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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > Big Agnes Fria 15 Womens Bag > Test Report by Kathleen Waters

BIG AGNES FRIA 15 WOMEN'S SLEEPING BAG
TEST SERIES BY KATHLEEN WATERS
BA logo

LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - January 03, 2012
FIELD REPORT - March 09, 2012
LONG TERM REPORT - May 16, 2012

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Kathleen Waters
EMAIL: kathy at backpackgeartest dot com
AGE: 61
LOCATION: Canon City, Colorado, USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 4" (1.60 m)
WEIGHT: 125 lb (56.70 kg)

Living in Colorado and being self-employed, I have ample opportunities to backpack. There are over 700,000 acres/280,000 hectares of public land bordering my 71-acre/29-hectare "backyard" in addition to all the other gorgeous locations which abound in Colorado. Over the past 15 years, my husband John and I have also had the good fortune to hike/snowshoe glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in exotic locations, including New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley. My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. I use a tent (rainfly if needed). Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) excluding food and water.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Big Agnes
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.bigagnes.com
MSRP: US $239.95
Measured Weight: 2 lb 12 oz (1.3 kg)

Cotton storage sack & nylon stuff sack included

Other details for Petite (up to 5 ft 8 in or 1.73 m)
(from manufacturer's website)

Pad Size Any 20" (51 cm) wide
Color sky/frost
Fill Type 600 fill goose down
Fill Weight 17.5 oz (496 g)
Bag Weight 2 lb 10 oz (1.2 kg)
Shoulder Girth 65.5" (166 cm)
Hip Girth 53" (135 cm)
Foot Girth 42" (107 cm)
Stuff Sack Size M-8" x 17.5" (20.3 x 44.5 cm)
Compressed Bag Size 8" x 6" (20.3 x 15.2 cm)

Warranty Information: "100% Guarantee
Our number one priority is to make functional and dependable outdoor products and provide great customer service. If you are not satisfied with any Big Agnes product at the time you receive it, return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. If one of our products does not perform to your satisfaction, contact Big Agnes."
Picture Courtesy of Big Agnes
Picture Courtesy of Big Agnes

Warranty Policy
"All Big Agnes products are guaranteed against manufacturing or material defect. Items will be repaired or replaced at the discretion of Big Agnes. If replacement product is not available credit will be given for the original purchase price when returned with a receipt. We do not warranty products damaged from normal wear and tear, alteration made by owner, misuse, accidents or damages caused by uses other than intended."

PRODUCT FEATURES

Before receiving the Big Agnes Fria 15 Women's Sleeping Bag, I read everything there was to read about the Fria on the Big Agnes website. I found out that "Fria" is Portuguese for "cold" and that the bag was named in honor of a Brazilian mountaineer who rescued two lost prospectors on Farwell Mountain during a wild snow storm. Since the woman did not stick around after the rescue, her name is unknown. Neat story, no?

To get the most obvious feature of the Fria out of the way, like all other Big Agnes (BA) sleeping bags, the Fria is integrated with a pad sleeve on the bottom of the bag. This pad sleeve with an adjustable strap holds any 20" (51 cm) wide rectangular or mummy shaped pad which is designed to keep the bag securely attached to the pad from my hips upward. The pad sleeve is made of nylon rip-stop with a water resistant surface treatment to repel water.

The Fria is mummy-shaped and due to the pad sleeve there is more freedom of movement from the hips downward. The pad sleeve is said to prevent me from rolling off the pad as I normally do with a traditional unattached sleeping bag/pad combo. BA did provide one of their 20 x 66 x 2.5 in (51 x 168 x 6.25 cm) rectangular Insulated Air Core pads for use with the Fria for testing purposes.

The "head" of the Fria has a built in pillow pocket to so that a fleece or pillow can be inserted. There is a "no-draft collar" to seal the neck and to keep cold air out.

A 70" (178 cm) YKK #8 zipper is back by a "no-draft zipper tube" to insulate along the length of the zipper.

The pretty blue and gray outer shell of the Fria is down proof, nylon microfiber rip-stop finished with a surface treatment to repel water. Soft, breathable down proof nylon with stain resistant finish lines the interior of the bag. Thoughtfully, BA provides interior fabric loops for sleeping bag liners, a very nice touch, I think.

Big Agnes uses a trademarked "Flow™ Construction." Insotect Flow™ is a "flow-optimized insulation system that delivers uniform heat distribution and natural body contouring through its revolutionary baffle design." It "eliminates lateral and vertical down shifting by using vertical chambers with Flow Gates to regulate fill positioning and density." According to BA, "Flow bags eliminate potential cold spots which can occur with side seams. Vertical baffles now flow with your body for more rapid and uniform body heat distribution." Hmmm, we'll see!

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

On the BA website, I was able to find some care instructions for the Fria with regards to storage and washing/drying. When not in use, BA recommends that the "optimum storage for a sleeping bag is to store laying flat or hanging in a dry, temperature controlled environment.. A cotton sack is provided "If you don't have an area to lay or hang your bag".

To Wash the Fria, a front loading washing machine should be used to prevent tearing of the bag by an agitator. Use a "Down Wash" or a "Tech Wash". Make sure the zipper is closed and the bag is turned inside out. Wash on a gentle cycle with warm water. Dry the bag on medium heat in a large commercial dryer. It helps to put some clean tennis balls in with the bag to help break up the clumps of down as the bag dries. Make sure the insulation is completely dry but be careful not to damage the fabric. Continue drying on medium until the bag is completely dry (can be up to 2-2.5 hours). When dry, hang the bag for a couple of hours to be sure it is completely dry.

TRYING IT OUT

Unfortunately, due to the arrival of the Big Agnes Fria 15 Women's Sleeping Bag while I was out of town and then the Christmas holidays, I really haven't had a chance to try out the bag.

I did pull it out of the packaging and spread it out on my bedroom floor. Before even trying out the inflatable pad, I checked out the interior of the Fria. Crawling into the Fria, I was immediately relieved to feel how roomy it was - I often feel claustrophobic in other mummy-type bags. Even with my arms bent at my elbows and poking straight out, I was not stretching out the Fria. My feet also had plenty of wiggle-room (I'm 5 ft 4 in (1.63 m) on a good day!). I was very impressed with the amount of "filling" in the sides and even the edges of the bottom of the Fria. I had been a bit apprehensive about the "flatness" of the bottom. No worry though, the Fria is comfy! Then I inflated and inserted the pad (which was easier than I thought it would be) and already, I think this is going to be my favorite sleeping system!

The zipper worked very smoothly and didn't require any major contortions in opening and securing the Fria closed. I felt very snug. Had I not been rushing to finish this report, I probably would have fallen asleep right there on the floor of my bedroom!

Thankfully, I had no trouble returning the pad to its sack and the Fria to its cotton storage sack to wait until my return in a couple of weeks and our first outing. Yay!

SUMMARY

The Big Agnes sleeping bag and pad system will be a new sleep system for me. I'm very intrigued by the idea, love the idea of weight saving and am very anxious to get out there and try it!

My initial inspection found the Fria to be well made with no loose threads, dropped or wavy stitches, snags or pulls. The zipper worked smoothly without catching.

I'm hoping to get the Fria out in the field for the first time in late January - wish it could be sooner, but the Outdoor Retail Winter Show in Salt Lake City comes in just 2 weeks (ack!) and I am attending it. Fortunately, John and I are planning an overnight in Canyonlands or Arches National Park (fingers crossed) immediately after the Show to decompress!


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Sadly, I only was able to use the Big Agnes Fria 15 on 3 different single night occasions over the past two months. Seems like family obligations kept me more house-bound than I like. All 3 overnights occurred in my local BLM (Bureau of Land Management) playground which adjoins our property. There are no trails there. So my husband and I just point ourselves in one direction, set the GPS, and go!

The land is all juniper and pinon pine-covered hills and rocky gullies. It's generally rather rough. It's especially fun trying to find a suitable place to put up a tent where the ground is both relatively flat and isn't solid rock or strewn with pointy shale just waiting to poke me in the back while I'm trying to sleep!

All three nights were overcast but did not produce rain or snow. It was probably the cloud cover that saved me from dealing with temps under 25 F (-4 C). The lowest temperature I endured was 25 F (-4 C) and the highest was 33 F (0.6 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

On the trail, all a sleeping bag needs to do is compress to the smallest possible mass so I can carry it with the least possible impact on my backpack's available space!

With the BA Fria 15, I can carefully compress it to a 8 by 6 (20 X 15 cm) package.

In camp, at night, when I evaluate a sleeping bag, I am mainly interested in just 2 things: how does it regulate my body temperature and can I sleep without getting tangled up or claustrophobic. The simple answer to this is yes and yes but I suppose I should expound on that!

As to body temperature, the Fria is rated to 15 F (-9 C) which is based on the lowest temperature at which the average man can sleep comfortably. Mostly, women sleep colder, but I don't. I'm usually the one unzipping the sleeping bag, throwing off covers, etc. while John desperately clings to the covers' hem. I have not yet tested the Fria down to the lowest limits and so far, I can truthfully say, the Fria has kept me snug and often during the night I have to unzip the bag to vent. While the comfy collar does not cause me to feel smothered, it does heat me up and I, personally, could do without it at times. Thankfully, the zipper is very easy to maneuver even when I'm half asleep and not once have I snagged the bag or gotten trapped within the bag due to a stuck zipper. On all nights, I've worn a synthetic top and bottom base layer and lightweight socks to sleep in. Only one night did I start my beauty sleep in a lightweight fleece cap, but sometime during the night I must have pulled it off.
Sleeping like a baby
Sleeping like a baby BEFORE camera flash!
I know having a too big sleeping bag is not desirable from the standpoint of packing extra bulk and weight, and the excess interior requires more body heat to warm it up. I LIKE having a little extra elbow room in my sleeping bag. I am not one of those fortunate people who can lay myself down in a form-fitting mummy bag, zip it up to my neck, cinch in the hood and then lay on my back for 7 hours without moving. I might as well be in a straight jacket! I turn, and I toss, I wiggle and flip my pillow, then I turn again. With the Fria, I actually have enough room to move freely - well, not totally freely, but freely enough. And thanks to the neat sewn-in pillow case into which I stuff my fleece, I can even sleep with my face smashed into it, sort of fetal position style on my side. Having the built-in sleeping pad sleeve works well for my restless style as it keeps me from ending up on the bare tent floor. I like that!

As of yet, despite the fact that the Fria is very light colored, I haven't had to clean it. There isn't any sort of damp or sweaty smell to it either. I've been very careful with it and keep it stored loosely stuffed in its cotton sack.


SUMMARY

Over the past two months, I didn't get nearly as much time in the field with the Fria as I wanted but I'm hoping that's going to change! I have big plans - starting this coming weekend - for the next two months and the Fria will be my bedding every time. It has been warming up nicely here in south central Colorado, but as with all desert locales, it still gets nippy at night - though it shouldn't go into single digits (F/-13 C).


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

As with my previous two months, all 3 overnights I was able to get out and use the BA Fria 15 took place in my local BLM (Bureau of Land Management) playground of the Cooper Mountain range which abuts the north boundary of our property in Canon City, Colorado. This is a wilderness area with no developed trails just a lot of juniper, pinon pine-covered hills which alternate with granite slabs and rocky shale gullies. It's always a challenge to pitch a tent where the ground is relatively flat.

Our temperatures here in Colorado have continued to be mostly unseasonably warm and the 2-night trek the weekend of March 30-31 saw a high of 67 F (19 C) with a low of 55 F (13 C). There was no rain either night with average humidity of 13%, dew point of 14 F (10 C) and average wind speed - 5 mph (8 kph).

Unfortunately, I can't find my notes on the third night but it did not rain and the low temperature was probably about the same.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

It's been warmer than usual these past two months and I still haven't been able to test the Fria down to its lowest advertised temperature rating. While that's a negative, the converse positive is I can definitively say I can still use the Fria at temperatures as high as 55-60 F (13-16 C) without sweltering!

I have been using the Fria more as a "quilt" on these warmer nights. I've only had maybe the bottom 1/3 of the bag zipped, leaving the upper 2/3 open for venting. Thanks to the generous width of the Fria, I have not had the problem of ending up on the tent floor with no sleeping bag between it and me due to my restless sleep style. I can comfortably sleep in my side with the Fria draped over my shoulders, my right hand holding the top covering in place the same way I sleep at home in my own bed. It works for me!

As with my daytime clothing, my night wear has lightened up a bit too this spring. I've been wearing a short sleeve merino wool base layer top and shorts instead of heavier jammies, ditched the socks and have absolutely no need for a head covering. This combination has kept me cool and dry (from sweat) while using the Fria. And that lack of sweat has translated into no odor in the lining of the Fria after 6 warmer-than-expected nights in a 15 F (-9 C) rated sleeping bag. Not too bad, I think!

I can't say enough good about the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core pad combined with the Fria sleep system. I absolutely am sold on the way the rectangular pad slides into the Fria's pouch and stays there ALL night. I will never have to semi-consciously try to stay on a slippery pad again while sleeping. No matter how I wiggle around at night, I'm still not in contact with the cold tent floor. And the Air Core is easy to inflate/deflate. It's a good compromise between very lightweight (read - "thin") foam pads and full-blown heavy air mattresses.

I've been very careful to not get the Fria dirty and happily, haven't had any offensive odor issues to contend with, so I haven't had to clean the Fria. I just give it a quick shake and keep it loosely stuffed in its storage sack between uses. It has shown no signs of wear, no pulled stitches, snags or rips and the zipper continues to function smoothly.

If I had any quibbles at all, I would request Big Agnes think about making the "collar" removable - perhaps with a hook and loop fastener - so people like me could have even more freedom of movement. But that's a small, small quibble!

SUMMARY

After 4 months, I'm totally sold on the Big Agnes system of sleeping bags with their integrated sleep pads! I have pushed my other sleeping bags and their separate sleeping pads to the back of my gear closet to be saved for use by visitors. Stellar warmth, roominess and never-having-to-worry-about-sliding-off-the-dang-pad features have made sleeping in the outdoors almost as comfortable as sleeping in my own bed. Actually, I have to fight for the covers in my own bed, so maybe the Fria makes nighttime even more pleasurable than that!

Only the prospect of the coming summer heat will keep me from toting the Fria in the near future, but hmmm, Mother's Day is coming up and maybe, just maybe, hubby will read this and get me a summer Big Agnes sleeping bag! I already have the pad, honey!

Thank you to Big Agnes and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with my new favorite sleep system.

Kathleen (Kathy) Waters

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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