Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Winter camping with OutdoorVitals' Summit 0 sleeping bag

Let me first say...this sleeping bag is awesome.

Outdoor gear can be crazy expensive. And yes while some of that pricey equipment is top-notch, affordability should never be a worry when wanting to recreate outside. Never. When I first started getting into fall and winter camping years ago, I did my first trip up to the Peshtigo River State Forest in late October. The temperatures were in the low 30s and down to the twenties at night. Fall in Wisconsin is lovely, but camping out with a cheapo summer sleeping bag was not comfortable. Months later I bought a better sleeping bag for summer and fall camping, which I brought on my first winter backpacking trip I took that next February. Single digits plummeting down to -18 degrees overnight led to a very, very frigid attempt at sleeping. Alright, cold exposure, you win. I knew I needed to invest in a quality, down sleeping bag for freezing conditions. But I didn't want to spend upwards of $300, $400 or $500 dollars. I did some research and ended up learning through a public group on Facebook called "Backpacking" about a small company in Utah called OutdoorVitals.

They make an 800-fill, duck down, sleeping bag rated to 0 degrees called the Summit. Oh...and it only costs $180. It's super warm and compacts down to a sub-Nalgene bottle size. OutdoorVitals follows a pretty rad business model by not selling their products through retail outlets. So what you order is sent directly to you from the manufacturer. They even back all their products with a lifetime warranty. And free shipping. That's how you can add such an excellent piece of gear like the Summit 0 to your inventory and still have money to buy more. Because you can never have too much outdoor gear, right? Right.

The first thing I noticed and praise about the Summit 0 is how compressible it is.  You may know, down sleeping bags like this are favorable for those aiming to keep their overall pack weight slim. The Summit 0 weights just three pounds. It's down material scrunches into the included stuff-sack and after a few effortless tugs on the exterior straps, you'll get a 6'6 (I have the long size) sleeping bag that shrinks down to the size of a standard Nalgene water bottle. The bag itself is very easy to roll-up. This is all great because I can quickly throw it in the bottom of my Gregory Baltoro 65 backpack and go. It's small size once compacted away, means it can be easily kept inside my pack and not exposed to rain and snow on the approach out to the campsite. That's a huge plus.

Overall comfort? Oh it's cozy. Very, very, very cozy. It's like a soft, puffy cocoon of warmth. I actually look forward to climbing into my sleeping bag when I'm tired and dozing-off. Even sleeping through frozen nights at temperatures the bag is rated to, you'll stay perfectly snug. On a recent winter camping trip I never felt cold at night while catching some Zs. The bag has two, adjustable drawstrings near the neck that cinch the mummy-style bag, trapping in all the hot air your body radiates. In temperatures above the 0-20 degree range, the bag still works wonders in keeping you even warmer, so you may need to shed a layer or two. I would feel totally confident sleeping in temperatures below the zero-degree mark inside this bag. It's just that good. The zipper is on the right side, starting near your shoulder and lining the bag down to a few inches above your feet. If your toes get sweaty, you can even unzip the bag from the bottom, upwards to bring in some ventilation. 

On the outside, the bag has two loops at its base for storage when not in use. In case you're just getting into outdoor gear made of down material, you should always hang it up loose when you're not using it. This airs it out and keeps all those down duck feathers fluffed-up and ready to keep you warm once you're inside. Never keep it scrunched away and compressed. I keep mine hanging up in my apartment's gear closet when I'm not out on some trip. Plus, it makes for some great conversation when you have friends over. Say you have questions on down sleeping bag care and cleaning? OutdoorVitals has a hugely helpful video blog with all sorts of great information and tips. Make sure to keep it dry too. The tough nylon exterior shell is treated with a DWR agent to keep any precipitation off it.

So there you have it...a high-quality, compact, and durable down sleeping bag for winter and fall camping for under $200. Go buy one, now and start spending less money and more nights in your tent year-round.


Cost: $165-$190 (depending on size/length)