Western Mountaineering Sleeping Bags: A Buyers Guide

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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 table below for this purpose. Just click on the model name and you’ll see a popup with the lowest prices available from several different retailers.

ModelTemp FLbs.Oz.
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

See also:

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  1. I won’t leave home without my Ultralite!!! At least not for a camping or backpacking trip!

  2. Hi Philip!
    I’m thinking of a Western Mountaineering sleeping bag for use without any shelter (tent, bivy sack, or other). I won’t need it to protect me from precipitation since I plan to use it only on days when there’s none in the forecast, but I would need it to protect me from the wind (no higher than 20-25 mph I’d say), and not lose a lot of heat due to the wind. I’m trying to decide if the microfiber shell is sufficiently wind-resistant for such conditions or if I’ll need the Gore Windstopper shell. Any advice?

    • It’s not designed for that but try the mf and see if it works. Bring a sleeping bag cover (probably just a few ounces more) just in case and to protect your sleeping bag too. DO NOT get a gtx cover for a sleeping bag. It’s kills its ability to expel water vapor.

  3. Hello, I came across one of your sleeping bags, but there is no identification other than the Bristolecone Mountainering . How can I tell what temperature rating it is. It is red in color. Thank you, Bob Davis

  4. I own a puma with MF, went winter camping the other day and my bag was drenched from condensation on the chest area… more than last time I used it. There was no wind that night so even with the vents opened on the tent condensation was a big issue. I regret not going with the GWS as condensation seem to be an issue every time I go winter camping and sucks waking up to a soaking wet bag on the outside

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