SLUMBERJACK VERTEX 20 SLEEPING BAG (LONG
TEST SERIES BY TIM TESSIER
December 15, 2007
Greensboro North Carolina
6' 2" (1.88 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
Backpacking Background: I hiked as a child with my father and started hiking with my now 16 year old son 8 years ago. We now routinely take 20 mile (32 km) weekend hikes (2 nights) approximately once a month year round. Additionally, we take one, 5 - 7 day extended trip each summer. Most of our hiking is done in North Carolina, southern Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia. We go regardless of weather so we have experience in all types of conditions. We do not tend to travel very light, my typical pack weight is 25 lb (11.3 kg) exclusive of food.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.slumberjack.com
MSRP: US$ Not Listed
Listed Weight: 3 lb 7 oz (1.6 kg)
Measured Weight: 3 lb 8 oz (1.6 kg)
The Vertex is a rectangular mummy bag. It features a left-hand 3/4 length zipper, 4' 2" (1.3 m) in length. The bag's features include an internal media pocket, a flip over hood and draft collar each with a drawstring that join together in a singe barrel lock fastener.
The bag's dimensions are: (Long Version)
Width at shoulders: 2' 5" (.74 m)
Width at footbox: 1' 3" (.38 m)
Length: 7' 5" (2.26 m)
Internal Media Pocket: 8.5" (21.6 cm) square
Pack Size (claimed): 9" X 12" (23 cm X 30 cm)
Pack Size (smallest I could get it): 9" X 14" (23 cm X 35.6 cm)
Insulation: Climashield XP
Fabric: Outer - Diamond Ripstop and Polyester Pongee
Inner Liner - Polyester Taffeta
Construction: Double layer offset with differential cut construction
The bag is visually attractive. It features vertical patterns of gray, blue and orange fabric on the top and solid blue on the bottom. The lining is gray. There is a Slumberjack logo emblazoned in blue embroidery on the orange hood.
|The Vertex gets the Baxter seal of approval!|
The bag features 1 lb 10 oz (.74 kg) of Climashield XP insulation. Climashield bills this product as a crushable, water repellent, lightweight insulation. As with virtually all synthetic insulation sleeping bags they recommend it be stored hung up by the foot loop or else stored in a large breathable storage bag. Slumberjack does not include a storage bag with the product, though they do include a stuff-sack.
The stuff sack is of the same orange polyester used on the bag and has a drawstring closure on the top with a barrel lock mechanism. There are two black web straps sewn vertically around the sack and four that go vertically up the bag from top to bottom, with buckles that allow me to compress the bag vertically. There is one additional piece of the same black webbing sewn across the bottom to provide a handle.
|The Vertex in its stuffsack|
The bag came in a four color box designed for retail display. On the outside of the box are printed specs and various information on the product. Inside the box is a simple plastic bag, and inside the bag is the sleeping bag inside its stuff sack.
Upon removing the bag from the stuff sack I rolled it out and looked it over carefully. There were no obvious defects in construction and all seams looked straight and well done. The fabric is quite soft and pliable. I unzipped the zipper and noticed the draft collar that goes laterally around the bag at shoulder level and the draft tube that ran the length of the zipper. The zipper moved easily and smoothly with no tendency to snag.
|The errant drawstring|
I then slid inside the bag and attempted to pull the hood snug. The draft collar snugged up but the hood would not. I continued to pull until the drawstring pulled completely out of the track. It had never been sewn in and simply slid out when I tried to use it. If I had purchased this bag at a local retailer I simply would have packed it back up and taken it back for exchange. However, since I am dealing directly with Slumberjack, and since I will be taking this bag on a trip in just a few days I spent about 20 minutes pushing the string back into the track. I then secured it with a safety pin. I am going to use it this way for three nights next week and then deal with Slumberjack when I return. Without this being anchored in some way the hood is rendered virtually useless, which will seriously impact the overall performance of the product.
Overall the quality of the construction seems to be acceptable, although the drawstring issue does cause me concern. A cursory inspection of the product would have revealed this issue. The fabric is nice and soft and there is plenty of room inside for my 215 lbs (98 kg). I rolled on my side into a sleeping position and it rolled with me without constricting me.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
There is a hangtag on the zipper which contains product information but no instructions. There is a brief blurb on the box which reminds the user to launder with mild soap in a large front-loading washer (such as those found at a laundromat). There is also direction to store in a storage bag or hanging, but not in its stuff sack.
All in all, there is very little direction needed for a sleeping bag (feet in closed end, head in open end, zip if cold, unzip if hot).
TRYING IT OUT
I have done a couple of preliminary tests indoors for purposes of this initial report.
I got in the sleeping bag to test its roominess. There is plenty of room in the footbox for my size 11 feet and the long version is long enough and big enough for me. They state that the long is good for someone up to 6'6" (2 m). I have plenty of room at 6' 2" (1.9 m) so I have no reason to doubt this assessment.
I also sprinkled a few drops of water on the bag to simulate condensation in a tent. The water hit the fabric, beaded up for about 30 seconds, and soaked right in. This would definitely not be a bag in which to spend a foggy night with no shelter, or in a heavy dew situation. The literature on the bag makes no claim of water repellent outer fabric, so this is not saying that I expected it to. I simply tested it and confirmed that no such claim should have been made. The Climashield XP does claim to retain its insulating capabilities when damp. This will be tested.
We have a number of trips planned for the winter months including a 4 day trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park between Christmas and New Years. We will have ample opportunity to test the 20 F (-7 C) temperature rating as well as the bags overall performance for cold-weather camping.
I will be using this bag exclusively from now until April and will be camping in widely varied conditions. These will include 3-sided shelters along the Appalachian Trail as well as in tents. I will document its performance in all conditions for both sleeping and using to stay warm while sharing a campfire or a game of cards.
All in all the bag appears to be a solid product. I am concerned about the unsewn drawstring but will use this as one additional element of my test. I will report how Slumberjack handled the issue and how well the fabric stood up to my makeshift repair. This is precisely the kind of repair that would be required if the cord had come unsewn on the trail.
I will file a more comprehensive Field Report on this product in approximately two months.
Field Report - March 5, 2008
I have used the Slumberjack Vertex 20 approximately 5 nights since I received it. Each night was spent on an insulated sleep mat.
We used the bag on a cool night, approximately 45 F (7 C) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was cool and damp but I slept very comfortably in thermal underwear. There was a fair bit of condensation in our tent and the bag was damp to the touch. The outer fabric of the bag was damp to the touch but the insulation kept me nice and snug.
The sleeping bag has been used on an overnight trip to Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area in VA. The night was cool, nearly 40 F (4.4C) and breezy. I slept in my boxer shorts and a t-shirt, as I would expect to do in a 20 degree bag in these conditions. I was quite chilly during the night and learned quickly that the temperature rating for this bag was... optimistic.
I used it a second time on a trip to Cumberland Gap National Historic Park in Kentucky. The first night was spent in a campground in 45 F (7 C) temperature and calm winds. This night I slept in thermal underwear (top and bottom) and was comfortable in the bag. The next night was spent on a ridgetop in gusty winds. The night was not that cold, again 35 - 40 F (2 - 4 C) but the gusty winds made it feel much cooler, even inside a tent. I again dressed in my thermal underwear and was reasonably warm with the exception of my legs.
Finally, we had an opportunity to test the sleeping bag right to the edge of its rated temperature. Last weekend we took the bag to the Shining Rock Wilderness Area in NC. We camped at approximately 6,000 ft. (1829 m) in a meadow surrounded by snow. The temperature was near freezing when we arrived and as soon as the sun set the stars came out in a cloudless sky and the temperature began to plummet. By the time we went to bed, about 8:00, the temperature was around 25 F (-4 C). I was thoroughly chilled (especially my feet). I put on dry wool socks, a toboggan, thermal underwear, fleece pants, and a fleece jacket. As I lay in bed reading a paperback I still could not get warm. My feet could not seem to get warm, and this kept me cold. Finally I got a pair of chemical hand warmers and put one inside each sock. This helped my feet but I was still cold along my legs and lower torso. Finally, I put hand warmers in the pockets of my pants and this seemed to finally warm me up.
This bag is not at all what I consider to be adequately designed or insulated to be rated as a 20 degree bag. In fact I feel that calling this bag a 20 degree bag is wildly optimistic. The design of the bag is such that I have so much room around the legs that I feel like I could share it with my wife and have room to spare. The bag is not really mummy shaped, instead, it is more of a rectangle. All this extra space has to be heated before it can keep me warm. However, this is complicated by the fact that the insulation seems to be thin for a bag supposedly rated for these temperatures.
The extra room did allow me freedom of movement to curl up, and also to have clothes, gas canister, Nalgene, and other things inside my sleeping bag with me to keep them from freezing up. I woke up in the early morning darkness the next morning and the chemical hand warmers had outlived their usefulness. I was cold. There is no other way to say it, I was fully dressed, in a 20 degree sleeping bag, on a 20 degree night, and I was cold. That is simply unacceptable to me.
The hood does seem to be effective. I pulled the drawstring down, and slid the barrel lock up until my nose was about all that was visible outside of my sleeping bag. The hood was comfortable and rolled with me as I rolled up on my side.
The draft tube seems to be effective as I did not feel any chill from the zipper.
One note... I mentioned in the Initial Report that the bag came to me with a defective drawstring, which was not sewn on one end. I contacted Slumberjack regarding this and their first response was to ask me to return it to my retailer. I explained to the person on the phone that I had not dealt with a reseller, but had received the bag directly from Slumberjack. She said they would be happy to repair it, that it would take 4 - 6 weeks, and she would send me a return label right away. As promised, 3 days later the return label was in my mailbox. I decided, however, that rather than return the bag and miss 4 - 6 weeks of testing time, I would just continue to use it for the test period with my jury rigged safety pin, and deal with a repair after completing the test. The customer service person was courteous, understood the issue, and dealt with the situation properly and professionally.
The Vertex is not a cold weather sleeping bag. To put it succinctly, I believe that a 20 degree rating for this bag is wildly optimistic. I find it to be comfortable in the 40 F (4.4 C) range, but in anything below that it becomes inadequate relatively quickly. The roomy cut is too roomy to keep me warm. I consistently find that I particularly get cold in my lower extremities.
Bottom line, I have used 40 degree bags which are warmer and offer better protection.
Things I like about this bag:
1. It is relatively lightweight.
2. Its roomy design allows me to move around inside it as I roll over in the night.
3. The bag is plenty long enough for my size.
Things I don't like:
1. Its temperature rating is not reasonable.
2. The footbox and lower part of the bag seem to provide inadequate thermal insulation
3. The fabric doesn't provide any moisture protection at all.
I would like to thank Slumberjack and Backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to test this product. Please check back in late April for my Long-Term Report on this product.
Long Term Report - April 13, 2008
I have continued to use the Vertex throughout the winter and early spring. Since my Field Report I have used the Vertex for three nights. We spent two nights in an Appalachian Trail shelter in the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area in Virginia, I also took the Vertex on a solo overnight trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Again, I slept in a shelter.
During the trip to Mt. Rogers the weather was abysmal. The temperature was forecast to be around 40 F (4 C) on Friday night and 55 F (13C) during the day on Saturday, falling back to 36 F (2 C) on Saturday night in dry conditions. It began to rain approximately 10 minutes after we arrived at the shelter. The temperature was a cool 40 F (4 C) on Friday alright but the clouds came down and the wind came up and we were stuck in a whirling sea of fog and rain. Saturday dawned to pouring rain that KEPT pouring all day. The temperature never got above 45 F (7 C) so that night was below freezing. As the temperature was well below the forecast I had not brought my long underwear bottoms.
We slept inside the dry shelter, however, the swirling wind and fog got everything damp, including our sleeping bags. Greg slept comfortably in a 20 degree bag with a water repellent fabric. I, on the other hand, was cold and uncomfortable in the Vertex. By Saturday morning the sleeping bag was unable to provide adequate warmth and was cold and clammy to the touch from the weather. I hung the bag up against the back wall of the shelter to give it an opportunity, hopefully, to dry out a little.
By Saturday night it was not terribly damp feeling. Before bed I boiled water and filled a Nalgene bottle with it. Then, putting it inside two wool socks I tossed it into my sleeping bag. The heat from the Nalgene came up around my legs helping me to stay warm. I still spent a chilly evening but all in all it was bearable.
The second overnight trip was actually idyllic. It was a beautiful 50 F (10 C) evening with clear skies and the stars out. I curled up on my sleep mat in my Vertex and slept like a baby. In these balmy conditions the Vertex was adequately warm and comfortable and had lots of space.
Here's the catch, there are plenty of 40 degree bags, which pack much smaller and weigh about half as much as the Vertex that would have been plenty sufficient for a night like this.
|You can't see but I'm being tickled|
|There are two of us in the sleeping bag|
When I got home, just for fun I had my wife join me in the sleeping bag and asked Greg to see if he could zip it. He was able to fully zip the bag with BOTH of us in it. The one I have is the long version, because the Slumberjack website specified that a consumer should order the long if they are between 6' 0" - 6" 6" (1.8 - 2.0 m). I didn't know that would also mean I should have a 48" (122 cm) waistline for this bag to be appropriately cut.
I have also noticed that the drawstring for the hood is starting to fray. It is becoming hard to get the barrel lock fastener up and down on it because of the fraying cord. This may be because it is being held with a safety pin instead of being properly sewn. For whatever reason, it's coming apart.
I took the bag to the local laundromat and washed it in a front load washer and dryer. This is per the manufacturer instructions for cleaning this bag. It survived this with no obvious damage or problems.
The Slumberjack Vertex did not work out for me. It is way too large, particularly around the legs. It is insufficiently insulated. Bottom line, for my purposes it is too large, too heavy, and not nearly well enough insulated.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
The unreasonably huge cut, poor workmanship and materials, and inadequate insulation make this product not a good buy, even for the low bargain price. If a 20 degree bag gives a consumer all the weight and size of a 20 degree bag but is absolutely insufficient for temperatures approaching this level, that is unacceptable.
I wish to thank Slumberjack and Backpackgeartest for the chance to test this product.
This concludes my review of the Slumberjack Vertex Sleeping bag.
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Read more gear reviews by Tim Tessier