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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > Sierra Designs Cirque and Mist 2007 > Test Report by Michael Wheiler

Cirque 1


Sleeping Bag
Test Series Report
By Michael Wheiler

March 21, 2007

Personal Information:

Name:    Michael Wheiler
Age:   50
Gender:   Male
Height:   5'10"  (178 cm)
Weight:   175 lbs (79 kg)
Chest:   42" (107 cm)
Hip Measurement:  34"  (86 cm)
Shoulder girth:   48" (122 cm)
Location:   Southeast Idaho
Email:   jmwlaw AT ida DOT net


I have about 39 years experience hiking, camping, and backpacking.  I have been active in the Boy Scout program as a youth and as an adult leader.  I was a Scoutmaster for seven years with an active monthly outdoor program.  Since being retired from that position, I still try to get out monthly. 
In the last two years I have been able to climb three of Idaho's highest peaks

Field Testing Environment:

Most of my camping, hiking and backpacking occurs in the southeastern Idaho area but spills over into western Wyoming and western Montana.  I occasionally get into the mountains of central Idaho as well.  The areas I frequent generally range from 5,500 ft (1,600 m) to 8,500 ft (2,600 m).  The weather in southeastern Idaho is fairly typical of a high desert plain.  Winters are usually cold with temperatures at times reaching -20° F (-29° C).  Snow depths vary widely but are generally over 10-12 feet (3-4 m) in the high country.  On average snow depths in the lower mountainous areas can be between 4 to 6 feet (1-2 m).

Product Specifications Per Manufacturer Unless Otherwise Noted:

Sierra Designs
Men's Cirque
Regular for users up to 6' 0" (1.8 m)
Also available in Long for users up to 6' 6" (2 m)
Temperature Rating
0º F/-18º C
Trail Weight (Per Sierra Designs)
Weight With Stuff Sack (Per Tester)
3 lbs 11 oz (1.67 kg)
4 lbs 1.5 oz (1.86 kg) (on a Neopost digital scale)
Circumference at shoulders:  62" (157 cm)
Circumference at hips:  58" (147 cm)
Circumference at feet:  40" (102 cm)
800-fill goose down
Fill Weight
29 oz (822 g)
Stuff Size
9" x 19" (23 cm x 48 cm)
Left side, full length
Shell Material
40D Nylon
Liner Material
40D Polyester
$419.00 US

Product Features Per Manufacturer:

Draft Collar
A fully insulated tube provides a warm collar around the chest and torso to seal in the air and keep the user warm.
DriZone Waterproof/Breathable Fabric
An exceptional waterproof/breathable fabric (waterproofness 18,000 mm, breathability 28,000g/sq. meter/24) allows moisture to escape while keeping mother nature's moisture out; provides the opportunity to sleep outside the tent.
Dual Draft Tubes
Fully insulated tubes over the top and bottom of the zipper to prevent cold spots.
Ergonomic Hood
Shaped to cradle the head comfortably without compressing the insulation.
Ergonomically Shaped Foot Box
Listed as a feature but no description provided on the website or in the hang tag.
Expedition Jacket Hood
Streamlined construction makes it thermally efficient; internal, adjustable face draft tube; creates an extremely quite sleep zone; allows eyes to be more shaded (ideal for northern latitudes).
Shingle Construction
Unique sewing technique that optimizes heat retention in a bag with extra overlap construction in core torso area for added warmth and less weight; eliminates cold spots.
Internal Media Pocket
A pocket inside the bag to prevent valuable electronics such as GPS units, MP3 players, and heart monitors from freezing.
Removable Pad Locks
Attaches bag to sleeping pad to prevent sliding off but can be removed for greater flexibility in weight.
Snag Free Zipper Tracks
Creates a barrier between the lining and the zipper track to prevent snagging.
Tuck Stitch
All seams are tucked and sewn from the inside; constructed without an exposed seam to prevent snags and reduce wear and tear.
Welded Seam Construction
Creates a stronger, fully waterproof seam; no need to worry about condensation or dew; ideal construction for use as an emergency bivy and/or in a snow cave.
Zipper Storm Flap
Prevents snow and rain from reaching the zipper; adds an additional barrier to prevent cold spots.

Manufacturer's Warranty:  "Sierra Designs guarantees that the materials and workmanship in every product we make will stand up to the use for which it was designed.  This warranty does not cover damages caused by improper care, accidents or the natural breakdown of materials over extended use and time.  All defective or damaged products should be returned to us for evaluation and will be repaired or replaced at our discretion.  Damages due to accident or improper care will be repaired at a reasonable rate.  Products sent for repair must be cleaned prior to sending."


Cirque 2

The Cirque arrived on March 15, 2007 carefully packaged and in excellent shape.  The Cirque looked like what I expected after viewing the manufacturer's website only much bigger.  The bag was shipped in the storage bag and my initial impression was that the bag was much too big to be packed into an internal frame pack.  After a quick examination to make sure the sleeping bag was undamaged, I read the information contained on the hang-tag.  The very first statement on the hang-tag is:  "SLEEP BETTER, PERFORM BETTER."  Also included on the hang-tag was information pertaining to the Cirque's specifications, features, and warranty noted above.  In addition to the features listed above, I found two loops on the end of the bag for hanging it up to air-out and/or dry.

Cirque 3
Expedition Jacket Hood

Cirque 4
Draft Collar For Chest With Velcro Closure

Cirque 5
Zipper Storm Flap and Snag Free Zipper Track

Cirque 6
Removable Pad Locks On The Bottom Of The Bag

I then examined the compression stuff sack and immediately doubted that the Cirque would ever fit because the bag was a little hard to remove from the storage sack which was multiple times larger than the stuff sack.  However, I began stuffing and, with some difficulty, was able to get the bag into the stuff sack.  Although there were no instructions on how to use the compression portion of the stuff sack, it was relatively easy to figure out and I was ultimately able to reduce the size of the stuffed bag to 9" x 14" (23 cm x 36 cm).  After taking the Cirque out of the stuff sack, it immediately began to regain its loft and before long, it took up the entire storage bag. 
See photographs below.  Even with the compressed size, the Cirque fills up most of my internal frame backpack.  Since most of my winter outings consist of single days or weekend trips, this shouldn't be too much of a problem.  I do note, with a great deal of pleasure, that the compressed Cirque is much smaller than my current winter sleeping bag.

Cirque 7
 Cirque In The Storage Bag

Cirque 8
Cirque In The Compression Stuff Sack

I was impressed by my initial inspection of the Cirque.  While I must admit it isn't my first choice in colors, it is bright and will help brighten the tent on dark, rain/snow filled days.  The Cirque is also loaded with features.  The shell material feels strong and I could not find a single loose thread or feather.  There is a slightly odd odor to the shell material but it is not overpowering.  The lining of the bag is soft to the touch and I expect that it will feel good next to my skin.  Now I just have to hope that the weather turns nasty so I can give the Cirque a serious field test!

  May 25, 2007

The following is an account of my initial experiences in the field with the Cirque.  I first used the Cirque on March16-17, 2007 at Island Park (elevation 6,549 ft/1,996 m).  This was an overnight snowshoe hike.  The temperatures during the day were very warm.  I slept in a free standing single wall tent with a closed cell foam pad between the snow and the tent floor and a Therm-a-Rest Pro-4 self inflating mattress between the Cirque and the tent floor.  I attached the pad to the bottom of the Cirque using the Pad Locks.  The Cirque quickly regained its loft after removing it from the compression sack.  After setting up camp, I retired to my sleeping bag.  My thermometer indicated that it was 18º F (-8º C).  There was no wind.  Given the temperature rating of the Cirque (0º F/-18º C), I only wore my cotton underwear. 

After getting into the Cirque, I had some difficulty zipping the bag closed.  I was using the zipper pull on the outside of the bag and struggled to get the zipper to work.  I then moved the zipper pull inside the bag and it pulled closed much easier but I still encountered some difficulty closing the zipper from my shoulder area to the top of the zipper.  During the evening, I was especially impressed by the chest baffle and hood.  I felt almost as though I was in a cocoon.  The chest baffle sealed off the area below my neck and kept the retained heat from escaping whenever I rolled over.  The hood was very comfortable and controlled heat loss from my head.  I slept very soundly--only waking once or twice during the night.  The Pad Locks seemed to keep the pad in place underneath me. When I awoke the next morning, the temperature had dropped to between 8 and 10º F (-13º and -12º C) depending upon which thermometer I looked at.  I was toasty warm inside the Cirque and didn't really want to get out of the sack to fix breakfast.  I was also impressed with the great loft of the fill material in the Cirque which provided super insulation.

I next used the Cirque on an attempted overnight backpack trip into Aldous Lake in the Centennial Mountains on April 7, 2007.  I was looking for deep snow and cold temperatures but we've had unusually warm temperatures which drastically reduced the snow pack in the mountains.  I believed my best chance to find good snow was to travel north.  The trailhead to Aldous Lake is approximately 100 miles (161 km) north of Idaho Falls, Idaho.  Road conditions quickly deteriorated within about 4 miles (6 km) of the trail head with water running down the road, muddy and slick road surfaces.  I was unable to drive further.  I drove back to Porcupine Pass, parked my vehicle and hiked up the ridge a short distance (elevation 7,219 ft/2,200 m).  It was near dark.  There was no snow.  I pitched my single wall free standing tent and inflated my Therm-a-Rest Pro-4 sleeping pad.  I did not use the pad locks with the pad on this occasion.  It was 42º F (6º C) when I retired to my bed at 9:30 p.m.  I had eaten heartily before retiring.  According to my Brunton Sherpa the wind was blowing between 3-5 mph (5-8 kph).  Humidity was at 65%.  Given the temperature at bed time, I wore only my cotton underwear to bed.  The chest draft tube/hood provided great heat retention.  By morning the temperature had dipped to 28 º F (-2º C).  Again, I was so comfortable when I awoke at 6:30 a.m., I really didn't want to get out of the Cirque.

Cirque 9

Impressions To Date:

Although the Cirque is a bit tight around the shoulders when I am trying to zip it closed, after settling into the bag, it is wide enough for me to sleep comfortably.  When I roll over (which I tend to do frequently during the night), my body comfortably moves within the bag and I do not notice any cold spots.  The hood fits comfortably and is easy to adjust.  So far, the hood has kept my head warm without a stocking cap.  All draw cords are easy to grasp and adjust.  The draft collar is comfortable and very effective at retaining my body heat. 

I have yet to encounter sufficiently severe weather to determine if the storm flap prevents any drafts from entering the bag.  Nor have I had an opportunity to determine if the outer-shell is capable of repelling  light snow or rain.

So far, I have not noticed any moisture inside the bag after each night's use.  As night-time temperatures continue to rise, I will report on any moisture build-up inside the bag.  I will also continue to monitor and report on any condensation from the inside of my shelter and any moisture from rain on the exterior of the Cirque.  Also while using the Cirque in warmer temperatures, I will report on whether the full length zipper can be used to regulate the ventilation enough so that I can still sleep comfortably.  I will also report on how easy the Cirque is to clean and dry.

July 31, 2007

Despite rapidly warming temperatures, I used the Cirque five more times.  I used the Cirque on April 20, 2007
near Table Rock Campground at an elevation of 6,126 feet (1,867 m).  There was 1-4 inches (2.5-10 cm) of snow on the ground.  I used a Therm-A-Rest ProLite 4 self-inflating pad.  On this trip, I purposefully did not attach the Cirque to the pad with the Pad Locks.  I wanted to see how well the bag would do on the pad without being attached.  As far as I could tell, the bag did not slide off the pad at all during the night.  It was 41º F (5º C) at bedtime with a mixture of light snow and rain falling.  Humidity was at 75%.  There was no wind.  Given the temperature and the fact that I had eaten well before retiring, I slept only in light cotton underwear (top and bottom).  I was comfortably warm all night and awoke only because some wild turkeys in the area began gobbling at each other as the dawn broke.  The temperature in the morning was 31º F (-0.55º C).  Although the exterior of the tent was covered with snow, I found no moisture on the exterior or interior of the Cirque in the morning.

I next used the Cirque on May 4-5, 2007 at the Grand Teton Council Boy Scout Jamboral (a mini-Jamboree) near Blackfoot, Idaho (elevation 4,079 ft/1,243 m).  Due to parking restrictions no vehicles were allowed into the camping area and I packed in about 1/4 mile (0.4 km) with a 41.5 pound (19 kg) pack.  The Cirque, in its compression sack, fit well inside the Summit pack's lower compartment.  I used a Therm-A-Rest ProLite 4 self-inflating pad and attached the pad to the bag with the Pad Locks.  It was a cold, windy night. 
At dark, with the drop in temperature and the strong wind, I needed all the clothes I packed and my gloves.  It was 41º F (5º C) at bedtime.  Because of the temperature and the fact that I had eaten well before retiring, I slept only in light cotton underwear (top and bottom).  I was comfortably warm all night.  By morning the weather was worsening.  The temperature at 6:30 a.m. was 34º F (1º C) with increasingly high winds (9-30 mph/14.5-48 km/h) and light rain.  Humidity was at 49.5%.  After a close inspection of the Cirque in the morning, I found no moisture on the exterior or interior of the bag.

On June 8-9, 2007
I used the Cirque during an overnight backpack trip with my daughter Traci to Lower Palisades Lake (elevation 6,131 ft/1,869 m).  This is an 8 mile/13 kilometer round trip hike.  I was carrying a 45 pound/20 kilogram pack.  The Cirque was again stowed inside lower compartment of the Summit backpack.  The temperature during the day was 63º F/17º C.  It had rained just before we started the hike but the cloud cover disappeared and the temperatures began to drop.  By morning it was 31º F/-0.55º C.  Humidity ranged from 54% to 79%.  There was little to no wind.  I found fairly heavy condensation built up on the exterior of the tent but none on the inside of the tent.  There was no detectable moisture on the exterior or interior of the Cirque.

Finally, I used the Cirque on July 26-27, 2007 when I climbed Mt. Rainier (elevation 14,410 ft/4,392 m).  Although our plans originally were to hike from Paradise to Ingraham Flats Thursday morning, because our guide was delayed about three hours, the Cirque only went as far as Camp Muir (elevation 10,188 ft/3,105 m).  As before, the Cirque was crammed into the compression sack and then placed into the lower compartment of my Lowe Alpine Summit pack.  Due to travel logistics, the Cirque was compressed in the pack for twenty-eight hours. 

Our climbing team arrived at Camp Muir at approximately 6:00 p.m. and we were the next to last team in camp.  We could not see any readily available tent sites left at Muir but amazingly the public shelter was empty.  As such, our team of seven climbers set-up camp inside the public shelter.  After the sun went down, the temperature outside dipped to near freezing
(0º C) with estimated overnight temperatures in the upper teens (-7º to -9º C).  There was a fairly stiff wind outside.  Inside the shelter, the temperature remained pretty constant all night at 52º F/11º C.  I again used a ProLite 4 and attached the Cirque to the pad with the Pad Locks.  I removed the Cirque from the compression sack, shook it several times and laid it on my pad while I cooked dinner.  Despite being compressed for a very long time, by the time I finished with my evening meal (approximately one hour), the Cirque had returned to what appeared to me to be full loft.  Contemplating a very arduous climb beginning in roughly four hours, I ate very well (2 servings of Beef Stroganoff, a large bowl of chicken noodle soup, a bagel with peanut butter, a couple of "fun size" Snickers bars, a taste of Sweet and Sour Pork made by one of my brothers, and lots of water sweetened with Raspberry Lemonade Crystal Light).

Rainier 2

Again, when I retired, due to the temperature and all the food I ate, I only wore light cotton underwear (top and bottom).  I "slept" (using the term extremely loosely, since the snoring, moving about, and outhouse trips of others using the shelter kept waking me up) from 9:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m. with the bag completely unzipped and I was still too warm.  Although I rolled over many times during this time period, the bag remained attached to the pad which, in turn, kept my body on top of the padding.  I was able to expose my upper torso and one of my legs when the temperature got too unbearable.  At 1:00 a.m., I stuffed the Cirque back into the compression sack and in the process, it felt like there was some moisture on the inside of the bag from my perspiration during the last 4 hours.  I left the Cirque in the compression sack until I arrived back home in Idaho Falls Sunday, July 29.  I took it out of the compression sack, turned it inside out and hung it on a line in my storage room.  At that time, it felt dry to the touch both inside and out.


I never really got to use the Cirque in temperatures worthy of challenging its temperature rating. 
As such, I cannot honestly comment on the 0
º F/-18º C temperature rating.  I can say that in temperatures as low as 8º F (-13º C), the Cirque kept me warm.  I can also report that in temperatures ranging from 31º F (-0.55º C) to 42º F (6º C), the Cirque was not uncomfortably warm when wearing appropriate clothing.  The Cirque also demonstrated good breathability since even in these warmer temperatures I did not notice any condensation or sweat build-up inside the bag.  However, at 52º F/11º C, the Cirque was uncomfortably warm even while wearing only light cotton underwear and I found moisture  caused by perspiration inside the bag despite leaving it completely unzipped during the night.

I found no instances of insulation shift during my use of the Cirque which resulted in cold spots.  The down insulation stayed pretty well distributed throughout the bag.  Even after multiple uses, the Cirque is a little difficult to compress into the compression sack and after being compressed for more than 24 hours, it regained its loft in a very short period of time.

The Cirque's dimensions worked well for me and I was generally able to sleep comfortably while in the Cirque.  I am typically a side sleeper and the Cirque's dimensions allowed me to roll from one side to the other without difficulty.  The down seemed to be well distributed.  Venting was easy to accomplish through the zipper and the Pad Locks kept the bag securely attached to my sleeping pad.

As of this date, I have not experienced nasty enough weather to really test the Cirque's weather resistance.  I have not experienced any moisture on the exterior of the Cirque except that, out of curiosity, I poured a little on the bag from a water bottle and watched it bead up and roll off.  Although I have used the Cirque in some very windy conditions, the shelter I was using provided sufficient protection and I did not have an opportunity to adequately test the Cirque's draft resistance.  I will say that when the Cirque is completely zipped closed, the draft tubes close around my upper chest and make me feel like my head is sealed off from the rest of my body.  The hood is very comfortable and fits my head well.  If I want, I can use the draw cord to cinch the hood up so that only my eyes and nose are exposed.  To date, I have not needed that type of protection from the cold.

Durability has not been an issue.  The Cirque still looks like new.  There are no tears or spots on the fabric exhibiting signs of wear.  The zipper is a little sticky at the top near my shoulders but otherwise works fine.  I have not attempted to clean the Cirque yet but have plans to do so before winter as I intend to make the Cirque my winter camping bag.  So far, I have simply been able to turn the Cirque inside out, hang it up to air out for a day or two, and it has been fine.

In short, I really like the Cirque and plan to use it extensively next winter. 
I would like to thank Sierra Designs and BackpackGearTest for giving me the opportunity to test the Cirque men's sleeping bag.

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