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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > MontBell UL Super Stretch Hugger 2007 > Test Report by Mark Wood

MontBell U.L. Super Stretch Down Hugger #1
Product Report
Last Updated August 30, 2007
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Biographical Information
Product Information
Field Conditions
Initial Report - April 18, 2007
Field Report - June 26, 2007
Long Term Report - September 13, 2007

Biographical Information
Name: Mark Wood A Brief Introduction
I grew up camping with my parents and had taken a few short backpacking trips, as well as a couple of 10-day trips before I got married. While my wife and I have enjoyed car camping and day hiking for close to 6 years, we have both decided to make backpacking a permanent part of our lives. Our trips are generally shorter (2 - 5 days) over rocky, hilly terrain. My general pack weight for a 3 day trip is around 25 lb (11.4 kg) including food and water.
Age / Sex: 27 / Male
Height: 5' 11" (1.8 m)
Weight: 250 lb (113 kg)
Shoulders: 69 in (175 cm)
Hips: 46 in (115 cm)
Email Address: mwood_bgt at markandkc dot net
Web page:
http://www.markandkc.net
Location: Chenango County, NY, U.S.A.

Product Information
Logo
Manufacturer: MontBell
Year of Manufacture: 2007
URL of Manufacturer: http://www.montbell.com
MSRP: $370.00 US (Regular Length)
$390.00 US (Long Length)
Listed Weight: 2 lb 7 oz (1.02 kg) (Long Length)
Weight as Delivered: Bag: 2 lb 7 oz (1.11 kg) (Long Length)
Stuff Sack: 1 oz (28 g)
Configuration Tested: Long Length with Right Hand Zip
Color: Orange
Materials: Shell: DWR Treated 15-Denier Ballistic Airlight Nylon
Fill: 800 Fill Power Down
Temperature Rating: 15 F / -9 C
The MontBell U.L. Super Stretch Down Hugger #1 is one of the warmest sleeping bags in MontBell's Hugger line of bags. These bags have elastic sewn into the horizontal seams of the bag, giving it a slight "hugging" property. This bag is one of MontBell's Down bags which, according to the tag attached to the bag, is guaranteed to have at least 90% goose down and less than 10% goose feathers. The shell is claimed to have a DWR treatment which, according to the attached hang tag "retains 90% of its original water repellency after 100 washings."

Field Conditions

Numerous locations will be visited during the testing time frame. My usual backpacking areas are the Catskill and Adirondack regions of New York as well as some Northern Pennsylvania trails such as the West Rim Trail. Also, the Finger Lakes Trail passes very close to my home and I have been looking into incorporating this hiking opportunity into our "regular" destinations.

In general, temperatures will range from around 32 F (0 C) to 95 F (35 C) during the testing time frame. Over the last few years, Upstate New York has experienced very heavy rains and lots of flooding so I'm sure rain will be in the mix somewhere. Snow could also be a possibility.

Elevations in my normal hiking areas generally range from 500 - 2500 ft (150 - 750 m).

The MontBell Down Hugger #1 sleeping bag will accompany me on many trips throughout the testing timeframe. Due to the weather lately, I should be able to test some of the lower limits of the Hugger without too much of a problem.


Initial Report - April 18, 2007

First Impressions

The Montbell Down Hugger #1 arrived in its supplied cotton storage sack with plenty of room so the down wasn't compressed. Attached to the drawstring of the storage bag was a set of hangtags and a stuff sack for packing the bag for travel. I noticed no loose down as is sometimes the case. The hangtags are nothing too special. One has some information regarding the "hugging" properties of the bag and the other has some information regarding the features of the bag. Close inspection of both the stuff sack and the bag itself revealed tight, even stitching and no loose threads. I also noticed no down peeking through the fabric of the bag in any location.

Laying the Down Hugger #1 out on my bed and letting it loft for an hour or so revealed a beautiful, thick, and cozy looking sleeping bag. Closer inspection revealed all the small features with make me quite excited about the prospect of spending my first night outdoors. There is a nice thick draft tube running the length of the zipper as well as around the neck portion of the bag. To keep the neck draft tube snugly against my neck, the sides nearer the zipper have hook and loop fasteners and the opposite side has a drawstring. This keeps the entire draft tube securely where it belongs. The main zipper of the bag features both and internal and external zipper pull and the entire length of the zipper has approximately an inch (2.5 cm) of stiffened fabric on each side to eliminate the hassle of the zipper getting snagged on the fabric. Initial attempts to zip myself in the bag resulted in mixed success, with the fabric getting slightly caught on the zipper. It was never a problem to free the zipper so I will continue to watch this throughout the testing timeframe.

Down Hugger #1

One of the most unique features of the Down Hugger #1 is the external drawstring located on the first horizontal seam at the foot of the bag. This drawstring can serve double duty as it can be used to seal off the foot area of the bag for added warmth or if one pushes the foot box up into the bag and cinches it down, it effectively shortens the bag by about 8 inches (20 cm). Testing will show how effective sealing off the foot box is with respect to keeping my feet warm.

The other unique feature about this series of bags from MontBell is the stretch properties. While the elastic is not too tight, I can certainly notice the bag does stay rather close to my body. I usually have a hard time moving around in sleeping bags as I have somewhat large shoulders. The added stretch of this bag makes it so I can easily move around to adjust the zipper or drawstring without feeling too confined -- a welcome relief! I also find the Hugger #1 to be a very comfortable length for me.

Comfort

Getting into the bag was really a wonderful experience! The lining is soft and feels very good against my skin. Plus, the elastic keeps the fabric quite close to my skin making me feel very encased! Also worthy of noting is that the hook and loop fastener used on the draft collar around the neck of the bag has two of the more plastic halves of the fastener material. While they securely attach to each other, I find that my hair and clothes remain unstuck. These small features can make a big difference with respect to comfort.

The only issue I have experienced thus far is where the elastic is sewn into the horizontal baffles. This creates a series of pleats in the fabric where it is gathered. I notice that on my bare legs and arms, these tend to rub a bit. It's not immediately uncomfortable, but I did notice it. Time will tell if this becomes an annoyance or not.

Ease of Use

Getting in and out of the bag is really not too difficult. As mentioned above, I did notice that there is some snagging of the zipper on the adjoining fabric, but nothing too serious. I also notice that near the top of the zipper it seems to become more difficult to pull. I'm not sure if it's the angle I'm pulling at or just a fact that the zipper curves around my shoulder toward the side of my head. I will keep my eye on both of these issues as the test continues.

Stuffed

Stuffing the bag into the stuff sack takes considerable effort. Then again, I'm not usually very good at stuffing bags, so this may be a bit subjective. Once in the stuff sack, the bag is quite compact. I foresee no trouble packing the bag into my hiking pack.

Care Instructions

The care instructions for the MontBell Down Hugger #1 are attached to the included stuff sack. I actually missed seeing them at first as I was looking for them on the bag itself. According to the tag, it is safe to wash the bag using a mild, non-detergent soap or special down soap in a front loading washing machine or by hand in a bath tub. It is supposed to be rinsed thoroughly using two rinse cycles. The bag should be hung to dry.

Also listed on this same tag are storage instructions. They recommend letting the bag dry completely after use and caution the user not to store the bag in the stuff sack, but instead in the included cotton storage bag.

Summary

The Hugger #1 seems to have a host of great features. My initial likes and dislikes are listed below:

Likes

  • Soft fabric is quite cozy.
  • Hook and loop fastener doesn't grab my hair or clothes
  • Draft collar stays secure around my neck without any feelings of being choked

Dislikes

  • The gathers from the elastic feels a bit rough on the skin.
  • Zipper seems to catch the fabric especially when zipping around my shoulder
  • A bit difficult for me to stuff into the supplied stuff sack

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.


Field Report - June 26, 2007

Field Usage

I have used the MontBell Down Hugger #1 for a total of 5 nights to this point.  Early in the test period, I went on two car camping overnights simply due to the opportunity for very cold weather.  Nighttime lows during these two outings were around 25 F (-4 C).  Throughout the months of May and early June, I took three overnight backpacking trips with the Down Hugger in and around Upstate New York and Northern Pennsylvania.  Nighttime lows ranged from 40 - 55 F (22 - 30 C) during these trips.  For all of these trips, the Down Hugger was used on top of a 3/4 length self inflating pad inside of a Hanry Shires Rainbow Tarptent.

Comfort

During testing, I found the Down Hugger to be one of the most comfortable bags I've used to date.  The hood closes easily and the draw cords are easy to use even in the dark.  Once inside of the bag, I find myself encased in warmth.  The elastic really does hold the bag close to me and I find it makes the bag feel very comfortable and cozy.  During the colder nights of testing, I found that all I needed was a lightweight pair of long underwear and a shirt to be perfectly comfortable.  No socks, gloves or hat were necessary.  I do realize that I wasn't near the temperature rating of the bag and I do tend to sleep quite warm.  Usually, about halfway through the night I would wake up and loosen the hood some to keep myself from sweating too much.  I never noticed any draft along the zipper and if anything, I found the bag to be almost too warm!  On the first night I did attempt to cinch the foot drawcord to pull the bag closer around my feet.  I found this configuration to be a bit confining and so after a half hour or so, loosened the drawcord again.  While I think this feature would keep my feet warmer, I was not in need of extra warmth and the confining feeling around my feet was a bit much for me.  

During the three backpacking trips, the temperatures were much warmer and I found myself leaving the bag mostly unzipped.  On these warmer nights, I usually wore shorts and a short sleeve shirt to bed and was able to control my temperature just fine with this arrangement.  This bag is very warm!

Ease of Use

So far, everything about the MontBell Down Hugger #1 has been a joy to use except for the zipper.  While there is a stiff piece of fabric running the length of the zipper, I still find the zipper catches the fabric of the draft tube or surrounding fabric.  I have found that if I put my finger over the zipper while zipping, it tends to keep the fabric away and things go much smoother.  I experience the problem most often right were the zipper curves around my shoulder.

The stuff sack works well and thought the bag is a tight fit, it does keep the size of the bag a manageable size.  Providing a larger stuff sack would make the stuffing procedure much simpler, but the bag would take up more precious pack space.  Overall, I find the size a good trade off.  I did attempt to stuff the bag into the foot box and use the foot drawcord to create a sort of stuff sack.  While it is possible to do, it really didn't compress the bag all that well and the resulting package was somewhat bulky.  On top of that, I really do prefer a more protected means of storage to shield the shell of the bag from anything rough or sharp in my pack.

Cleaning and Care

I have not attempted to actually wash the Down Hugger.  However, thought I have sweat some in the bag, I don't find that the bag has held on to any unpleasant odors.   

Field Testing Summary

Up to this point in the testing, I have found the MontBell Down Hugger #1 to be an excellent bag for cold weather use.  I am still impressed with the comfort offered by the hugging property and thought the zipper can be a little tricky, I still find myself reaching for this bag to use on my backpacking trips even though I have cooler bags to choose from.

This concludes the Field Report portion of this test series.  The Long Term Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months time.  Check back then for further information.

Long Term Report - September 13, 2007

Field Usage

I have continued to use the MontBell Down Hugger #1 for at least three more nights during the Long Term reporting phase.  Temperatures during this test period were much warmer with night time highs close to 80 F (27 C).  Due to the warmer weather, the Down Hugger #1 was used primarily as a quilt while I slept on top of a 3/4 length self inflating pad inside of a Henry Shires Rainbow Tarptent.  I'd already proved that the Down Hugger was very comfortable in cooler weather, but I was curious how well it would work in this quilt configuration.

Comfort

I was somewhat concerned with using the Down Hugger as a quilt due to the elastic which tends to make the bag narrower when there is no body inside.  As it turns out, my fears were largely unfounded and the bag proved sufficiently wide for the warm nights in the tent.  Throughout its use, the fabric stayed quite smooth and comfortable and the configuration of the hook and loop closure system at the top of the bag was such that I never felt it poking me -- something I cannot say for other bags I have used.  The Down Hugger #1 is incredibly warm even in quilt configuration and I often found myself waking up with the bag next to me.  It was clearly overkill for such warm nights.  I would also use it some nights to simply lie on as my self inflating pad does not have the nicest texture for my bare arms and legs.

Ease of Use

No issues have surfaced during use of this bag that I have not talked about in my previous report sections.  The zipper still catches once in a while, but running my finger along with the zipper as mentioned in my field report has all but cured this problem.  I still find the stuff sack to be somewhat lacking in compressibility, but since this is a down bag, I supposed that overly tight compression is not really a good thing.  With my other summer gear, I find I have plenty of room in my pack anyway so it has yet to be a huge issue.  For the warmth this bag provides, I really cannot find fault.

Cleaning and Care

Perhaps I am simply very careful with my gear, but I have had no reason to attempt washing the Down Hugger #1.  I have sweat plenty during the warmer months, but I have found no noticeable stains or unpleasant odors.  

Testing Summary

I have to say -- the MontBell Down Hugger #1 is probably one of my favorite bags for cooler weather.  The "hugging" capability given by the use of the elastic makes the bag really cozy and warm -- a pleasure on cold nights.  I will say that it is overkill for me in warmer weather.  I sleep quite warm and, while I find having a quilt nice, it is really not necessary as the temperature rises.

The only two minor issues I've had with the bag are from the zipper around the curve near the shoulder and the stuff sack.  Neither of these are significant enough to not give this bag a full recommendation in my opinion.  

I would like to thank MontBell and BackPackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this bag.


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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > MontBell UL Super Stretch Hugger 2007 > Test Report by Mark Wood



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