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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > MontBell UL Alpine Burrow Bag > Test Report by Gail Staisil

MontBell Ultralight Alpine Burrow #3
Sleeping Bag

Test Series by: Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan
 
Page Contents:



Initial Report:
MontBell U.L. Alpine Burrow #3 Sleeping Bag
August 22, 2007

Tester Information

Name:
Gail Staisil
Age: 55
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 140 lb (64 kg)
Shoulder Girth: 41 in (104 cm)

Hip Girth: 37 in (94 cm)
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
Email: woodswoman2001@yahoo.com

For the last 18 years, backpacking has become a passion. I am a four-season backpacker and an off-trail navigator. Although I do take yearly trips to the American West or Southwest, the majority of my trips are in Michigan and Canada. My pack weight varies considerably but my base weight is below 18 lb (8 kg). I am primarily a tarp camper who averages more than 50 nights a year backpacking in a huge variety of weather conditions including relentless rain, wet snow and sub-zero temps.


Product Information



Manufacturer
MontBell
Website http://www.montbell.com
Model U.L. Alpine Burrow  #3 Bag
Temperature Rating
30 F (-1 C)
Color
Balsam
Shell Material
15-denier Ballistic Airlight nylon, POLKATEX DWR treatment
Insulation
EXCELOFT synthetic
Tested Size
Regular, right-zip (options: long, left zip)
Manufacturer  Weight 2 lb (0.91 kg)
Tested Weight (with stuff sack)
1 lb 15.3 oz (0.89 kg)
Model Year 2007
MSRP $179.00 US

 
 


Initial Impressions and Product Description


Fit
UL Alpine Burrow Bag #3
The MontBell U.L. Burrow # 3 Sleeping Bag (from hence forth called the Burrow) is one of dozens of sleeping bags offered by the manufacturer. It belongs to their synthetic-filled Gathered Quilt series. The Burrow arrived in perfect condition with no apparent flaws in workmanship.

Even though I had viewed the stats on MontBell's website, I was pleasantly surprised at the small stuff sack (containing the Burrow), as well as the attractive Balsam Green color of the top of the sleeping bag. The lightweight sack measures 6 in (15.24 cm) in width and is 12.5 in (31.75 cm) long. The Burrow is easily stuffed into the stuff sack equipped with a double set of drawcords. The second drawcord is located on the edge of the 5 in (12.7 cm) extension collar. The collar allows the sleeping bag to be compressed down to the smaller size of the stuff sack itself. It can also be utilized to pack the sleeping bag a bit looser by using the extended extra space it provides. I have used a similar idea on many of my handmade silnylon sacks that I created for my winter gear. The extra fabric has provided protection from rain and snow when tucked into the sack to provide sort of a seal. 

I anxiously crawled into the Burrow to see if the length and the width would fit me. I'm near the top end of the height range for the regular-length bag with a maximum user height of 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m). My height is 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) and there's still enough room to flex my feet if needed. The bag is also offered in a long length for those who are taller.
Gathered Quilt System


The width of the bag also seems fine and it appears that I can wear additional clothing in the bag if needed during the colder long-term test period. The inner lining of the bag is lightly elasticized on each horizontal baffle. MontBell calls it their "Gathered Quilt System". The system is supposed to eliminate extra air space between the bag and the user. The shoulder girth on the bag extends from 53.5 in (136 cm) to 59.4 in (151 cm) when the elastic is fully expanded. The soft lining of the Burrow is created with the same wind and abrasion resistant 15-denier Ballistic Airlight nylon that is also used for the exterior of the bag. The lining and the exterior back panel of the bag are Platinum Silver in color.

 


More Features
Foot Adjuster
Immediately noticeable was a drawcord inserted into the lower side seam of the bag where the almost full-length zipper ends (approximately 7 in/18 cm from the bottom of the bag). This optional Foot Adjuster reduces the circumference around the footbox presumably to trap warm air around my feet. It kind of creates a "booties" effect.

The side zipper is edged with a single-baffle draft tube. The exterior portion of the draft tube is reinforced with a stiffener sewn underneath to hinder the otherwise soft material from catching in the zipper. The top end of the Auto Locking Zipper has a lightweight hook and loop closure over it.

The Burrow features a small sleeping hood. A single drawcord is inserted into the left edge of the hood. This drawcord runs the circumference of the entire hood and neck area and can be adjusted quickly with a single toggle closure.

The Burrow is filled with EXCELOFT insulation. According to the manufacturer, the polyester insulation is reported to shine in wet conditions as the fibers reportedly retain less than 1 percent of their weight in water. The exterior of the bag is coated with POLKATEX DWR treatment. This innovative water treatment reportedly retains 90 percent of its water repellency after 100 washings. It's also supposed to be very abrasion-resistant.

The bag is also adorned with a printed MontBell logo on the front top center of the bag and the details of the model are printed near the front zipper half way down the bag. 


Care

Care instructions are printed on a tear-resistant tag that is inserted into the top seam of the stuff sack. Instructions are printed in both English and Japanese. Hand washing is recommended in warm water using a neutral detergent. It should be dried flat and out of direct sunlight. Storage should be in a larger size stuff sack. That can be obtained from the manufacturer but it's not included with the sleeping bag itself.

So far, I have a very optimistic view concerning the features of the Burrow. I'm looking forward to sleeping in the Burrow during the next four months of outings. I will surely get to test the bag at its rated temperature, as the weather cools down quite significantly during this time period.

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Field Report:
MontBell U.L. Alpine Burrow #3 Sleeping Bag
October 22, 2007

Locations and Conditions

During the field test period, I have slept in the MontBell U.L Alpine Burrow # 3 Sleeping Bag during two trips for a total of eleven nights. The first trip was an eight-night backpacking trip and the second trip was a three-night rustic cabin trip. Locations ranged from and included boreal, conifer and deciduous forest communities with many rock outcroppings to shoreline trail
. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to approximately 2000 ft (610 m).


Backpacking Trip:

Location: Isle Royale National Park
Type of Trip: 8-night solo backpack, maintained rocky trail
Distance: 70 mi (113 km)
Length of Trip:
9 days total
Total Pack Load (including consumables): 38 lb (17 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Mostly cloudy, fog, thunderstorms, high humidity
Precipitation: Rain -- Approx  0.75 in (2 cm)
Temperature Range:
40 F to 75 F (4 C to 24 C)


Rustic Cabin Trip and dayhikes:

Location: Hiawatha National Forest
Type of Trip: 4-day walk-in rustic cabin trip with dayhikes on maintained hilly trail
Distance: 24 mi (39 km)
Length of Trip:
4 days
Total Pack Load (including consumables): 35 lb (16 kg) backpack, 12 lb (5.5 kg) daypack for dayhikes:
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, heavy rain, sunny, mid-high humidity
Precipitation: Rain -- 1.84 in (4.67 cm)
Temperature Range: 48 F to 70 F (9 C to 21 C)

 


Performance in the Field

Very Humid Conditions

Fall weather has provided me with the ideal humid and wet weather conditions that would make testing any sleeping bag a challenge. During my eight-night trip to Isle Royale National Park, the nighttime temperatures were mostly in the 40 F (4 C) to 50 F (10 C) range. A significant amount of humidity dominated the atmosphere ranging from 75 to 100 percent. There were four nights of intense rainstorms during this trip. My 9 ft (2.74 m) X 9 ft (2.74 m) silnylon tarp was erected over barren and very impacted campsites three of those nights. The additional stormy night plus four other nights were spent in barren three-sided shelters as I traveled across the island.

Underneath my tarp, I used my three-quarter length Z-Rest sleeping pad on top of a waterproof barrier. The U.L. Alpine Burrow # 3 Sleeping Bag was placed over the sleeping pad. I was worried about rain pooling or running underneath my tarp but it fortunately never happened. Extremely high humidity was the only culprit but the Burrow kept me toasty. On the warmer nights, I only pulled the zipper of the bag up enough to cover my feet and the lower portion of my body. I wore light layers on my upper body. I could then regulate my warmth by just adjusting the height of the sleeping bag a bit.

During the colder nights of this trip, I didn't sleep wearing extra layers but instead trapped all of my body warmth in the fully enclosed sleeping bag. The Neck Adjuster was so easy to use by just using one cord to close the hood around my head and neck. I will be the first to admit that I normally don't like most sleeping bag hoods and oftentimes I just sleep on top of them. However, this one is very comfortable and just the right size. It didn't end up halfway across my face when I tossed from side to side during the night. I also liked the fact that all adjustments are just made with one cord instead of having a separate one for the hood and another one for the top front of the bag. In addition, I didn't notice any perceptible cold spots in the bag itself or from the draft tube.

As stated previously, sleeping in some three-sided shelters were part of this trip. During an intense storm with huge winds that blew water horizontally off of big waves from Lake Superior, I found that I was getting a fine mist on me even though I was sleeping inside a shelter. I moved all my gear to the back of the shelter but not before getting a good dose of extra mist on the Burrow. By morning it was still storming, but whatever moisture that remained didn't affect the sleeping bag at all. Most likely the winds were strong enough to help deflect water away from the Polkatex DWR treatment on the shell of the sleeping bag. In addition, I didn't become chilled by the strong winds as the outer shell of the bag effectively served as a wind block.

My second trip of the fall season was a walk-in trip to a rustic cabin. Even though I slept inside the cabin, the conditions were still damp. Considerable rain (almost 2 in/5 cm) fell during two evenings of the trip providing the atmosphere with 100 percent humidity. I left the cabin windows open during the night as the air temperature never got below 48 F (9 C). I used the sleeping bag with my feet secured in the bag by the Foot Adjuster and the rest of the bag was thrown over me like a blanket. Although it may seem silly to use the Foot Adjuster for such purposes, it remedied the usual problem of my feet coming out of a sleeping bag when used in this fashion (as a blanket).


Packability

What really fascinated me during my trips is that the Burrow bag didn't seem to "grow" in size throughout the trips. Normally with high humidity, many sleeping bags are hard to fit into their original stuff sack after many consecutive days in the field. The Ballistic Airlight shell of the sleeping bag never felt wet even though I packed the bag several times after heavy rains occurred. I was able to stuff the Burrow unhindered into the smallest main compartment of its stuff sack. I attribute this to the EXCELOFT insulation that is supposed to retain only one percent of its weight in water. Although this can't be field tested specifically, I do know that it was easy to pack and the Burrow itself never seemed to lose any of its insulative factor after many consecutive nights in the field.


Comfort and Fit

The regular-sized Burrow bag fits me better than I ever expected. Being near the manufacturer's end of the range for height, I wondered if I would have trouble sleeping in the bag fully stretched out with the hood in place. The shoulder width when fully expanded by the "Gathered Quilt System" is 59.4 in (151 cm). The gathered quilt lies close to my body but when I stretched, it stretched with me quite nicely and didn't make me feel like I was in a straightjacket. In addition, I suspect the gathered quilt helps with keeping the bag from partially rotating like often times some bags do.

Although the temperatures didn't lower to the intended rating of the bag during those two trips, I can affirmatively say that I stayed warmer in the Burrow than other similar-rated bags I have owned during those types of conditions.


Durability and Care

So far, I'm very happy with my nights in the Burrow bag during the field test period. There haven't been any issues with durability of materials that were used to manufacture the sleeping bag, but I will look further at that in the long term report. The zipper has been both easy to open and close and it hasn't been hindered or stuck at all. The loft appears to be the same even though it was compressed many times. There haven't been any care issues as the bag appears to be clean and there aren't any detectable odors.

During the long term period, I will be testing the Burrow
in conditions that will often be at or below the manufacturer's rated temperature of the bag. I will be able to qualify its reported rating for a cold sleeper. If the temperatures drop lower than its rating and I become cold, I will likely supplement it with a light synthetic overbag or wear additional insulated clothing as a safety consideration. I most likely will use a tarp and bivy as my shelter. 
 

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 Long Term Report:
MontBell U.L. Alpine Burrow #3 Sleeping Bag
January 6, 2008

Locations and Conditions

During the long term test period, I have used the MontBell U.L Alpine Burrow # 3 Sleeping Bag for an additional six nights. The first trip was a backcountry winter-sledge trip and the second trip was a sledge trip to a rustic cabin. Locations ranged from and included conifer and deciduous forest communities with many swamps and open fields
. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to approximately 1200 ft (366 m).


Winter Sledge Trip:

Location: Mackinac State Forest
Type of Trip: 2-night, bushwhack trip (I also slept in the bag the night before the trip started)
Distance: Approx - 12.5 mi (20 km) 
Length of Trip:
3 days 
Total Sledge Load (including consumables): Estimated 40 lb to 50 lb (18 kg to 23 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Mostly cloudy, with a trace of new snow during the trip
Precipitation: Trace of snow
Snow Depth: 18 in (46 cm)
Temperature Range:
12 F (-11 C) to 27 F (-3 C)


Rustic Cabin Trip with day outings:

Location: Hiawatha National Forest
Type of Trip: 4-day walk-in rustic cabin trip with day trips on snowshoes or skis
Distance: 19 mi (31 km) 
Length of Trip:
4 days
Total Sledge Load (including consumables): Estimated 50 lb (23 kg), 12 lb (5.5 kg) daypack for dayhikes
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, snow, sunny, mid-high humidity
Precipitation: Snow (5 in to 6 in/13 cm to 15 cm)
Temperature Range: 14 F (-10 C) to 25 F (-4 C)

 


Performance in the Field

Cold and Snow Conditions Arrive

Colder weather predictably arrived during the long-term testing period. During an early winter sledge trip, the ground was covered with approx 18 in (46 cm) of snow. Because I'm by nature a cold sleeper, I packed extra layers of clothing, a light down overbag, and a bivy to supplement the 30 F (-1 C) rated U.L. Alpine Burrow #3 Sleeping Bag. I also layered two three-quarter length sleeping pads that were shingled in arrangement. One was a ProLite Z-rest and the other was the Pacific Outdoor Company Hyper High Mountain Mat. They provided more insulation from the snow-covered ground. Using the over bag allowed me to sleep in just light layers and sleeping booties. The overbag was mostly draped over the top of the Burrow to provide more warmth as needed, especially when the temperature dipped to a low of 12 F (-11 C). My shelter for this trip was a 10 ft (3 m) by 10 ft (3 m) silnylon tarp. The winds were significant at times during the nights of this trip making me glad that I had the overbag.
 
My second trip of the long term period was a walk-in trip to a rustic cabin. I did sleep inside of the cabin in a bunk bed (on a thick foam mattress) so the Burrow was used mostly as a quilt for the first few hours each night until the wood stove fire burned itself out. Before I went to bed each night the cabin temperature was a toasty 65 F (18 C) that quickly plummeted to below 40 F (4 C) by morning. As the temperature dropped, I encased myself totally in the Burrow to ward off the chilly nights. 


Packability

The Burrow bag has remained easy to pack after multiple days in the field. Its compact size has continued to surprise me. I have to remind myself that it's a synthetic bag as it reminds me so much of compacting a down bag to a small size. For both of the winter sledge trips I was easily able to pack the Burrow in the sledge with other insulative gear.


Durability and Care

The Burrow Bag has proven to be durable during the entire testing period. It has been used for a total of seventeen.nights and there aren't any noticeable defects. Both the materials used to fabricate the sleeping bag and the workmanship has remained intact. In addition, I haven't noticed any decline in the EXCELOFT insulation's ability to loft after being compressed. I haven't laundered the bag yet, but I mostly likely will do so before I store it away until spring weather returns.


Summary

Overall, I have been extremely pleased with the performance of the Burrow Bag during the entire testing period. Because I live and play in mostly a wet and damp environment, the Burrow has definitely shined by providing me with warmth in these adverse conditions after multiple days in the field. I haven't noticed any decline in its performance and I will confidently continue to use it in similar conditions in the future. Because its temperature rating is 30 F (-1 C), it will most likely be set aside until spring arrives. However, I wouldn't have any hesitation using it in combination with another bag for winter temps if I didn't already own and use winter-rated bags.

In addition to its performance factor, I've also enjoyed the combined one-cord hood and neck adjustment feature, the zipper that has remained unstuck and the Gathered Quilt System that kept the inside of the bag close to my body to eliminate dead air space. This undoubtedly has helped to keep me warm.

 

Tester Remarks 

Thanks to MontBell and BackpackGearTest for making possible the great opportunity to test the U.L. Alpine Burrow # 3 Sleeping Bag. This report concludes the test series. 

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