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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > Big Agnes Elbert > Test Report by Sheila Morrissey


Big Agnes Elbert

Photo from manufacturer's website

Initial Report - July 4, 2008
Field Report - September 1, 2008
Long-Term Report - November 21, 2008

Initial Report: July 4, 2008

Name: Sheila Morrissey
Age: 27
Gender: Female
Height: 5 ft 8 in (173 cm)
Weight: 155 lb (70 kg)
Email Address: geosheila(at)yahoo(dot)com
City, State, Country: Goleta, California, USA

I have been backpacking since 2005. My trips are typically weekend hikes in Los Padres National Forest or the Sierra Nevada with friends and my dog. My pack weighs around 25 lb (11 kg), including consumables, for a weekend trip. I always carry a tent.

Manufacturer: Big Agnes
Model: Elbert SL 35o
Temperature Rating: 35 F (2 C)
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer’s Website:
MSRP: 179.95 USD
Listed Weight: 2 lb 8 oz (1.1 kg)
Measured Weight of Sleeping Bag: 2 lb 9.4 oz (1.2 kg)
Measured Weight of Stuff Sack: 0.9 oz (26 g)
Measured Weight of Mesh Storage Bag: 2.6 oz (74 g)
Listed Shoulder Girth: 67.5 in (171.5 cm), verified accurate
Listed Hip Girth: 64 in (162.6 cm), verified accurate
Listed Compressed Bag Size: 7 in x 9 in (18 cm x 23 cm), verified accurate

The Big Agnes Elbert SL 35o is a mummy-shaped synthetic sleeping bag. Like all Big Agnes sleeping bags, there is no insulation on the bottom of the bag, thus reducing the weight. Instead, there is a sleeve designed to hold an appropriately-sized Big Agnes sleeping pad. The regular-length
Elbert sleeping bag that I am testing (for users up to 5 ft 10 in, 178 cm) is supposed to be paired with any Big Agnes 20 in x 72 in (51 cm x 183 cm) mummy-shaped pad. I will be pairing it with an uninsulated Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad of this size. The Elbert bag is also available in a long length, requiring a longer pad.

Big Agnes Elbert
Sliding a Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad into the pad sleeve of the Elbert sleeping bag.

The shell, lining and pad sleeve on the Elbert are all made of the same rip-stop nylon microfiber material. The bag is only available in one color scheme: a combination of wine, ash and black. The liner is black, the top is mostly wine-colored and the bottom is ash-colored. The top and sides of the bag are filled with PrimaLoft SB insulation. According to Big Agnes, this insulation is water repellant and compresses "as well as premium goose down."   

Big Agnes Elbert
The pad sleeve on the bottom of the Elbert is closes with Velcro.

The bottom of the bag has a pad sleeve accessible from the outside of the bag. The mummy bag and pad are both widest near the shoulders, so that is where the opening for the mummy-shaped pad is. Once the inflated pad is in place, this opening is closed by a Velcro fastener. The Elbert also has a small opening in the pad sleeve near the foot of the bag to help slide the pad into place. Once the pad is pulled all the way to the foot of the bag, the uppermost portion of the pad is stuffed into the top of the sleeve and the pad's valve is pulled out of a small opening near the top of the bag.

Big Agnes Elbert
The pad can be pulled down to the footbox through a small opening in the Elbert's pad sleeve.

Inside the Elbert are fabric loops meant for holding a sleeping bag liner. The Elbert has a 60-in (152-cm) YKK #5 zipper. The zipper can be opened to zip together with another bag with the same zipper size.
There is a draft tube running along the length of the zipper and a Velcro fastener keeps the zipper from opening from the top.

Big Agnes Elbert    Big Agnes Elbert

The Elbert has a shoulder draft tube that looks like an airplane pillow. The opening will go around my neck and the extra material will cover my shoulders. The neck of the Elbert is tightened by a single locking draw cord.

Big Agnes Elbert    Big Agnes Elbert

At the head of the bag is a pillow pocket made of the same material as the bag's liner, shell and pad sleeve. Big Agnes suggests this pocket can be stuffed with a fleece jacket or a pillow made by the manufacturer.

Big Agnes Elbert
The Elbert's pillow pocket.

The Elbert sleeping bag came with both a stuff sack and a mesh storage sack.

Big Agnes Elbert    Big Agnes Elbert

So far, the Elbert sleeping bag seems quite comfortable with plenty of shoulder and hip girth and room to move my feet. The bag is definitely long enough for me. I wasn't exactly sure how the pad sleeve was going to work before I received the Elbert, but it was quite simple to figure out. This will be my first time using a Big Agnes sleeping bag with an integrated pad sleeve, but it seems like a great idea and I'm looking forward to trying it out. Most sleeping bags I have used have a hood, so this sleeping bag will also be a little bit different for me in that regard. I wonder if I'll want to wear a beanie to bed since I won't have a hood on the sleeping bag. I'm hoping the pillow pocket will hold my jacket well overnight for a comfortable pillow. The bag appears to be well-constructed. The only loose threads I found on the bag were several on the logo itself.

Big Agnes Elbert

Field Report: September 1, 2008

I have so far used the Big Agnes Elbert sleeping bag for a total of four nights outdoors, including three nights while backpacking on California's Lost Coast and
one night at a walk-in campground near the trailhead. I paired the Elbert with a Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad and slept inside a tent. The elevation was near sea level and the overnight low temperature was about 50 F (10 C).

I really liked the idea of this sleeping bag saving pack weight by having no insulation on the bottom and instead just relying on the sleeping pad that must be used with it for padding beneath me. This sleeping bag is nice and light. The combination of this sleeping bag and the accompanying Clearview Air Pad took more than a pound (about 0.5 kg) off my pack weight. The bag also packs significantly smaller than some bags I've used, which was especially great when I needed to stuff all of another person's gear into my pack with my gear toward the end of the trip. There are a few other nice features as well. The neck draft tube is the first I've ever seen like it and it works great. The pillow pocket is also a new feature for me and I loved having a place to put my fleece jacket that made it a way better pillow than if I'd just tried to roll the jacket in a ball. Also, the pillow pocket kept my pillow in place, even on the slippery sleeping bag.

However, this sleeping bag wasn't without its problems. When I was writing the initial report, I noticed that the pad sleeve on the back of the Elbert fit tightly enough to make the pad curl, but I just didn't think it was a big deal at all, to the extent that I didn't even mention it in the report.
The picture below shows the problem and is actually taken directly from my initial report. In the photo, you can see how the middle section of the pad is popping up because the pad fits so tightly in the pad sleeve. I assumed that the pad would flatten out when I slept on it or that I'd be able to fix the problem easily by letting out a little air, but I was wrong. Instead, what happened when I slept in the bag was that the pad popped up along one side, rolling me off the pad. I don't know whether the pad is too wide or the pocket on the sleeping bag is too narrow, but they don't fit together well, making it hard to sleep in this sleeping bag.


Once I was in the bag and trying not to roll off the pad, I had a difficult time zipping the bag all the way closed. The zippers slide easily from the outside of the bag, but not so easily from the inside. The zipper gets stuck where it turns by my shoulders to follow the mummy shape. The only way I could get it close was to stick my arm out and close it from the outside. Of course, that meant I couldn't actually close it all of the way.

It wasn't until the second night I slept in the Elbert that I found problems with the bottom of the zipper. During the night, the zipper opened up about 12 in (30 cm) by itself. This isn't a double zipper meant to be opened from the feet. In order to fix the problem, I had to unzip the entire bag and redo it.

One more major sleeping bag problem came about when my Big Agnes Clearview pad busted after just a few nights' use. When my sleeping pad broke, I had no insulation or padding underneath me. The bottom of the Elbert bag, made up just of the pad sleeve, is incredibly thin in order to save weight. It makes for a very uncomfortable sleeping surface by itself. Of course, this wouldn't be a problem if my sleeping pad didn't break!

Because of the sleeping pad fit problem and the zipper problems, I had to send my Elbert back to the manufacturer. It just wasn't working for me. My note to Big Agnes mentioned my three problems with the Elbert: (1) the pad sleeve doesn't fit my Clearview Aid Pad well, (2) the zipper cannot be pulled all the way closed from inside the bag, and (3) the zipper opens on its own by my feet. Two weeks later, Big Agnes sent my same bag back to me. Big Agnes customer service said they "completely understood [my] issue with the difficulty in pulling the zipper around the shoulder, but there is no defect with [my] bag or zipper." What a waste sending the bag back and forth only to find out that Big Agnes is aware of the zipper problems, but thinks that's the way it's supposed to be. Hmm...disappointing.

Long-Term Report: November 21, 2008

I used the Elbert on one backpacking trip of about 6 mi (10 km) in Los Padres National Forest at an elevation near 4,000 ft (1,200 m). The weather was dry and the overnight low temperature was around 45 F (7 C). I slept in a tent.

I was warm enough in my Elbert at about 45 F (7 C), but I couldn't stand the fact that I couldn't zip the bag up all the way because I had to hold it shut when it would have obviously been more comfortable if it could be zipped shut. I wore warm clothing in the sleeping bag and attempted to hold the bag closed tightly when I fell asleep. I can't believe Big Agnes does not consider this a problem. Fortunately, the bag did not unzip from the bottom on the night that I used it during the long-term testing period.

I think the integrated pad is a great idea and should really cut weight from my pack. However, it really wasn't implemented well in this sleeping bag. I'm not impressed by this bag and cannot recommend it.

  • Warm shoulder draft tube
  • Pillow pocket keeps pillow in place
  • Packs small and light
  • Pad sleeve doesn't fit Clearview Air Pad well (they're designed to fit together)
  • Zipper cannot be pulled all the way closed from inside the bag
  • Zipper opens on its own at the feet
  • No bottom insulation when pad breaks
  • Hugely disappointing customer service
This concludes my test series. Big Agnes and provided me with the Elbert SL 35o sleeping bag for testing.

Read more reviews of Big Agnes gear
Read more gear reviews by Sheila Morrissey

Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > Big Agnes Elbert > Test Report by Sheila Morrissey

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