The Big Agnes Pluton UL 40 is a minimalist mummy sleeping bag that weighs 15 oz, which is less than most comparable ultralight backpacking quilts at the same temperature rating. It’s insulated with 850 fill power DownTek water-resistant down and has a full length, two-way zipper, so you can vent it in warm weather or use it like a quilt or blanket. This kind of flexibility is nice for summer backpacking and into autumn when the nights get colder. But the thing you need to recognize about the Pluton 40 is that it really is a minimalist sleeping bag that’s short on comfort and features, even when compared to other ultralight mummy or hoodless sleeping bags. While you can certainly stay warm if you use the Pluton near it’s lower limit, it’s going to be a tight fit unless you’re petite in height and girth.
Specs at a Glance
- Type: Mummy
- Weight: 15 oz (16.6 oz, actual tested, size regular)
- Fill: 850 fill power DownTek water-resistant down
- Fill weight: 8 oz
- Zipper side: left only
- Zipper length: full length (70″)
- Sizes: 6′, 6’6″
- Temperature rating: 40 F, 4C
- Dimensions (Girth): (Shoulder / Hip / Footbox): 59″ / 53″ / 36 “
- Shell: 7 denier ripstop nylon with a DWR finish
The Pluton UL 40 is marketed as a minimalist mummy sleeping bag and it certainly is that. While the Pluton UL 40 checks all the boxes, including a mummy hood, a two-way zipper, water-resistant down, and ultralight shell fabrics, it’s not as spacious, robust, or fully featured as one might desire. While I’m impressed with how lightweight the Pluton is and how warm it is, it wouldn’t be my first pick on the basis of comfort alone. I found myself really struggling with the zipper and the hood every time I got in or out of the bag and it’s worth a few more ounces to me to have a sleeping bag that’s easier to use.
The Pluton Zipper
I’m not a particularly tall or stout man, but I found the Pluton UL 40 to be confining in terms of its shoulder girth (59″) and length (72″). While I can lie on my back inside the Pluton with my arms at my sides, it’s quite difficult to zip the bag closed or pull it open again.
Using the Pluton zipper also requires two hands to use: one to support the fabric along the zipper and one to open the zipper or pull it shut. This is tough to do from inside the Pluton because there’s not enough room to move your hands into position, especially since you need to reach one across your chest. Trying to operate the zipper one-handed snags frequently. Forget about venting your feet from the inside. That end of the zipper cannot be reached from the interior of the bag when its zipped shut because it’s blocked by an interior fabric panel. I’ve found it simpler to zip the Pluton up most of the way and slide in and out of the bag from the top, rather than struggling to open and close the zipper from the inside.
I think the Pluton UL 40 would be better with a center zipper like the one on the Feathered Friends Flicker 40 instead of a left zipper, since you wouldn’t have to reach across your chest to operate it. This may not be an issue if you’re slimmer than me, but I can’t remember the last time I felt this confined by a sleeping bag and I’ve used a few.
The Pluton Mummy Hood
I also found the minimalist mummy hood counter-intuitive to use. It’s not shaped like a proper mummy hood, although you can get it to wrap around your head like one with some effort. It’s literally a down-filled flap at the top of the bag with an elastic cord in the front. I found that had to scrunch down into the bag, and pull the insulated flap that forms the hood down over my head before I could tighten it around my face. This has the effect of making the length of the Pluton 40 shorter than you’d expect. I normally fit into a 72″ long bag without any problems, but that’s not the case with the Pluton.
The hood is so minimal, it’s hard to even tell if it has fully encircled your face when you put it on. It also requires two hands to position properly. I think I’d punt on the hood if I used the Pluton as my main bag and use a separate fleece hat or down hood instead. It’s just too much of a hassle to use. You have to wonder if it’s a marketing feature, to nudge the Pluton into the more popular “mummy” sleeping bag category, or a technical one. I really can’t decide.
Warmth and Comfort
The Pluton 40 will keep you warm down to 40 if you zip it up all the way and use the hood. I’ve actually taken it down to 35 degrees, but I did the full drill: a sleeping pad with an R-value of 5, heavy wool socks, long underwear, a fleece cap, a big dinner, and a fatty midnight snack, plus I wrapped a wool shirt around my neck as a draft collar, since there isn’t one on the bag to prevent drafts going down your upper chest.
On the flip side, the Pluton is relatively easy to vent in warmer weather. You can unzip the body and flip it over to use like a quilt with a footbox, open up the front and pull it aside like a blanket, or drape it on top of you. The tightness of the shoulder girth is irrelevant in these orientations.
The shell fabric is very comfortable and silky smooth to sleep in. The bag is very quiet. The sewing is pristine, although the bag weight was 1.6 oz higher than its 15 oz spec on my digital scale.
Comparable 40 Degree Ultralight Sleeping Bags
|Make / Model||Weight||Hood||Fill Wght | Power||Shoulder Girth||Price|
|Big Agnes Pluton UL 40||15 oz||Mummy||8 oz | 850||59"||$350|
|Marmot Phase 30||17 oz||Mummy||8.5 oz | 850||60"||$399|
|Montbell Down Hugger 900 #5||16 oz||Mummy||7.0 oz | 900||53"-75"||$419|
|Mtn Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 20||17 oz||Mummy||8 oz | 900||59"||$430|
|Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 32||16 oz||Mummy||9 oz | 900||57"||$370|
|Western Mtn Everlite 45||14.5 oz||Hoodless||6.5 oz | 850||60"||$315|
|Western Mtn Highlite 35||16 oz||Mummy||8 oz | 850||59"||$370|
|Western Mtn Summerlite 32||19 oz||Mummy||10 oz | 850||59"||$425|
|Feathered Friends Flicker UL 40||18.4 oz||Hoodless||8.4 oz | 950||62"||$364|
|Enlightened Equip. Conundrum 40||18.4 oz||Hoodless||10.1 oz | 850||58"||$315|
|Zpacks Full Zip 35||17.6 oz||Hoodless||9.9 oz | 900||61"||$389|
I wrestled with the question of whether I should recommend the Big Agnes Pluton UL 40 to my readers or not, since like a lot of backpacking gear, whether something will work for you or not often comes down to personal preferences, your body measurements, and budget. Personally, I wouldn’t use the Pluton 40 because it’s too tight fitting and minimalist for my tastes. Gear weight is less important than comfort for me, especially when it’s just a difference of a few ounces.
But there are some circumstances where I think the Pluton UL 40 will work for other people. For example, if you’re 5″6″ in height or less, and have a slight build, the Pluton will be a lot more spacious for you than for me. If you like the warm weather flexibility of the Pluton 40, but prefer the “oh shit” assurance of a mummy bag for unexpected temperature drops, the Pluton could also be a good choice. The Pluton can also be a good option if you want a very lightweight and highly compressible sleeping bag instead of a quilt because it’s always draft free when zipped up. You might also try sizing up to the 6′ 6″ Pluton Long, which weighs 18 oz and has a 62″ shoulder girth, although it takes more body heat to warm an oversized sleeping bag.
Whatever you decide, I would recommend looking at the other ultralight sleeping bag options I’ve listed in the table above, which includes shoulder girths. Shoulder girth measures the circumference of a sleeping bag across the shoulders and provides a good approximation of its effective width. More width means more comfort, but it often comes with more gear weight.
Disclosure: Big Agnes provided the author with a sleeping bag for this review.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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