Monday, January 23, 2012

Gear in Review - Sleep System

UPDATE: After spending 5 months in a tent, I've updated this review here: Sleep System - UPDATE

Mountain Hardwear Sprite 1
3 lbs. 6 oz.
18 square feet

The Story
I have covered this in the blog previously. But to re-iterate:
I got a bivy for the Trail. I tested it several times and I found it to be unusably hot in the summer time. OK in the winter time. And worthless in the rain. Also cramped, not incredibly light. and I could feel a mouse running across my legs all night through the bivy. All in all, just terrible.
I switched out the bivy for a Mountain Hardwear Sprite 1 and I have been completely satisfied. I have used the tent in the canyons of Utah, the mountains of the Cascades, and for over a year on the East Coast. I find the tent roomy enough for me and my gear, including my boots and pack. I have enough room to sit up. Legolas even has a place to swing and cast light on me if I decide to stay up and write. Easy to setup and take down. I have yet to be in a deluge, if it leaks like a sieve I will be complaining about it!

Big Agnes Grouse Mountain Down Sleeping Bag
3 lbs
good to 15 degrees
Ground pad sleeve

The Story
I have never owned a down bag. After hearing horror stories of wet down I shied away from down. I have had synthetic bags all my life and have always had good luck with them. I have a 40 degree LL Bean bag that I have had for years, and might be switching out to when it gets very warm this summer. I needed a general purpose bag, something that would bridge the gap between too cold and hot out. After researching and weighting my options I found that Big Agnes is a really good brand. Accolades from customers, and the design features including no insulation where it's a waste, a pillow sack inside the bag, the sleeve for the ground cloth were all determining factors. The last, and most important factor: dividends from my REI credit card! I normally would never link a credit card, but if you do online bill pay, buy things from Amazon, buy things from REI, why wouldn't you use this to your advantage? I pay down my credit card month to month so there is no interest or fees. I travel for work, buy a lot of gas, and I have been buying many things from Amazon to prepare for this trip. I have gained a lot of "free" money from these rewards. I have tried to do this so I am using the system to as much of my advantage as possible.
Bottom line. Good bag. Expensive, but the right price for me (free)!

Stoic LTWT Step Sleeping Pad
1 lb 7oz

The Story
Not much of a story here. I had a closed cell foam ground pad for the winter months to use in conjunction with a 3/4 ThermaRest that I used by itself in the summer months. Together those 2 work great. I chanced upon the Stoic on Steep and Cheap with a price I couldn't turn down. Turns out the Stoic was close to the same weight as the ThermaRest, with a mummy tapered full length design. I'm happy with the design and weight, it is comfortable and does what it's meant to do - float me on a warm cushion of air as I'm floating in dream-land!

SeatoSummit Reactor Thermolite Mummy Bag Liner
8.7 oz
Adds 15 degrees of warmth

The Story
This big fuzzy body sock does what it does and does it well! I have had it for several years and have used it as a blanket in Brazil while hosteling and it has added warmth on 0 degree nights in West Virginia. The only qualm I have is the body sock thing! It doesn't have a side opening so if you're hot you can poke a single leg out, as I often like to do. Once inside it your in for the night. It is best used for cold weather camping or completely by itself in hot weather.


  1. Save yourself almost 2 lbs and get a tarp tent. :)

    1. I definitely have considered it. I really like the idea of using my hiking poles as my shelter poles, it just makes so much sense to have dual use items. But my biggest thing with many tarp shelters (I could make a tarp from Tyvek for next to nothing) is bugs and sideways rain. Looking at the 'Notch' of yours covers both of those. In design both the Sprite and the Notch look very similar and are styled the same, except the Notch is 2 lbs lighter! Will you be using a ground cloth/foot print under the shelter?

    2. Nope. I don't feel the extra weight is worth it. But I'm also a firm believer in not having firm plans.... I can always change my mind mid-hike.

    3. OH and while we're talking... how have you liked your packa?? My dad is ordering 2 (one for him, one for my mom. Shows how much he likes me). Maybe this is an email discussion. mackenzieparks at gmail dot com.