Owner Review--Big Agnes Zirkel
- Big Agnes Zirkel
Name: Douglas J. Durham
Email address: djdurham@...
City, State, Country: Reston, VA
Backpacking Background: I did some outdoor stuff as a paratroop
officer in the mid-1960s. Upon returning to college I re-discovered
the joys of a dry roof and three hot meals a day and remained a
rootless cosmopolite (urban dweller) for 30 years. In the late 1990s
I took a brief trek to the Himalaya, carrying conventional heavy
gear. See this link for a description of that trip.
As described in the link, Indian sadhus, carrying a blanket and a pot
for water, were blowing past me. Thus, an interest in lightweight
I hike mainly in the West Virginia area-Dolly Sods etc.- from late
April/early May to the middle of October: a typical two-season hiker
who tries to avoid temperatures below 32F. My main goal is to get out
and enjoy the outdoors in reasonable comfort with a base pack weight
of a little less than 20 pounds. I probably get out 10 times a season
for 40 days. I carry a McHale pack, a Big Agnes Zirkel, and a
Bakepacker and plan to get a Hennessey Hammock soon: comfort over
other lighter weight alternatives.
735 Oak St.
Steamboat Springs, CO 80477
b. Year of manufacture
d. Listed weight
One in REM pad 1 lb./11oz
Air Core Pad 1lb./4 oz.
e. Weight as delivered.
The bag weighs 2 pounds 5.5 oz., 2.5 oz. over specs.
The REM pad weighs 1 pound 12.5 oz., 1.5 oz. over manufacturer's
The Air Core weighs 1 lb./4 oz., same as specs.
f. Product description.
The Zirkel is a mummy-shaped down sleeping bag with three distinctive
features: no down under the sleeper; a sleeve into which to slide the
ground pad; a built-in stow sack to create a fixed pillow by
inserting clothing. It is rated for 20 to 60 degrees F for a moderate
sleeper. The REM 1 in. pad is rated down to 25F. The Air Core is
rated to 32F. It is priced at $279 for the bag and $65 for the one-
inch self-inflating pad, and $54 for the Air Core.
The exterior shell is 30-denier Pertex nylon microfiber ripstop with
a fluorocarbon DWR treatment for a wind proof & water resistant
shell. The interior lining is 30 Denier Pertex nylon microfiber, soft
and breathable. The bag bottom is 210T nylon ripstop with a DWR
treatment. The insulation is 775 down fill, good quality. This bag
has a hood. The workmanship is fine with no obvious gaps and well
sewn. The shoulder girth is 67.5 inches for a 72-inch long bag.
a. Location or locations where the test was conducted
Dolly Sods, West Virginia, and Cohos County, New Hampshire and my
b. Description of location (geography, terrain, elevation, etc.)
Both locations are similar. Typical Northern East Coast "mountainous"
terrain. Many ups and downs, bogs, a few open areas/meadows of great
beauty. Plenty of wild life. Even though Dolly Sods is in West
Virginia, due to its setting, it is closer in geography to Canada or
New Hampshire than the Shenandoah Park which is physically much
nearer. Dolly Sods Elevation is 3000 to 4400 feet. The New Hampshire
area was about 1000-1500 feet lower than Dolly Sods. However, it is
several hundred miles further north.
My back deck is at an elevation of 900 feet.
c. Weather conditions (temperature, precipitation, etc.)
Lows were 35-40F; Highs 75F. One torrential rain and thunder storm in
New Hampshire. Otherwise, just the occasional bit of rain you expect
in the Summer/Fall in the East.
I tested the bag and the 1-inch REM at 25 F on the back deck.
d. Below are comments about two trips. See the Summary for a full
Wednesday, June 19, 2002
I camped overnight in the Dolly Sods area of West Virginia. For this
trip I did not have a thermometer; however, the temperature was
probably around 45-50F. The forecast for a town nearby was for around
a 50-55 F low and the area in which I was camping is usually 5 to 10
I used a Western Mountain bivy sack, as I usually do, and slept
outside without a tent or tarp. I was wearing Patagonia silk weight
bottoms and top. I did not zip the bag all the way up and was
comfortably warm throughout the entire night. For this trip I was
using the one-inch self-inflatable REM pad. I found it very easy to
slide the pad into the sleeve of the sleeping bag. I had plenty of
room in the bag to sleep on my side or on my back. (I am 5'10" and
weigh 175 pounds.) I had previously been using a Western Mountain
Apache bag and a 48-inch Thermarest self-inflating one-inch
ultralight pad. The use of a full-length pad with the Big Agnes
Zirkel definitely increased the sleeping comfort. Of course, it also
added an extra 11or so ounces for a total of 28.5 ounces for the pad.
The Big Agnes one-inch self-inflating pad is rated down to 25
Monday, July 22, 2002 New Hampshire
For this trip I had purchased the Big Agnes Air Core pad, which
weighs 20 ounces and is rated down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The Air
Core pad is not self-inflating, but requires only two minutes or less
to blow up. It comes in a stuff sack roughly the size of a Nalgene
bottle. I folded mine up and slipped it into the sleeve of my McHale
pack. I used this as the cushioning against my back, rather than the
foam pad supplied with the pack, in order to save space and weight.
This trip was to the most northern part of New Hampshire, the Cohos
Trail. The first evening, after an exceptionally warm day, the
temperature reached approximately 55 degrees F for the low (as
measured by a cheap thermometer) and I slept with the bag largely
unzipped, wearing the same Patagonia silk weight bottoms and top and
using the Western Mountain Fortress bivy sack: a very comfortable
night's rest. However, I did not find the Air Core pad dramatically
more comfortable than the one-inch self-inflating pad.
Others have commented about how comfortable the Air Core pad is and
it is very comfortable. I would certainly use it rather than the one-
inch pad because of the decrease in weight (7 ounces) until it became
to cold to use. At that point I would simply switch to the one-inch
pad. (For me that point is about 35 degrees.)
Despite the fact that the Air Core pad is 2 and 1/2 inches thick
(compared to the one inch self inflating pad) and thus reduces the
girth of the bag, I was still able to sleep on my side and on my back
As I had on my trip to the Dolly Sods area, I used my Wild Things
Primaloft jacket as a pillow stuffed in the pillow holder of the
sleeping bag. This feature, along with the fact that the sleeping pad
and bag stay together, are in my opinion the main sources of the
additional comfort which this bag definitely supplies.
Tuesday, July 23, 2002
A cold front came through and the temperature reached a low between
35 and 40 F. I used the bivy sack, silk weight bottoms, tops, and
liner socks. I felt a bit chilly in the middle of the night and put
on a Golite Furr hat and pants and wind shell. After that, I was
quite warm. I did have the sack almost fully zipped up.
One possible reason for feeling chilly was that I had not eaten
dinner nor made a hot drink before sleeping and that I had hiked over
very rough terrain almost 30 miles in the preceding two days. In
addition, a very strong thunderstorm had rolled through that morning
and although my torso was dry, my legs were quite wet (and a bit
cold) for several hours from walking through high grass and such.
The best area that I could find to sleep on was not flat, but slanted
downward and slanted to my left. On my last trip with the Apache, I
had slept in a similar situation and had awoken two or three times to
find that the pad had slipped off and I was sleeping largely on the
ground. Because the Big Agnes pad is fixed in the sleeve, my night's
rest was much more comfortable and much less interrupted. I believe
this is a particularly useful feature for people who use a bivy sack
and sleep in areas that might not otherwise be usable as a campsite.
Dealing with the Company
Before I got the bag and pads I had several conversations with Brad
who I assume is one of the owners of this small company. He was very
helpful, a pleasure to deal with.
On several other trips to the Dolly Sods area of West Virginia, I had
the same experiences: great comfort; perfectly warm with the Air Core
to 40F. Below 40 I just put on pants and a top over the long johns
and was fine. Because I use a bivy sack I did have a bit of
condensation on occasion on the surface bag. It dried quickly.
I slept on the 1 in. REM pad at 25F on my back deck and was quite
warm. IMHO, the bag will keep you warm down to 20F with the right pad
if you wear socks, long johns, and a hat and may be pants and a top.
The 1 in. REM pad would probably be OK with the extra clothes,
although the company suggests using the 1-½ in. for going below 25 F.
The strengths of the Zirkel, like the rest of the Big Agnes line, are
its design for comfort: a full-length pad you cannot roll off; a bit
more room than some other mummies; and a built-in pillow sleeve. I
slept out in it around 60 F and was pleased with is roominess and
comfort. I slept at 25F in comfort. It is pleasure to sleep on a full-
length pad after using a 48 inch one.
This bag and pad combination at the cost of an additional 4 or 11
ounces (roughly) over the Thermarest 48 inch pad (depending upon
which full-length pad you use) provides a substantial increase in
comfort and hence longer and less interrupted sleep. It also, for
those who can use a bivy sack or a tarp/bivy combination, increases
the number of sites on which one can sleep comfortably. I have no
problems with the additional weight. The benefit of a very good
night's sleep is worth it.
It is also comfortable when using a 12-ounce ¾ Z-Rest, which is 4
ounces less than a ¾ Thermarest. One need only cut the corners off
the pad to get it to slide in.