Owner Review - Western Mountaineering Sequoia sleeping bag - Lyon
- Just so the queue won't be empty when my fellow editors return after Christmas break, and to meet the request for Reviews on products from this manufacturer, I offer this OR. HTML version is in the Tests/OR folder at http://tinyurl.com/248m6ol
Happy Christmas to all,
Western Mountaineering Sequoia sleeping bag
Owner Review by Richard Lyon
December 23, 2010
PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
Male, 64 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 205 lb (91 kg)
Email address: montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Dallas, Texas USA
I've been backpacking for 45 years and regularly in the Rockies since 1986. I do at least one week-long trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do forced marches too. Recently I've been actively reducing my pack weight, though I still usually include my favorite camp conveniences and always sleep in a floored tent. Winter trips often find me on telemark or touring skis.
Though listed as a semi-rectangular sleeping bag, the Sequoia is a hybrid that incorporates some features from standard mummy and semi-rec designs. Here's a photo of the Sequoia next to the one mummy bag I still own, which illustrates the difference in shape. Today the Sequoia is available in two fabrics: Gore Windstopper (GWS) or MicroLite XP Microfiber (MF). My Sequoia, which I purchased circa 1990, uses nylon taffeta fabric. My bag is Western Mountaineering's standard long size, at 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m); the Sequoia is also available in a size regular at 6 feet (1.83 m). When I purchased mine it was rated to 5 F (-15 C); today either fabric model may be ordered at that rating or at -15 F (-26 C). Listed data below are for the 5 F/-15 C long versions.
Manufacturer: Western Mountaineering
Listed Dimensions: Length 78 in/1.98 m; inside girth 66/61/48 in [1.68/1.55/1.22 m] at the shoulder, hip, and foot; all verified accurate
Listed Weight: 61 oz/1.72 kg in GWS; 55 oz/ 1.56 kg in MF
Measured Weight: 54 oz/1.53 kg
Listed down fill: 36 oz (1.02 kg)
MSRP: Now $680 US for GWS, $585 US for MF. I don't recall what it was when I bought mine.
Materials: Nylon taffeta fabric (I believe that this is the fabric Western Mountaineering used for the inside of its bags at that time); 850+ fill goose down.
Features: Full down draft collar, full hood, double zippers (mine are on the left), continuous baffles. The hood may be cinched up with a drawcord that has a toggle inside the bag.
Includes: Each Western Mountaineering bag comes with a taffeta fabric stuff sack and a cotton storage bag (pictured below).
Availability: Western Mountaineering sells its bags online and through many retail dealers.
Country of manufacture: United States of America. Western Mountaineering is very proud of this.
Warranty: Unlimited warranty for defects in materials or craftsmanship. The customer is required to clean the bag before returning it to the company's San Jose, California headquarters.
The Sequoia has been my primary winter bag for two decades, sometimes on its own, sometimes with a silk liner, and occasionally inside another down bag. (I've reviewed that other bag, a Feathered Friends Great Auk, on this site.) Over the past few years my winter outings in the Rockies have tended toward hut touring, but I have used the Sequoia in a tent, with a silk liner, at temperatures as low as -15 F (- 26 C). I sleep very cold always and bolster my winter bag's insulating capacity with a full-length down sleeping pad, and I wear a hooded down sweater and a wool hat or occasionally a down balaclava. I always pack "sleep socks" - heavy-duty wool socks worn only when I'm nestled into my bag.
Because of my cold sleeping until fairly recently, when I began migrating toward sleeping quilts, I frequently packed the Sequoia in the Rockies' shoulder seasons, when nighttime temperatures in the teens F (~ -10 C) or lower happen all too frequently. Since buying the Sequoia I estimate perhaps 125 nights' total use, all in a tent, hut, or yurt.
I pack the Sequoia in its stuff sack or a dry bag, and I usually line my pack liner with a garbage bag.
Design. Twenty years' use suggests that this bag is durable and that I like it. Both those conclusions are accurate this superbly made bag suits my sleeping style perfectly. I've always disliked mummy bags, which tend to trigger a claustrophobic reaction, and hence I have borne the extra weight of a semi-rec bag to get a good night's sleep. It has not been easy finding a semi-rec rated down to near zero F (-17 C); to my knowledge Western Mountaineering is the only manufacturer now doing so with a listed product. The Sequoia was the answer tapered like, and with the maneuvering room of, a semi-rec but with a hood and draft collar like a mummy. The hood, which is permanently attached on the Sequoia, is wider than those on mummy bags that I've tried, four inches (10 cm) wider across the draft collar than on my one mummy. That may not sound like much, but it has really helped reduce that closed-in feeling. The Sequoia's drawcord allows cinching the hood around my face when necessary.
I haven't had a problem with cold feet, despite the extra space inside the Sequoia in the footbox. Maybe clean, dry socks are the reason for that. Overall I do believe that this bag's temperature rating is accurate.
Another advantage of a semi-rec suits this restless sleeper. In a mummy tossing and turning sometimes results in the occupied bag rolling off its pad. Inside the Sequoia the extra room in the chest, waist, and feet allow some movement that's independent of the bag.
Features. The Sequoia has two sets of double zippers. The first runs from the collar to the foot, the second (with larger teeth than the first) around the foot box. Because of the different sized teeth the Sequoia wouldn't mate with one of Western Mountaineering's nifty accessories, the Summer Coupler, a zippered sheet that can be used with other semi-rec bags to make a two-person top bag. The dual zippers do allow opening the foot box. On its website Western Mountaineering states that the two sets of zippers may be opened to allow the bag to lie out flat. That's not true of mine; I can't undo the longer side zipper completely.
I have never intentionally made use of the Sequoia's continuous baffles by shifting down to a particular spot, but I have noticed a gradual shift from the bottom of the bag to the top after a couple days' use. I tend to hang the bag for a day or two after use to allow migration back to normal.
The zippers have been known to snag occasionally on the adjacent fabric and, once in a very long while, to freeze. But I think most of my zipper problems arise from owner's bullying or simple inattention. I have not had to replace the zippers or patch a hole.
I've mentioned the hood; it and the draft tube do a good job sealing out the cold night air. Yet there's plenty of room inside, not only to twist and squirm but also to store items I want to keep ready to hand (headlamp, gloves) or keep from freezing (camera, water bottle, snack, a fuel canister or bottle, the latter stored inside a plastic bag).
Durability. The taffeta fabric has stood stoutly through the years. It doesn't appear to be rip-stop, but it hasn't ripped yet, and down loss has been virtually non-existent. As noted, I've always used the bag inside a shelter and so haven't tested it against the elements. I've had no damp down from exposure to snow that I brought inside with me and which then melted, and I haven't been too careful about clearing the snow away before settling in for the night or to sit out a storm. The taffeta fabric has resisted the occasional tea splash, though it's picked up a spot stain here and there. I have not had a problem with lack of breathability, and I haven't undertaken a long enough winter expedition to experience accumulated water and perspiration in the fabric or down.
Care. I used the Sequoia more frequently in the first several years I owned it than I do now, and generally I washed it at the end of each winter camping season. Now that its use is more limited, it's more like every other year. Thanks to some mishaps with washers and dryers, even commercial ones, I have washed my down bags and garments entirely by hand for longer than I've owned the Sequoia. Any bag rates the bathtub, where it soaks with a down-specific soap in warm water. After pressing, not squeezing, the water out as best I can, I give the Sequoia two or three rinses in cold water to be sure the soap residue is removed. After a final pressing the bag is draped over the shower curtain bar to dry, which can take two or three days. I periodically inspect the bag for clumps and press out any that I find. After another couple of days' airing, back into the storage bag it goes. I haven't noticed any loss of loft.
Value. Very, very high. Sure it's expensive, but about the same as Western Mountaineering's high-end competitors' prices for comparably rated bags. And a sleeping bag a winter bag in particular - is not a place for cutting corners. I have definitely got my money's worth. The Sequoia has been a great cold-weather bag for me.
WHAT I LIKE
Design. Built for a big guy who likes some elbow room inside his bag. A great combination of the best features from a mummy and semi-rec bag. I especially like the extra width at the shoulders.
Quality. Only minor issues over twenty years of functioning as advertised. Western Mountaineering makes great bags.
I'd prefer one set of double zippers, so the Sequoia could do double duty as a spare quilt. If Western Mountaineering's site is accurate, that result, if not use of the Coupler, can now be easily achieved.
I'd have probably sprung for an overfill option. No longer a problem, though, as Western Mountaineering now offers a -15 F (- 26 C) version of the Sequoia and a slightly wider but similarly designed bag, the Bristlecone, rated at -10 F (-23 C). And I have since learned that Western Mountaineering will accommodate custom modifications.
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