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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > Big Agnes Elbert > Test Report by Will Dalen Rice

BIG AGNES ELBERT SL
TEST SERIES BY WILLIAM RICE
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: William Rice
EMAIL: tdnarrator@hotmail.com
AGE: 27
LOCATION: Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 7" (1.70 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I began backpacking at the age of 13 when I first went to summer camp (1993). In 1999, I started working with a college tripping organization in outdoor trip logistics (in gear preparation), and then as a leader. My most frequented hiking locations are in the Carolina Appalachians and the Smoky Mountains during the cold early spring and the summer. I stopped being a trip leader in 2004, and now I average about 4 backpacking trips and 4 day hikes per year. I carry between 25 and 35 lbs (11.3-15.8 kg) on multi-day trips.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Big Agnes
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: www.bigagnes.com
MSRP: US$ 179.95
Listed Weight: 2.5 lbs (1.14 kg)
Measured Weight: 2.5 lbs (1.14 kg)
Listed Shoulder Girth: 67.5" (170.8 cm)
Listed Hip Girth: 64" (161.92 cm)
Measured Shoulder Width: 27" (68.31 cm)
Measured Waist Width: 24.5" (62.0 cm)
Measured Feet Width: 17" (43.0 cm)
Listed Compressed Bag Size: 7" x 9" (17.7 x 22.7 cm)
Measured Stuff Sack Size: 7.5" diam x 15" (19.0 x 38.0 cm)
Fill: PrimaLoft SB (18 oz/ 0.51 kg)
Color: Wine/ Ash/ Black
Temperature Rating: 35 F (~4 C)

IMAGE 1
Manufacturer's Picture

INITIAL OBSERVATIONS

The Elbert SL comes with a large mesh bag for storage and a smaller stuff sack for packing. The small stuff sack compresses the sleeping bag, but not to its full compression.

Bag Description:
This mummy bag is narrow at the head with a drawstring pull closure. The zipper terminates at a Velcro strap, to provide support for the drawstring to pull against.
IMAGE 3
Drawstring (Left) Velcro (Right)


From the head, it expands at the shoulders, and then gradually becomes smaller all the way down to the feet. It has a zipper on the right side that unzips to 18" (45.5 cm) above the foot of the bag.

IMAGE 2
Full Bag


The head of the bag also contains some shoulder flaps that cover the shoulders, to prevent drafts.

IMAGE 6
Shoulder Flaps



The outer part of the sleeping bag, the liner, and the pad sleeve are all made of a material called WRM, created by Big Agnes. This material is a tightly woven nylon that is claimed to keep out minor amounts of water and prevent fabric saturation.

The bag is filled with PrimaLoft SB Insulation. The info tag claims that PrimaLoft is more compressible than continuous filament. It also claims to be the warmest, wet or dry.

The back of the sleeping bag has a thin sleeve for a sleeping pad to be inserted. It has an opening at the bottom, to assist pulling a pad into place. The insertion point is 12" from the top of the sleeve, so a pad has to be stuffed in and then tucked under. A Velcro piece secures the opening once the pad is placed inside.

This sleeping bag also comes with a pillow compartment at the top. It is a triangle shape, 15.5" (39.2 cm) tall and 21" (53.3 cm) wide at its widest.

IMAGE 4
Pillow Sleeve


IMAGE 5
Pillow Sleeve (in bag)



Features:
- integrated sleeve for sleeping pad
- integrated sleeve for pillow
- fabric loops for securing liners
- shoulder flaps to prevent draft
- mummy shape

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The only instructions for use were for the sleeping pad installation. The instructions are clear and simple. It says to sit at the head of the pad and slide bag over it like a pillow case. This method works very well for slipping the sleeping pad into the sleeping bag's sleeve.

TRYING IT OUT

This sleeping bag is very light and much smaller than my current bag. It also feels very comfortable inside. It does not have a bottom zipper to let air in for my feet. I foresee that this might be a problem for warmer temperatures. The zipper seems small to me, but has not presented too much trouble starting or zipping. It was relatively easy to find and zip up in the dark. I have not used the bag yet in an outdoor, backpacking situation.

The shoulder flaps have me excited. I have to sleep with a shirt on in the winter because when my shoulders get any kind of air contact on them, I wake up. These flaps look like they will solve that problem.

The fit of the bag makes it possible to lie on my stomach. I am not sure if it will be comfortable in that position yet, but I plan to test it on my stomach and on my side, as well as my back.

TESTING STRATEGY

I plan to sleep outside in inclement weather under a tarp and in clear skies with just the bag/pad. I am going to try and get at least one trip to a higher elevation locale (such as Mt. Mitchell) where the temperatures will be cooler. I also want to try this bag out on grass, hard packed dirt, and rocky terrains.

Although the bag is intended for back sleeping (since it is a mummy), I want to also try it out sleeping on my side and on my stomach.

SUMMARY

The bag appears to be everything it claims to be. It is comfortable, light, and warm.

It also integrates well with the pad, so far.

Likes:
- Very light

Dislikes:
- No bottom zipper for foot ventilation


FIELD REPORT

Notes on Testing

Since this bag was received in Late June, it unfortunately missed my long trip on the Appalachian Trail. Also, the test period is coinciding pretty much with the peak of the summer here in the southeastern U.S, resulting in limited ability to test this bag in cold.

CONDITIONS and PERFORMANCE

I.
Date: July 25th-27th
Location: Montreal, Canada
Weather: 63 F- 85 F (17-27 C), rained 2nd night, high humidity (70-80 %), breezy during 2nd night
Elevation: 118 ft (36 m)
Terrain: flat
Sleeping Surface and Condition: Grassy area, sleeping inside large, 10 person dome tent

Pre-Test Note:
Before I could use the sleeping bag in Canada, I had to get there. I packed the sleeping bag and pad with my clothes and toiletries for a plane flight to New York. The bag compacted nicely and took up no more space than a couple pairs of pants.

Performance:
I used the pillow sleeve to hold my pillow, and as a result I did not lose my pillow in the nights. I did notice that when using the sleeve, there is a limited amount of options for how to arrange the pillow in reference to my body. Also, the pillow sleeve has a peculiar shape (see picture in IR). I have not figured out what purpose that serves yet.

The bag was very warm for me and I slept with it all the way unzipped until it got slightly cool in the pre-dawn hour. It was not hard to locate the zipper in the dark and zip it halfway closed to keep me warmer. When I was inside the bag, my feet got too hot. So, I had to keep one of my feet outside of the bag. As I got too hot inside the bag, I noticed that the material of the bag sticks to the skin a little, making it have a feeling of even more warmth. However, on the 2nd night, when rain and humidity caused everything made of cotton to be damp, my sleeping bag felt dry and was not even at all moist.

The sleeve for the sleeping pad kept me on the pad throughout the nights. It was easy to place the pad inside the sleeve, and equally easy to remove it.

The overall quality of my sleep with the bag was not very good due to constant shifting and opening of the bag to vent air to my limbs.

Unexpected Benefit:
As I mentioned, the bag did not get moist, even with the high humidity.

II.
Date: August 30th-31st
Location: Pilot Mountain, NC, USA
Weather: 65- 95 F (18- 35 C)
Elevation: 2000 ft (600 m)
Terrain: flat with a single knob

Sleeping Surface and Condition: slightly rocky, slightly sloped ground, sleeping with no shelter

Performance:
On this occasion I had gone on an overnight rock climbing trip. Having forgotten my tarp, I slept directly on the ground with only the pad and sleeping bag. Even without a shelter, it was still too warm to really get in the bag and zip it up. I slept on my back, side, and stomach throughout the night.

While laying on top of the bag, I was able to jam my feet into the bottom part and sort of create a bunching of material. This kept me from otherwise sliding off the bag and pad when I was outside of it. In this instance I really fully appreciated the pad sleeve and how well the pad works with the bag to keep everything in place with respect to each other.

I started out using the pillow sleeve, but ended up removing the pillow. The sleeve was keeping me from doubling my pillow (for side sleeping) and rotating my pillow to keep the cool side up.

I slept very well this night and was well rested the next day.

Unexpected Benefit:
I did not slide out of the bag or off the pad, even though I was on a hill and I moved a lot while sleeping.

Test Points from Application

Test Points A

This bag is physically comfortable to the touch. The comfort issues I am encountering so far are problems with it being too warm to be used in 60 F (15 C) weather. When it is warm like this, I open the bag to vent it and allow cooler air to enter. However, the zipper does not go all the way to the bottom, and there is no way to vent the very end of the bag, so my feet get too hot.

Under wet conditions, the bag has done well so far. It did not hold any moisture from humidity during the heavy rains I experienced in Canada. There was no rain penetration into our tent, so I cannot answer my intended questions about the performance of the bag once it gets wet.

This sleeping bag is easy to get in and out of whether zipped up or unzipped. Also, the zipper is easy to find and operate in the dark.

The bag packs away to a very small package in its stuff sack.

Test Points B- Features From Description (Bag and Pad)

Integrated Pad Sleeve
I have not had the need to try getting dressed inside the sleeping bag yet. The integrated system has so far kept the majority of my body on the pad (excluding arms), even as I move around in my sleep. Also, I am still capable of sleeping on my back, side, or stomach, comfortably in all positions.

Mummy Shape decreases size
This is true, and indeed this sleeping bag packs very small and weighs very little.

Built in Pillow Pocket
The pillow pocket is nice and works well in two ways. 1) It keeps my pillow secure so I can easily find it whenever and 2) it makes the pillow a little cooler with the pillow covering. However, the pillow pocket does make it harder to turn the pillow over to the warm side and prevents me from folding the pillow in half for when I sleep on my side.

Loops for sleeping bag liners
I do not know what this is referring to. It does not appear to have any system that works with my homemade liner.

SUMMARY

The bag has been comfortable when I was not overheating. I have not been able to test it in cold weather yet.


Likes
- pillow pocket can keep pillow close if worried about losing it in night
- pad sleeve keeps bag and pad together
- does not absorb humidity or feel damp in wet environment

Dislikes
- feels sticky on skin when body sweats
- no feet ventilation for cooling feet

TESTING STRATEGY

I will use the sleeping bag for at least two more overnight trips, hopefully one of them being to a colder spot. I also would like to test this bag again in the rain.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST CONDITIONS /PERFORMANCE

I.
Date: 10/4/2008
Location: Marion, North Carolina, USA
Weather: 77F- 42 F (15-5 C), 47% humidity, clear skies, occasional light breeze
Elevation: 4035 ft (1230 m)
Terrain: Rocky and mountainous
Sleeping Surface and Condition: on top of small vegetation, some roots

Performance:
This was a simple overnight hike along the Mountains-to-Sea trail in western North Carolina. We hiked about 7 miles on this day. Eventually, we started worrying there would be no place to camp because much of the trail was cut through rock and dense tree woods. Eventually we found a very small area to camp in, which meant that we had to place our ground tarp on top of some short, scrubby vegetation. This also concealed some rocks, which was only discovered once we sat down. As the temperatures dropped, the Big Agnes Elbert kept me very warm and I was very comfortable. I started out on my stomach with the bag partially unzipped. My feet got a little too warm, but there was no way of ventilating them, so I just had to be uncomfortable. I like to stash my clothes in the bag with me when I am sleeping, and this bag has enough room for me to do this. As it got cooler out, I gradually zipped my bag all the way up and employed the shoulder flaps. I really like this feature as I am not able to sleep with cold or exposed shoulders. Finally, it got cold enough that I closed the opening of the bag as much as I could and slept completely inside my sleeping bag. I was toasty warm and it was nice and dark. This allowed me to sleep very soundly, even after the sun had risen.

Also, in the middle of the night, I had to get up to go to the bathroom. This is a common occurrence for me. With a short unzip to the widest part of the bag (the shoulders), the bag was easy to get out of and get back inside of. The zipper did not jam up or bind and was easy to find, even in the dark.

II
Date: 10/31/2008
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
Weather: 67-25 F (19- -1 C), 59% humidity, clear skies
Elevation: 850 ft (283 m)
Terrain: Flat
Sleeping Surface and Condition: smooth grass, no shelter

Performance:
I wanted to test the performance of the bag under some different moisture conditions. So, I pitched the bag in a field near where I live without a tent or tarp. By the time I was putting the bag down, there was already significant dew on the ground and it was already cold. Initially, the bag was cold, but it warmed up within the first 5 minutes of sleeping in it. I shed my long sleeve shirt while I was in the bag. It was easy for me to take if off, since the Big Agnes has good room in the shoulders. I stashed the shirt at my feet. I was also able to take my socks of with minimal problems. It was very warm and comfortable. I could not feel any moisture from the ground as well. I quickly fell asleep. I woke up a few hours later with cold shoulders. I put the shoulder flaps over my shoulders and pulled the opening drawstring closed a little more. The drawstring is easy to find in the dark by feeling along the edge of the bag. I fell back asleep. I woke up a 2nd time shivering. I located my shirt and socks and put them back on. I was still cold though. Although I did not have any problems with moisture from the ground, I was having problems with keeping enough heat in the space inside the sleeping bag. I was not generating anymore heat either, so I got up and made the hike back to the warmth of my apartment. The bag is rated for significantly higher temperatures though, so I do not take this as poor performance.

III
Date: 11/10/2008
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
Weather: 30 F (-1 C), 79% humidity, clear skies
Elevation: 850 ft (283 m)
Terrain: Flat
Sleeping Surface and Condition: smooth grass, no shelter
Other: Also used a fleece liner inside the sleeping bag.

Performance:
I wanted to try out the bag one more time, but with a liner that I sometimes bring for colder camping. I slept outside under the same conditions as mentioned before. The temperature did not get down as low as my previous experience, but it did get cold enough that I was not comfortable. I enjoyed the roomy aspect of the shoulder dimension because this made using my liner a lot easier. I was able to maneuver it easily. Unfortunately, I speculate that the larger space inside the bag may have kept it from being warmer under these colder conditions. Also, although I was previously fond of the way the top cinches around your neck/head/shoulders, I now wish that there was more material behind and on the side of the head to keep it warmer. The best method I have found is to go completely into the bag, which can cause condensation to build up from breath.

On a positive note, the bag still did not absorb moisture. The outside became very damp from dew and from the ground, but yet, inside, I could not feel any moisture. I feel very comfortable that getting wet in this bag is not an issue. When I came in this morning, the bag dried off in my apartment very quickly as well.

DURABILITY

This Big Agnes bag has shown no significant signs of deterioration from use. There is one small scuff on the bottom of the sleeping bag, probably from contact with a rock when I slept on the ground. I plan to only use the bag in tents or on ground cloths in the future, which will prevent future scuffing from occurring.

SUMMARY

The Big Agnes Elbert bag has done a good job for me and my backpacking purposes. It is very light and very packable. The zipper is not very big, but with some minor care it does not bind. The shoulder flaps, pillow pocket, and integrated pad sleeve all make for extra little bits of utility from something I normally view as a simple apparatus, a place to sleep.

The only negative I see that the bag has in relation to what I do is its performance in very cold weather. Since it is not rated for anything below freezing though, this is expected. In very cold weather, the design for the head opening does not seem to work well. Also, the ample space around the shoulders cools down and I cannot keep that part warm.

Likes:
- light
- compact
- does not absorb moisture/ water
- integrated pad sleeve

Dislikes
- opening for head

CONTINUED USE

This bag will become my default bag and I will continue to use it for all backpacking trips where the temperature is going to be above freezing.

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

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