KELTY GALACTIC 35 SLEEPING BAG
TEST SERIES BY GREG MCDONALD
INITIAL REPORT - September 12, 2009
FIELD REPORT - November 28, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - January 30, 2010
gdm320 AT yahoo DOT com
Boynton Beach, Florida
6' 0" (1.83 m)
225 lb (102.00 kg)
I have been camping for 17 years, 12 of them have been spent hiking in the backcountry. My hikes are almost exclusively in Florida and generally range between one and three nights. My all-time favorite hike was a 10 day expedition in the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. I consider myself a lightweight but comfortably equipped hiker, with a pack averaging between 25 and 30 lb (11 and 14 kg).
INITIAL REPORT - September 12, 2009
Product Information and Specifications
|Image Courtesy of Kelty|
Model: Galactic 35
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Country of Manufacture: China
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.kelty.com
MSRP: US $149.95
Listed Weight: 2 lb 8 oz (1.13 kg)
Measured Weight: 2 lb 8.6 oz (1.15 kg)
Listed Temperature Rating: 35 F (2 C)
Shell Fabric: PR349T polyester, diamond cross-dye ripstop
Lining Material: P300T polyester taffeta
Insulation Material: 600-fill-power duck down
Size Reviewed: Regular
Product Information Retrieved from Manufacturer's Website
When I think of the stereotypical hiking sleeping bag I think of a tightly mummy cut and hooded bag. With a much wider rectangular cut and no hood the Galactic certainly challenges that stereotype. Right off the bat, though, I can see a lot of promise here.
Right out of the box I was pleased with what I saw. I had a fair idea of what I was going to be looking at from study of Kelty's website, although the level of details on the site disappointed me which left a lot of room for hands-on discovery. When I first unpacked the bag from the retail display box it arrived in I was pleased with the weight. Considering the fill, cut, and temperature rating I felt that the weight was reasonable. Visually it is just what I expected with subtle colors and design. Gear color generally isn't that important to me, but I was happy that the bag isn't a flamboyant or bold color.
I gave the bag a thorough once-over to check the workmanship. Surprisingly, I didn't find any escaped duck down fill feathers at all. All of the structural stitching is well done and complete with no loose threads or obvious missing stitches. The zippers are all functional and undamaged. The fabric is in excellent shape with no pulls, runs, or tears. It looks brand spankin' new. One thing that immediately caught my eye was a misspelling in the stitching of the name of the bag. Apparently I'm testing the "Calactic". It gave me a good chuckle, but obviously it's nothing for me to worry about since it is far from a functional issue.
One of the things that I liked the most upon initial inspection was that the zipper goes all the way down the one side then across the bottom, meaning that I can unzip the bag completely and lay it flat like a quilt. This is a feature that really, really excites me about the bag. When I opt for my hammock instead of my tent, it is considerably easier to drape a quilt or blanket over myself than to squirm my way into a mummy bag. Also, when the weather is warmer, I'm hoping I can vent excess heat more easily using the bag as a quilt. If nothing else, I like that the design provides me options.
After I was down gawking at the features and straightforward design I decided to take the Galactic for a test drive. I puffed up my inflatable pad, laid out the bag, and crawled in through the top with the bag fully zipped. Even with the bag all buttoned up, worming my way in was pretty easy. I unzipped the bag and exited then re-entered the bag the "conventional way" with just as much ease. Even on the first run I didn't have any issues with the zipper snagging while opening or closing.
The first thing I thought to myself once inside was appreciation for the generous space the rectangular cut provides. I'm a big time tosser when I sleep and tend to primarily sleep on my side and stomach. Recently I've really come to appreciate the extra room in the footbox of rectangular (or semi-rectangular) bags compared to the mummy bags I'd slept in for years. The Galactic is no exception and feels like a palace inside. I'm not a fan of being constricted, and this is not a problem for me with this bag which is a big plus.
I spent a little time inside the bag playing with the adjustments and zippers. While inside the bag I had little trouble figuring out how to use the drawcord and ribbon adjustments to fine-tune the fit at the top of the bag. I also worked the zipper up and down the side of the bag several times to see if I could find any snag points or possible trouble spots and didn't find any. With a little bit of flexibility I was able to get to the foot of the bag to open up the foot vent, which I think I might find to be a blessing until the weather starts to cool off more.
One thing I'm not sure how I will react to is the lack of a hood on the bag. I'm a Florida boy, born and bred. For me a 35 F (2 C) night is pretty cold… so I'm curious how I will adjust. I bring a fleece cap with me on every trip anyway so I'm not too concerned about it, but it will be different nonetheless so I'm interested to see how that works out for me.
There are a few other features that I noticed that are worth mentioning. These include internal loops for attaching a liner (which I have and just might have to use for testing's sake), external loops to use this bag as a liner, and large hang loops on the foot end to hang the bag up (for storage or drying I assume). I also noticed but don't completely understand the sleeping bad security loops. I've seen several bags that have straps attached to attach the sleeping mat, but the Galactic's are just two loops on each side (for a total of four) to which I'd have to attach my own straps.
Also included were a large storage sack and stuff sack for the Galactic. The storage sack is of nice quality and is a good size for the bag and I am using it for my general storage of the bag. The stuff sack, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired. Frankly, I'm not impressed with the size when I pack the bag into the stuff sack. It is not a compression sack, so it stays fairly bulky when stuff. Further, the stuff sack does not seem particularly weather resistant. Because of the bulk and lack of water resistance, especially considering the down fill, I will be using an eVent waterproof compression sack for the remainder of the test.
Down the Trail
The Galactic has impressed thus far, but the true tests are all ahead of it. I don't really know anything until I hunker down in camp with it for the night. However, the mid-range temperature rating (which covers a lot of the camping season here in Florida), the decent weight, the generous cut, and extra configuration of "quilt mode" certainly make it look good on paper.
While all these things are very promising, there are many questions that need to be answered. Notably, I'm interested in finding out the functional temperature range of the bag. I'm also curious if the cut of the bag will cause me any problems down near the low end of the temperature rating in terms of generating and retaining warmth. I'm also very curious to find out how the bag performs completely unzipped and used as a quilt.
FIELD REPORT - November 28, 2009
Field Locations and Conditions
I have had the Galactic out for a total of six nights on four trips during this phase of the test period. I have had the Galactic on the trail at Lake Okeechobee (twice), Croom, and Myakka River State Park. The Croom overnight trip saw overnight lows of only about 70 F (21.1 C). The overnighter in Myakka dipped down to 48 F (8.9 C). My late September Okeechobee two-nighter only got down to around 72 F (22.2 C) and was very humid thanks to a considerable amount of rain, while my November Okeechobee two-nighter bottomed right around 60 F (15.6 C).
The radically changing Florida weather accidentally provided me a nice testing opportunity to gauge the versatility of the Galactic. To start the test series, the weather was still warm and, on one occasion, very muggy. Over the last several weeks the weather has shifted to become considerably more mild and was even "Florida cold" on one occasions. Fortunately, I was able to take advantage of two of these "cold snaps" and get in a pair of trips.
Both the warmer and cooler temperatures yielded useful experiences and information. On my two warmer trips, I used the Galactic primarily deployed flat in its "quilt mode" so I could vent it easier. I'm a big fan of the easy venting I can do using the Galactic as a quilt. Even at home I adjust the coverage of my comforter and bed sheets throughout the night so those nights were a pretty "homely" experience.
In particular, I really enjoyed using the Galactic as a quilt in my hammock during my September Okeechobee trip because of how easy it was to get covered up without having to worm my way into a mummy bag. Instead I was just able to use my 3/4 length ProLite pad underneath my torso and spread the Galactic over top of me. It was one of the more pleasant nights I've ever had in my hammock because of how easily I could regulate my body temperature. To date this is the only hammock trip I've used the Galactic on, but after that night's sleep I certainly hope I can sneak in more!
The two cooler trips that I've experienced bottomed out at 60 F (15.6 C) and 48 F (8.9 C) respectively. Obviously that's not particularly cold and I never got anywhere near challenging the 35 degree F (1.7 C) rating of the Galactic. I did get to use several of the Galactic's features on the coldest trip I've taken with the bag to-date. On the cold night in Myakka I crawled in with just a lightweight synthetic baselayer and skull cap, zipped the bag up, and used the draw string around the neck to snug the bag up a bit. I enjoyed a toasty warm and very comfortable night inside. I had to crawl out of bed in my daze to answer nature's call and had no problem operating the ribbon cinch or zippers even in my half-awake state.
One thing that I have found myself thinking is that I wish the Galactic was available in Long as well. I'm right at 6' (1.83 m) which is generally the cut-off height for Regular bags before a Long would be advisable. While I fit fine in the Galactic, I don't have much extra room in the footbox and wouldn't really be able to bring much inside the bag with me if I needed (or wanted) to keep anything in particular warm. I'd say this is a bit of a suggestion to the manufacturer to consider making a larger size available.
As I alluded to in my Initial Report, I have in fact been using an after-market eVENT compression sack for my trips with the Galactic. I loaded up my pack with the Galactic in the Kelty-provided stuff sack and wasn't happy with the packed size, so before the trip I swapped it out for the eVENT one. At this point I don't even really consider the standard Kelty stuff sack an option.
Down the Trail
I have to admit, I'm a little bit disappointed that I haven't had the opportunity to test the Galactic in lower temperatures a little bit closer to the bag's rating. With a little bit of luck and help from Mother Nature I hope that these opportunities will be plentiful in December and January.
I will say that I am digging the Galactic so far. What I like the most has to be the versatililty. Not only can I use it in multiple configurations, such as quilt and conventional bag mode, but so far it has performed pretty well in a fairly wide temperature range as well. My only gripe at this point is that it isn't available in a larger size.
LONG-TERM REPORT - January 30, 2010
Testing Conditions and Locations
I've had the Galactic out on three trips totaling four nights during the final two months of the testing period. I spent one night in Myakka River State Park and three nights (two-nighter and overnighter) on the Florida Trail around Lake Okeechobee.
The best thing about the final months of the testing period has been the temperature. The bottom fell out of our Floridian thermometers with nights down in the 30s F (-1 C) that have allowed me to push the limits of the Galactic. The Myakka trip saw lows in the high 40s F (4.5 C), and the Okeechobee trips saw lows of 34 F and 30 F (1 C and -1 C) respectively. These temperatures are according to the National Weather Service, and I experienced temperatures between 1 and 3 degrees cooler at my campsites according to my personal thermometer. I also encountered rain on one occasion as one of the cold fronts rolled through.
The Galactic performed pretty well across the final portion of the testing period. I was very pleased to finally get the opportunity to test the bottom end of the temperature rating. The Myakka trip was forecasted to be in the low 50s F (10 C), so I brought my hammock along. It ended up dipping into the high 40s F (8 - 9 C), but I was still fine using the Galactic as a quilt and my space blanket underneath. Except for the point in the night I kicked all my covers off, I do not remember any discomfort or cold spots.
January saw a very odd cold snap for Florida. We spent about a week and a half with low temperatures in the 30s F (-1 C), which is pretty uncharacteristic of Florida. Such temperatures for a day or two are normal for this time of the year, but a week and a half is a pretty long time for us to be so cold. Fortunately, it provided a nice opportunity for me to duck out of work and hit the trail for testing science!
My first trip was a test run that saw rain as the front blew through and temperatures that bottomed out at 34 F (1 C). The front blew through in the evening and the temperature plummeted overnight. Once the temperature slid to about 40 F (4.4 C) I started to feel cold spots and down around the temperature rating of 35 F (1.7 C) I started to feel uncomfortable. With a baselayer, socks, and skull cap I was warm enough to get through the night, but I didn't enjoy my usual deep sleep.
A few nights later I ventured back out for a two night trip that was forecasted to be some of the colder weather we've had in quite a while along with the vague possibility of snow. The temperature was forecast to drop down to 30 F (-1 C) or below, but I brought the Galactic along as my primary bag. I was going to give it another run with a half-zip pullover, but I packed my 15 F (- 9 C) bag as an insurance policy in case it was just too cold to use.
When I finally turned in for the night, after hoping against hope for the snow that never came, I spent about twenty minutes or so trying to get comfortably warm but couldn't really get there. I nodded off for about an hour but woke up too cold. At that point I abandoned my Galactic for my warmer bag and slept like a baby. The next night was a similar story, where I tried the Galactic at first but ended up moving to the other bag after another unsuccessful attempt to get warm. I used the same pad, a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core, with both bags for the sake of consistency.
I still have not had any issues with loose down feathers making their way outside of the bag, in fact I have only found a couple across the entire testing period. I am very pleased with the Galactic in this aspect, as I expect the fill will hold up very well over time since I am not losing any in this manner.
I also have no durability issues to report. All of the loops and fasteners are in good shape and show no signs of stress, the zippers still run clean and smooth, and there are no stretches in the seams or runs in the bag's shell. It has held up very well!
Overall I must say that I'm very happy with the Galactic's performance over the last several months. The bag managed to overcome my initial hesitation over the rectangular cut very well by proving to be very versatile as a quilt. The durability has been pretty flawless and the bag has shown to be of very good overall quality.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.
I only have two real gripes with the Galactic. My first problem is that the bag is only available in the Regular length, so anyone taller than 6 ft (1.8 m) is going to have some space issues. As I mentioned before, the bag is right at the edge of what I find acceptable in terms of length for my height. My other problem is pretty much the same gripe I have will the overwhelming majority of bags: the temperature rating. Below 40 F (4.4 C) I was just not comfortable enough to really want to spend the night in the Galactic. I'm not sold on a temperature rating just because of what the manufacturer claims it to be as a general rule, so I wasn't disappointed in the Galactic, but I wouldn't say it's good all the way down to 35 F (1.7 C).
This concludes my test series on the Kelty Galactic. I'd like to take one final opportunity to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Kelty for the opportunity to test this great little bag.
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