Owner Review Mountainsmith Cypher bag - Ray Estrella
- Hello to all,
I hope you had a great weekend, I did. And now I have some editing
for some unfortunate soul. HTML may be found here;
Mountainsmith Cypher Sleeping Bag
May 1, 2006
Name: Raymond Estrella
Height: 6' 3" (193cm)
Weight: 210 lb (95 kg)
Email address: rayestrella@...
City: Huntington Beach
Backpacking Background: I have been hiking for over 30 years, all
over the state of California. I have also hiked in Washington,
Minnesota, Nevada, Arizona, and Idaho. I hike year-round, mostly in
the Sierra Nevada, and put 555 miles (888 km) on my boots last
year. As I start my 4th decade of backpacking I am making the move
to lightweight gear, and smaller packs.
Manufacturer: Mountainsmith (owned by Pacifica LTM)
Web site: www.mountainsmith.com
Product: Cypher 0 F (-18 C) sleeping bag
Year manufactured: 2004
MSRP: $ 389.00 (US)
Weight listed: 2 lb 13 oz (1.28 kg) Actual weight 3 lb 1 oz (1.39
Fill: 30 oz (850 g) premium 750+ goose down
Size listed: "fits to 78 in" (198 cm) Measured inside length 82 in
Shoulder girth listed: 63 in (160 cm) Verified accurate
Packed size: 8 x 14 in (20 x 36 cm) My measurement
Color: Cobalt Blue
Warranty: (from company web site), "Most Mountainsmith products are
covered by a Lifetime Warranty against materials and workmanship
The Mountainsmith Cypher sleeping bag (hereafter referred to as the
Cypher, or the bag) is a mummy style down filled sleeping bag. The
entire outer shell is bright blue. A yellow drawstring surrounds the
The outer shell is made of Dimension Polyant, this is how
Mountainsmith describes it. "The outer shell of the mummy-shaped
bags utilizes the same tough Dimension Polyant fabric often used in
high-performance sail lofts. The material fights and conquers all
the elements. It is wind-resistant, has the highest rating of water-
repellency wind resistance, breathes, and has maximum tear
strength." As I was researching for this report I found that this
material is pretty much only used in very high-end racing sails.
More about this later.
The Dimension Polyant material is very soft to the touch. In fact it
is the softest most delicate feeling of any of my bags. It has a
very small-grid ripstop pattern woven into it.
And to make that rip-stop pattern look huge I just look at the black
interior lining of the Cypher. I could not find what the fabric is,
but it is a micro-light synthetic of some kind with the tiniest rip-
stop pattern I have ever seen. I had to look very close to notice it
was a grid. Surprisingly it is not as soft feeling to me as the
At the top of the bag, centered on the hood, is the Mountainsmith
name and anvil logo, and at the bottom are two attached tags. One is
the standard consumer tag, with fill type, weight, and "Made in
China". The second, smaller hang tag has materials information, and
cleaning instructions. An item that strikes me as funny is that one
tag says "100% white goose down", and the other says "90% goose
It is recommended to wash the bag in cold water, in a front-loading
machine, and dry on low. On my trips I bring an extra pair of long
underwear to sleep in, and have kept the bag very clean. I have not
had to wash the bag yet.
The bag has a 57 in (145 cm) 2-way, yellow nylon YKK zipper running
two thirds of the way down the bag. It runs right at pad level to
about my shoulder, then the zipper climbs and curves in to its
ending point at the side of the hood. The zipper is placed on the
left side of the bag. Backing the zipper inside of the bag is a fat
2.5 x 1.5 in (4 x 6 cm) down filled draft tube. When the draft tube
reaches the top of the zipper (lengthwise) it continues around the
bag (widthwise) to create an insulated neck collar. A cool thing
about the draft stop and collar is that they are in completely see-
through nylon. I thought my Lucid (see review) was transparent, this
takes the cake. Here is a picture of the interior features of the
Cypher. Notice the yellow cord running through the see-through draft-
The hood and neck opening have a single drawstring and cord lock.
The top and bottom can be adjusted together, or by pulling one side
or the other, be adjusted independently. A very cool detail to me
is the "forehead baffle" that can be seen above as the fat little
tube under the logo patch. This is a down-filled section that the
hood cord goes over. So when it is tightened I have an
insulated "brim" instead of the normal tight fitting closure. It is
an excellent way to help retain heat.
The bag is fully baffled, and uses "stretch tricot material" for the
baffles. I think this is very good considering how small this bag
packs down too. It should help to keep the baffles from tearing down
It employs a variable-fill technique to help keep the weight down.
Mountainsmith says, "Sixty percent of the fill is placed in the top
shell, with high percentages placed in the head, torso, foot-box,
and draft-tube areas to optimize insulating efficiency".
A 1.5 oz (79 g) yellow sil-nylon stuff sack was provided, (see photo
at bottom of review). It also came with a cotton storage bag.
I have used this bag the past two plus years in Yosemite and Sequoia
National Parks. I have had it on trips to the eastern Sierra Nevada,
and the lower section of the White Mountains. I have used it
numerous times at Mount San Jacinto, my favorite (quick) winter get-
away. It has seen temps from 10 F (-12 C) to 34 F (1 C). I have
slept in it at elevations from 7,500' to 10,200' (2286 to 3109 m). I
have between 16 and 20 bag nights in this sleeping bag.
It is pretty humorous to me to read the last line of the previous
paragraph. I bought this bag in the late winter of the 2003/04
season, and after my first trip with it, thought I would never use
it again. Let me explain.
My old 0 F bag was synthetic fill. While it was plenty warm (one of
the most accurate ratings I have yet to see) it was a bit heavy, and
worse, very bulky. It took up one third of the space in my winter
pack. And back then that pack was huge!
So I started looking for a new bag. After much positive reviews on
the fairly new line of bags by Mountainsmith, I decided to take a
chance on the Cypher, although I was very skeptical that a bag with
this rating could weigh this little. When it showed up I got a
bigger surprise. This thing packs down smaller than any bag I owned,
or have ever owned. (I was just getting into quality down bags.) I
had a 40-30 F (4 to -1 C) variable bag that would not fit into the
Cypher's stuff sack.
The quality of construction on this bag is better than most, and
probably up there with one other bag of mine. Which cost twice as
much as the Cypher, so kudos to Mountainsmith. Even after over two
years there are no pulled-out seams or loose threads. And it leaks
down less than any other bag of mine. When I write these reviews I
have the bag in my office and look at it, inspect it, go over it
inch by inch, and just hold it waiting for my muse to tell me what
to write. (I don't do this alone.) And there is one piece of down
sitting on my floor as I look around.
I loved the Dimension Polyant material. I was extremely worried at
first that I would tear it. As I mentioned before, I have never felt
that seemingly delicate of a fabric on a piece of outdoors gear. It
has proved to be very tough.
I had to weight it down with big chunks of granite on the John Muir
Trail to keep it from blowing away in the moderate-to-strong winds
that were blowing, and I was worried that they would damage the bag.
I carefully inspected the material after each occurrence but it
sustained no damage. The stuff is pretty tough. But why did I have
to have rocks on it in the first place? Read on.
On my first trip with the Cypher I took it up to San Jacinto, my
winter testing ground. My second trip with it was above Lee Vining
in the Sierra's. On both trips I used a Sierra Design's Hyperlight
AST 2 man tent solo. Both times I had condensation issues. That is
to be expected in the winter, especially with a person as full of
hot-air as me
The problem was the Cypher got a covering of ice crystals on it. No
big deal, I will just brush them off. Uh they did not brush off.
They are stuck to the bag. I will set it outside over a bush. Either
it will freeze up enough to knock off or it will melt and evaporate,
or be wiped off.
Bzzzzzt! Wrong answer. It melted all right, and soaked right into
the bag. I am freaking out and cursing everyone that talked me into
down bags. I am solo and envisioning being a Cobalt Blue popsicle if
I continue to use this bag. So I go home and buy another (and
another) 0 F bag. But I can't get rid of the Cypher.
I love how small it packs down to, and how little it weighs. It is
like a woman that my family keeps telling me is no good for me. I
just can't let it go. I ended up taking it on a hike of the northern
half of the John Muir Trail in October of 2005as we had to be ready
for any kind of weather. Here are some excerpts from my log
concerning the Cypher.
"I brought a 0F rated bag with me that was way to warm for the
temps, so I used it as a quilt, and lay on top of my Big Agnes
Insulated AirCore pad." <snip> "The low was only 34F for the night.
I was kicking myself for bringing the Mountainsmith Cypher. I could
have saved almost a pound with my Lucid." <snip> "It was 17F when we
got up today. I finally climbed into my bag last night. And yeah, I
am happy I have it. But the condensation was very bad in my tent. My
bag is wet. I am going to have to try to dry it out at the end of
the day" <snip> "It got down to 18F tonight. My tent got even more
condensation. It was great until about 4:00AM when the wind stopped
blowing. I think there is so much moisture in the air from the
creeks that it amplified the problem. My bag is wetter than before,
and I got cold during the night. The down was clumping at the lower
third of my bag." <snip> "We sailed down into Lyle Canyon and made a
camp just past the Vogelsang trail junction. This was Dave's
favorite camp site. The weather was great now, all the way up to
40F! I spread my bag out to dry." <snip> "We made very good time
again today. We rolled in to Sunrise High Sierra Camp at 1:45. It
was nice and sunny so I spread my bag out to dry and explored a
So it can be seen that I am a bit skeptical about the claims that
this material "has the highest rating of water-repellency". It has
very little in my opinion. But I will most likely take it this
October when we do the lower 110 miles (177 km) of the JMT.
I am a side sleeper. I flip from side to side all night long. That
does not work with the variable fill technique used with this bag.
When it is near the rated temps I get into the hood and I roll the
whole bag over with me. This exposes the lighter fill of the bottom
of the bag to the cold air. And it is noticeable. But it is warm
enough that I can use it to 10 F (5.5 C) with no discomfort.
That is the way I look at this bag, as a 10 F (-12 C) bag. I will
never take it on an extended winter hike as there is no guarantee
that I will be able to get it to dry once it gets wet. But I think I
will keep it for the foreseeable future. It is hard to beat a bag
this warm and small.
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- Hello Ray,
Edits follow (not many). The bit about the bag as a no-good woman made
me chuckle. Almost worth a blues...
Interesting review. None of my 0 degree bags (well, I have a 5 degree
WM Antelope and a -10 (?) Valandre Shocking Blue, but close enough)
have quite the issue you describe i.e. frost on the bag soaking in
etc. Sounds to me as if, in these settings, the transition point to
freezing is within the bag's shell, which can cause some mayhem, but
it seems worse than usual here.
One thing I was curious about, and would definitely like to see added
to the review, is how easily the bag dries on the trail. Clearly, if
the shell tends to hold the moisture in, this is not a good thing, but
if it allows moisture to quickly escape, much better. What sort of
drying times have you experienced? How many nights can you use the bag
before moisture in the loft cuts the insulative value to the point
where you are no longer comfortable?
Anyhow, Ray, upload to
when edited. Looks good!
BGT OR Editor
> The outer shell is made of Dimension Polyant, this is how### EDIT: Is this meant to be "...water repellency, wind
> Mountainsmith describes it. "The outer shell of the mummy-shaped
> bags utilizes the same tough Dimension Polyant fabric often used in
> high-performance sail lofts. The material fights and conquers all
> the elements. It is wind-resistant, has the highest rating of water-
> repellency wind resistance,
resistance..." It doesn't make sense as is, but it is a manufacturer
>### EDIT: "After reading many positive reviews..."
> My old 0 F bag was synthetic fill. While it was plenty warm (one of
> the most accurate ratings I have yet to see) it was a bit heavy, and
> worse, very bulky. It took up one third of the space in my winter
> pack. And back then that pack was huge!
> So I started looking for a new bag. After much positive reviews
> the fairly new line of bags by Mountainsmith, I decided to take a### EDIT: should this be "had ever owned." (?)
> chance on the Cypher, although I was very skeptical that a bag with
> this rating could weigh this little. When it showed up I got a
> bigger surprise. This thing packs down smaller than any bag I owned,
> or have ever owned.
(I was just getting into quality down bags.) I
> had a 40-30 F (4 to -1 C) variable bag that would not fit into the### EDIT: "As I mentioned before, I had never felt such a seemingly
> Cypher's stuff sack.
> I loved the Dimension Polyant material. I was extremely worried at
> first that I would tear it. As I mentioned before, I have never felt
> that seemingly delicate of a fabric
delicate fabric on a piece of outdoors gear."
on a piece of outdoors gear. It
> has proved to be very tough.### EDIT: Sierras.
> On my first trip with the Cypher I took it up to San Jacinto, my
> winter testing ground. My second trip with it was above Lee Vining
> in the Sierra's.
On both trips I used a Sierra Design's Hyperlight
> AST 2 man tent solo. Both times I had condensation issues. That is### EDIT: 2005 as
> to be expected in the winter, especially with a person as full of
> hot-air as me
> I love how small it packs down to, and how little it weighs. It is
> like a woman that my family keeps telling me is no good for me. I
> just can't let it go. I ended up taking it on a hike of the northern
> half of the John Muir Trail in October of 2005as
we had to be ready
> for any kind of weather. Here are some excerpts from my log
> concerning the Cypher.