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

BIG AGNES GROUSE MOUNTAIN SLEEPING BAG
TEST SERIES BY MIKE CURRY
LONG-TERM REPORT
May 08, 2012

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

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mike Curry
EMAIL: thefishguy AT hotmail DOT com
AGE: 42
LOCATION: Aberdeen, Washington
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 190 lb (86.20 kg)

I've been backpacking, climbing, ski-packing, bushwhacking, and snowshoeing throughout the mountains of Oregon and Washington for the last 25 years. I'm an all-season, all terrain, off-trail kind of guy, but these days (having small kids) most of my trips run on the shorter side of things, and tend to be in the temperate rainforest. While I've carried packs (with winter climbing gear) in excess of 70 pounds (32 kilos), the older I get the more minimalist I become.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 2
Photo courtesy of manufacturer

Manufacturer: Big Agnes
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: www.bigagnes.com
MSRP: US $259.95 (Regular) - $279.95 (Long)
Listed Weight:
- Regular -3 lbs (1.36 kg)
- Long - 3 lbs 6 oz (1.53 kg)
Measured Weight:
- Long - 3 lbs 6.5 oz (1.54 kg) including stuff sack

Other details:

Size Tested: Long
Pad included by Manufacturer: Insulated Air Core 20x78X2.5 in (51X198X6 cm)

Measured Pad Weight: 2 lbs 0.4 oz (0.92 kg)

From Manufacturer's Website:

- 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 you pad again
- Half pad sleeve with adjustable strap holds ANY 20 in (51 cm) 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 in (178 cm) 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.

Regular fits up to 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) tall
Long fits up to 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) tall

Pad Size: Any 20 in (51 cm) wide
Color gray/burnt orange
Fill Type 600 fill goose down

Fill Weight 19 oz (539 g) Regular, 21 oz (595 g) Long
Shoulder Girth 67.5 in (171 cm) Regular, 72.5 in (184 cm) Long
Hip Girth 64 in (163 cm) Regular, 69 in (175 cm) Long
Foot Girth 43 in (109 cm) Regular, 44 in (112 cm) Long
Stuff Sack Size M - 8X17.5 in (10X44 cm)
Compressed Bag Size 8X7 in (20X18 cm) Regular, 8X8 in (20X20 cm) Long

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Big Agnes Grouse Mountain Sleeping Bag arrived with a stuff sack and cotton storage sack as well as the insulated air core sleeping pad the manufacturer provided to test with the bag (usually available separately).

The pad is a Primaloft-filled inflatable pad that uses some recycled materials. The nylon fabric seems substantial, the twist-lock valve is easy to operate, and the pad seems very well made.

The sleeping bag itself initially impressed me. Its design does away with insulation under my torso, replacing it with a sleeve that accepts a standard 20 in (51 cm) wide sleeping pad. As a quilt user, this makes a lot of sense to me. The pad slips into a fabric sleeve underneath the bag and is secured with a strap that loops around the end of the pad and connects to the bag not at the feet but about halfway back up allowing my legs to move freely side to side as well as up while the pad is attached. I've not used a bag that attached to the pad like this (though I have used quilts that attached to a pad) and was anxious to try it out.

The materials used seem very high quality, and the fabrics feel nice against the skin. The toggle for the cinch cord at the head is attached by a short web loop, and works effectively. The draft collar appears functional, and the zipper works smoothly. Construction is very high quality with neat, tidy stitches and a very finished appearance. Loft is excellent.
IMAGE 1
Photo courtesy of manufacturer

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

Simple instructions explaining how to insert a sleeping pad into the bottom side of the bag were on a hang-tag attached to the zipper pull. They were easy to understand and the process is very intuitive.

Care instructions for the sleeping bag are attached near the foot and seem very straightforward. They read:

"This bag conforms to CPAI.75, the standard for sleeping bag fire resistance. Note: Sleeping bags will burn. Keep away from fire sources.

CARE INSTRUCTIONS

Machine wash cold in front loading washer with mild soap, rinse thoroughly, tumble dry low, do not bleach, do not iron, do not dry clean.

Store in a large storage sack, hang or lay flat in a cool dry place."

TRYING IT OUT

I almost couldn't wait to try this sleeping bag out. Inflating the pad the manufacturer provided took several minutes (it is not self-inflating), and fully inflated it slipped easily into the sleeve on the back of the bag. I loosened the strap, slipped it around the foot of the pad, and tightened it down. The pad/bag combination was then very easy to handle and position, and I unzipped the bag and climbed in.

My first thoughts were that the bag was very roomy for me, which I don't usually experience with mummy-style bags. I am, however, at the lower end of the height range for the Long bag.

I zipped the bag up and experimented with the draft collar and hood closures. Everything seemed very well proportioned for me. A hook and loop closure at the top of the zipper keeps things together at the top, and there is a pocket in the head portion that could be used to secure a small pillow (or stuffed with extra clothing to serve as a pillow).

Perhaps what I noticed most were the two things I liked the most. First, the insulation tapers beautifully into the pad . . . I didn't notice any spots where I felt the transition from insulation to no insulation might leave me with a cold spot. Second, I was able to comfortably sleep on my side, and to scoot from side to side without falling off the pad! Generally I use wider pads due to my being a side sleeper (that changes sides frequently during the night). The fact that this pad was attached to the sleeping bag held it in place and gave the feel of a wider pad. This is a HUGE benefit in my opinion, if it works as well in the field as it seems to in my living room.

I'm very excited to try this bag out in the field.

SUMMARY

My initial experiences with the Big Agnes Grouse Mountain sleeping bag have been very positive. It appears to be a very well-made bag constructed of high quality materials. Its design, using a sleeve and strap to attach the pad to the bag seems to work well for me, and I look forward to trying it out in the field.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have used the Big Agnes Grouse Mountain Sleeping bag on a total of 5 nights while backpacking, with an additional night on a school sleepover with my son. Conditions on the backpacking trips included temperatures ranging from 25 F (-4 C) to 45 F (7 C) and snow and/or rain. I used the sleeping bag in a tent on all the backpacking nights, and utilized the pad Big Agnes included with the bag. The additional night on my son's field trip I mention only because the room we were in was 65 F (18 C) and thus gives some additional data on comfort range.

Three nights of the backpacking use were in Olympic National Park, and two nights were at Mt. Rainier National Park, both in Washington State.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Big Agnes Grouse Mountain sleeping bag has absolutely blown me away in every regard.

TEMPERATURE RANGE

I've had the opportunity to use the Grouse Mountain sleeping bag in temperatures ranging from 25 F (-4 C) to 45 F (7 C) while backpacking and up to 65 F (18 C) indoors. While I'm used to down sleeping bags having a broader comfort range than synthetics, the Grouse Mountain takes the cake. I was toasty warm, yet comfortable, on all the backpacking trips, and even on the indoor overnighter I wasn't unreasonably warm (though I did leave the bag unzipped to my thighs and left my chest uncovered). Given my experience so far, I'd say my comfort range for this bag will likely range from about 50 F (10 C) down to around 15 F (-9 C) without wearing additional layers. I hope to test the lower range during long-term testing.

COMPONENTS

All the components are very high quality. The zipper is easy to use, as is the strap that holds the pad in place. I haven't had any problems with the zipper snagging. Everything so far works just like is should.

I also want to add that this is one of the loftiest down bags I've ever owned . . . I'm surprised every time I pull it out how lofty it is.

FIT/COMFORT

As I am just about an inch over the height limit for the regular, the long is spacious for me in terms of length. The bag is very comfortable, and while I find it comparatively restrictive through the shoulders compared to the rest of the points on my body, I don't find it restricting.

As a side sleeper, the fact that the bag connects to the pad is both a blessing and a curse for me. It's a blessing in that the pad stays put, and as I scoot from side to side, I stay centered on the pad. Normally I use a 25 in (64 cm) pad, but the 20 in (51 cm) provided is adequate for me because the pad stays put, which I love because it potentially saves me some weight in terms of my pad. The bottom line is, while I still wake up to flip sides, I don't find my sleep being as disturbed by it.

The curse of the pad being attached to the bag is that when I roll on my side, the bag can't come with me, so the hood portion of the bag allows the ear on my uphill side to poke out through the face opening, while my face gets buried in the side of the bag hood. It is easy enough to pull the hood off my head, but then I risk getting cold.

In the end, I like this bag so much I might actually learn to sleep on my back again for those nights when it gets cold enough I want the hood up

DESIGN

I have to admit that I fully expected there to be some spot where I felt there wasn't enough insulation under or around me. That has not been the case at all. I've not detected a single draft or cold spot, and I'd say the bag feels warmer by design than any sleeping bag I've ever used. I've never used a bag that didn't have at least one spot where I felt there wasn't enough insulation. Not this bag. It's perfect in that regard. From the contour of the hood to the loft around the feet to the draft collar, everything is exactly the way I'd design it if they were asking me every step of the way.

EASE OF USE

Like most sleeping bags, I find this bag relatively easy to use. I must admit, though, that I've found it challenging at times in my small tent to inflate the pad and get it slid into the sleeve. I've not yet tried under these conditions inflating the pad only partially (or not at all) before inserting it, but I plan to during long-term testing.

SUMMARY

The Big Agnes Grouse Mountain sleeping bag is rapidly becoming my absolutely favorite sleeping bag. The integrated pad is fantastic for me as a side sleeper, in that it keeps me centered on the pad when I turn, but also prevents the hood from turning with me (which is only a problem when it's cold enough I want the hood up). Aside from that, I'm finding it to be the perfect bag for me, with a very broad comfort range.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 1
Set up for a bivy
During long-term testing I've used the Big Agnes Grouse Mountain sleeping bag for 4 additional nights, two in Mt. Rainier National Park, and two in Olympic National Park.

Conditions have included temperatures ranging from just above 15 F (-9 C) to approximately 40 F (4 C). I have used the bag with the Air Core pad provided exclusively. Two of the nights during long term testing were using a tarp shelter, one a tent, and one was an open-air bivy (no bivy sack). The open air bivy and tent nights were on snow at Mount Rainier (for the open air bivy I used a closed-cell foam pad under the bag and pad). The two nights with a tarp shelter were in Olympic National Park.

Weather was dry, but humid, in Olympic National Park. Mt. Rainier was clear the night I was in a tent, and I had light flurries on the bag the night I chose to bivy.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I have to say, this bag has surpassed every expectation or hope I could ever have had for a sleeping bag. Even when I was bivying in the open with occasional flurries at about 25 F (-4 C), I didn't feel the need to have my head inside the bag (until the flurries falling on my face woke me up). That night is a good example of my experience with this bag. I usually sleep clothed, and that night I was wearing a fleece top and ultralight puffy jacket over a baselayer, nylon pants, liner socks, and heavy wool socks. I was so warm that at one point in the night I actually unzipped the bag to my hip to keep from overheating. When I cooled down, I didn't put the hood portion over my head, but rather draped the draft collar over my shoulders, and had no issues with drafts. Across a wide range of temperatures, this bag has proven very comfortable.

The other thing I enjoy about this bag is its size. Granted, I'm on the low end of the height range for the large size, but I was able to comfortably keep in the bag with me my breakfast, snacks, two water bottles, and extra clothing, and never even knew it was there. The bag is super-roomy from the hips down for me, and adequately roomy through the torso.

As a side-sleeper that flips a lot, the integrated pad has revolutionized my sleep. I still wake briefly to turn over, but it now is more like when I'm at home . . . a light disturbance. With non-integrated pad systems, I find myself waking fully.

All the components of this bag have worked marvelously, and I have been completely satisfied with every aspect of its performance.

The only concern I have, and it relates more to mountaineering use than general backpacking (though it could in early or late season) is how the lack of insulation under me would impact my comfort and safety in the event of a pad failure. I suspect I will never be comfortable using the bag on snow without having a 3/4 length closed-cell foam pad in addition to whatever pad I'm using with the bag.

SUMMARY

The Big Agnes Grouse Mountain sleeping bag is a great performer. Well designed and exceptionally well made, the integrated pad design has revolutionized my sleep. Thank you Big Agnes for some of the best sleep I've ever experienced outdoors!

CONTINUED USE

I own an array of sleeping bags and quilts for backpacking. Probably at least a dozen. I can say without hesitation that the Big Agnes Grouse Mountain sleeping bag will be the first I reach for on 95% of my backpacking and climbing trips in the future. I intend to purchase a tapered 3/4 length pad soon to use with the bag as that better suits my preferences.

I would like to thank Big Agnes for the best night's sleep outdoors I've had in decades, and along with BackpackGearTest for the opportunity to test the Grouse Mountain sleeping bag. This concludes my report.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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