BAGS & PADS
Backpacker|March - April 2020
Whether you sleep hot or cold, up high or down low, there’s a system here that will unlock the ZZZs.
William M. Rochfort, Jr.

QUIVER-KILLER

BIG AGNES TORCHLIGHT UL 20 OUR TAKE

Warm summer nights turn three-season mummies into boil-inbag situations, while cool fall nights make for shiverfests in summerweight bags. Who knew that all we needed to bridge the gap between the two was an extra pair of long zippers? Opening the zips on the sides of the Torchlight releases two baffles of down-filled fabric, expanding the typical 60-inch circumference of a mummy bag to 70 inches (a separate head-to-toe zipper opens the bag itself). Use the additional space for elbowroom or to accomodate a puffy on colder nights, like our tester did with temps in the teens in the Eastern Sierra. Bonus: Even with the extra zips the 850-fill down sack still packs smaller than a soccer ball.

THE DETAILS

The Torchlight’s hood fits snugly, like a puffy jacket’s, and retains heat so well— even without being fully cinched—that one of our testers ditched his usual nighttime beanie at the temp limit. $400; 2 lbs. 2 oz.; 20°F; m’s regular and long, w’s petite and regular.

LIGHTEST

THER M-A-REST VESPER 45 OUR TAKE

There are grapefruits larger than the packed size of this ultralight quilt. “I got everything I needed for a four-day mountaineering mission on California’s 13,150-foot Mt. Ritter into a 35-liter pack, thanks in large part to this quilt’s tiny packed size,” one tester says. Credit the 900-fill goose down, 10-denier nylon, and lack of zippers. Despite the wispy weight, there are still a few features: A snap affixes the top of the quilt around your neck like a scarf (the button closure stays put once snapped, but it’s not adjustable and can feel restrictive around larger necks) and 4-inch-wide side baffles drape over the side of your pad to seal in heat. We slept warm down to 35°F in California’s Ansel Adams Wilderness.

THE DETAILS

Three removeable elastic bands wrap loosely underneath the sleeping pad to keep the Vesper in place; we thought they were silly until we saw a 15-degree shift in comfortable sleeping temps when we didn’t use them. Also, the footbox is roomy and tall enough for size 12 feet. $280; 12 oz.; 45°F; regular and long

BEST VALUE

NEMO FORTE 35 OUR TAKE

With its combination of relaxed shape, low price point, recycled synthetic fill, and overachieving performance, this bag is a steal for campers who aren’t sure if traditional, down mummy bags are right for them. The Forte’s hourglass silhouette measures 64 inches around at the shoulder, 59 inches at the hip, and 62 inches at the knees— looser at every point than a standard mummy. We were comfy under the stars outside Moab at 40°F, but cold sleepers will want to add a pair of thick socks or down booties when temps dip into the thirties, since there’s so much air to heat up in the footbox. The shape drew high marks from our broad-shouldered testers and side sleepers (one tester even shared the space with her infant). Bonus: There’s a women’s long version, which a 6’0” female tester said was notably more comfortable and warmer than the unisex bags she normally uses.

THE DETAILS

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