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Owner Review--Big Agnes Zirkel

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  • djdurham1 <djdurham@netzero.net>
    Big Agnes Zirkel Biographical information Name: Douglas J. Durham Age: 55 Gender: Male Height: 5 10 Weight: 175 Email address: djdurham@netzero.net City,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 31, 2003
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      Big Agnes Zirkel

      Biographical information

      Name: Douglas J. Durham
      Age: 55
      Gender: Male
      Height: 5'10"
      Weight: 175
      Email address: djdurham@...
      City, State, Country: Reston, VA
      Date: 1/30/03

      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.

      Product information
      a. Manufacturer
      Big Agnes
      735 Oak St.
      Steamboat Springs, CO 80477
      (877) 554-8975

      b. Year of manufacture

      c. URL

      d. Listed weight
      Bag 2lb./3oz.
      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.

      Field information
      a. Location or locations where the test was conducted
      Dolly Sods, West Virginia, and Cohos County, New Hampshire and my
      back deck.

      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
      degrees lower.

      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
      quite comfortably.

      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.

      Weight issues
      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.
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