This past weekend I field tested my new 0 degree North Face Snowshoe sleeping bag for the first time on a section hike of the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts. The Snowshoe is a mummy style synthetic bag that is filled with Polarguard Delta insulation and has a nylon shell. At 3 lbs 8 oz. this is a pretty lightweight bag when compared to synthetic bags in this degree range made by other manufacturers.
There are always weight to safety and cost trade-offs you need to make when camping in the cold. Down bags are more compressible and lighter than synthetic bags, but down insulation degrades quickly when moisture from your body evaporates into your insulation, unlike synthetic insulation which retains most of its insulating power when damp or wet. Synthetic bags are also about half the price of down bags at this temperature rating.
I field tested my Snowshoe on top of Mt. Wilcox just north of the Berkshire mountains surrounded by lingering spring time snow. Temperatures on the summit that night dipped to down to the low 30's with winds gusting to 20 miles an hour bringing the temperature with wind chill down to about 17 degrees. The night was very clear and the sky was filled with stars.
I am normally a very cold sleeper, but I slept very warm that night. This bag has substance. There is a very comfortable foot box that kept my feet warm in just medium wool socks. Normally, I would wear Primaloft booties in these temperatures if I were sleeping in a 20 degree down bag. The Showshoe also has a draft collar that closes around your upper chest to halt the bellows effect that occurs when you move around in a sleeping bag, forcing hot air out through the top.
The draft collar fastens shuts using a velcro based system, and the mummy hood was very comfortable and warm at night under a polypro hat. The mummy head is fairly flat, unlike other bags where there is a larger opening for your face, and I believe this makes the Snowshoe feel warmer. However, condensation of the breath was not a problem with this smaller opening; I'm not exactly sure why, but it was nice not to wake up with wet fabric and frozen snot on the area in front of my face for a change.
The Snowshoe comes with its own factory compression sack, but it weights 6 oz and isn't waterproof so I replaced mine with a 3.3 oz Sea-to-Summit waterproof cordura compression sack. You need to use a 35 L size sack and then really scrunch it down to get it to fit in your pack. That's the one problem with this bag for early spring camping: it really hogs pack space. So if space is at a premium, I recommend that you take a look at the 0 degree down bags from Western Mountaineering.
Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.
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