled to prospective trailheads, I was unable to negotiate the ice and snow in the parking lots with my Scion XA. I was able to do some hiking in areas where camping is not allowed. I then made phone calls about the trailhead in southern New Hampshire and found that there was ice where I would be parking. I have recently returned from a one night backpack in a forest east of Manchester New Hampshire.

I spent 3 one night backpacks in a local forest which is flanked on the east side by the railroad. The west side is bordered by the Middlesex Canal (operational from 1793 to 1853). There is a small section of the canal that had been restored but now has gone back to nature. Beyond the canal is a cranberry bog that has not been harvested in over 45 years. Between this and the canal there is a swamp once used as an aquifer for the town water wells. The wells were closed due to contamination. The brush, thorny bushes and trees keep most people out of this area. Under certain conditions it is near ideal for radiational cooling, which means that the temperature drops lower just before dawn. The temperatures for these backpacks ranged from just above freezing to a low of 13 F (-10.6 C). There was little or no wind on these backpacks. The ground was covered with snow or ice on the first two backpacks with the exception of small areas under the evergreen trees and a few bare spots where it was rocky. On the third backpack most of the snow was gone but the ground was frozen and icy in places. The ground under the shelter was frozen and ice glazed. The forest east of Manchester is fairly flat with some rocky outcrops, several small ponds and a mostly hardwood forest. At the time I backpacked there this time all the snow and ice had gone.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The first backpack was started knowing that a rain storm was coming and could last all night and for most of the next day. It was after sunset when I started and the temperature was just above freezing and the humidity was high. There was little or no wind. Due to the rain arriving, I decided to pick a closer location to camp. I set up where evergreens gave some protection. I got into the sleeping bag slowly and with some difficulty. Once inside, I left the sleeping bag unzipped and only zipped the sack to about eye level. This way I could see out and have as much ventilation as I could without expecting rain to enter. This also made it easier to remove my outer clothing layer. I read for a short period and found this was not a problem. I slept comfortably for about 6 hours. When I woke up, I was warm and it was raining moderately. I started to feel around and found that almost everything I touched was wet. I turned on my headlamp and inspected my surroundings. There were big water droplets all over the ceiling and the pole. Also the visor was really wet underneath. I had to use my fingers to check other areas and found that there was a lot of water on the outside of the sack, but only a small amount of dampness between the sack and sleeping bag. The part of the sleeping bag behind my head was wet. There were large drops of water falling from the trees. When these drops hit the visor, sometimes it was as though I was hit by a small mist. Even though there was dampness on the exposed surface of the sleeping bag, I went to sleep again quickly. When I woke the next time, the rain had reduced to a drizzle. I decided to pack and leave before it really started to rain. When I got home I found the sleeping bag was only damp to the touch. I spread it out along with the other items that had gotten damp or wet. Everything was dry within 4 hours.

It was almost 2 hours after sunset when I started the second backpack with a temperature of 15 F (-9.4 C) and a slight wind coming from the north. The Battle Mountain sleeping bag does fill most of the space in the Bivy and there is little room for shifting. To get in this time, I knelt on the Bivy, took my boots off put them in a plastic bag and put them inside the head end of the Bivy. I took off my hiking jacket and put it inside the Bivy head also. I then crawled into the front end of the Bivy and inserted my feet into the sleeping bag and slid backwards facing down to get in. It is still not a quick operation. Once inside the sleeping bag I took off my outer layer and realized that I had left the zipper on the sleeping bag open. I found I had to get out and crawl down head first to get the zipper attached. It seemed easier than removing the sleeping bag. It was accomplished with the aid of my headlamp. I found with the aid of the outer zipper in the Bivy sack I had full control of the air flow into the canopy area. I soon became warm and toasty. I did a little reading and soon I was asleep. When I woke several hours later, I checked for condensation and found none. I checked everywhere I could reach and did not find any moisture. I was also comfortably warm. Soon I was back to sleep and when I awoke again, I was still very comfortable and I could not find any condensation anywhere. I was time to pack and return. The temp had dropped to 13 F (-10.6 C) during the night. This was a really good experience.

The third backpack was started about 2 hours after sunset with a temperature of 20 F (-6.6 C) and there was a light breeze all through the night. The frozen surface was quite rough and quite slippery in places so I made full use of my Kahtoola traction devices. This being the third time setting up using the 3 Wire Bivy and Battle Mountain Sleep System, I was setup and ready for some reading in a very short time. With little chance of rain, I stopped zipping the Bivy where the zipper makes a turn upward. This allowed a little more area for ventilation. I also had the Battle Mountain sleeping bag zipped half way. I kept the foot of the sleeping bag open a small amount to allow for ventilation. I woke up only once during the night and in the morning I found all surfaces were dry. I had spent a very comfortable night. The temperature had dropped to 16 F (-8.9 C) by morning. I was packed and heading out before dawn and was able to see the sun rise before arriving home. I checked all the gear for dampness and found everything dry. I still spread the gear around for a few hours before storing to make sure things were are dry.

For my fourth backpack, east of Manchester, New Hampshire, I arrived at the place I was going to camp at about 5:30 pm. It was warm, so I put my temperature/humidity meter out and recorded 82 F (27.8 C) and 56% humidity. While I was setting up, a pair of wild ducks flew in and settled on the pond. I could also see tracks of wild turkey near the shore. After setting up, I became aware of the No-See-Ums and I was ready to do some hiking. I hiked for over 3 hours and when I returned it was 49 F (9.4 C) and 76% humidity. The frogs in the pond were also quite noisy. I read for only a short time before going to sleep. At midnight I woke and found my legs were sweaty, so I opened the Bivy and sleeping bag as much as I could. I lifted the sleeping several times with my legs to ventilate the bags and then went quickly back to sleep. When I woke at 3 AM on my back, my right side (the open side of the bag) was cold and my left side was warm. The temperature had dropped to 38 F (3.3 C) and 86% humidity. I was cold but not uncomfortable. I closed up the sleeping bag and quickly went back to sleep. It was almost 6 am when I awoke, the temperature had dropped again to 32 F (0 C) and humidity was 86%. There was some condensation on the unexposed surface of the sleeping bag. I packed and headed for the trailhead. When I got home, even though the gear felt dry, I spread it out in the sun.
IMAGE 1
east of Manchester New Hampshire

SUMMARY

Over the test period I have gone on 8 one night backpacks and was comfortable and warm except for the one time I woke up and was cool, as described in the fourth night of the field report. The temperature ranged from a low of -5 F (-20.6 C) to a high of about 49 F (9.4 C). The Big Agnes Sleep System provides for me a level of comfort equal to my bed at home. I like the comfort, warmth and knowing that the foam and air pad will always be in its place under me. In order to get this level of comfort I had to carry more weight and use more space in my backpack than I would prefer. My experience with the zippers was excellent. I was able to adjust to a wide range of temperatures and humidity by opening and closing the sleeping bag zipper from both the head and foot ends. A few feathers did appear to come from the bag, but no more than I have experienced with other down products. The overall condition of the Battle Mountain sleeping bag is in the same condition as I received it.

CONTINUED USE

I am very pleased with this product. This product has worked well over a temperature range of 33 F (0.6 C) to -5 F (-20.6 C). I will continue to use the Battle Mountain in this temperature range and possibly slightly colder or warmer weather. This has opened a new venue of backpacking possibilities and extended the number of days I can camp out.

I would like to thank BackpackGearTesters.org and Big Agnes for the opportunity to test the Big Agnes Battle Mountain Sleep System.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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