Gadling Gear Review: High Peak Latitude Zero-Degree Sleeping Bag

It may seem hard to believe, but winter is a lot closer than any of us would like to admit. When it arrives, it will inevitably bring cold temperatures and plenty of snow and ice. But the shift in weather doesn’t mean we have to put an end to our outdoor adventures for the season. With the proper gear, we can still enjoy all of our favorite activities including camping. In fact, winter camping can be incredibly rewarding and fun, provided you go well equipped with a good four-season tent and a sleeping bag specifically designed for the cold conditions.

High Peak, a company that specializes in excellent, yet affordable, outdoor equipment offers a line of sleeping bags that are specifically designed for cool and cold weather camping. Their new Latitude line of bags come in 20°F, 0°F and -5°F versions, which make them perfect for a variety of conditions. These mummy-style bags are comfortable, warm and lightweight, which makes them perfect options for not only camping, but backpacking and general travel as well.

Using a proprietary fill that they call CozyTherm, High Peak has managed to create a bag that rivals traditional down in terms of warmth, while still keeping weight to a minimum. CozyTherm is designed to reflect body heat back into the interior of the bag, keeping the person inside comfortably warm. It also has the ability to wick moisture away as well, keeping the interior nicely dry. This comes in especially handy during the winter when cold, wet conditions can be a recipe for disaster.In addition to providing a warm and dry place to sleep, the Latitude bag has plenty of other nice touches as well. Its exterior is wrapped in durable rip-stop nylon that can take plenty of punishment on the trail without scuffing or tearing. The bag also has a comfortable hood that seals up around the head to provide extra warmth on cold nights. An interior pocket keeps small items, such as an iPod or headlamp close at hand, while high quality zippers keep the interior cozy, without hindering the ability to get in and out of the bag.

While I haven’t had the opportunity to test my Latitude 0° bag in severely cold temperatures as of yet, I can tell you that it definitely provides a warm and comfortable nights sleep. I believe that High Peak’s estimated temperature ratings on each of these bags is spot on, meaning that whichever version you select, it will perform well at the temperature it is designed for.

Having spent plenty of time in mummy bags over the years, I personally find them quite comfortable. Not everyone shares that feeling however, as these types of bags can feel a bit claustrophobic and restrictive for the uninitiated. Mummy style sleeping bags are the most efficient for use in cold weather however, as they help prevent excess heat loss and keep your head much warmer too.

Overall, the Latitude 0° sleeping bag has exceeded my expectations in terms of features and performance, but it stands out from the crowd for other reasons as well. For instance, this bag tips the scales at just 3 pounds, 2 ounces, which should make it a good option for backpackers concerned with the weight of their packs. High Peak has also priced the bag quite nicely too, as it isn’t often that you’ll find a good winter sleeping bag that costs just $115.

Unfortunately, High Peak doesn’t currently offer a “long” version of their Latitude bags, and at 6’2″ in height, I felt a bit cramped at times. If you’re shorter than I am you should have no real issues, but if you’re any taller, you’ll probably want to look for other options.

Those searching for a good sleeping bag for winter camping, that won’t put too much of a hurt on their wallet, will find the High Peak Latitude an excellent option.

[Photo credit: High Peak]

Holiday gift guide for campers

While most campers take the winter off to pursue other outdoor adventures, the holidays are still a great time to spoil the camper in your family with some fresh new gear. And, some of the heartier folks out there camp all year long, so they’ll appreciate gifts that they can play with immediately. Here at Gadling, we’re geeks for camping gear and love to get outside. With the holidays approaching and wish lists being compiled, we’re here to help you treat your favorite campers to some goodies that will keep them safe, comfortable and happy when they venture out into the wilderness. From stocking stuffers to big ticket items, every camper will love these gifts.Eureka Sunrise 9 Tent

Who says you have to rough it when you go camping? This three-season, five-person tent features plenty of pocket space for organizing and storing your gear, a mirror and water bottle holders. Don’t be fooled by the amenities, though. This is a durable tent that can withstand strong winds, wet weather and just about anything else that your environs throw at it. Priced at only $179.26 on Amazon, it’s a steal for a five-person tent.

If you’re looking for something smaller, our own Kraig Becker recommends Eureka’s Apex 2XT tent.

Snow Peak Iron Grill Table Set 3

If you want to turn your car camping trip into a culinary wonderland, upgrade from a simple camping stove to Snow Peak’s full-on camp kitchen setup. It includes a BBQ box for charcoal grilling, a single burner stove, stainless steel inserts for preparing your food and bamboo table extensions for extra space to prep and eat. At 26″ tall, it’s the perfect height for sitting but not too low for when you’re cooking. It conveniently folds up neatly into a canvas storage bag for easy storage at home. It’s pricy ($699.95), but Snow Peak gear is durable, so it will last for years. If you or someone you know camps (or tailgates or just needs a portable cooking space for trips to the park or beach), then this is the ultimate piece of cooking gear.

Snow Peak SnowMiner Headlamp

This is without a doubt the cleverest piece of camping gear that we discovered this year. It’s both a headlamp and a lantern without sacrificing in either category. Sure, you can hang any headlamp from your tent ceiling and call it a lantern, but the SnowMiner allows you to adjust its lens to focus a beam of light (for use as a headlamp) or diffuse the light 180-degrees (to become a lantern). You can adjust the brightness in both modes. The headband even includes a hook so that you can easily hang it in your tent. At $49.95, it’s an affordable and creative gift.

Black Diamond Icon Headlamp

Need a slightly more hardcore headlamp? The Black Diamond Icon is the brightest of the climbing brand’s line, lights your way, offers red light for better night vision and is powered by three AA batteries. That power allows it to last up to 145 hours and illuminate an area over 300 feet ahead of you. Perfect for finding your camp after dark, whether you’re leading a night hike or simply returning from a trip to the bathroom. Not too shabby for less than $60.

Osprey Waypoint 65

The last thing you want on any camping trip is too many things to carry. Anytime that you can consolidate items and find multiple purposes for your gear, you’re making your life easier. That’s why we love Osprey’s two-in-one travel pack and daypack combo, the Waypoint 65. Pack your clothes and extra layers in the 50L main pack and your gear for daytime activities in the 15L daypack. The packs zip and clip together for easy transport and detach when the time is right. Like most Osprey packs, the Waypoint 65 is gender specific, so the female camper in your life can get a pack made for women. As a bonus, the Waypoint 65 is perfect for travel, as well, so it’s not just for camping. Available in multiple sizes to fit any torso, the Waypoint 65 starts at $231, which is a great deal two packs, one of which works as a piece of luggage.

Gerber Camp Axe

Perfect for cutting firewood or clearing out a campsite, the Gerber Camp Axe is also lightweight enough to carry along with you on long hikes. That’s thanks to a fiberglass handle, which means the axe is durable while only weighing 2.5 pounds. The plastic sheath securely clips over the stainless steel blade, so it’s safe to carry. For under $40, it’s an affordable and powerful piece of hardware.

Eddie Bauer First Ascent Downlight Vest

As noted above, we appreciate multipurpose camping gear. That’s why we love this down vest that packs into itself and becomes a microfleece pillow. The vest is perfect for cool mornings and evenings and it folds right into its own pocket to create a perfect, compact camping pillow. It’s also water resistant and wind repellent. It’s a great vest and a portable pillow. Two pieces of gear in one for $129 (and also available for women).

Kelty LumaPivot Lantern
It’s multi-directional. It’s powerful (110 lumens). It lasts up to 12 hours. It’s the perfect lantern for lighting up your entire camp while cooking dinner. And, at less than one pound, you’ll barely know it’s there when you pack it up with your gear. That’s a lot of positives for only $39.99.

Big Agnes Yampa Sleeping Bag

This 650 down fill bag will keep you toasty until the temperature reaches 45 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s a great three-season bag with a built-in pad sleeve so that you never have to worry about rolling off of your sleeping pad. It comes in regular (72″ long) and long (78″ long), so it will fit most any camper. When stuffed into its compression sack, it can pack down to a 7.5″x6″, easy-to-carry bundle. Starting at $159, it’s a terrific sleeping bag for a great price.

Pizza Sleeping Bag

Who says that all of your camping gear needs to be utilitarian? Each one of these delicious sleeping bags is handmade by the artist and requires a $100 deposit. The vegetable pillows will have you sleeping comfortably, as will the satin lining. Worth $300? We think so! But only five feet long? We prefer an extra large pizza, and possibly a meat lovers. It requires some time to make, so you might need to arrange for a rush order in order to get it in time for Christmas.

Gift Guide for Warm Weather Adventurers

As December approaches and the holiday season draws near, those warm summer days that we enjoyed just a few months back are already a distant memory. But no matter what the calendar says, I guarantee the adventurer on your shopping list is already plotting his or her next warm weather escape. Considering summer really is just a short plane ride away, here are some suggestions for what to buy them for their next adventure.

Keen Voyageur Hiking Boots
A good pair of shoes are essential for any adventure and the Keen Voyageur hiking boots are a great option for any summer escape. Both comfortable and durable, these shoes are well ventilated, keeping your feet cool and dry, while also preventing unwanted moisture from getting in. Amazon has them starting at $87.21, making them a bargain for trail shoes of this quality.

Gadling Gear Girl Pam Mandel is a fan of Keen shoes too, recommending the McKenzie as a versatile warm weather shoe for a variety of activities. ($85)

ExOfficio Sol Tech Tee
Staying cool and dry is one of the most important aspects of enjoying any outdoor activity in warmer weather. The ExOfficio Sol tech tee not only wicks moisture away from the body, it is also highly breathable, and provides UPF 50+ sun protection as well. All of that is marketing speak for “it’s comfortable to wear when it’s warm outside.” Available in a variety of colors, the Sol is perfect for hiking a local trail or traveling to the far side of the planet, and is a perfect addition to any adventurers closet. ($25)

Pam also recommends the BugsAway line of shirts from ExOfficio as well. The shirts earned high marks in her review of a variety of mosquito repelling gear. ($40)

Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts
A good pair of cargo shorts are a necessity for any warm weather adventure, and Columbia delivers a comfortable, durable product with the Silver Ridge. Super lightweight and breathable, these shorts are quick drying and include large pockets, as well as an adjustable waistband. With a UPF rating of 30, they also provide solid protection from the sun, and look as good around town as they do on the trail. ($20)Marmot PreClip Safari Hat
Staying protected from the suns rays is an important aspect of any warm weather adventure and a good hat helps considerably. I’m a big fan of Marmot’s PreClip Safari Hat, as it has a wide brim, is comfortable and cool to wear, and is highly packable. It is also waterproof and so lightweight that it actually floats. I’ve carried mine with me on six different continents and it remains one of my favorite pieces of gear. ($35)

Sierra Designs Meteor Light 2 Tent
The summer months are tailor made for camping and a good tent is an essential part of enjoying evenings in the backcountry. The Meteor Light 2 from Sierra Designs is a perfect 3-Season option that stays warm on cooler nights, but provides plenty of ventilation when it gets warm. It sets up in just minutes and sleeps two comfortably. ($210)

Kelty Cosmic Down 20º Sleeping Bag
While a tent is important for any camping trip, when it comes to getting a good nights sleep, it is only part of the equation. A good sleeping bag is essential as well, and the Cosmic Down 20º is a great choice for warm weather outings. Kelty has managed to make a comfortable, lightweight, down sleeping bag that won’t break the bank. ($75)

Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack
Nothing inspires adventure like a good backpack and Osprey makes some of the best. Their Stratos 24 daypack provides plenty of storage for a long day (or even overnight) on the trail. Its size makes it perfect for peak bagging or other short, yet gear intensive, adventures. The Stratos’ integrated suspension system helps you to stay cool on the move and the pack is hydration ready, keeping water close at hand at all times. ($89)

If you’re looking for something a bit smaller, Gadling gear reviewer Mike Barish recommends the Raptor 14, also from Osprey. He found it to be the perfect options for day hikes in warm weather destinations such as Zion Natoinal Park. Read his review here. ($81)

Polar Bottle Insulated Water Bottle
Staying hydrated on our warm weather adventures is vitally important, but that doesn’t mean we have to settle for drinking warm water while on the trail. The Polar Bottle uses an insulating foil to reflect back the heat of the sun, keeping the liquids inside cooler for a lot longer. These bottles make fantastic and affordable gifts for the hiker, trail runner, or cyclist on your list this year. ($11.25)

Gadling gear review: Kelty Cosmic Down 20º sleeping bag

Over the past 60 years, Kelty has built itself a reputation for designing high quality outdoor gear that won’t empty your wallet. Their line of equipment includes backpacks, tents, camp lights, and more, all of which has helped inspire several generations of Americans to go outside and enjoy their time in nature. One of Kelty’s signature lines of equipment has always been their sleeping bags, which is a piece of gear that is integral to enjoying any camping trip. After all, if we don’t get a good nights sleep, chances are we’ll never want to go camping again.

The Kelty legacy for providing affordable and high quality gear remains well intact with their Cosmic Down selection of bags. Available in ratings of both 0º and 20º Fahrenheit, the company has brought affordable down-filled sleeping bags to the masses. These days, our sleeping bags are generally filled with natural goose down or a mix of synthetic materials, both of which have their advantages and disadvantages. Down tends to be warmer and lighter than synthetic, but it can also be much more expensive and doesn’t always perform well in wet conditions. Those are all important options to consider when purchasing a bag for your next adventure.

I recently had the opportunity to test the Cosmic Down 20º bag and was pleasantly surprised at how well it performed. Not only is it a comfortable option for three-season camping (spring, summer, fall), it compresses down to a small footprint, allowing it to fit nicely inside your backpack. It is also well built, with high quality materials and zippers, and features a host of nice touches, such as a warm hood, security loops for attaching to a sleeping pad, and a stuff sack for carrying the bag while on the go. In short, Kelty has put a lot of work into delivering a product that will fill the needs of most travelers who need a sleeping bag, and it shows through quite quickly.
When put to use in real-world conditions, the Cosmic Down 20º lived up to its rating, keeping me warm on cooler nights. That said, I wouldn’t want to push this bag any further than that rating, and if you’re going to be using it in colder temperatures, you may want to consider the 0º option or adding a liner for additional warmth. The Cosmic Down also comes in three different sizes (small, medium, and large) and for the best performance and comfort, you’ll want to be sure to choose the bag that is right size for you. Additionally, this is a “mummy” style bag, which wraps around the head for added warmth, and while I prefer these types of sleeping bags, there are some who feel a bit claustrophobic with this type of design. If you haven’t used a mummy bag before, you may want to try one out before buying.

Make no mistake, there are warmer, lighter, and more durable sleeping bags on the market. Those bags are also a lot more expensive than Kelty’s offering. The Cosmic Down starts at just $99 (add $10 for medium and $20 for large sizes), which is an unbelievable price for a down-filled sleeping bag. That makes the CD a very attractive option for casual campers or those looking to invest their money in upgrading their other camping gear, such as their tent or backpack.

It is difficult to overstate just how much bang for your buck the Cosmic Down delivers. If you’re in the market for a new sleeping bag or if you need one for an upcoming trip, this is an option that will not only meet the needs of the vast majority of travelers, it’ll do so without breaking the bank. As the holidays approach, the Cosmic Down also makes a great gift for the outdoor enthusiast on your list as well. For casual use, in weather that is less than extreme, it is hard to beat this bag.

A Tiny Sleeping Bag for Your Backpack

I haven’t been a backpacker in the traditional sense in more years than I care to mention. I travel with a rolling bag and a day pack choked with electronics. But I recently found myself needing to pack a sleeping bag for an adventure that also required me to travel light. I tried stuffing my older REI down bag into a compression sack. It was small, but I figured I could do better. I settled on the Visp from Wenger.

You may be familiar with Wenger as one of the two Swiss Army Knife companies. There’s some political history there involving French speaking Swiss and German speaking Swiss, if you’re really keen, you can read up here. Over time, Wenger has expanded to make shoes and camping gear and watches and yes, sleeping bags.

I selected the Visp bag primarily because it compresses down so very small. Stowed in the included compression sack, it’s a little bigger than a football. (An American one, not a soccer ball.) I was traveling near the equator, I didn’t need loads of extra insulation, so a three season bag would do the trick. The bag weighs just short of two pounds, only a few ounces more than some of the most expensive bags on the market. It costs a bit more than my REI bag did — it retails for $224, my REI bag was $187. That’s not a huge price jump for the weight and space obsessed, considering you can spend over $300 if you’re so inclined.

I used this bag almost every night for two weeks at a variety of altitudes. Rated to 45F, I was a little cold on the nights when temps dropped into the 40s, but nothing that pulling a cap on didn’t resolve. The bags are cut unisex, it would have been nice to have a bit more room in the hips. The zip is baffled, so there are no air leaks, and the hood cinches down tight enough. There’s a pocket at the chin, nice for your phone or iPod and, as I mentioned, it comes in a compression sack so it packs away quite small.

The one features I wasn’t satisfied with was the partial zip. I wasn’t able to open the bag out flat on hot nights. This also means you can’t zip the bag in to a mate if you’re camping with the kind of person you’d want to do that with. Even though it comes in a right or a left, it’s a solo bag, which is a little sad. And, because you can’t vent it from the bottom, it’s really a fall or spring bag, a two season bag, rather than a spring, fall and summer sleeping bag.

The partial zip is the only thing that keeps me from recommending this whole-heartedly as the perfect bag for stowing in your round the world or adventure travel backpack. The insulation worked exactly as rated and the bag packed down to a remarkably small size. But I’ll consider range of use over space next time I pack for a trip that requires I carry a sleeping bag.