The Alpinist Mountain Standards reviews apply Alpinist's tradition of excellence and authenticity to gear reviews by providing unbiased, candid feedback and anecdotal commentary to equipment tested (hard) in the field. Our panel is comprised of climbers who use the gear every day as part of their work and play. Only the gear they would actually buy themselves, at retail price, qualifies for the Alpinist Mountain Standards award. The five-star rating system is as follows:
One Star = Piece of junk.
Two Stars = Has one or more significant flaws, with some redeeming qualities.
Three Stars = Average. This solid piece of gear is middle-of-the-road on the current market.
Four Stars = Better than most comparable gear on the market. It has one or two drawbacks, but still 90% positive.
Five Stars = Is there such thing as perfection? An Alpinist Mountain Standards award-winner.
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Feathered Friends Hummingbird Sleeping Bag: No Spooning Necessary
Posted on: October 7, 2011
Weight: 27oz (765g)
From weekend alpine excursions in the Rockies to ultralight summit sprints in a fleeting Patagonian weather window, having a lightweight sleeping bag is vital for any mountain climber. And with ever-improving materials, these bags provide climbers with a huge increase in warmth and security by adding less than two pounds to a backpack. An ultralight bag is often worth carrying even with only a "slight chance of bivy" in the forecast. Sure, these bantamweight sacks will suffice for an occasional overnighter. But for unexpected epics and most other excursions into the alpine, hardcore platonic spooning may be required to supplement the overly optimistic temperature ratings and under-stuffed insulation of these compact bags.
Weighing 27oz, the Feathered Friends Hummingbird compresses tighter, and weighs less than the Nalgene of water I also carry. I even forget I have it with me until I need it. It is one of those small bags that's a permanent fixture in a climber's pack, but when dusk comes early and the choss really hits the fan, the Hummingbird actually keeps me warm.
Unleashing the Hummingbird from its original, fully compressed state reminded me of a cartoon tent that magically springs up into shape out of an inconceivably small package. I could practically see the down expanding as I shook out the loft. And as this single bag was the sum total of sleeping equipment brought along on a multi-day Rocky Mountain linkup for myself and my partner, I couldn't have been happier to see the super-stuffed ball of feathers turn into what looked like a plush, car-camping-at-Indian-Creek type of sleeping bag. The Hummingbird's size and weight are that of a light, minimalist bag (I've eaten burritos that were bigger). However, the conservative twenty-degree temperature rating, overstuffed fill and moisture-repelling exterior compels me use it on more occasions than just alpine sufferfests.
Handmade in the USA, the $349 price tag of the Hummingbird is less than you'd pay for comparable high-end models like the Western Mountaineering Ultralite or Valandre Mirage. The goose-fill gurus who design for Feathered Friends know about the limitations of down, an important acknowledgment in their soggy Seattle headquarters. Each polyester fiber of the bag's exterior fabric is treated individually and then woven together, producing the smooth and water-resistant EPIC shell that prevented coffee, snowfall and dense condensation from permeating into the down.
The narrow profile of the bag takes time to get used to, but it also translates into a lower volume of air that my body had to heat. The small cuff across the top of the zipper closes with two small snaps, not the typical Velcro. And while I couldn't complain about scratching my chin, locating and unbuttoning these tiny snaps in the urgent blackness of a nocturnal pee break caused enough commotion to awake a slumbering tentmate. I simply cut off the offending flap, and the zipper still stays put just fine.
If Feathered Friends would use different materials for the hood cinches—flat webbing for the chin with round cord for the head—it would cut down on the trial-and-error of pulling and cinching in the dark.
My final minor gripe with the bag was the lack of included compression sack. While the $349 price includes small and large stuff sacks, purchasing an eight-liter waterproof compression sack will make the Hummingbird shrink down to something more resembling its namesake.
Following the addition of a small compression sack, the Feathered Friends Hummingbird is a strong contender for the most versatile single bag a climber could ask for: it's toasty-warm and super compact, with no spooning necessary.
Pros: Lightweight; lofty down, long-lasting with proper care; bomber construction; comfortable.
Cons: No included compression sack; hood closures and zipper snaps could be improved.