Cheap is the word that comes to mind because I should replace sleeping bags way more often than I do, which reminds me of a bag I carted off to college in Missoula. The fact is, that cotton bag was toast and holes leaked cold air into it like sieve. To say it had outlived its days and should have been replaced much earlier is an understatement.
I finally replaced that bag one fall when my father, Fred, came over for Thanksgiving and we slept in the back of the truck on some brutal nights. He didn’t know I’d bought a new bag and on that first night, as the temperature dropped, he kept asking, “Are you sure that sleeping bag will keep you warm?”
I thumped my chest and said, “Sure, this isn’t cold. No problem.” He shook his head and said, “Ok.”
Not long after, we took turns organizing our nests. He was just about ready to turn off the overhead light and close his eyes when I said, “Man, I’m roasting.” I think ice was already forming on the inside of the windows. He sat up and said, “What? Hey, where’d you get that bag?”
We laughed like crazy and inspected the bag, a bright yellow and ink-black Slumberjack that looked like a hornet.
I guess I have a tendency with sleeping bags because I used that one for many years, packing it around the West, sleeping during all seasons in the back of my truck or in a tent. It was nearly worthless, with a failed zipper and tears, when a friend said, “Damn it. Get a new bag.”
I quickly retired the bag and gave it to my Labrador retrievers. A day later I was on the phone with Mountain Hardwear coaxing a pro deal out of the company. They sent a synthetic bag rated to 20-below and I’m still using that thing. In fact, it goes everywhere with me as an insurance policy if I get stuck out for a night.
The only problem with that bag, and the Slumberjack before it, is that they are mummy bags and the footroom is restricted at best. And getting in and out of them quickly is almost impossible. When I get a cramp at night while sleeping in the Mountain Hardwear bag, I must look like a guy having convulsions trying to get out of it.
The mummy bag factor used to be important because I backpacked a lot and went lightweight in the sleeping bag department. These days, with two young daughters under my wing, weight isn’t a big issue—if I’m going to be camping it’s probably going to be in the back of my truck or in a tent next to the truck. If I can carry a sleeping bag five yards I’m going to be alright.
That’s why I went to the Slumberjack Web site last winter and ordered the mother of all comfort bags, the Big Timber, a minus-twenty rated beast that weighs, get this, 12 pounds, has a shoulder girth of 76 inches, and is lined with cotton flannel on the inside. The outside of the bag is made of a tough, “10 oz. cotton duck” shell. Feels like canvas.
I am telling you this bag is so comfortable and bulky you almost don’t need sleeping pad. When it first arrived at my house, my daughters made a fort out of it. One great aspect that I haven’t experimented with is its ability to zip together with another Big Timber to make a “double-wide.” That may be something for you to consider.
I actually use this bag at home as a comforter. All I can really say is that any of us who spend much time outdoors, and do so in proximity of our vehicles, ought to own this bag. You can get them rated to minus-twenty, but there are also models rated at 0-degrees, 10-degrees, and 20 degrees. Get this: the minus-20 bag only costs $129 and the other bags cost less. Having packed this bag around Washington, Idaho and Montana this past winter, spring, summer and fall, I can say, unequivocally, that the Big Timber bag is a bargain. Check it out at Slumberjack.com