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]

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.

Gadling gear review: Brooks-Range Alpini 30 sleeping bag

Summer camping is one of the best ways to enjoy the warmer weather that comes along with that season. The days are long, allowing for plenty of time to take in your favorite outdoor activities, and the nights are cool, but comfortable, making it the perfect time to sleep outside. As usual with any camping trip however, the gear you use plays an important role in how much you enjoy the experience, with your tent and sleeping bag playing vital roles.

With this in mind, outdoor gear company Brooks-Range has recently introduced a new line of sleeping bags for warm weather camping. Their Alpini 30 is rated down to freezing (32ºF/0ºC), which is perfect for summer nights, offering versatility and comfort across a variety of climates and altitudes.

That versatility is important on warm weather trips, when you have the potential to experience a wide range of temperatures. The Alpini was designed with this thought in mind, as Brooks-Range has wisely included high-quality, bi-directional zippers that go a long way toward ensuring comfort on nights spent in the tent. Campers who need cooler air around their legs and feet will appreciate the ability to open the lower area of their sleeping bag, independent of the top, letting in fresh air as needed. On cooler nights however, they’ll still have the option of zipping this mummy-style bag snugly around themselves, keeping them as warm as possible.The Alpini 30 uses 850+ fill goose down wrapped inside a patented Pertex Quantum fabric, which gives it a durable exterior and a soft, comfortable interior. That means that the bag is tough and comfortable at the same time. Additionally, those same fabrics allow the bag to compress down quite nicely as well, which indicates that it doesn’t take up much room in your backpack if you’re looking to carry it with you into the backcountry. The fact that the Alpini weighs in at less than a pound and a half only adds to its appeal as a lightweight travel companion for those in need of a good sleeping bag while on the go.

Brooks-Range has included a few other nice touches with the Alpini as well. For instance, they’ve built in an internal storage pocket that comes in handy for keeping small gear items, such as a headlamp or iPod, close at hand. The Alpini also comes with a high quality stuff sack for when you’re traveling, as well as a large cotton storage sack for use back home. These may seem like simple things, but they are much appreciated over the life of the bag, which should last most people for years.

As you can probably tell from this review, I’m quite impressed with the Alpini 30 both in build quality and versatility, however this sleeping bag definitely isn’t for everyone. I say that, because it only comes in one size and if you’re over six feet in height, you’ll find that it is too small to be completely comfortable. Taller backpackers and campers will need to look elsewhere for their sleeping options.

If you’re using this bag, you’ll also want to pay close attention to the temperature rating. The Alpini is a great option for three-season camping, spring through fall. But if you get caught out in colder than expected weather, you’ll definitely have some uncomfortable nights. It is an excellent piece of gear when used for the temperatures it is designed for, but if you need something a bit warmer, you’ll want to try out the Alpini 15, which is rated down to 15ºF/-9ºC.

If you’re in the market for a good, high quality, well designed and built, sleeping bag for warm weather adventures, the Brooks-Range Alpini 30 should definitely be on your radar. It is perfect for camping trips from spring to fall and should serve well in that capacity for years to come.

National Geographic names Gear of the Year for 2010

If you’re looking for advice on the best outdoor and travel gear available today, you might as well get it from National Geographic Adventure.To that end, the organization has posted its selection for their annual Gear of the Year awards, pointing a spotlight on a host of new and innovative products that are sure to make your next trip a more enjoyable one.

The list contains 32 great items ranging from gloves to jackets to sleeping bags and just about everything in between. There are suggestions for hot new cameras, a couple of pairs of boots, skis, and even an electric motorcycle that is both fun to ride and environmentally friendly.

While the list of products may be very diverse, they all share a few things in common, namely great design and good use of modern technology. Some of the products that earn the “Gear of the Year” honors include the DeLorme Earthmate, a device that combines a hand held GPS system with a specially designed SPOT Satellite Messenger, that allows you to send text and Twitter messages, not to mention update your Facebook status, while traveling through some of the most remote places on Earth. Gerber earns a nod for their Ultimate Knife, endorsed by Bear Grylls himself, while Patagonia offers up an incredibly warm down-filled sweater that weighs just 10 ounces. How’s that for traveling light?

Travelers looking to upgrade their cameras will want to check out the Canon Powershot S95, which now seems to be the point and shoot camera to beat and the new Nikon D3100 which is getting rave reviews in the budget DSLR arena. And if you’re looking for a new way to carry all of your gear, you might want to check out the Exchange 26 duffel bag courtesy of Briggs & Riley. Nat Geo gives it high marks for being lightweight but still able to carry more than other luggage, while still maintaining a high level of quality and good looks.

As a self confessed gear hound, I can’t help but love these kinds of lists. They not only help me to select the gear I’ll be traveling with in the near future, but they keep me abreast of trends in the industry as well. The problem is, I sometimes get severe gear lust, prompting me to want everything on display.

So, what has National Geographic just added to your wish list?

Sierra Designs Vapor 15 sleeping bag

There’s nothing worse than ending a great night of camping by freezing your butt off in your sleep. Sleeping bags have come a long way since the days of those twenty-pound flannel bags with squared-off ends. Now there’s no need to pack an uncomfortable and clunky bag into the wilderness, on that road trip, or across Europe. The modern sleeping bag can keep you warm on cold nights, won’t weigh you down, and packs down incredibly small for efficient traveling.

Sleeping bag designers know that when people overheat in their sleep, they sweat, and when cotton gets wet, it gets cold. The Sierra Designs Vapor 15 utilizes goose down, which doesn’t retain moisture, preventing late night freeze-fests. The Vapor 15 is rated to keep an average sleeper comfortable when the mercury drops to 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

Warmth isn’t the only thing to look for in a good sleeping bag; intrepid travelers don’t have tons of room to spare in their packs, so space and weight savings are key. The Vapor 15 uses lightweight 850-fill goose down for its filling. The zipper only runs about one third of the way down the bag, which provides just enough room to get in and out but saves the weight of a full length zipper. The regular-sized bag stuffs down as small as a football and weighs-in well under two pounds (1 lb 11 oz). The hood of this mummy-style bag is more akin to a down jacket hood than what is found on a more traditional sleeping bag. The hood feature saves even more weight, and traps heat in, keeping your head toasty all night.In field-testing, the Vapor 15 kept me comfortable, even as temps dipped into the 20s. Condensation built up inside our tent during the night, and moisture gathered on the outside of the sleeping bag’s footbox. That moisture froze into a crystal casing on the exterior of the bag. Despite my popsicle-like state, the inside of the bag stayed incredibly warm. I even had to unzip and slink out of the bag a few times when I got a bit hot.

The price tag on the Sierra Designs Vapor 15 may cause a double-take for those not accustomed to forking over this much for camping gear. Superior construction and design play into this bag’s price, for sure. If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my years of sleeping outdoors, it’s that a sound night’s sleep is well worth the price of a good bag.

Retail Price – $419.95

Specs can be found at Sierra Designs.