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.
I won’t leave home without my Ultralite!!! At least not for a camping or backpacking trip!
Of course not, you are backpacking and camping.
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.
Thanks for the response Philip! Do you have any recommendations for a light-weight wind-resistant sleeping bag cover?
Mountain laurel designs super light bivysack.
It’s listed in the table above…
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
Hi, are WM bags true to it’s comfort rating? I am climbing Mount Kazbek in Georgia this July and the temp at base camp can dip to -10 degrees to -12degrees. Was thinking of ordering the Badger MF.
Your timing couldn’t be better – I was looking at the (non-overstuffed) Badger bag yesterday. I’m 6’6″, find 6’6″ bags constricting and the Badger is made in a 7′ version!! That is, according to their website – but I couldn’t seem to find anyplace that had the Badger in stock/available – found one site that said it had been discontinued. I’m going to send them an email early next week to see what the deal is.
Good luck in your search!
Hello, I’ve been hearing good things about these bags however, I am interested in knowing what the standards are for harvesting the down… cruelty free? Where is it harvested?
From the Western Mountaineering website:
“We believe in and have been using ethical down for decades. We personally audit our main supplier twice per year with random unscheduled visits. This farm is highly ethical; the geese are raised to old age for their eggs, get to roam the grounds during the day and nest in a specialized insulated barn. During nesting the mature mother geese molt their down in order to insulate their nest. This down is collected while the geese are out feeding during the day. Because our down comes from large mature mother geese it is unparalleled in loft power AND the most ethical it could be!”
buyers guide for feathered friends ? i would be interested in that. have two western mountaineering bags (apache mf, caribou mf) which cover a good range . interested in a 0 degree or better