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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > Exped Dreamwalker Syn 133 > Test Report by Coy Ray StarnesExped DreamWalker Syn 133 L (sleeping bag)
Initial Report: July 9, 2010
Field Report: September 28, 2010
Long Term Report: November 20, 2010
I live outside a small town in northeast Alabama. I also enjoy hunting, fishing, canoeing, and most other outdoor activities. Backpacking is my favorite pastime. I consider myself a knowledgeable backpacker but I am not an expert. I enjoy hiking with my friends and family or solo. I limit my hiking to areas fairly close to home, usually within a day's drive of home. I hike throughout the year and actually hike the least in the hot humid months of summer. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. However I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability. A typical 3 season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water. I usually sleep in a hammock and cook with an alcohol stove. My backpacking trips are usually 2, 3 or 4 days in length.
Describing the DreamWalker Syn 133 is not easy, but briefly, it is a sleeping bag that can also be worn while walking around camp, and it is possible to even do camp chores while wearing it. This is accomplished by having arm holes that allow getting each arm out of the bag and by being open at the bottom so that walking is possible. When deployed in this manner it resembles a sleeveless dress. When in sleeping bag mode it is not a lot different than any other semi-rectangular sleeping bag. It is not a super lightweight bag, but then again, this is not surprising since it is not a mummy shaped bag, and I don't know of many sleeping bags that will let me walk around in camp either. The website provides a very good video that demonstrates how to set the bag up for jacket mode but after trying it myself it is even easier than I expected.
The sleeping bag is pretty much a rectangular bag but it is slightly narrower at the foot end and even more so once the draw-cords are snugged up. However, the bag is so long that my feet are not down that far so I have plenty of foot room. The hood is a little big on me but it has cord-locks that allow me to sung it down nicely. The draft tube for the neck features hook and loop fastening and is easy to snug up. The arm hole zippers are easy to unzip and there are draft tubes along each one. The bag features a center zipper which can be unzipped from both ends (head or foot) or come completely apart to mate the bag with another DreamWalker. When completely unzipped the bag can be used as a quilt.
A quick inspection revealed no flaws in the stitching of the bag. And for the record, the sleeping bag came with a large mesh storage bag and a stuff sack that resembles a roll-top dry-bag, but I saw no claims that it is waterproof. The stuff sack is generously sized and it is easy to stuff the DreamWalker Syn 133 inside and then remove it. Here is the stuff sack along side a regulation sized basketball.
The DreamWalker Syn 133 in its stuff sack
The website provides the following information, some a repeat of what I have already described.
* As a sleeping bag: With its controllable armholes Dreamwalker Syn 133 is perfect for lying inside the tent. Its center zip is ideal for those who sleep on their sides because less heat will rise past the zipper.
* Dreamwalker Syn 133's unique hood is comfortably insulated and features easy adjustments to ensure a perfect fit without blocking vision.
* Arm accesses are protected with insulated draft tubes and stiffeners prevent snagging. Locking zippers can be adjusted from either side.
* Draft tube collar is super soft, offers complete comfort adjustment and prevents heat loss.
* Insulated handwarmer pockets hold personal items.
* 2-way locking zipper is protected by a snag preventing stiffener. And the zipper is easily managed from either side.
* With the lower drawcord closed, Dreamwalker Syn 133 becomes a sleeping bag.
* Free floating shell offers seamless construction to improve insulation and weather protection. Interior tuck-stitch design.
* Insulated draft tube protects the zipper, and chin guard insulates against a cold zipper.
* Bar-tacked stress points add strength.
* Mesh storage sack doubles for bug protection.
* Reflective, glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls.
After viewing the specifications on the website and in particular after seeing the online video I was not in for any major surprises when I first inspected the DreamWalker Syn 133. However, the bag is so unique that I was still excited to finally get to inspect it firsthand and try it on for size. I am testing the long version but the website was not very clear in explaining whether or not this bag is any bigger girth wise than the regular is. I will just say that the bag is plenty roomy. I measured the bag and found the top end to be 34" (86 cm) wide but it feels a lot more roomy than several 33" (84 cm) rectangular bags I have tried. The bottom end of the bag is the same width as the top but when the drawcord is pulled tight it does get narrower right near the bottom end of the bag but since the Long is made for individuals up to 6' 11" (211 cm) tall, my feet are nowhere near the end of the bag.
As I was inspecting the bag I first thought one of the cord-locks used for tightening the foot end was missing a piece. However, after closer inspection I saw that the two cord-locks actually can be mated. I then noticed that the cord-locks for the hood are the same but since it was snapped together I missed this at first and actually thought it was a single lock with 2 holes for the cords. The two photos here show what I am talking about. The one on the left is obviously the two apart while the image on the right shows them clipped together.
I did try the bag out as a jacket to see how easy it worked transforming from sleeping bag mode and it was very easy to do. I did this in my living room floor but the process would be the same in a tent and hopefully just as easy in my hammock. Since I was already lying in the bag, I unzipped the arm holes and poked my arms out. I also unzipped the main bag zipper down to just below my waist. Next I sat up and reached down and loosened the draw-cords that close the bottom end of the bag. Then I poked my feet out and stood up. Then I pulled the lower end of the bag up to my waist and tightened the draw-cords enough to keep it from sliding back down. The extra that was gathered up draped back down on the outside, so in effect, the bag forms a skirt of double thickness from the waist back down to well below my knees. I should also note that once in jacket mode it is very easy to walk around in the bag, and the part tightened up around my waist did not seem to want to slide back down. Of course I did my short test on a very warm afternoon so once I walked outside to get a few shots of the bag I started sweating and chose not to stay in the bag for long.
This concludes my Initial Report. I would like to thank Exped and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the DreamWalker Syn 133. Please stay tuned for the Field Report which should be forthcoming in about two months.
Testing Locations and Conditions
I have used the Exped DreamWalker Syn 133 on two overnighters so far. Both times were on short 4 mile (6 km) hikes on some local trails near my home here in northeast Alabama. I used the bag in my hammock both times. The first night using the bag was on 9/7/2010 and saw a low of 67 F (19 C) but it was 84 F (29 C) when I turned in around 9 PM. The next night was on 9/27/2010 and it was much cooler with a low of 54 F (12 C) but around 68 F (20 C) when I first lay down in the bag. It did not rain either night but there was a lot of wind on the second night.
Field Test Results
For about the first month and a half after getting the bag my area experienced very hot weather, with highs over 100 F (38 C) and lows each night of around 80 F (27 C). I had read the bag was rated comfortable up to 70 F (21 C) so I waited patiently for a chance to use it in temperatures that matched the bags rating. And even on the first night I used it the temperature did not get all that cold until well into the night. In fact, I had planned to use the bag as a jacket to see how well I could move around while setting up my hammock. It only took about a minute in the near 90 F (32 C) air for me to decide this was not a good idea. However, I did discover that getting into the bag from a standing position was a little more difficult with my size 12 hiking boots on as opposed to barefoot like I previously did in the house when checking the bag out. I just had to kind of work my first foot down to the ground, making sure I was not standing on the lower section of the bag. Once I had one foot inside and on the ground it was easier to get the other foot in, but still a tight fit with my boots on. I then zipped the bag up slightly higher than my knees and hoisted the bottom end up to the inside and tightened the drawstring snugly around my waist. Anyways, I waited a couple of hours before trying it on again and this time it was still hot but I was not immediately sweating like a pig. After changing into running shoes I found getting my feet down into the bag and on the ground was a lot easier. I snugged up the lower section at my waist again and proceeded to walk around a bit. I found it very easy to walk around camp.
Wearing the DreamWalker as a jacket
After this I retired to my hammock to see how it worked as a sleeping bag. Since I already had the bag on in the jacket mode it was a simple matter to sit in my side entry hammock, pull my shoes off and lay down. My immediate thought was, WOW!!!! that was easy. Of course I had to then undo the waist cord and work the foot end down and pull that drawstring tight again. This was really not hard but I'm not the most flexible person so it did take a little grunting to get everything adjusted properly.
Getting ready for bed
At 84 F (29 C) I really was too warm with the bag zipped up, even with my arms sticking out the arm holes, so I unzipped the bag down to just above my knees and pulled my arms back inside the arm holes. In other words, with the bag open like this it was only covering my lower legs and feet. It was a good thing I had a long sleeve bug shirt on since my upper body was exposed so much, but I drifted off to sleep fairly easily and had no bites during the night. I had to get up shortly after midnight but I did not wear the sleeping bag as a jacket since it takes a few minutes to get it set up in jacket mode and then back to sleeping bag mode. But this also makes it a little more difficult getting back into the bag in my hammock. However, it was still much easier than with a traditional mummy bag, especially one with a very short zipper. I had the bag already unzipped down to near the foot end so I got in on top of the bag and had to scrunch around a bit to get the bag stretched back out under me. I slept until around 4 AM and when I woke up I was feeling a tad chilly so I poked my arms out the arm holes and zipped the bag up, then pulled my arms back inside and zipped the arm holes up as well. The bag is plenty roomy inside and doing this is not all that hard. It wasn't long until I was getting hot so I opened the center zipper up slightly and the arm hole zippers all the way but kept my arms inside the bag. This gave me adequate ventilation and I slept another two hours before getting up shortly after daylight. Since it was much cooler now I used the bag in jacket mode and was able to strike camp without overheating too much. But even at 67 F (19 C) I was a little warmer than I would have preferred, but I think this was due mostly to all the moving around I was doing. I did not cook breakfast. but if I had, I think I would have pulled it off because it was not really needed.
My next opportunity to use the Dreamwalker was just over two weeks later but the weather was vastly cooler this time. In fact, it has been the coolest night so far this fall. My experience was similar to the first night as far as getting in and out of my hammock but I did keep the bag zipped more so than previously. I did need to keep things open a little the first few hours but by midnight I was zipped up completely with my arms inside the bag and I had the hood on. I would even go so far as to say that at 54 F (12 C) which I experienced late in the night the bag was perfect. I was a tad warm early during the night and even had my arms out the arm holes the first several hours. I also used my reflector pad on this trip, something I did not need on the first night.
I did want to comment a little more about the hood. It is very big, too big in my opinion. When worn as a jacket or when used as a sleeping bag the hood pretty much covered my eyes when I tightened the draw cords at either side. Without the drawcords pulled snug it was so big that it just flopped around and if I looked to one side or the other, one of my ears would end up facing out instead of my face. However, later on when it gets a lot colder I may appreciate it being big as I can easily see wearing some kind of winter hat under the hood. Of course by then I may need additional insulation for the bag as well but the bag fits loosely enough that wearing thicker clothes or even fitting another bag inside it should be no problem. Of course I will have to contend with getting inside the inner bag so it won't be as easy as getting in just the DreamWalker but I'm sure I will try this out some once it gets cold enough. I have not used the hand pockets very much so far but I also expect to need them more as it cools down.
Summary Thus Far
I had very high expectations that this sleeping bag might be one of if not the best solutions to all the problems I have experienced over the years when using a sleeping bag in my hammock. And while not perfect, I will have to say that so far it has been close, and certainly a big improvement over my regular mummy sleeping bags. It just makes getting in and out of my sleeping bag with the hammock so much easier. I'll have to wear the bag in jacket mode more before making any hard conclusions but so far it has been promising. The bag does not pack down as compact as my down mummy bags but to be fair, Exped does offer this bag in a down version.
This concludes my Field Report. I would like to thank Exped and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the DreamWalker Syn 133. Please stay tuned for the Long Term Report which should be forthcoming in about two months.
Locations and Field Conditions
I have used the Exped DreamWalker Syn 133 a total of 6 nights since getting it. This part of my review will focus on the last four nights use and then summarize all my uses. During this last phase of testing I used the DreamWalker three consecutive nights while car camping in southwest Mississippi and one more night here in the woods near home in northeast Alabama on a 9 mile (14 km) overnight backpacking trip. The three Mississippi nights saw lows of around 50 F (10 C) each night. It did not rain at all but the winds were fairly brisk each night. My last nights use here close to home saw a low of 38 F (3 C). It did not rain during the night but did rain and sleet some while I was hiking the following day. The elevation at the camp ground in Mississippi was around 150 ft (46 m) and the elevation for the campsite near home was approximate 1000 ft. (300 m).
Long Term Testing Results
First of all, the weather has finally been a lot more suited for testing the Exped DreamWalker Syn 133. In fact, I'd say the three nights in Mississippi with lows of around 50 F (10 C) each night were just about perfect for this bag. I spent a considerable amount of time wearing the bag as a jacket around our camp fire (actually a lantern since we were under a no burn order) each night before turning in for bed. It cooled of fast after sundown each night and everybody would dig out their jackets. In fact I started the night with just my jacket but I had on shorts and my legs started getting cold so I went to my hammock and retrieved the DreamWalker. I had not mentioned it to any of my fellow campers so they were a little surprised when I came strolling back to the circle wearing what looked to them like a very puffy dress. However, after explaining it to them they were impressed. I also explained how it made getting in my hammock a lot easier. In fact, two of the guys were sleeping in hammocks and were jealous, because they knew first hand the difficulties of getting in a sleeping bag in a hammock. Anyways, it worked great sitting in my camp chair for a few hours each night. Here is a photo of the DreamWalker as I sat in my camp chair.
Author using the DreamWalker as a jacket
And now for another important aspect of using the DreamWalker as a jacket. I know this might be a little TMI for some so feel free to skip this paragraph... but when I needed to go pee, it was a simple matter to get up and head into the woods with the DreamWalker still on. To answer natures call I simply raised the whole affair so there was no chance of wetting my sleeping bag. It was a lot longer walk to the bathrooms in the campground so if I needed to go-go, I took it off before heading to the facilities, mainly because I would need to find somewhere to hang it while visiting the throne... I say all this to say that the DreamWalker proved to be a very good camp jacket and it is easy to walk around with it on. But I will say that if I ever need to squat down when in the woods I'll probably remove the DreamWalker. I can't imagine anything much worse than accidentally getting some poo on my sleeping bag and then having to sleep in it.
And now back to the camp-site. Since I was already wearing the DreamWalker, when it came time to turn in for the night I simply walked back to my hammock and sat down on the edge of my hammock long enough to pull my shoes off. I had already showered each night and had on clean socks, gym shorts and my bug shirt. I started each night with my arms out of the bag and the center zipper opened from my neck down to about my waist. Then sometime during the night I would pull my arms in and zip the bag up. As already mentioned, I did have on a a long sleeve shirt (a bug shirt), mainly to keep bugs from biting my arms when I had them out of my bag. My hammock does have bug netting but I like to leave it open for a better breeze at night. I did have to get up several times each night to pee but would go right back to sleep upon returning to my hammock. Since it was not real cold I would just get out of my bag and go take care of business, but when I would get back in my hammock I would repeat the same procedure that I did when getting in when first going to bed. In other words, I pulled the DreamWalker out of the hammock and put it on like a jacket. And thus once I laid back down I did not have to struggle with getting into the bag. Depending on how cool it was I would adjust the bag to meet the conditions and go right back to sleep. Bottom line, I slept very well each night and woke up each morning feeling well rested.
I was hoping to use the bag in near 40 F (4 C) weather since it is rated to 40 F (4 C) and it finally got cold enough to do just that here recently. I hiked about 2 miles (3 km) before setting up my camp on a chilly and rather breezy evening. I packed in some pizza and had that for supper and turned in around 8 PM. This was early for me but I was tired from lack of sleep the day before. I wore a pair of sweat pants and my long sleeve bug shirt over a light performance top (basically a synthetic long sleeve t-shirt) and some thick wool socks to bed. It was 44 F (7 C) when I turned in and the low for the night was 38 F (3 C) when I checked it at around 5 AM. As usual, I had to get up to pee a couple of times and I kept the bag on instead of taking it off like I had been doing on previous nights. And other than these nature calls I slept very well most of the night. When I finally woke up for good at around 5 AM I did feel a little chilled but not chilled as in, man I need to dig out some more clothes, just enough to say I was not all toasty like a bug in a rug. I got up shortly thereafter but I feel the temperature rating is pretty accurate for me. However, it could be totally off for someone else and in either direction. That's one reason I try to test my gear close to home until I prove it works as advertised and recommend others do the same.
Before closing, I want to mention a couple of other things I discovered while using the DreamWalker. Getting my arms through the arm holes was very easy when putting the bag on but once I laid down in my hammock I found it a little difficult to pull them in or poke them back out at times. This was also not every time or the same for each arm. It just seemed random. I'm sure it all depended on how I was lying in my hammock in relation to the bag under me but I felt it worth noting. And if the zipper were an inch (about 3 cm) or so longer it might not be an issue. The other thing I discovered is that by having the long version, I really did not ever have to tighten the bottom drawstring. I could easily flip enough of the foot end of the bag back under my feet to effectively seal off the end. Of course a real tall person might not be able to duplicate this. On the other hand a real short person could probably do the same with the regular length version. And for the record, I'm right at 6 feet (1.8 m) tall.
I have reviewed several sleeping bags over the years and bought a few on my own, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the Exped DreamWalker Syn 133 is the best bag I have ever used for hammock camping. I know a lot of folks use a tent and I would not hesitate to recommend it for tent campers. However, they will most likely not appreciate the way this bag makes getting in and out of a hammock so much easier than regular sleeping bags allow. Plus, the use as a camp jacket is a big benefit all types of campers can enjoy. The bag is not perfect by any means. I have already pointed out that the hood is too big for me and that it is slightly heavier than similarly rated traditional mummy bags. My arms did get a little chilly when wearing it in jacket mode. The way the bag is made to function as a jacket also make it one of the easiest bags to regulate my temperature. In fact this bag will cover about 90% of the temperatures I normally camp in. When it gets real hot I try to stay home under the AC. I often camp in much colder temperature and the 20 F (- 7 C) version in down would be sweet, but since this bag is slightly over sized, I should be able to easily add enough clothes to make this bag work quite a ways below the 40 F (4 C) it is rated for. The only reason I can't definitely say so is because I have not tried it yet. Regardless, the roominess is just one more reason I like this bag so well.
This concludes my testing. I would like to thank Exped and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the DreamWalker Syn 133. It is a winner in my book!
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