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.
The rest of the MS Team
Also in This Area
Also in This Style
Montbell Super Spiral Down Sleeping Bag: Luxury in Orange
Posted on: September 16, 2011
MSRP: $609 (regular); $639 (long)
"Screw it! Let's just get in our sleeping bags." My best friend and I are suffering through a night of epic mistakes and forgetfulness. Deep snow, missing crampons and blind rappels have left us crouching behind a boulder around 1 a.m. In my mind a single phrase repeats, but remains unsaid: You said the fuel canister was full. It is below zero and the stove is useless. For some reason the tent is at home, and our bivy sacks are pitched head-to-toe on the flat ice between two rocks. The lethargy that comes with belaying in the cold has seeped into my thighs. But I know the second I crawl into my Montbell Ultra Light Super Spiral Down Hugger Expedition (U.L.S.S.D.H.E.) that my mood will improve. Within seconds of stripping out of my layers and scooching into the bag, I am warm and snoring. My partner, in a much lighter bag, shivers for two more hours before informing me that, despite it still being dark, we have to start hiking out.
I picked up the U.L.S.S.D.H.E. for a Denali trip. I wanted something warm, light, warm and comfortable, but mostly warm for multi-week use. Since that experience, it has become my go-to winter bag. I can actually enjoy sleeping under the stars in sub-zero conditions, and find excuses to bring a bigger pack to carry it in, even on overnights.
I love this bag for its warmth and its comfort. True, any 800-fill down bag rated at -20F is going to be warm. But what makes the bag really stand out is its elasticity. Like all of Montbell's Super Spiral line, the Down Hugger has bunched, elastic seams so the bag stretches with the sleeper. The elastic pulls the fabric into tiny folds, that stretch as you bend your knees, flail your arms, or sit cross-legged inside the bag. Additionally, Montbell says that the fabric used in the sleeping bag is composed of fibers with tiny coils that increase elasticity and the stitching is done perpendicular to the warp and weft threads, which also increases stretchiness. All this elasticity means the bag hugs the sleep tight, providing excellent insulation along with freedom of movement.
As with any down bag, the waterproofing is going to be a question. While I doubt that the water resistant Polkatex fabric of the bag could withstand wet snow, I have had no problems using it inside a frost-filled tent, with a bivy sack, or simply on dry ground. The other omnipresent question is price. At $600, the U.L.S.S.D.H. is not cheap. But as with its light weight, the bag is pretty reasonable when compared to similar down bags.
The author looking cozy in his Super Spiral. [Photo] Keese Lane
The one complaint I do have deals with the sizing. I am nearly six feet tall. The Down Hugger comes in two sizes: regular and long. The regular size is recommended for a "maximum user height of six feet." Maximums and minimums always scare me. Does a max of six feet mean a six-foot person can sleep comfortably in the sleeping bag or does it mean you can just barely cram a six-foot person into the bag? As someone who stands at five-feet eleven and three-quarters inches tall this was important to me. Also with an expedition sleeping bag, I plan on cramming clothing, boot-liners and assorted gear into the bottom. Would a bag that maxes out at six feet comfortably along with my assorted cold weather gear? The answer is "yes," but I unfortunately got the long size, which is made for sleepers up to six feet, six inches. The extra space made things chilly unless I filled it with excess gear or folded the extra material under my feet.
At 3lbs and 12oz the Down Hugger is neither amazingly light nor especially heavy. It doesn't pack down to a micro size, nor is its size cumbersome; It compresses into a slightly larger package than my old, synthetic zero-degree bag. The size is reasonable, and I only complain because I want to bring this bag with me on every winter outing. This usually means moving from a 45L pack to something slightly larger.
This bag is pure luxury, but if you're into the whole ultra-light minimalist scene, you'll probably be disappointed. If you're looking for an expedition bag, or are just interested in being warm and getting great sleep, you'll pretty pleased with the Ultra Light Super Spiral Down Hugger Expedition.
Pros: Comfortable, warm.
Cons: Sizing can be confusing due to the elasticity factor, Not the smallest bag, It only comes in orange, Seriously no one could come up with a name for this bag in under fourteen syllables?