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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > Big Agnes Elbert > Test Report by Mike Wilkie

BIG AGNES ELBERT 35 SLEEPING BAG
TEST SERIES BY MIKE WILKIE
LONG-TERM REPORT
November 10, 2008

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mike Wilkie
EMAIL: foreverwild1885 at yahoo dot com
AGE: 32
LOCATION: Davenport, New York (USA)
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 148 lb (67.10 kg)

Hiking for me started at an early age, as I was always an avid camper and as a young Scout my backpacking obsession began. Living in the Catskill Region backpacking has become serious for me over the years. I hike, snowshoe, canoe, snowboard or multi-day backpack through the Catskills or Adirondacks almost every weekend. I am learning and practicing safe lightweight techniques and greatly reduced my pack weight adding more comfort and mileage to my adventures. Being an aspirant of the Catskill-3500 Club and Adirondack-46ers, peak-bagging is my main outdoor activity. My long-term goals are to complete long distance thru-hikes.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Big Agnes
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.bigagnes.com
MSRP: US$179.95 for regular size

Manufacturer Details - Regular Size Bag
Fill Weight: 18 oz (.51 kg)
Bag Weight: 2 lbs 8 oz (1.13 kg)
Shoulder Girth: 27 in (67.5 cm)
Hip Girth: 26 in (64 cm)
Foot Box Girth: 17.5 in (44 cm)
Stuff Sack Size: 7.5 x 15 in (19.05 x 38.10 cm)
Compressed Bag Size: 7 x 9 in (17.78 x 22.86 cm)

Other Manufacturer Details
Shell Material: WRM
Lining Material: WRM
Pad Sleeve Material (bottom): WRM

*Manufacturer details taken from bigagnes.com

Tester Details
Sleeping Bag Weight: 2 lbs 9 oz (1.16 kg)
Stuff Sack Weight: no weight registered on scale
Stuffed Sleeping Bag Weight in Stuff Sack: 2 lbs 10 oz (1.19 kg)
Mesh Storage Bag Weight: 3.2 oz (91 g)
Shoulder Girth: 30 in (76 cm)
Hip Girth: 27 in (69 cm)
Foot Box Girth: 17 in (43.18 cm)
Stuff Sack Size: 7.5 x 15 in (17.78 x 22.86 cm)
Stuffed Sleeping Bag Size in Stuff Sack: 7 x 15 in (17.78 cm x 22.86 cm)

IMAGE 1
Image courtesy of bigagnes.com


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Elbert 35 SL Sleeping bag arrived in excellent condition and was well packaged. I was first impressed with the light weight of the package upon arrival. Included in the box was the sleeping bag, stuff sack, mesh storage bag and the compatible Clearview Sleeping Pad. Reviews for the sleeping pad can be found on http://www.backpackgeartest.org as well.

BGT Sleeping Pad Reveiws

The Elbert 35 is one of the sleeping bags included in Big Agnes' Divide SL Series. The Big Agnes Divide SL Series is made up of three different temperature rated bags with the Elbert having a comfort rating of 35 F (2 C). The Divide Series Sleeping Bags are superlight and technical synthetic and down mummy style bags.

The Elbert bag has an integrated pad sleeve for what Big Agnes claims "never roll off your pad again".

The shell, lining and bottom pad sleeve is constructed of Big Agnes WRM. WRM is 30D micro-fiber ripstop nylon material that is tightly woven. The design is water resistant and has a durable water repellent coating. This fabric can shed light amounts of water and helps prevent saturation from condensation. The WRM material is super lightweight, windproof and breathable. The surface is WR treated to repel water.

The synthetic insulation that fills the Elbert bag is PrimaLoft SB. PrimaLoft SB is high loft insulation with a down-like feel made specifically for sleeping bags. The ultra-fine polyester has a fiber structure that creates millions of tiny air pockets that retain warmth. . This insulation provides the warmth needed without bulkiness. The silicone coated fibers are water repellent and extremely soft and comfortable. Combined with the lightweight shell, lining and pad sleeve bottom this synthetic fill makes for a super compressible bag affording minimal pack space and weight. Big Agnes states the bag offer superior drape and compresses as well as premium goose down. Thus far I would have to agree.

When I first saw the size of the stuff sack I didn't believe the bag would fit. Sure enough it fit like a glove. The nylon stuff sack filled to a size slightly larger than a professional football.

The mesh storage sack is a much larger sack that the sleeping bag will wear loosely to preserve the high loft of the insulation. The mesh storage sack is made up of recycled materials.

Not only does the Elbert 35 Sleeping Bag have weight savings from its lightweight materials, Big Agnes has also eliminated the bottom insulation which also reduces much of its weight. Instead of insulation they incorporated the bottom pad sleeve to accommodate any mummy shaped sleeping pad. Big Agnes believes that the pad will provide the insulation needed. The Elbert 35 bag has increased girth that allows me to toss and turn freely inside the bag while remaining on the sleeping pad and never rolling off.

Big Agnes has also included a pillow pocket that will accommodate the Clearview Air Pillow. I found my standard sized travel pillow to be a perfect fit. However any pullover or fleece will work just as well when stuffed inside the pillow pocket.

Three other excellent features Big Agnes included in the design of the Elbert bag are the no-draft collar, no-draft wedge and the no-draft zipper tube. The no-draft collar keeps cold air from entering the bag by sealing around the neck, the no-draft wedge insulates between the bag and pad connection and the no-draft zipper tube is an insulated flap that runs along the length of the zipper.

In the 2008 catalog Big Agnes states that the no-draft features are not included on the Elbert bag. Nor are the features included in the bags description on bigagnes.com. However the features are definitely included in my Elbert bag.

The last feature I feel is worth mentioning is the 60 in (152 cm) YKK #5 zipper. This zipper will allow for a second bag integration with the same sized zipper. A right side zipper must mate with a left side zipper. Now two campers with similar bag styles can mate and snuggle close in the great outdoors.




TRYING IT OUT

So far my experiences with the sleeping bag hasn't gone beyond my bedroom floor as of yet. However I did jump right into the bag when I first received it as well as several other times for initial evaluation. My wife thought I was crazy when she found me snoozing in the bag the first time I tried it out. With the compatible Clearview Air Pad I found the Elbert 35 bag to be super comfy and allowed me to nap soundly on my bedroom floor.

Using the compatible Clearview Air Pad was a snap. At first it was a bit fussy trying to get the pad into the sleeping bag pad sleeve but after a few goes I am now able to put the system together in no time at all. As for breaking the system down, that was a snap as well. It took no time to stuff the bag into the stuff sack. As we all know set up and break down times can take up valuable trail time so to be able to pack up and/or set up this sleep system in minimal time is crucial for me. So far I'm very pleased with that aspect of the sleep system.

TESTING STRATEGY

In the up coming months I have many overnight trips planned to use and test the Elbert 35 sleep system. Most of these overnight trips will be in the Catskill Mountains as I climb up, over and through the high peaks. Some backpacking trips will also take me within the Adirondacks as well. Also planned are some river trips where I will be traveling by canoe or kayak. The Elbert bag will surely receive consistent and constant use throughout this test series.

SUMMARY

After catching those first few z's during the initial try out I am convinced that Big Agnes is all about comfort and quality. Comfort for while sleeping in the bag as well as comfort when carrying the bag. As I am learning to decrease my pack weight and practice safe lightweight techniques I am please to be testing this ultralight sleep system.

The added girth really adds to the comfort level. Since I toss and turn during sleep this extra space is much appreciated. I can easily move around inside without the bag following me nor do I feel trapped or claustrophobic like in the traditional snug fitting mummy bags. My knees can be bent pointing to the sky with no tensioning of the bag and I can curl up into the fetal position without restraint. The bag extra girth can also accommodate a sleeping bag liner to add to the comfort rating. All of the qualities and features I feel were well thought out by Big Agnes and they designed a superior ultralight sleep system.



FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

The Big Agnes Elbert 35 Sleeping Bag was used and tested at the following locations.

7/11 - South Hill State Forest: 3 day/2 night car camping birthday trip
Elevation: 1900 ft (579 m)
Weather: Day 1 - 80 F (26.67 C) high humidity - Night temperature 68 F (20.00 C)
Day 2 - 82 F (27.78 C) partly cloudy with afternoon thunderstorm
Campsite: Under tree cover with cleared bare soil/sandy site

8/17 - North/South Lake - Northeastern Catskill Park
2 day/1 night car/base camping
Campsite elevation: 2100 ft (640 m)
Weather: 85 F (29.44 C) mostly sunny

8/24 - Pond Mountain/Dagget Lake - Southeastern Adirondack Mountains
4 day/3 night base camping at Dagget Lake
Camp elevation: 930 ft (283 m)
Weather: 80 F (26.67 C) sunny and clear (perfect summer camping conditions)

8/31 (Labor Day Weekend) - Pond Mountain/Dagget Lake - Southeastern Adirondack Mountains
4 day/3 night base camping at Dagget Lake
Camp elevation: 960 ft (293 m)
Weather: Around 54 F (12.22 C) at night and up around 78 F (25.56 C) mid day
Light rain during second night

Above I have logged 9 nights where the Elbert Sleeping Bag was used in the field.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

During all field testing for this portion of the test series the Big Agnes Elbert Bag performed better than expected. It has been such a pleasure using this sleep system along with the compatible Clearview Air Pad as it provided me with absolute comfort while sleeping in the outdoors. In the past with the use of my previous outdated bag and thin closed cell foam pad I endured many uncomfortable sleepless nights. I never expected to receive such comfort with the highly compressible lightweight system.

On day hikes I carried the Big Agnes Bag in my pack to help evaluate the weight and size while logging trail miles. This bag packed so little weight that there was no affect on my performance. The compressed bag fit inside my day pack with ease and still had much room to spare. The Elbert stuffs down to a size slightly larger than a football.

The Elbert Bag still appears new in condition with no sign of wear. A tent was always used while field testing of the bag took place. I consistently aired the bag out throughout the days to protect the insulation from any trapped moisture or condensation in the tent. There was never a time when the bag felt damp or wet.

I found the bag to be a bit warm when night temperatures rose above 75 F (23.89 C), but still was a pleasure to sleep in the unzipped or folded down bag.

During the nights when I slept cold or when temperatures dropped in the early mornings the Elbert Bag offered plenty of warmth.

I do have only one complaint with this Big Agnes Sleeping Bag. While lying inside the bag I found the zipper to snag when closing the bag with the inside zipper. However it closes easily and smoothly when reaching out to use the outer part of the zipper. This can be cumbersome when trying to finagle my arm into the closed bag.

As I do toss and turn much while sleeping, I always remained on top of the air pad thanks to the added pad sleeve. Also the girth of the bag has allowed me to move about freely inside. While I tossed and turned inside, the bag always stayed in its place. The pillow pocket easily converted my fleece pull over into a comfy head rest.

I have not yet cleaned the bag but according to the washing instructions it can be cleaned in a front loading machine. The bag can also be dried in a machine in low heat.

SUMMARY

Possibly due to my past experiences of using an outdated inexpensive sleep system the comfort of the Elbert Bag was surprising. Not only was this bag comfortable to sleep in it was also comfortable to carry affording me with a light pack weight and minimal space used. The Elbert has helped me to reduce weight to my warm weather kit and allowed me to further my skills in practicing lightweight techniques.

The durability of the Elbert 35 has proven to be strong as the bag still appears new. It offered me the warmth needed on the cooler nights and was still comfy during the warmer ones. Thus far the Elbert 35 has proven to be a worthy warm weather sleeping bag.

Pros
The girth of the bag allowing me to move about freely
The air mattress in the pad sleeve to keep me atop
The lightweight and minimal pack space used
All around comfort

Cons
Zipper snagging when closing with the inner zipper

TESTING STRATEGY

The next few months are big backpacking months for me as they offer me much time to spend in the wilderness. I have many backpacking trips planned for the next two months affording much more time testing the Elbert 35 Sleeping Bag. Long overnighters and canoe camping trips through the Catskills during this next testing period will allow me to further evaluate my current findings as well as any new ones if any.

This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report should be completed by 11-11-08. Please check back then for further information.



LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Glimmerglass State Park
2 night/3 day base camping
Site elevation - 1200 ft (366 m)
Weather - night temperature at 50F (10.00 C) mostly clear

South Hill State Forest: 3 day/2 night car/base camping
Elevation: 1900 ft (579 m)
Weather: night at below 32 F (0.00 C)

Above I have recorded four nights of field use and testing for the Big Agnes Elbert 35 Bag.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

At this point with all the use the bag has received it is beginning to appear a bit used but still performs as new. The threading on the entry/exit point for the pad on the pad sleeve is beginning show some loose threading and I feel it will continue to become threadbare over time. I also continued to have an issue with closing the zipper from the inside as stated in my previous report. Reaching to the outer zipper to close the bag still remains an awkward and cumbersome task for me. Other than that I haven't had any other issues with the bag. Throughout this portion of the test series I continued to use the Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad with the Elbert Bag in it pad sleeve.

I learned the temperature rating for which the Elbert Bag can be used in for my comfort during colder conditions. In the Field Report I explained the level of comfort during warm weather conditions. This time around I was able to evaluate the bags temperature rating during colder conditions.

These are my personal temperature rating as I was able to adjust my type of and how many layers worn during sleep. In temperatures at 45 - 50 F (7.22 - 10.00 C) I found a light to mid weight long sleeve, long leg base layer was more than adequate. I also wore a very warm fleece hat and heavy weight merino wool socks. The hat and socks were most important for me to stay warm when down to 45 F (7.22 C).

At temperature from 30 F - 45 F (-1.10 - 10 C) I learned I really had to layer on warm clothing to have a comfortable nights rest. This was easily accomplished with the proper layers. However, when the ground freezes this temperature rating can dramatically change. The bag does not have any bottom insulation so a frozen ground plus the type of pad used can easily change the bags temperature rating. With a frozen surface more conductive heat loss would become an issue. I feel with an added closed cell foam pad to the sleep system conductive heat loss can be reduce or eliminated. But, at these temperatures with a frozen or snow covered ground this bag in my opinion will not be usable at all.

The no-draft collar, wedge and zipper tube was also a big help with increasing the bags temperature rating. They all helped to trap body heat and eliminated draft of cold air from entering.

SUMMARY

It was again an absolute pleasure using and testing this sleep system in the field. I pushed the bag to it limits in colder temperatures this time around and I was surprised to see I could use the bag slightly past its described rating. Of course donning the proper warm layers was a leading factor in increasing the bags warmth.

The bag consistently offered plenty of comfort while sleeping in the field as well as carrying it in my pack. The bag compresses down to a size taking minimal pack space and its weight helped me to reduce my pack weight substantially.

Besides the minor thread pulls on the pad sleeve the bag has proven to be durable with very little signs of wear. And besides the zipper snagging when closing the bag with the inner zip when inside there seems to be no other flaws.

The Elbert bag has continued to offer comfort in warmth, to the touch and feel with the materials used and in girth allowing for much freedom of movement.

Pros
Overall comfort
Girth allowing for movement
Pad sleeve to help me to remain on pad
No-draft collar, wedge and zipper tube
Compressibility

Cons
Inner zipper snagging when closing from inside
Thread pulls on pad sleeve

CONTINUED USE

I will continue to use the Elbert 35 Bag as my main three season bag. It has allowed me to drop pack weight and uses minimal pack space which is currently an important factor for me. Until something better comes along this bag will remain my favorite, most comfortable and main warm weather sleeping bag.

Suggestions for Future Manufacturing

I feel Big Agnes should figure out the issue I am having with the zipper as I do feel it is a manufacturing flaw. When inside and zipping the bag closed the zipper snags at the half way point. The only way to finish closing it from there is to reach to the outer zip which then closes smoothly and snag free. But then the task becomes frustrating when trying to fit my arm back into the bag without reopening the zipper.

Another suggestion I have for future manufacturing is to incorporate a heavier or more durable seam on the entry/exit point for a pad on the pad sleeve. A double stitched seam may be required here.

This concludes my test series for the Big Agnes Elbert 35 Bag. Thank you to Big Agnes and BGT for making this test series possible.

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

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