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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > Big Agnes Grouse Mountain 15 Mens Bag > Test Report by Brett Haydin

Big Agnes Grouse Mountain 15 Sleeping Bag
Test Series by Brett Haydin
Initial Report - 12/19/2011
Field Report - 3/13/2012
Long Term Report - 5/8/2012


TESTER INFORMATIONAuthor

NAME: Brett Haydin
EMAIL: bhaydin AT hotmail DOT com
AGE: 38
LOCATION: Salida, Colorado, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)
CHEST: 42 in (107 cm)
WAIST: 36 in (91 cm)

I started backpacking in Wisconsin as a youth, being involved in the Boy Scouts programs. As a young adult, I worked at a summer camp leading backpacking, canoeing and mountain biking trips. I now generally take short weekend or day trips in rough, mountainous terrain, although I have extensive experience in the upper Midwest as well. I take one or two longer trips each year, where I typically carry about 40 lb (18 kg). I prefer to be prepared and comfortable, but I have taken lightweight trips as well.



Initial Report

Product Information & Specifications

Grouse Image
Image courtesy of manufacturer

Manufacturer: Big Agnes, Inc.
Year of Manufacture:  2011
Manufacturer's Website:  www.bigagnes.com
MSRP: $249.95 ($229.95 for regular)
Listed Weight: 3 lb 6 oz (1.54 kg)
Measured Weight: 3 lb 4.8 oz (1.50 kg)
Sleeping Bag: 3 lb 3.6 oz (1.46 kg)
Stuff Sack:  1.3 oz (37 g)
Listed Packed Size: 8 in x 8 in (20 cm x 20 cm)
Measured Packed Size: 8 in x 8 in (20 cm x 20 cm)
Color Tested: 
Grey / Burnt Orange
Temperature Rating: 15 F (-9 C)
Fill Type: 600 fill goose down
Fill Weight: 21 oz (595 g)
Size Tested: Long (also available in Regular)
Warranty: Can be returned if not satisfied for repair, replacement or refund.  

Pad Used: Big Agnes Insulated Air Core 20 x 78 x 2.5 in (51 x 198 x 6.4 cm)
Listed Pad Weight: 27 oz (765 g)
Measured Pad Weight: 30.8 oz (873 g)
Temperature Rating: 15 F (-9 C)

Other Details provided by Manufacturer

  • Integrated half pad sleeve with unique design keeps you securely attached to the pad from the hips up while allowing freedom of movement for your legs, more like a traditional mummy bag. Never roll off your pad again
  • Half pad sleeve with adjustable strap holds ANY 20" wide rectangular or mummy shaped pad
  • Mummy shape decreases weight & packed size
  • Cotton storage sack & nylon stuff sack included
  • Built in pillow pocket holds a fleece or Big Agnes pillow
  • Interior fabric loops for sleeping bag liners
  • 70" YKK #8 zipper. Mate together any of our left and right zip bags with the same size zipper
  • No-draft collar seals around neck to keep cold air from sneaking in
  • No-draft wedge insulates the connection between the bag and the pad
  • No-draft zipper tube insulates along the length of the zipper
  • Shell: Down proof, nylon microfiber rip-stop. WR surface treatment to repel water
  • Lining: Soft, breathable down proof nylon with stain resistant finish
  • Pad sleeve: Nylon rip-stop. WR surface treatment to repel water
  • Flow™ Construction: Insotect Flow™ is a flow-optimized insulation system that delivers uniform heat distribution and natural body contouring through its revolutionary baffle design. Flow Construction eliminates lateral and vertical down shifting by using vertical chambers with Flow Gates to regulate fill positioning and density. Strategically placed Flow Gates minimize vertical down shifting while vertical chambers minimize lateral shifting. With continuous vertical Flow chambers in place of traditional side seams, 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.

Product Description

Grouse Back Image
Sleeping pad sleeve
The Big Agnes Grouse Mountain is a down mummy-style sleeping bag rated to 15 F (-9 C).  The sleeping bag arrived with several hang tags attached to the bag as well as a cotton storage sack for when I am not on the trail.  It also has a smaller, nylon stuff sack so I can pack it small!  The Grouse Mountain is part of Big Agnes' Divide series of sleeping bags.  The bag uses the Insotect Flow system for construction, which is unlike any other down system I have seen.  Unlike traditional baffle designs, this system appears to have vertical chambers for the down.  According to the manufacturer, there are gates within the chambers to regulate the flow of the down.  I have to say, I am pretty excited to see how this works! Did I mention that it comes with a Big Agnes sticker?

The Big Agnes sleeping bags are designed to be used with sleeping pads and the Grouse Mountain is no exception.  The bottom of the bag includes an integrated sleeve for the pad to slide into.  The sleeve measures 23 x 37 in (58 x 94 cm), pictured to the left.   There is also a 0.50 in (1.27 cm) piece of webbing with a plastic strap adjuster that holds the pad in place.  The sleeve is designed to accommodate any pad up to 20 in (51 cm) wide, however Big Agnes graciously provided an insulated, rectangular pad for me to use.  This is important to point out since there is a portion of the sleeping bag that has no insulation whatsoever.  This is right under my torso and measures 18 in wide by 20 in tall (46 x 51 cm) and having some protection from the ground is a must in the winter.  

Another unique feature about the Grouse Mountain is the integrated pillow pocket.  The pocket is sewn into the inside of the bag and is large enough to accommodate a fleece jacket.  The bag also has three fabric loops sewn into the bag to hold a sleeping bag liner should I need it; two at the top and one in the foot box.  The zipper is a two-way #8 YKK and extends a full 70 in (178 cm) with a draft tube.   The hood has an anchored cord lock that allows me to pull the elastic cord taught and close the hood on cool nights.  At the top of the zipper is a 2.5 in (6.4 cm) wide tab with a hook and loop closure that secures the zipper in place.  The hood also has a draft collar for my neck as well as one for my forehead.  

The fabric is 100% nylon inside and out and is "down-proof" according to the manufacturer.  There are two fabric loops on the exterior at the toe box for me to hang the sleeping bag.  This is my preferred method of storing the bag, so I appreciate that!  The toe box also has two tags sewn into it; one states the fabric and fill content while the other has care instructions and states that the bag is fire resistant.  In the center of the bag near my torso is a Big Agnes patch sewn into the bag.  On the left side (laying down) of the bag is "Grouse Mountain 15" embroidered into it.  

Initial Impressions

The Grouse Mountain is a well-made sleeping bag.  There were no loose threads, bad seams or any other defects that I could find.  Not even one stray down feather!  The fabric lining is quite comfortable even when I tried it at home in shorts and a t-shirt.   I really like the colors of the bag as well!  At 5 ft 11 in (1.8 m), I am right at the top of the range for the regular.  I am glad I sized up to the long since the girth of the bag is a bit larger.  I do like to toss and turn when I sleep so the extra room should make it easy to roll around.  

The integrated sleeve is a new concept for me and I set up the sleep system several times to see how easy it would be inside a tent.  Time will tell once I am out in the cold, but in the warmth of my home it is pretty easy.  The 0.50 in (1.27 cm) strap is just the right length for the pad that Big Agnes provided and it looks like it will help keep the pad in the perfect place.  

Reading the Instructions

As I mentioned earlier, the sleeping bag came with two hang tags.  The first is product specific to both the Grouse Mountain as well as the women's version, the Fria.  It shows how the pad strap works, even though it was intuitive to me.  There is a warning stating that Big Agnes bags require a sleeping pad to ensure insulation from the ground.  The other hang tag is specific to the Insotect Flow system, complete with diagrams!  

I found Big Agnes' website very easy to navigate.  In addition to in depth information about the technology used, there is product care information provided as well.  

Summary

I am very excited to take the Grouse Mountain out into the backcountry.  It is well made and has many intriguing qualities.  

Pros: Lighter than synthetic bags I am used to using, sleeping pad sleeve and pillow pocket.  

Cons: none yet!


FIELD REPORT

Field Conditions

Since receiving the Grouse Mountain, I have spent four nights backpacking with the sleeping bag.  The first trip I took was in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness in Colorado along the Rainbow trail near Bushnell Lakes.  I have previously been up this way and after the long cold spell, the temperatures of 20 to 40 F (-7 to 4 C) were a welcome respite from what we have encountered here locally.  This trip was cut short by the amount of downed trees in the area and was a 7 mi (11 km) round trip.  The trail was snow packed with an average of 24 in (61 cm) and at elevations up to 9,600 ft (2,900 m).  Clear skies adorned this beautiful hike, making the meteor viewing spectacular!

The next trip I took was in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness on the Simmons Peak Trail. Overnight snow persuaded me to forgo a morning summit due to the shaky snow conditions in the region but the temperatures were reasonable; between 20 and 40 F (-7 and 4 C). I camped at Salamander Lake at 11,000 ft (3,350 m) which was about 3.5 mi (5.6 km) from the trailhead. The trail was snow covered; plenty of it in fact!


My next trip was a trip to the Lost Creek Wilderness in Colorado along the Colorado Trail.  This was a 12 mi (19 km) out-and-back.  This relatively mellow trail hovers around 10,000 ft (3,050 m) and was a mix of snow covered trails and some brief bare spots of a rocky trail.  I had fair weather with temperatures between 20 and 35 F (-6 to 2 C) and mostly sunny skies.  This trip was fairly breezy, although I had no drafts in my tent!

My final trip was back to the Sangre de Cristo's for an exploratory trip toward Mt Lindsey.  I am glad that I did since with the road closure I logged 13 mi (21 km) along snow-packed roads and trails.  I camped near 10,700 ft (3,260 m) just beyond the summer trailhead in a meadow.  The overnight temperature was only 25 F (-4 C), but still cold enough that I was glad to be in the Grouse Mountain!  

All of my trips were in the same tent and pitched at least partially protected by trees.  My last trip was the most exposed of my trips, but the winds were relatively calm overnight.  Also, I used the same sleeping pad, a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core.

Observations

sleeping
Falling asleep at night!
I am a toss-and-turn sleeper and frankly I was a little worried going into this test.  I had no idea how I would handle an integrated pad in my sleeping bag, but I am happy to report that I am a true believer now!  My first night in the Grouse Mountain I think was the hardest, primarily because there were so many new features to get used to.  What I really like so far is that despite my rolling around, I stay put on my sleeping pad, which can always be a concern in winter camping conditions.  What makes the system work for me is the integrated pillow case.  I have used this with both extra clothing for a pillow as well as an inflatable camping pillow I purchased just for this series.  I think without the pillow case integrated, it could be hard for me to stay comfortable throughout the night, or else I might wake up with a seriously crooked neck.  The image to the right shows me settling down for the night.

I sleep pretty warm; a curse of a high metabolism I suppose.  Despite this, I have been comfortable being bundled up tight in this bag.  On my overnight to Simmons Peak, I think either I was sweating too much at night, or perhaps I had worn slightly damp base layers to bed because I had some brief chills sometime during the night.  I suspect that the weather played a part too, but the other trips I remained quite comfortable.  I should point out that I have been taking temperature readings from inside my tent, not outside.  I could only guess if temperatures dipped lower than 20 F (-6 C) at some point in the night.  If they did, I stayed warm!  

The draft collars on the hood and neck do an adequate job of keeping out cold air.  The draft collar on the hood that lies over my forehead also has a nice bonus of blocking out some early morning sun on those mornings that I just don't want to get up!  The draft collar at my neck does slip around from time to time, but it still keeps the cold air out and the warm air in.  However, since I toss and turn, when I wake up I notice it is twisted sometimes.

Storing and packing the bag is very easy.  The size of the stuff sack that the Grouse Mountain comes with is fine.  I have several backpacks that I use and so far that sleeping bag has fit easily into the sleeping bag compartments of the two I use for winter backpacking.  I have taken care to store the sleeping bag in the cotton storage sack that was supplied by Big Agnes when I get back from my trips.  Despite these precautions, I have found an occasional feather when I unpacked the sleeping bag.  Not every time, but once was enough to make sure I keep an eye on this.  So far I have seen no loss of loft.

Inserting the sleeping pad into the sleeve is not as big of a chore as I would have thought.  Normally I lay out my pad and my sleeping bag to "loft up" before arranging them for bed.  This requires a little extra forethought in tight quarters of a closed tent and snow falling outside!  Again, it was easy of enough to do without much fuss.  

Summary

All in all, I am very happy with this sleeping bag.  I have a number of trips planned in Colorado this spring and it is likely that I could still push the lower limits of the bag within the next two months.

Pros: Lighter weight than I am used too, small size when packed, keeps me warm and I don't fall off the pad!

Cons: The draft collar at my neck slips around at night.

Long Term Report

Field Conditions

Over the past two months I have been on an additional 2 backpack trips as well as a couple of "car camping" ventures.  This brings my total to 6 nights backpacking and 2 nights car camping.  My first trip was a return trip to La Plata Peak in the San Isabel National Forest in Colorado, USA.  As I have done in the past, I packed in a little over 1 mi (2 km) and then hiked the remaining way to the summit.  Unlike before, I made it to the summit for a round trip of 10 mi (16 km).  The trip was especially cold overnight, with temperatures dipping to 15 F (-9 C) but it did get better as the day went on.  The trail was still snow-covered and I slept in a three-season, three-person tent at an elevation of 11,200 ft (3,400 m).

My other trip was an overnight in the San Isabel National Forest near Mt Shavano in Colorado. I was once again stymied by the amount of trees downed by winds this past fall.  I thought that if I packed in far enough I could snowboard down the mountain.  Boy, was I wrong!  Dragging a snowboard and along with my camping gear for 2.5 mi (4 km) wore me out and I turned around shortly after starting the following morning.  Overnight temperatures barely dipped below 30 F (-1 C) with clear skies and nice views.  The trail was full of snow and trees, but I did manage to find a level spot to camp in with a three-season, three-person tent at 10,600 ft (3,230 m).  Hey, it was technically spring for these trips!

My other two trips were intended to be backpacking trips, but my partners for these hikes were not so inclined to hike into the woods so I slept at trailheads.  Both camping spots were snow free at elevations of between 9,800 and 10,500 ft (2,990 and 3,200 m).  The overnight temperatures fell to 30 and 40 F (-1 and 4 C).  I slept in the same three-season three-person tent as before.

Observations

Asleep
Sleeping like a baby!  Well, until the flash that was...
Over the past two months I have come to enjoy sleeping in the Grouse Mountain bag.  The bag is roomy enough for me to move freely and yet I don't quite feel as though my body is struggling to keep warm.  The draft collars do a good job of keeping out the cold air as well.  When I slept in the backcountry, I generally slept in long underwear with socks on.  On the trip to La Plata, I did get pretty cold at night and I ended up throwing on an additional layer.  I generally am a "hot" sleeper, and it was the case for this night as well.  I think that because I was hot when I climbed in my bag, I perspired some and then that caused me to get some chills.  I monitored this on my other trips and as before, I noticed myself unzipping the bag only to zip it up tighter as the night went on.  I have had similar experiences with my other sleeping bags as well and have commented on this in my Field Report as well.  Overall, I rate the warmth of this bag right on the money.  At 15 F (-9 C) I get a little cold but it is manageable.  

The zipper is a little hard to use when I wake up in the middle of the night.  I usually have to pee at least once during the night, so when I get up and do my business, I am anxious to crawl back into the warm sleeping bag.  The zipper is a little difficult to zip up as it snags a little.  This is surprising since there is a stiff piece of fabric that I thought would help prevent this.  Alas, I have not found a sleeping bag zipper that doesn't snag but I was hoping this one would be up to that task.  

One thing that I have found great about this bag is that the integrated sleeping bag sleeve really does make for a comfortable night in the backcountry!  As a side sleeper who flip-flops throughout the night, this bag really does a great job of keeping me on my pad.  I intentionally pitched my tent on a slight incline when I was car camping to see if there would be a noticeable difference.  When I have done so in the past, I have slipped off my pad or ended up sliding down toward the lower end of the tent.  This time I stayed put.  I think I slide a little, but the pad and bag stayed together just the same.  Keep in mind that the pad is held in place by a nylon webbing loop that extends to the bottom of the pad.  Big Agnes, I love you!

The Grouse Mountain has held up quite well.  I see no issues with loose threads, fraying or any other signs of wear.  I have seen a loose feather here and there, but nothing that has me really concerned.  

Continued Use

I have no major complaints about this bag, and there are many things I love about it.  While I think it may be a bit on the warm side for my summer camping I will definitely make this my bag of choice for the spring and fall.  I think I am going to look closely at other Big Agnes sleeping bags for my summer bag as well!  Nonetheless, this sleeping bag has a permanent spot in my gear closet.

Summary

I love this sleeping bag a lot.  I only have only one item to add to my Field Report.

Pros: same as above

Cons: Zipper gets stuck when zipping up for me.  

This concludes my long term report.   I would like to extend my sincere thanks not only to
Big Agnes for their generosity but also to the folks at BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this series.

 





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