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Western Mountaineering Sleeping Bags: A Buyers Guide

Western Mountaineering's Original Store

Western Mountaineering is a California-based company that has been making ultralight down sleeping bags in San Jose for over 35 years. Ask anyone who owns one of these: they are fantastic! But they are expensive, because every model that Western Mountaineering manufactures is insulated with highly compressible 850+ fill goose down. This grade of down provides much better heat retention with less weight than the 550-700 down fill that you’ll find in sleeping bags from other manufacturers. This weight difference is significant in a 20F degree bag like the Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20, but it becomes huge in a -25F degree winter bag like the Western Mountaineering Puma which weighs just 3 lb. 7oz.

In addition to their superior down, Western Mountaineering offers their sleeping bags with three different exterior shell fabrics: ExtremeLite, Microfiber, and Gore Windstopper.

  • ExtremeLite shells are made from nylon which is the lightest, most compressible and most breathable shell fabric available. Unfortunately they offer the least protection from outside moisture or tent condensation, so bags with this shell are best used in mild weather conditions and on shorter expeditions.
  • Microfiber shells are constructed from tightly woven nylon or polyester with higher thread counts than ExtremeLite. The tight weave of Microfiber is water repellent, more breathable, and lighter weight than that of coated or laminated fabrics such as Goretex. Microfiber shells are a good option if you expect limited contact with water such as tent condensation.
  • Gore Windstopper is heavier than microfiber, but it will keep water out of a down bag while allowing vapor to escape, preventing it from reducing the performance of your down bag. This is especially desirable in damp environments such as a snow cave, tent, or bivy sack, in winter conditions.

When buying a Western Mountaineering bag, it’s important that you carefully consider the temperature, weight and cost trade-offs of their different bags and shell materials. I’ve assembled a sortable tabel below for this purpose.

ModelTemp FLbs.Oz.
MityLite40110
HighLite3510
SummerLite3213
MegaLite3018
AlpinLite20115
UltraLite20113
VersaLite1020
Caribou MF3514
Alder MF25115
Sycamore MF2520
Apache MF1521
Badger MF1528
Ponderosa MF1529
Antelope MF527
Sequoia MF534
Kodiak MF0212
Lynx MF-1032
Puma MF-2537
Bristlecone MF-1042
Apache GWS1526
Badger GWS15212
Antelope GWS5213
Sequoia GWS5310
Kodiak GWS032
Lynx GWS-1038
Puma GWS-25312
Bison GWS-40410

Once you’ve decided on the model of sleeping bag you want, you need to find a retailer who has it. This can be a bit difficult because Western Mountaineering bags are in such high demand and most outfitters do not carry the full line.

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5 comments

  1. I bought a Western Mountaineering Big Horn Super MF rated to -25 with 9? inches of loft from its 850-plus fill, and a breathable microfiber shell. Western Mountaineering offered an option to have the bag overfilled with an additional 4 oz of down. The bag weighs three pounds, 11 ounces. It was pricey but my last cold weather down sleeping bag lasted nearly 30 years. I expect this one to last for my remaining winter camping career. Since I bought this bag it has been discontinued/merged with the Western Mountaineering Puma series.

    It's the bomb.

    I also have a Western Mountaineering Caribou. I have slept in temperatures down to 19 degrees. I regularly use a Design Salt silk liner – theoretically rated at 9 degrees – with all my sleeping bags to keep them clean and give me a light covering in case I have to open up the bag due to overheating.

  2. I have two of their bags and agree 100% with you. I own the "Ultralite" and the "Puma" and have nothing but accolades for those two bags…I have never been cold in them and I generally sleep in the natures own, except for when I use the Puma, cause baby it is cold outside when I use that bag….The Ultra Lite I used a my general everyday hiking bag and am now in the market for a 40 degree bag since it is warmer here in the South where I now hike..

  3. Hi Phil, EMS stocks WM bags and I have a few gift cards from them hoarded up. But they only have the GWS shell for the Puma model. Besides the price adder is there a drawback to this? does it trap the moisture from the user's body inside the bag? Also have you had luck inducing sublimation by turning the bag inside out and sunning it while packing up? I think that might be more of a mid-west, dry winter trick that is less effective in NE. Thanks.

  4. I'd definitely avoid the Goretex shell – I have an MF and it's lighter and far more breathable. You can still order it through EMS – it will just be back-ordered. Even if they don't carry it as part of their normal stock, I'd bet they'd order ti for you. Phil Lewis in the EMS Brighton store is a Winter Hiking Program leader – I'd bet you could twist his arm to do it.

  5. Over the years I have accumulated an insane number of sleeping bags, but most are in the mid range of quality. The warmest one is a Hunter Outdoor Products Inc. down mummy bag I inherited from my grandfather. The company has apparently gone bankrupt but they certainly made a rather warm bag! Heavy but warm.
    I have been looking for a good used Western Mountaineering or Feathered Friends bag. In my search I have come across a fair number (more than 50%) of MF Western Mountaineering bags listed with holes in the fabric. According to the sellers description the bags were lightly used. Is this a known problem or are these people abusing the bag in some way they are failing to mention?

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