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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > MontBell SS Down Hugger 1 > Test Report by Leesa Joiner
MontBellSS Downhugger #1
Test Report Series
Initial Report: March 12, 2009
Field Report: May 15, 2009
Long Term Report: July 16, 2009
5'7" (1.7 m)
140 lb (70 kg)
My outdoor experiences include trips varying in length from one-day hikes to two-week trips. Most involve my three children. While my style isn't as 'high adventure' as some, I do enjoy the time we spend outdoors. My load used to be HEAVY - think pack mule. Reducing my pack weight may be the easiest way to lose weight. I have been challenged to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail this summer, and need to get both my pack and myself in better shape.
While outdoors, I spend time hiking, geocaching, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and camping. I spend almost as much time outdoors during the winter as I do during the summer.
FEATURES: (from website)
* Super Stretch™ System
* Multi-Box Construction: engineered to maximize the warmth of the insulating material. Partitions have been created inside each baffle to more effectively distribute the down and limit migration.
* Tunnel Hood: a small face hole to improve warmth around your head and face
* Neck Adjuster: a drawstring adjusts fit around neck
* Neck Baffle: a shoulder collar prevents air circulation through top of the bag
* Draft Tube: a double draft tube prevents air from circulating through the zipper
* Foot Adjuster: a drawstring has been added to the last baffle, allowing the user increased adjustability.
* Auto Locking Zipper: a locking mechanism has been integrated to limit zipper “slip” during the night.
* Cotton sack included
The MontBell SS Downhugger #1 Sleeping bag, is a mummy style down bag. It is part of their SuperStretch series. The SS series is known for its elastic stitching along the baffles that allows for more stretching of the bag as the user twists and turns during the night. Supposedly, this design allows for the bag to be pulled in closer to the user's body, helping to maintain warmth. I usually fall asleep on my back, but roll during the night. I am curious as to how comfortable it will be if I end up on my back or stomach. I wonder if I'll end up with my face buried in the hood?
The baffles are designed so that the down is held in place, to keep it from bunching up and leading to cold spots.
I am anxious to put this to use, and plan on taking it out this weekend. Our night time temperatures are still in the 10-20 F (-6 to - 12 C) range, and lately it has been windy (a sign that spring is coming, slowly...). The bag has some great design features - the stretch stitching, footbox adjustability, and the ability to snug the hood area to cover much of the face. I am looking forward to testing these out, along with the overall durability and warmth of the bag.
The bag shows no signs of defect, all stitching appears snug, and the zipper moves easily, both from the top and bottom. The Velcro is securely attached to the bag, and the cinch cords work fine. I noticed no feathers in the packaging, indicating there are no leaks. Over the course of the test, I will be watching all these areas to see how they hold up.
My thanks to MontBell and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Super Stretch Downhugger #1. Please stop back in two months (mid-May) for my Field Report.
May 15, 2009
Over the last two months, I have used the Downhugger sleeping bag on 8 nights. It performed above and beyond what I expected. It is rated as a 15F (-9C) bag, and as the temperatures have warmed, I was concerned that it would be too warm to sleep in comfortably. Thankfully, I was wrong. Read on for a break down of the conditions it was used under.
Weekend #1 - Used in western Maine, two nights. Overnight temperatures hit a low of 12 F (-11 C). I slept extremely well, and stayed warm all night. I started out with the hood up and cinched around my face. Little by little, I loosened and then removed the hood. Later in the night, I did unzip the top a few inches also. The bag is interesting, in that when I roll around, it doesn't move much. I often wake up and it has moved a little so that the zipper is centered on my body. I actually like this - it allows me to unzip and re-zip very easily. It is also nice not to wake up overheated, which causes perspiration, and then chilling. The clothes that I store in the footbox area were nice and warm in the morning, making them much more pleasant to put on. One of the reasons I requested the long length, is because I end up scooting down into my blankets at night, and do the same with a sleeping bag. The few extra inches in the Downhugger allows me to do this, and I end up sleeping better.
Midweek Trip - I spent three nights over our April vacation snowshoeing and camping out in New Hampshire. The three nights were spent in different spots, within the White Mountain National Forest. The night temperatures hit a low of 17 F (-8 C) on all three nights. The last night was very windy, and I found that it really made me thankful for the Downhugger. The first two nights were fairly calm, and although cold, were comfortable. The last night was not only windy, but loud. The tree branches were creaking, and I could hear them snapping in the distance. Our tents were in an area safe from falling branches, but the noise made it hard to sleep. I was warm enough and spent most of the night reading. I was glad it was just a short hike out to the cars at daylight.
Weekend #2 - On a trip to central Vermont, I joined quite a few family members at an aunt's big old house. The house used to be a hunting lodge, and so sits on the edge of the woods. A cousin wanted to try winter camping, in a safe place. We hiked about 30 minutes into the woods, and up the side of the mountain, and set up the tent. Even though it was only about 6:30, we decided to stay there and play cards and talk. I used my Downhugger, while she used a 0F bag I had also brought along. Well, we played cards by headlamp, and gabbed until about 9:30pm, and then slept until 6 a.m. We both stayed warm, even though temperatures were down in the single digits. The Downhugger was great once again. I stayed comfortable, and was warm enough to take the hood off during the night. I'm not crazy about sleeping with it on, since I turn inside the bag it ends up around my face. It definitely helps keep in body heat though. My only concern is that the zipper is a bit difficult to pull up, if it is all the way down to the bottom. If I have a light on, and use both hands it works fine, but it no longer is as easy to maneuver as it used to be. I see no obvious damage, and it does work if I am deliberately careful to align the two sides and seat them evenly, before pulling up on the slider.
Weekend #3 - Spent the weekend along the Maine coast, hiking with a new MeetUp group. It was a blast - everyone hit it off very quickly. The temperatures were in the high twenties (-6 C)both nights, with moderate wind. It's always cooler along the coast, and usually much damper even when the humidity level isn't very high. I was concerned how the bag would handle the dampness - I knew it was warm enough for the temperatures, but wondered how it would do with the dampness. I thought I might either feel chilled from it, or clammy. Well, after hiking 8 miles (13 K) along a somewhat rocky trail, enjoying great views and once again, gabbing with new hiking partners, I was really tired. After a great meal that we all contributed to (ever have a buffet while backpacking?) I was ready to sleep. I climbed into my bag, and was out immediately. I found out the next day, that a few of the guys stayed up for 2 more hours chatting and laughing, and I never heard a thing! I never even knew my tent mate came to bed, although he said I said 'good-night' to him. I woke up in the morning, and found that even though there was some condensation build up inside the tent, the bag itself felt dry inside and out. The second night, everyone crashed early, after a day spent hiking and taking pictures and admiring some wonderful scenery. The wind had picked up a little, and although cooler, the air and ground felt drier. Again, no trouble sleeping, and found the bag to be warm enough, without any overheating on my part.
The bag has held up well so far. It's been in and out of the stuff sack many times, and once out, decompresses quickly and evenly. I've found no areas that lack down, or are overfilled. I've had comments from a few people that they don't think that I will get that 'big bag' into that little sack. They are always surprised when it does fit. I've had no reason to wash it yet, and it hasn't become wet, other than a few drops of water. The water drops have been repelled when the bag was shaken. My only concern has been the zipper, but as there is no visible defect, I will continue to use it, and watch to see if the problem increases. The bag compresses nicely and fits into its stuff sack without a problem. The sack is easy to fit in my pack, without taking up too much space. One of the best things about the Downhugger bag is how easy it is to regulate my temperature during the night. I can scoot down deeper into the bag, cinch the hood tighter or the foot box area, or zip it up all the way if I am feeling cold. When I am too warm, I just undo all those features, and cool off quickly. The 'Super Stretch' is such a great feature - allowing the bag to 'give' some when I move, or need a bit of extra room. It is a mummy bag, that doesn't make me feel like I really am as confined as a mummy.
We are now coming to the end of temperatures that would work with a winter bag. I do plan on using the bag in the White Mountains over Memorial Day weekend, along with my hammock. I am curious as to how well it will work in the hammock, and it may prove to be a way to get out in the hammock earlier than before.
Long Term Report:
July 16, 2009
Unfortunately, I haven't had much opportunity to use the Downhugger very much in the last two months. We've had an unbelievable number of rainy days since late May. The temperatures have also warmed up quite a bit. I was able to use it for 3 nights over Memorial Day weekend, while hiking and camping in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The temperatures were in the mid-40s F (C) at night, and the low 60s F (C) during the day. I believe that was the last three days without rain we've had in a row.
I used the MontBell SS Downhugger in my hammock all three nights, and slept very well. The bag kept me warm - and at times too warm. That was easily rectified - I just unzipped the bag, at one point, I ended up sleeping with it totally unzipped and open. I did appreciate the warmth of the bag when the wind picked up though. I really did keep the wind from making me cold. I found the bag worked well in the hammock, although it does take some maneuvering to get in the hammock and bag without the bag touching the ground. That just takes some practice though.
Overall, the bag has been great! It is wonderful in cold and windy weather, very comfortable and well made. I am very impressed with the quality of the sleeping bag. The stitching is still in great shape. One of the best features of the bag is the way it has never lost its loft. Even after being compressed for a few weeks, the bag 'puffs' up very quickly. A quick shake and the bag is again ready to sleep in, with no areas that have clumps of fill, or areas that are missing fill. Mid-way through testing, I had concerns about how well the zipper worked, but found that after some more use, it slides very easily and hasn't caught again. The stitching is all still intact, keeping all feathers inside the bag where they belong. The footbed, while restricting movement a bit, has done a great job at keeping my feet, and my next days clothing warm. The durability and usefulness of this bag has been outstanding, and it almost makes me wish for winter again. I've really appreciated the quality of the Downhugger sleeping bag, it definitely helped me sleep better during cold weather overnights.
Thanks to MontBell and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this great bag!
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