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Old 01-02-2013   #1
Westminster, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 286
Need a Sleeping Bag for Kayak Overnights?

Zpacks 20 degree Sleeping bag Review:

1 year ago I started to research gear for overnight whitewater kayak trips. For about 15 years I have had a synthetic down sleeping bag that needed a small suit case to transport and weighed like 5 pounds. Not something anyone wants to shove into their kayak day in and day out on a river trip. At the beginning of the year, I happened to stumble on a small lightweight gear company called Zpacks. I was amazed at the weight of their sleeping bags and bookmarked the website. In November of 2012 I finally managed to get myself on a multi day kayak trip down the Grand Canyon. It was time to upgrade and purchase a new sleeping bag.

I knew I was going to give Zpacks a shot and I am very glad I did! Zpacks customer service is great! I was on a time limit. After exchanging a few emails with Matt to put a rush on my order, the sleeping bag was delivered a week earlier than my request. Matt was also very quick to reply to emails and questions. The sleeping bag came in a cuben fiber stuff sack/drybag which made it even better for kayak overnights. While I intended to keep the sleeping bag in a Watershed drybag anyway, the redundancy is comforting since there is a possibility of water getting in your primary drybag, and sleeping in wet gear on cold nights could be pretty miserable.

I went with the Medium 20 degree sleeping bag. It weighs in at a little over 17 ounces and has 900 fill down. The medium size will fit most people 5' 10" and under. They also have sizes the will fit taller and shorter people. There are also a variety of temp ratings to choose from depending on your needs. The quality of the bag is great. The materials used are of the lightest weight available. There is a small 3/4 zipper that is meant to be placed underneath your back because there is no zipper baffle. There is also a bungee draw cord to cinch the bag around your neck and shoulders to retain heat. Stuffed in the stuff sack the bag is about the size of two nalgenes side by side.

We spent 8 nights and 9 days on the river and experienced average temperatures in the twenties at night. Every morning there was a frozen dew on most surfaces. The bag is treated with DWR and did a great job of staying dry. With a base layer I was warm every night. The coldest night (near 20 degrees) I wore a base layer and a Mountain Hardwear Whisperlight down jacket and slept great!

The bag is comfortable and very rarely did I experience any cold spots. Since the bag fits so well it moves around with you very easily as you sleep. It does take some effort to zip up the bag once you're in it, and I ended up just keeping it zipped upon entry/exit and unzipping it for airing out every morning.

This is an awesome sleeping bag for the price. With a $345 price tag I don't think you can find a better sleeping bag for kayak overnights for the same money. The warmth to weight ratio and size when stuffed makes it very appealing when dealing with limited space. You will have a hard time finding those traits in commercial sleeping bags in the same price range. I would recommend this sleeping bag to anyone looking to do overnight kayak trips and want a quality, lightweight and warm sleeping bag. Ultralight Backpacking Gear - 20 and 30 degree 900 Fill Power Down Sleeping Bags

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Old 01-04-2013   #2
Dave Frank's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,727
Nice write up. Glad your trip went well

I just toured around that site and the pillow dry bag caught my attention.

Its a Cuben Fibre dry bag with micro fleece on one half of the inside. turn it inside out and load it with comfy stuff to use as fuzzy pillow.

Lots of cool light tarps and rain stuff. More geared to UL hikers, than is really needed for boaters.


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Old 01-05-2013   #3
Westminster, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 286
Thanks, Dave for pointing out that pillow. I'll have to check that out. I usually just stuff clothes into a stuff sack for a pillow with a fleece shirt around it. For this trip I bought a blow up pillow and it quit holding air after about 4 days. A dual purpose stuff sack would be sweet.
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Old 01-05-2013   #4
Riverton, Utah
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 32
900 Fill Down is Great

Those look like some nice bags. 900 fill down is my favorite since it compacts down to such a small package. I have had a Marmot 900 fill bag and it is been very nice, just need to make certain it stays dry.

The cuben fibre dry bag for a pillow looks very practical.
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Old 01-07-2013   #5
Dwave's Avatar
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 211
You should check out ExPed's line up. Ridiculously lightweight, compact, and bomber.
To air is human, to get big air divine.
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Old 01-08-2013   #6
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,408
I have used a Marmot down helium membrane long for a couple years.

packs up small, fluffs up big time. have not used it much below freezing but it has been warm down to that and ok at much warmer temps if I use it as a quilt. I don't zip it up unless it is going to be around freezing.

have not poured water on it but did spend one night in a so called breathable bivy bag under the stars at West Water Ranger Station, and the entire top had water drops on it when I got up. put it in the sun and it was dry in a few minutes. turned the bivy inside out and it took it a lot longer to dry than the bag did.

I swapped the OEM stuff bag for one of the hi dollar ones with the gore tex bottom put that bag inside a very light weight roll top bag and it takes up little space behind the seat of my kayak. about the size of a football maybe a bit less at the ends.

Highly recommend this set up for kayak self support.
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Old 01-09-2013   #7
slickhorn's Avatar
Seattle, Washington
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 365
I love zpacks! One of my favorite things about using backpacker style gear when self supporting is that you are essentially packed up to backpack. I like to keep a z-pack in the bottom of my clothes bag and a couple times a year, on a layover day, I'll backpack up into the high country from the river

We had a pretty time hiking up to Turkey hot springs our last night on the Gila. Joe at z-packs is a great guy. standup, honest, great service, and a gearhead totally in to custom work. great company.

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