After all that hemming and hawing about which winter sleeping bag to get, I finally decided on the Eastern Mountain Sports Mountain Light 0. Price was a major deciding factor, as it must be for someone who doesn’t really have much money to throw around– I had enough to get either a perfect sleeping bag and a pretty good down jacket, or a perfect down jacket and a pretty good sleeping bag. The Mountain Light 0 turned out to be just that. It’s a pretty good sleeping bag. The price is great, and the intent behind the design is great. The execution of the design is a little lacking, and some of the finer details are frustratingly off, but for $400 (and often on sale for much less), it’s not a bad choice for someone who wants to do one or two winter trips a year with a very light sleeping bag.
|There it is in a nutshell. A simple, no-frills, sleeping bag.|
First, let’s talk about the design of this bag. It’s meant to be a very light zero degree bag, using 15 denier Pertex fabric for the shell (an exceptionally light nylon), 800-fill goose down (high grade down), and a relatively minimal design. The “new Insotect Flowgate technology”, which only Marmot and EMS use so far, supposedly makes more efficient use of the down, but there’s practically no info on this “new technology” anywhere on the web. The best I can figure is that it is just a different baffling system, and keeps the down in place rather than letting it shift around.
|The Mountain Light, gutted. Antidraft tubes and draft collar are very thickly filled.|
Before taking the bag out on the trail with my Backpackinglight Get-Together the other weekend, I made some initial impressions. First, the bag is advertised as weighing in at two pounds and twelve ounces, which isn’t too shabby (see my previous sleeping bags post). I weighed it at 1.25 ounces over spec, which isn’t too bad, either, although when the weight of an item is off from the manufacturer’s specifications it makes me wonder how controlled the manufacturing process is– are there really 26.4 ounces of down in the bag as stated? And how well distributed is the down? Where does that extra weight come from?
|That’s a puffy head!|
The other initial impression I had was just how silly the stuff sack was. For a sleeping bag that uses featherweight 15D fabric to cut weight, why would the compression sack use thick, stiff, waterproof nylon and weigh in at 3.8 ounces? A standard Sea-To-Summit compression sack is about 25% lighter and equally waterproof, just from using a lighter material (and it includes a fourth compression strap, two of which have releasing buckles to avoid tangling them up). Heck, my old LL Bean synthetic sleeping bag from 2004 had a lighter compression sack than this. Such a heavy compression sack is an unnecessary feature for such a lightweight sleeping bag.
How did it do in the field, though? By augmenting the bag with down jacket and down pants, as well as my base layers, I brought it down to -18 degrees and managed to sleep the whole night. It wasn’t exceptionally comfortable that night, but far from the coldest I’ve been. The previous night, at 10 degrees, I skipped the extra pants and jacket and had a perfectly toasty night. I’d say the zero degree rating is reasonably accurate– It’s a good alternative to the Western Mountaineering Antelope, which is rated to 5 degrees (although WM bags are famous for being much warmer than stated), weighs five ounces less, and costs about $90 more.
The bag’s strongest points are its footbox and hood. Both are loaded with so much down that they puff right up and insulate very nicely. The hood is shaped just right to cradle your head when you pull the drawcord around your face. I guess insulating the feet and head more than elsewhere makes sense, but it would be nice if the same attention was paid to the rest of the body in this bag.
|Left to its own devices, the sides loft up a lot better than the middle. The head and neck are perfectly poofy.|
Room for improvement? As I said above, it seems that from the neck to the knees the bag is unevenly filled. As you can see in the picture, the sides of the bag and the head and foot areas loft much better than the middle of the bag. Whether by design or chance, this doesn’t seem like a good thing. Sure, some parts of your body may need more insulation than others, but uninsulated space is uninsulated space– I don’t want my belly to be any less insulated than any other part of my body. Once you start pushing the lower temperature limits, you don’t want cold air getting in anywhere.
|The zipper system isn’t the best part of this bag.|
The other big issue with the bag is the zipper. EMS claims a “Full-length two-way zipper with antidraft tube and anti-snag piping.” Yes to all of that, except the last part. The antidraft tube is kind of nice– on each side of the zipper is a thick tube of down, and when you zip up they purse together like a pair of lips to prevent drafts from the zipper. Not bad. If only that anti-snag piping worked at all. The zipper snags on the draft tubes incredibly easily. The piping seems to be a huge failure.
Finally, and this is a bit nitpicky, the drawcord for the hood works nicely except that it pokes out from the hood of the bag, rather than in. A perfectly designed hood would have the drawcord inside the bag, where the person inside the bag can reach it easily without poking a hand outside of the face opening. Why would you have the hood drawcord on the outside rather than the inside?
It seems like I have several gripes about this sleeping bag, but in the end the performance speaks for itself. I slept in this bag with reasonable comfort at eighteen degrees below its rating (with extra layering, of course), and all this for 20% less MSRP than other zero degree bags out there. So I can’t complain too much. I plan to use this sleeping bag for several more years, regardless of its flaws. They don’t outweigh the benefits.
Disclosure: I have a part-time seasonal job at Eastern Mountain Sports, which allowed me to purchase this sleeping bag with an employee discount. Eastern Mountain Sports in no way solicited this review, and my opinions of the quality of the sleeping bag are unaffected by the price I paid for it.