BackpackGearTest
  Home Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > MontBell UL Super Stretch Hugger 2007 > Test Report by Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd

MontBell U.L. Super Stretch Down Hugger #1
by Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd
Initial Report: April 14, 2007
Field Report: June 26, 2007
Long Term Report: August 28, 2007



Me in sleeping bagTester Information
Name: Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd
Email: rebecca@backpackgeartest.org
Age: 29
Gender: F
 Location: Sunnyvale, CA
Height: 5'5" (1.65 m)
Weight: 130 lb (59 kg)


I am usually a weekend warrior style backpacker, although I like to get out on longer trips a few times a year.  California has such variety in scenery and terrain that I am never lacking in a place to visit, and most weekends find me off in the mountains exploring new (to me) trails and peaks.  I follow lightweight, but not ultralight, backpacking techniques, but am known to carry a few luxury items from time to time.  In addition to traditional backpacking I enjoy snowshoeing, skiing, and snow camping, as well as long day hikes, geocaching, and peak climbing.  These activities are enough to keep me busy year-round in the great state of California.

Product InformationLabel
Manufacturer: MontBell
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.montbell.com
Year of Manufacture: 2007
MSRP: $370.00
Listed Weight: 2 lb, 4 oz (1.02 kg)
Measured Weight: Sleeping bag: 2 lb, 2.7 oz  (0.98 kg)
                             Stuff Sack: 1.3 oz (37 g)
                             Total weight: 2 lb, 4 oz (1.02 kg)
Temperature Rating: 15 F/-9 C

INITIAL REPORT
April 14, 2007

Description

The MontBell U.L. Super Stretch Down Hugger #1 is an 800-fill down sleeping bag rated to 15 F/-9 C.   It arrived loosely stuffed into a cotton storage bag.  Also included were a lightweight (1.3 oz/37 g) stuff sack and two small tags, one which demonstrates the stretching capabilities of the bag in pictures, and another which describes the basic features and construction of the sleeping bag in Japanese and English.  When I first removed the sleeping bag from the cotton storage bag, several down feathers floated out.  I do not know if these were down feathers that were once inside the sleeping bag, or simply loose and stuck to the material during manufacturing or packing.  The bag was crackling with static electricity so the feathers were stuck all over it.

Construction and Features
  • Shell: The shell material is an orange, DWR treated 15-Denier Ballistic Airtight nylon, which is an ultralight fabric that is supposed to be more abrasion and tear resistant than other similar weight fabrics.  
  • Down:  The bag is filled with l lb, 4 oz (0.57 kg) of 800 fill power down.
  • Multi-Box construction:  This is how MontBell baffles the sleeping bag to prevent down migration and cold spots.  On the surface the stitching looks like 8x8 inch (20 x 20 cm) boxes. 
  • Super Stretch system:  The horizontal stitching in the bag is elastic.  This provides some interesting benefits.  It keeps the bag closer to the body, eliminating empty cold air pockets that a body would normally have to warm up.   It also allows for movement - if I feel like sleeping in a weird position with my knee out, the bag should stretch with me instead of restricting my movement.  I am a cold sleeper since most bags are too big for me and I have a lot of 'dead air' to warm up.  I hope that this Super Stretch system will make it easier for me to warm up at night!  

Super Stretch system

  • Foot Adjuster:  At the second to bottom horizontal seam of the bag, a cinch strap has been sewn in.  I can tuck the bottom baffle into the inside of the bag and cinch it closed.  This makes the bag shorter, eliminating a dead air pocket and also provides a sort of 'bootie' for my feet!  Conversely, on those warm nights, the bottom of the zipper can be vented to allow circulation around the feet.  The photo directly below shows the foot box in the regular length (left photo) and tucked inside the bag and cinched up (right photo).
Foot Adjuster
  • Double Draft Tube: To help keep cold air from leaking in around the zipper, two draft tubes are sewn in around the zipper.
  • Neck Baffle:  There is a very thick neck baffle sewn in around the top of the bag.  This baffle can be cinched off to prevent warm are from escaping the bag and to prevent cold drafts from coming in.  
Draft tubes and baffles
  • Hood with cinch: The hood is well-stuffed with down and if desired, can be cinched down very tightly around my head, leaving only a tiny hole.  When I am in the bag the hood wraps all the way over my head (see photo at the top of the report - this is without any cinching and the hood comes all the way over my head).
  • Stuff Sack:  The stuff sack is 'double-sized'.  I can stuff the sleeping bag in and use the upper cinch tie, or, if I need to conserve space, I can stuff it in a bit further and use the second cinch.  When stuffed 'loosest', the stuff sack is approximately 17 inches (43 cm) long.  When compressed into the smaller size, it is approximately 13 inches (33 cm) long.  In both cases it is approximately 7 inches (18 cm) wide.  The image below shows the bag stuffed into the stuff sack in both ways.

Stuff Sack


Expected Field Conditions and Test Plan
The U.L Super Stretch Down Hugger #1 will get quite a workout over the next four months.  As a cold sleeper, I use a bag rated to 15 degrees F (-9 C) as my three season bag in California.  I find that it is necessary for me to use a bag that warm on cold summer Sierra Nevada nights where temperatures drop to around freezing.  Over the next four months I have several trips planned where this bag will be used.  Coming up at the end of April is a four day trip to the Lost Coast  in Northern California.  Even if the weather is forecasted to be warm, I will take this bag as it will likely be foggy and damp, and possibly rainy.  I will want the insurance of a heavier bag in case the moisture finds its way into my things, as it tends to do along the coast.  Moving into the summer months, I have a minimum of 23 days planned in the Sierra Nevada during the test period, including an early season trip around the Yosemite High Passes where I will likely still encounter some snow, and two full weeks on the John Muir Trail (JMT).  On the JMT, temperatures will be warm during the day, usually in the mid 60s (~18 C) in the high country, but nighttime temperatures usually drop to around freezing.   Afternoon thundershowers are also likely.  

I am a very cold sleeper.  I typically carry a sleeping bag rated significantly warmer than the conditions I expect to encounter.  For example, although I rarely encounter temperatures below 10 F (-12 C) in the winter, I carry a -20 degree F (-29 C) bag since a 0 degree F (-18 C)  is not warm enough for me.  In the summer, although nighttime temperatures in my typical hiking area of the Sierra Nevada rarely get below freezing, I've found that I need a bag rated at approximately 15 degrees F (-9 C) to stay warm, so I use a bag around this rating as my three season bag.  Even in my bed at home, I usually need to be snuggled in under a lot of blankets to stay warm.   When backpacking I always carry more layers than my companions, and usually end up needing them as well.  My body simply does not put out a lot of heat, and one of the reasons I am a cold sleeper is because it takes me a long, long time to warm up all of the dead air space inside of a sleeping bag.   I use a lot of tricks to help speed up the process, such as stuffing extra clothing and jackets around my feet to use up the extra space, or tossing a heated water bottle into the bag a short while before I head to sleep.

I expect the MontBell U.L. Super Stretch Down Hugger #1 to address some of these issues I typically have.  I am looking forward to trying out the Super Stretch system - from getting in it briefly here at home, the elasticity of the seams seems to hold the bag closer to my body, eliminating some of the dead air space that normally takes me so long to warm up.  Additionally, the foot adjuster will also take care of the dead air space around my feet,  and even give my feet some of the extra insulation  they need!  I  have used several different bags around this temperature rating, and know that I approach my comfort limit around freezing.  I will be interested to see if I can take this bag closer to its stated limit due to these features.

Other things to be tested include:
  • I am happy about the tear and abrasion resistance claims of the outer shell material, but of more importance to me is the down leakage.  Is the weaving of the material tight enough to keep the down from poking through and coming out?  What about the seams?  
  • Does the zipper move smoothly, and does the 'tape' along the inside prevent snagging?
  • Are there any cold spots, or does the baffling and double draft tube keep the bag uniformly warm?
  • Are the cinch cords around the neck baffle and hood easy to find and operate in the middle of the night when I am half asleep?
  • Packability and durability of the provided stuff sack.
  • Comfort of the Super Stretch system - when I toss and turn in my sleeping bags at night it usually wakes me up due to the restriction of movement.  I already crawled in the Super Stretch Down Hugger and moved around a bit, and my movement is far less restricted than I am used to in a mummy style bag.  I hope that this leads to less waking up throughout the night!
I am looking forward to getting this bag out to see what it can do!  Please check back here in two months for the Field Report.  


FIELD REPORT
June 26, 2007

Lost Coast Camp

The MontBell UL Super Stretch Down Hugger #1 at a beach wind shelter along the Lost Coast of Northern California

Field Use

During the Field Testing period I have slept in the MontBell UL Super Stretch Down Hugger #1 for a total of six nights - one night of car camping and five nights of backpacking.  The night of car camping was literally in the car - sleeping in the back of my SUV at a campground in Shelter Cove, California, just a stone's throw from the Pacific Ocean.  Temperatures were mild that night, barely dropping to 50 degrees F (10 C).  It was the night before a backpacking trip, so rather than set up my tent and risk getting it wet with condensation, I just slept in the back of my SUV and used the Down Hugger unzipped all the way and thrown over me as a quilt.  The following night we were camped on the beach along the Lost Coast, an incredibly rugged stretch of coastline in Northern California.  The weather was unusually clear and mild (other than the relentless wind) so I slept out under the stars inside a driftwood wind shelter built right on the beach (the photo above shows 'camp' - I used my tent as a ground cloth on the sand, then threw my sleeping pad and the bag on top of it).  

I next used the Down Hugger on a two night backpack to Desolation Wilderness over Memorial Day weekend.   Desolation Wilderness sits in the mountains just to the west of Lake Tahoe and there was still a small amount of snow to contend with near camp and along the trail.  During the two nights, temperatures dropped to around freezing at the 9000 ft (2743 m) elevation at which I camped.  I was using a Tarptent which does not hold in warmth like a full tent might, so temperatures were the same inside my shelter.  This is the coldest trip on which I have used the Down Hugger #1.

I have spent the past two weekends on overnight backpacks to different places but with very similar conditions.  The first trip was to Jennie Lakes Wilderness where I camped near a lake sitting at about 9000 feet (2743 m) in the Sierra Nevada.  Temperatures only dropped to the upper 40s F (8-9C) at night and there was a gentle breeze blowing through my Tarptent.  The next trip was to Ten Lakes Basin in Yosemite where I again camped next to a lake at about 9000 feet (2743 m).  Conditions were identical to those at Jennie Lakes, unfortunately that goes for the mosquitoes too.  

Field Test Results

I suppose that the best way to describe my experience with this bag is to simply say that I love it.  So many things about this Down Hugger make it a pleasure to use, and it is rapidly becoming the favorite of all of the sleeping bags hanging in my closet.  It is comfortable, it packs and carries well, it is of very high quality, and everything seems to be exactly where I want it.

The MontBell Super Stretch Down Hugger #1 is incredibly comfortable.  There are two ways in which it is comfortable, really.  First of all, I am always warm and cozy in this bag.  I know I have not taken it to its temperature rating yet, but referring back to my Initial Report, I should reiterate that I am an incredibly cold sleeper.  In a previously used bag rated to the same temperature, I couldn't take it below freezing without getting very chilled - and I don't necessarily attribute this to a poor quality bag, since it is a consistent gap that I've found regardless of the bag I am using.  My general rule of thumb is to carry a bag rated to at least 20 degrees warmer than I am expecting to experience.  I had the Down Hugger to temperatures around freezing and was very comfortable.  I was able to lay and listen to an audio book on my iPod for about 30 minutes without even cinching the bag around my neck and head - usually, in temperatures around freezing, I have to draw my bags close around me to stay warm.  After putting my iPod away for the night, I snuggled down into the bag anticipating the chill that always accompanies me to sleep in these chilly conditions.  I also cinched up the foot box since I don't need the space and my toes were a bit cold when I crawled into my bag that night.   I dozed off and woke up about two hours later too warm - I actually had to unzip the bag a bit, which is unheard of for me! 

The second way in which it excels in comfort is the feel of the bag.  The Super Stretch system is pure genius.  I love how it seems to fit my body close, but there is absolutely no restriction of movement since the bag stretches and shifts to accommodate my weird positions.  I sleep in strange positions, especially when backpacking since my legs are generally fatigued and I'll unconsciously try to stretch them out throughout the night.  Since the Super Stretch system keeps the bag close to me there aren't giant dead pockets of cold air that my body has to keep warm - I believe this is one of the main reasons why this bag keeps me warmer than I would expect.  I also stay warmer in women's-cut bags since they don't have as much dead air space either, but I can feel a bit restricted in these closer-fitting bags.  The Super Stretch system is the best of both worlds - no dead air pockets and I can still move around all I want!

The provided stuff sack is perfect for storing the bag while on the trail - I have not felt the need to switch to one of my standard compression sacks like I've done for all of the previous sleeping bags I've used.  The bag is designed to pack the bag a bit looser or a bit tighter, depending on pack space.  When I pack it looser it fits perfectly sideways in the bottom of my Osprey Ariel 55 pack.  If I am carrying my smaller Gregory Tega, I pack the Down Hugger in a bit tighter and I can then fit it sideways in the bottom of this smaller pack.  It basically works like the compression sacks I like to use, except that it weighs less, which is always a positive in my book!   When at home, the Down Hugger rests in the provided cotton storage bag in a dry gear closet.  I haven't detected any loss of loft - it still fills the cotton storage bag completely.

The shell material is deceptively strong and durable.  It feels almost tissue-soft, but has been performing great.  It stuffs well, it doesn't catch in the zipper, and best of all, I haven't found a single down feather escaping from the bag.  This was my initial concern with this material, but the weave is so tight that it keeps the down where it should be - inside the bag!   I like the bright orange color - it adds a bit of cheer to my otherwise drab grey Tarptent!

It was only cold enough to need the hood and cinch cords on the Desolation trip.  When I went to bed I cinched everything up, expecting to be cold that night.  I was easily able to find everything I needed by just feeling around in the dark - no light was needed to locate anything in the bag.  I have had another sleeping bag for almost six years now and I still can't find anything in it - so it is nice to find everything where I intuitively think it should be.  When waking up warm in the middle of the night I was also able to undo everything while half asleep.   I think part of the reason I was so warm was because of the enormous puffy hood that actually stayed put - I've never had a sleeping bag hood stay in place like that all night!  

I can honestly say that I have not encountered a single problem or issue with the MontBell UL Super Stretch Down Hugger #1.  It is a beautifully constructed bag that has performed incredibly well, and I look forward to taking it out on the trail for many more nights.

Long Term Test Plan

I am very excited about the upcoming months since I will be on the trail quite a lot.  During the Long Term Test period I will be spending a minimum of eighteen nights on the trail and sleeping in the MontBell UL Super Stretch Down Hugger #1.  Over the first week of July I will be spending five days hiking the Yosemite High Passes Loop, which will have me camping at or above tree line in the High Sierra.  I expect it to be a bit cooler than the conditions I've encountered in the Sierra already since I will be camping a bit higher.   In August I will be spending two weeks on the John Muir Trail between Yosemite and Mount Whitney.  Again, I like to camp high (around or over 10,000 ft (3048 m))  since I rarely feel the affects of altitude and enjoy the views and camping away from the pesky bears that usually hang around tree line and lower.  Last year I did a similar hike and experienced temperatures around freezing each night.  I was usually mildly chilled in the same temperature rated bag that I carried last year, even supplemented with a liner, so it will be interesting to see how comfortable I am in the MontBell bag in nearly identical conditions. I am also curious if the bag seems to lose any loft after being shoved into a pack for two weeks.   Finally, depending on the expected conditions, I may carry it on a Skyline to the Sea hike in the Santa Cruz mountains in the days before the Long Term Report due date.  I'm expecting it to be warm enough that I will want to carry a lighter bag, however.   Please check back here in approximately two months for my Long Term Test results.


LONG TERM REPORT
August 28, 2007

Over the Long Term Test period I have slept in the MontBell U.L Super Stretch Down Hugger #1 for a total of nineteen nights over two trips. The first trip was a five day backpack in Southern Yosemite.  Nighttime temperatures hovered in the mid-30s F (~2 C) and the weather was clear and dry – no rain, or even condensation, was a problem.  The other fifteen nights were spent in a two week mid-August backpack along the John Muir Trail in the High Sierra.  This trail stretches from Yosemite to Mt Whitney.  An average night on the trail gave me temperatures in the upper 30s F (~3 C) and dry conditions.  There were a couple of colder nights (low 30s F (0 C)) and one notably warm night (low 50s F (10 C)), but the entire stretch was dry with no condensation issues.  On both trips, the Down Hugger was stuffed into its own stuff sack, most of the time in the smaller configuration, but sometimes stored a bit looser in the bigger configuration.

These longer trips, especially the two weeks along the John Muir Trail (JMT), gave me an excellent opportunity to see how the bag performs when used on a day-to-day basis, spending the days shoved into a stuff sack and the nights inside a tent.  Fortunately, no rain was encountered on either trip and the bag never got wet.  However, after approximately a week on the JMT I was starting to notice that it wasn’t ‘poofing’ like it used to.   Our wake up time was around 5:00 am every morning and I was immediately packing up some of my gear, including the sleeping bag and my sleeping pad.  Although conditions were nice and dry, I believe that small amounts of moisture from my body’s nighttime moisture loss were left in the bag since I had no time to air it out, and after a week of use I was starting to see a loss of loft. 

Around my 8th day on the trail I had a layover day, and therefore an opportunity to let the Down Hugger air out for approximately 24 hours.  At the end of this layo ’ of at least twice that when it comes to bag selection for colder conditions.

Overall, this bag has been a huge success.  I had high expectations for this bag, but I had no idea how perfect it would be, both for my specific needs and in quality of design and materials.  If I had to name the top three reasons to call this a ‘perfect’ bag, they would be:


1. The Super Stretch system redefines the concept of a 'comfortable' sleeping bag.
2. It has a conservative temperature rating, meaning that a cold sleeper like me actually has a chance of staying warm.
3. It bounces back from repeated stuffing very quickly – no noticeable loss of loft even after two solid weeks of trail use.

If I had to come up with a ‘con’…well, I really can’t.  I suppose the worst thing about the bag is that it's bright orange color clashes with my red sleeping pad!  Many thanks to MontBell and BGT for allowing me to experience this fine piece of gear!




Read more reviews of MontBell gear
Read more gear reviews by Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd

Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > MontBell UL Super Stretch Hugger 2007 > Test Report by Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd



Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to BackpackGearTest.org. Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

If you are an avid backpacker, we are always looking for enthusiastic, quality reviewers. Apply here to be a gear tester.


All material on this site is the exclusive property of BackpackGearTest.org.
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson