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Repost: Owner Review - Mont-Bell U.L. Super Stretch Down Hugger #2

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  • drewnc2005
    Owner Review: Mont-Bell U.L. Super Stretch Down Hugger #2 BIOGRAPHICAL INFO: Name: Drew Davis Age: 22 Gender: Male Height: 6 Feet (1.83 Meters) Weight: 180 lbs
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2005
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      Owner Review:
      Mont-Bell U.L. Super Stretch Down Hugger #2


      Name: Drew Davis
      Age: 22
      Gender: Male
      Height: 6 Feet (1.83 Meters)
      Weight: 180 lbs (82 kg)
      Email address: drewnc2005@...
      City, State, Country: Pittsboro, NC, USA
      Date: 11-17-05

      Backpacking Background: I started backpacking at roughly five years
      old. I started with an old external framed pack, a heavy synthetic
      sleeping bag, and a military style pup tent. While my enthusiasm for
      backpacking has never changed, the old and heavy gear I took as a kid
      has. I now consider myself a lightweight backpacker. My base pack
      weight (tent/tarp, sleeping bag, and pack) is now 8 lbs. 11 oz. (4 kg)
      – while not ultralight, I keep my 3 day pack weight under 25 lbs
      (including food and 3 liters of water) – even in the winter.


      Manufacturer: Mont-Bell, Co. Ltd.
      Year of Manufacture: 2005
      URL: www.montbell.com
      Listed Weight: 1 lb 13 oz (.82 kg)
      Weight Delivered: 1 lb.13 oz (.82 kg)
      Listed Fill Weight: 14.5 oz (411 g)
      Fill: 725 Fill-Power Down
      Shell: 15-Denier Ballistic Airlight Nylon
      Inside Shoulder Girth: 53.2-70.9 in (135-180 cm)
      Inside Knee Girth: 42.8-57.1 in (109-145 cm)
      *Comfortable Temperature Rating: 24.5 F (-4.6 C)
      *Minimum Temperature Rating: 5 F (-15 C)

      *Note: Mont-Bell rates their bags differently than most manufacturers.
      Instead of giving a standard "minimum" rating, they give a comfortable
      rating and a minimum rating – taking into account that sleep comfort
      is based on a continuum and not on a discreet scale. Following is the
      manufacturer's explanation of the rating system:

      Comfortable Temperature
      The Comfortable Temperature range* shows the temperatures in which you
      can restfully and pleasantly sleep 8 hours or more wearing only a thin
      layer. Use these ranges to select the best sleeping bag for your needs.
      *These ranges were measured in laboratory tests – depending on your
      situation and sleeping preferences, you may be more comfortable in a
      warmer or colder bag.

      Minimum Temperature
      The minimum temperature range* shows the temperatures in which you can
      sleep in relative comfort for 6 to 8 hours.
      *These ranges were measured in laboratory tests – depending on your
      situation and sleeping preferences, you may be more comfortable in a
      warmer or colder bag.


      The Mont-Bell U.L. Super Stretch Down Hugger #2 (hereafter referred to
      as #2 for obvious reasons) could be classified as a new breed of
      sleeping bags. The super stretch system is the major feature that
      makes this bag a "new breed." This system is a process of sewing the
      horizontal baffles with elastic instead of a typical, non-flexible
      synthetic thread. This gives me the freedom of movement inside the bag
      that cannot be achieved with standard sewing processes. In addition,
      once in the bag, the bag will forms close to me thereby drawing the
      insulation closer to my body and greatly improving the bag's ability
      to keep heat inside. As a result, cold spots and drafts are virtually
      non-existent and as the manufacturer's website notes, the elastic
      baffle method "improves the bag's thermal efficiency by reducing the
      volume of air your body needs to heat." As Mont-Bell claims, the
      improved efficiency means that less down is needed to fill the bag and
      it means a lighter bag to carry in your pack.

      Speaking from personal experience, never have I slept in a bag that
      conforms to my body as I move like this one does. I did own a
      similarly constructed bag (elastic stitching in baffles, etc.) and it
      was so comfortable that part of the reason I bought the #2 was for the
      simple fact that it had this stretch system. To my surprise, my #2
      performed even better than the other bag with respect to its ability
      to move and accommodate my own position changes. My #2 provided more
      stretch yet was more snug therefore keeping more heat in.

      Mont-Bell offers the bag in two different lengths (both with full
      length zippers) – the regular fits those up to 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) and
      the long fits those up to 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m). My bag is the regular
      and it is right zip. Even though I am 6 ft (1.83 m) tall, I fit in the
      bag just fine. I would say that those over 6 ft (1.83 m) should opt
      for the long version. If I had it to do again, I would have bought the
      long myself. The reason is that at the footbox, there is a "foot
      adjuster" which can be used to either completely close off the last
      baffle or that can be tightened so that it is tight around your ankles
      – simulating a bootie. You could also leave the stuff sack at home,
      stuff the whole bag into the bottom baffle, and then cinch it up with
      the foot adjuster drawstring (I've never done this). Since I fit into
      my bag perfectly, I do not have the option of pulling the last baffle
      in and tightening it up. Doing so produces a down "pillow" at the
      bottom of the bag and helps to keep your feet warm. I can tighten to
      drawstring, but since I have no extra room at the bottom of the bag, I
      cannot pull in the last baffle to make this pillow if I plan on
      sleeping in a flat, board-like position. The pillow effect can be
      achieved if I sleep on my side with my legs drawn in a little (i.e.,
      in the fetal position). If I had the long version, I could easily make
      the pillow at my feet providing my feet with more insulation.

      As mentioned, my bag has a full zipper and allows me to use it as a
      quilt in the summer. I looked at other bags when deciding which bag to
      buy and found that most bags at this weight/warmth ratio do not have
      full zippers. For me, a full zipper is not a must but I do enjoy
      having one. I have had no real trouble with the zipper snagging, but
      that is probably only because I'm very careful. The snag guard is not
      as effective as those on Western Mountaineering bags, but like I said,
      I've had no trouble with this myself.

      The #2 is equipped with a neck baffle, shoulder collar, and draft tube
      along the zipper. The hood is easily pulled tight by way of the
      drawstring in the hood. The hood is simple and it does the trick. The
      hood area does appear to have less down than the rest of the bag but
      I've never noticed my head getting cold as a result.


      I have used the #2 on all of my backpacking trips and other outdoor
      ventures over the past six months. I will elaborate on my experiences
      with this bag on two such trips, very different in nature to
      underscore the flexibility of the bag – no pun intended.

      Trip 1: A three-day/two-night backpacking trip into the Wilson Creek
      Wilderness Area of NC.

      Trip 2: A two-day/one night backpacking trip in the Craggy Gardens
      area of the Black Mountains.

      Trip 1
      The Wilson Creek Wilderness Area is in the Grandfather Ranger District
      in Pisgah National Forest. Elevations range from roughly 3200 ft (975
      m) to 1000 ft (305 m). The trip was in early June so the temperatures
      were mild with the lows being 60-65F (15.56-18.33 C).

      That night, in camp, I pitched my Black Diamond Mega Light shelter
      over the Black Diamond MegaBug Shelter that fits inside. Basically,
      this setup is a mosquito net with a waterproof floor covered by a
      silnylon pyramid-style tarp. The pitching options allow for a cool
      breeze to flow through the bottom if desired and that is how we
      pitched being the good weather. I slept on top of an InsulMat Max
      Thermo sleeping pad inside with my dog and my wife.

      Given the mild temperatures, I did not sleep completely inside my #2
      that night. I zipped it all the way down and unfolded it to make a
      v-shaped quilt. I laid the bag loosely over me and slept directly on
      top of my sleeping pad. Still, even draped over me, the bag had a
      tendency to constrict itself (lightly) around my body helping to trap
      warm air and keep cold air out. This had its pros and cons as the
      night went on. I found myself having to stick one leg out or half of
      my body out at a time to cool off at points and also caught myself
      scrambling to pull them back on as I cooled off. As the temperature
      hit its low point in the night, I did not have to re-arrange my
      sleeping situation as often and slept like a baby.

      I feel it is important to note how this bag performs in warm
      temperatures because some, like myself, do not have the money or
      desire to buy a sleeping bag for every season. I am of the doctrine
      that unzipping your three-season bag and using it as a quilt in the
      summer is the most economical and efficient thing to do. If my bag
      only weighs 1 lb 13 oz (.82 kg), why go out and blow $100-200 USD just
      to shave a few ounces? To me, it's not worth it.

      That said, my #2 performed perfectly as a quilt during this trip and
      on several others during the summer. The most difficult aspect of use
      was finding the position of the bag that provided the correct amount
      of warmth without making me sweat. During the trip, there was very
      little condensation to deal with given the tarp setup has very good
      ventilation. What little moisture did touch my bag harmed it in no way.

      Trip 2
      Craggy Gardens is an area near Mt. Mitchell (the highest peak East of
      the Mississippi) in western North Carolina. The maximum elevation
      during this backpacking trip was 5,892 ft (1796 m) and the low point
      was around 4,200 ft (1280 m). Given its position in the range,
      temperatures at this elevation can be drastically different than in
      the valleys below. Winds are funneled directly onto the peaks of
      Craggy Gardens by the surrounding mountains and on this trip, the
      difference on top of Craggy Gardens as opposed to the valley about
      3,000 ft below was almost 30 degrees F. The high temperature the
      afternoon we got there was approximately 45 degrees F (7 C) according
      to the ranger station. That night, we saw temperatures dip slightly
      below freezing to approximately 29 F (-2 C) – again according to the
      ranger station. With the wind chill, the temperatures were probably
      around 20F (-7 C).

      My sleeping shelter was slightly different for this trip since insects
      were not a factor. I brought and pitched only my Black Diamond Mega
      Light and the Black Diamond Mega Floor. I pitched it on the backside
      of a large boulder thereby blocking the wind for the most part. I
      pitched it very close to the ground in order to keep drafts and
      breezes to a minimum. We were camped very close to a waterfall so
      temperatures could have been colder than the stated 29F (-2 C). My dog
      slept outside the shelter this time and my wife and I slept inside
      with all of our gear. I slept on my InsulMat Max Thermo as well.

      As temperatures began dropping drastically after sundown, I began
      eyeing my sleeping bag. Up to this trip, the coldest temperature my #2
      had seen was probably in the mid 50s F (10 C). I was excited to see
      how it would hold up in temperatures more suited for its purpose.

      I went to bed with a pair of Marmot mid-weight baselayer pants, a
      light Eddie Bauer silk-weight top, and a pair of REI wool hiking
      socks. I also had a pair of REI One gloves on to keep my fingers warm.
      When I first entered the sleeping bag, like most, the nylon on the
      inside was cool to the touch. Within about 20-30 seconds, this cool
      sensation left the inside of the bag. I was completely warm again
      after changing clothes in about two minutes.

      During the night, the bag held close to my body, as designed, and
      trapped my body heat very well. One thing that I did notice was the
      effectiveness of the neck baffle and shoulder collar. Both sealed in
      the heat quite well and kept the hot air from escaping and cold air
      from plunging in when I moved – the "billowing effect" is what I call
      it. Other bags I've owned even with the neck baffle and shoulder
      collar were problematic in this respect.

      On my usual 3:00 am trip to relieve myself, I hurried back so that I
      could be warm again. Upon my arrival, the nylon had already cooled
      inside because I left the bag open. Again, it warmed up very quickly
      and I was sound asleep within 5 minutes or so. I recall no thought of
      being cold during the night and even took my gloves off at some point.
      I stayed very warm and very, very comfortable.

      In the morning, I enjoyed being able to sit Indian style or
      cross-legged in my sleeping bag with the hood still on. The fear of
      exiting my sleeping bag is something I guess will never leave so it is
      nice to be able to sit up and move around inside. No condensation had
      gathered or dripped on the bag so no attention needed to be paid to
      that matter.

      In short, that night was easily my best night's sleep I have had in
      the backcountry under those conditions.

      Other Experiences
      To address other features of the bag, it is necessary that I mention
      experiences I've had outside of these two trips. The first issue is
      water repellency of the shell. Last week, water leaked on my bag while
      it was in my pack – apparently from my CamelBak bladder. It soaked the
      given stuff sack, which really helps to compress the bag, and even
      soaked through it and leaked onto a small portion of the hood. I
      quickly massaged out the wet area to make sure there were no clumps of
      down and dried the area with a t-shirt. This water caused no permanent
      damage. However, I would like to mention that I think the
      water-repellency of the material could be and should be improved. I
      baby my gear anyway, but I like knowing that if water did come around
      in minimal amounts, my sleeping bag could repel it. The #2 does repel
      some water, but not much at all – no more than a light mist from

      That being said, that same night of the water leakage, I slept in my
      mid-weight Marmot baselayer pants and a t-shirt at around 28 F (-2 C)
      and was perfectly warm. My feet did get cold that night for whatever
      reason and I had to tighten the foot adjuster and even stuffed a down
      jacket down there to help. I've never had that problem before so I
      can't say it's an issue yet.

      Another issue needing to be addressed is the rating system. I find
      this rating system to be conservative and pleasingly accurate. As
      mentioned, I've slept in a t-shirt and mid-weight pants and been
      plenty warm at temperatures at or slightly below freezing. My guess is
      that with a little heavier clothing (down jacket, fleece pants, and
      fleece cap), I could probably sleep comfortably in the single digits
      and probably close to 0 F (-17 C). My feet would probably get cold
      going that low but nothing an extra pair of socks and a warm Nalgene
      bottle wouldn't alleviate.

      Being as objective as I can, the Mont-Bell U.L. Super Stretch Down
      Hugger #2 is by far the best sleeping bag I've ever slept in. By
      design, it is the most comfortable sleeping bag I have ever seen.
      After sleeping in a "flex" bag like this, it will be hard to go back
      to a regular sleeping bag. The ability of the bag to keep the
      insulation close to me without making me feel like a sardine is
      incredible. I can bend my knees as much or as little as I want and
      even sit up Indian-style when I wake up. Aside from this, its tendency
      to move with me during the night greatly enhances my sleep. It keeps
      me from having to adjust and re-adjust myself in order to stay warm
      and since it stays snug next to my body, it eliminates drafts and cold
      spots that form for us side-sleepers.

      The only dislikes I have are that the hood is not quite as full of
      down as I would have liked and the water-repellency of the bag is
      weak. It may be the price I have to pay for a bag this light. For a
      bag that could easily take me to 15 F (-9 C), 1 lb 13 oz (.82 kg) is
      an extremely small package to tote on a backpacking trip.

      This bag is one of those items I will run back into my burning house
      to retrieve!
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