If you spend enough nights in the back of beyond, year ‘round, then, in a simplistic sense, you are confronted by two choices when it comes to sleeping bags. Either you purchase a ‘system’ of two or three bags which will, hopefully, be adaptable enough to work acceptably in a variety of conditions or you spend money on a series of ‘specialized’ bags to meet a variety of conditions. Select a ‘system’ such as Wiggy’s FTRSS (the Overbag being the key to the ‘system’) and you might not have the ‘perfect’ bag for a given situation, but you’ll likely have an usable one. Go the ‘specific bag for a specific situation’ route and you’ll have the ‘right’ bag for a given situation and, potentially, a meeting with a bankruptcy attorney.
Over the years, I’ve acquired, ahem, a collection of sleeping bags. Some are down, some are synthetic. None of them are perfect for year ‘round use. However, two of the Wiggy’s bags I own, when used by themselves or in conjunction with the company’s Overbag, have been the most frequently used out of that collection over the last 15 years-plus. While they are not the most expensive sleeping bags I own and they certainly aren’t the ‘techiest,’ they have the increasingly unique quality of being durable, appropriately sized, and, if used properly, functional enough to become the proverbial “one I grab when in a hurry.”
What Is a Wiggy’s?
As a company, Wiggy’s was started in 1986 and the owner, Jerry Wigutow, has since developed a reputation in the industry. Just what that ‘reputation’ is very much depends on who you ask. Let’s just say that both the sleeping bags produced in the company’s factory located in Grand Junction, Colorado and the owner himself seem to be one of those love or hate propositions; with very little in between. Bottom line, however, after using these bags over time, in a variety of conditions, and having spoken to Mr. Wigutow on two or three occasions, I can stipulate that which side of the fence one eventually lands upon greatly depends on one’s attitude and expectations.
Wiggy’s sleeping bags have been used by the military; both officially and through personal purchases by various individuals/units looking to ‘upgrade’ from ‘issue’ gear. I have come across a number of forums where individuals claim that Mr. Wigutow has directly worked with them to obtain gear. I personally know one hunting guide who uses the FTRSS, as well as several search & rescue volunteers who do so. There are others, but I trust the point has been made.
Wiggy’s bags have been and are being used in a variety of ‘hard use’ circumstances. When delved into, most ‘complaints’ about the company and/or its products are derivatives of either ‘personality issues’ with the owner (Jerry Wigutow is an opinionated individual and proud of his products), unrealistic expectations, and/or improper care/use. Well, at least in most of the circumstances I’m personally acquainted with and the few criticisms I’ve found on the web. It’s not that there aren’t legitimate criticisms which can be levied; but, as with any product of this type, there are going to be ‘compromises’ one need accept.
If you find such unacceptable, then it is likely that your priorities are different than those around which a sleeping bag ‘system’ is based or upon which Wiggy’s produces its products. That’s not being an ‘apologist’ for the company. It’s an ‘understanding,’ developed over many years of playing with outdoor products, that every manufacturer’s claims about their products should be understood and that one should not assume that the customer’s ‘interpretation’ of those claims is the same as the manufacturer’s perspective.
If that all sounds a bit enigmatic, then let’s see if I can clear some of it up as we go.
Criteria When Selecting a Sleeping Bag
As with many other things in life, the choice of sleeping bag represents a compromise between often conflicting criteria. Individuals typically want a bag they can afford, which keeps them warm, fits both them and in a pack, is light to carry, easy to care for, has quality construction, a certain durability of use and lifespan, all while meeting a variety of environmental conditions. How one individual prioritizes and ‘balances’ these criteria isn’t going to be the same as how a different individual does – even on the same trip.
How does Wiggy’s FTRSS and specifically their Overbag match up to these factors, at least for me? Let’s see…
While I accept that everything seems to cost more these days, the price on Wiggy’s sleeping bags seems to have gone up by more than just a bit over the last few years. This is particularly, or I should say, perceptually true in the case of the Overbag. At a list price of $190, there is a tendency to immediately dismiss that as ‘paying for the hype’ of the ‘system’ it creates or for the name or for… well, something given that price tag seems exorbitant for a sleeping bag rated at 35° F. But, let’s break this down in the context of the FTRSS or Flexible Temperature Range Sleep System the Overbag creates.
The first thing to recognize is that while $190 may be list price for the Overbag, with a little patience and attention, it can usually be had for considerably less. On a regular basis, Wiggy’s, which sells direct to consumers via their website, has sleeping bags at 30% off; meaning that the Overbag can typically be purchased direct from Wiggy’s for $133 plus shipping. In fact, that’s precisely what I paid for mine (actually my 2nd) last August.
Without going through all the possible permutations, let me simply say that $133 puts it right in there with other, good quality “40° F” mummy bags using synthetic insulation. It also means that the Wiggy’s Overbag is approximately $100 less expensive than a similarly rated down sleeping bag. While there are tradeoffs we’ll get to in a moment, suffice to say that, if you need the size of the Wiggy’s and desire the integrated nature of the bag as part of a ‘sleep system,’ this bag is actually more ‘affordable’ than many alternatives. (The Overbag can be used with sleeping bags from other manufacturers; but, they are unlikely to zip together or ‘fit’ as readily.)
Let me put this another way. If you purchase the Overbag and, say, the Wiggy’s “Ultra Light” 20° F mummy bag, you actually end up with three sleeping bags for the price of two; i.e., a 35° F bag, a 20° F bag, and, when combined, a minus 20° F bag. (We’ll talk about temperature ratings in a minute.) Let’s say you then purchase the Overbag for $133 and the “Ultra Light” for $140 ($200 list minus 30%), that’s a total cost of $273 plus shipping for, effectively, three sleeping bags which cover Winter, early Fall/late Spring, and Summer.
Insulation, Temperature Rating, and Warmth – Theory
Volumes have been written regarding insulation used in sleeping bags. Down vs. synthetic. Short staple vs. continuous filament. Baffle, shingle, and layer construction. Type of shell material. Ad infinitum. There are proponents and critics on all sides. There are pros and cons for each. There are also discussions about the combination of features in a sleeping bag and how they guard against the different types of heat loss – convective, radiant, conductive, and evaporative. This leads to terms such as loft, permeability, individual metabolism, acclimatization, and a host of other terms which serve as indicators to the ‘warmth potential’ of a given sleeping bag.
All of this comes down to both the individual and the specific conditions. Theoretically, a bag should be usable to a given ‘temperature rating;’ but, all of this is just that, theory, with temperature ratings usually determined through lab testing. Discovering the difference between theory and reality can be an uncomfortable experience. The trouble is, even real-world experience can only get one into the ballpark. While I’m not saying that one need take their best guess and hope things work out, it can seem that way at times and NO SLEEPING BAG is ever going to work ‘perfectly’ every time, under every condition.
With all that said, there are several rules of thumb which are relevant when considering Wiggy’s or any synthetic bag…
1.) Even with advances in shell technology, synthetic bags are, generally speaking, more efficient than down bags in wet or humid conditions.
2.) Synthetic bags will not compress as small as down bags. Those that will have generally ‘traded’ other factors for that compressibility, a ‘trade’ which may make the bag unsuitable based on other criteria. (More on that in a minute.)
3.) Continuous filament synthetic insulation has, historically, proven more durable than short-staple alternatives.
4.) Down is significantly more expensive than synthetic. The larger the bag and the lower the temperature rating, the more expensive and heavier it generally becomes; regardless of the insulation used.
These factors are specifically addressed in how the company presents their chosen insulation – Lamilite. At one time, the company described Lamilite as “That material which makes up Polarguard before it becomes (is refined into) Polarguard.” Currently, the company talks about it more in terms of the total construction of the bag. While you are welcome to visit their website and read the entirety of their description, in light of the above “Rules of Thumb” just cited, the key descriptors from the company’s website are…
The single most important component of any insulated product… is the insulation… All insulated Wiggy’s products have only one insulator, LAMILITE… Lamilite possesses an extraordinary quality that helps contain the flow of heat that your own body generates. The key to Lamilite is its ability to allow the body’s own thermostat to function efficiently… Lamilite is lofty insulation… Lamilite is lightweight… Lamilite is very soft… Lamilite is more than the fill put into our sleeping bags, it is a combination of nylong fabric and fiberfill, two components that aid each other… Lamilite is an unbounded, silicone-coated continuous filament fiber [the silicone helps retain loft, even after compression and makes the insulation hydrophobic]… Lamilite insulation is very drape-able [reducing the amount of space your body needs to heat]… Lamilite is easily laundered…
While all this sounds good and there are some pretty heady claims made, it still boils down to what I said earlier - the individual and the specific conditions.
Insulation, Temperature Rating, and Warmth – Reality
The individual = “The key to Lamilite is its ability to allow the body’s own thermostat to function efficiently…”
Are you a ‘warm’ or ‘cold’ sleeper? I tend to be a ‘warm’ sleeper and have even used my 20° F Wiggy’s bag (Ultra Light) for late Spring snow camping where I was in a tent, on a RidgeRest sleeping pad topped by a standard Therm-a-Rest pad, directly on deep snow where the tent was frosted in the morning. Then again, there are times when mitigating factors can play a role.
For instance, I used my 0° F Wiggy’s bag (Super Light) in Northern New Mexico during the week between Christmas and New Year’s over a decade ago. I wasn’t particularly well fed or hydrated. I was tired from stomping up and down the Rio Grande south of Taos and below the fish hatchery on the Red River north of Taos in the cold. Overnight temperatures were such that warm (almost hot) liquid spilled on the tent floor froze solid enough where it could be chipped up and tossed out the door in less than a half hour. Let’s just say that I was never ‘cold,’ but I was on the cool side of ‘warm.’ (It helped that I wore long underwear and fleece pants/jacket in the bag.)
Then there was the first time I used the FTRSS – the 20° F Ultra Light combined with the 35° F Overbag. I don’t remember the year exactly, though I do remember it was February. (Based on a variety of factors, it was most likely February of 1996; but, don’t hold me to that as it could have been 1995.) I was curious about a potential ‘short cut’ to an area that is a bit of a commitment to get to in the winter; but, provides great backcountry ski camping potential. Simply put, the ‘shortcut’ is a narrow ridge at the top of a pass. Once you reach the top of the pass at just over 6,000’, you climb over the hump at just under 7,400’ in just over a mile as the crow flies, then drop down into a wide open basin, with gentle slopes and plenty of room to play.
It’s a bit of a scramble in the summer, but no real challenge. In a typical February, it’s a whole different animal. The snow is several feet deep and, often, you are on the side rather than the spine of the ridge. Temperatures in the nearest town, in a valley almost 3,000’ below the top of the ridge, had been in the minus-single digits for a couple of weeks. I figured if I couldn’t find a ‘safe’ way over, the worst that would happen is I’d spend a night on the ridge; but, with the tent and the bag combination rated for minus-20° F, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Long story, short… I ended up just below a rock formation not quite halfway up that I could “get around,” but not necessarily in the safest manner and I knew that an even longer traverse was a couple hundred yards farther up. Since ‘dark’ comes early in February, I decided to keg up just below the rock formation, which served as not only something of a windbreak, but a convenient place to cook, melt snow, etc. In retrospect, the way I pitched the tent directly on the ridgeline was probably not the smartest (or safest) alternative available, but the pictures do look good.
Needless to say, Lady Luck was with me and I didn’t ‘fall off the edge.’ Of course, the ‘ole Lady has a sense of humor and the overnight temperatures stayed ‘warm.’ (I later found they dropped to right around freezing in the valley that night.) I literally spent the night with the FTRSS half open, wearing medium weight long underwear top and heavy pile vest. Zipped shut, the bag(s) were just too warm. Of course, I was in considerably better shape at the time than I am now, was well fed (I barely finished dinner), and reasonably hydrated.
It worked out since I spent a good amount of time that night sitting in the tent doorway, watching a full moon come up over the valley, with the sights and sounds of mid-winter adding texture to the scene. While I decided it was, ultimately, a ‘doable’ shortcut, it probably wasn’t the ‘safest’ route when carrying a full pack, skis, etc. But, it still remains one of my more vivid snow camping memories.
The point is, however, that even as a ‘warm’ sleeper, there are times when the Wiggy’s bags weren’t ‘enough’ and times when they were ‘too much’ – even though their temperature ratings indicated they should have been about right. It’s just like the Overbag when used as a summer bag. Since I typically drape a sleeping bag over me rather than climb inside on summer excursions below roughly 8,000’, the Overbag typically suffices; with the ‘drape-ability’ of the insulation complimenting it. However, above 8,000’, I will take the 20° F bag as an extra edge of ‘safety.’ (In the summer, my hunting guide friend uses the Overbag for himself and the 20° F Ultra Light bag for his wife who sleeps, as has been objectively and empirically proven for most women, ‘colder.’ He then uses the combination in the Fall when ‘on the hunt.’)
Selecting a Single Bag and a Combination
In the end, when it comes to ‘warmth,’ it is often advised that you select your sleeping bag based on the ‘lowest’ temperature you are likely to encounter. I don’t like the way that is phrased. In many respects, a sleeping bag is a ‘safety item;’ offering a ‘hedge’ against changing conditions, hypothermia, etc. It is also insurance toward obtaining a reasonable amount of rest; a critical element in any survival or backcountry scenario. That means that selecting a bag based on a theoretical temperature rating which will match the likeliest ‘lowest’ temperature you’re liable to encounter is little more than taking a guess and hoping things work out.
My rule of thumb is to select a bag, whether down or synthetic, rated 10 degrees colder than the lowest temperature you can reasonably expect to encounter. (You can’t cover every possible, unpredicted, change in conditions. But, you can practice a little due diligence or draw on personal experience to anticipate what is needed.)
For instance, in summer camps along a couple favorite trout streams at between 4,500’ and 6,000’, the lowest temperatures I’ve ever run into were in the low 40’s. That means the Wiggy’s Overbag is and has proven more than sufficient, while the Wiggy’s Ultra Light has too often been much too warm. On the flip side, while the Overbag is sufficient for most of the temperatures I’ve encountered at a favorite backcountry lake at roughly 10,000’ in late July – early August, there have been those occasions when the ‘bottom has dropped’ in terms of both the temperatures and the clouds. As a result, I almost always take the Ultra Light 20° F bag.
You might note that I keep referring to the Overbag and Ultra Light (20° F) bags as my ‘combination.’ Obviously, I can use the Overbag with my aforementioned Super Light (0° F) bag. But, you need to be careful in your selection of a combination. When joined, the Overbag and Ultra Light are rated to minus-20 degrees F. Together, the Overbag and Super Light are rated to a theoretical minus-40 degrees F. Combine the Overbag with the Wiggy’s Ultima Thule (-20° F) and the FTRSS is cited as minu-60 degrees F. Of course, you can go whole hog and pair the Overbag with their Antarctic (-60° F) and hope that the minus-80 degree F rating is something you never have to confront.
The short version is that if it gets too warm, you can always drape the bag over you like a comforter. With the insulation and the design, the Wiggy’s bags are well constructed to that end. (Though the zipper doesn’t go all the way around the foot, it doesn’t hurt to have ‘pocket’ to stuff your feet into, even with the bag simply draped over you.) If it gets too cool/cold, the Wiggy’s bags are made large enough to put some clothing on.
Speaking of Size…
I have a difficult time with the current offerings in sleeping bags as very few mummy-style bags are made large enough to encompass my frame. While the theory has always been that less ‘dead air’ space means more ‘efficiency’ from the bag, most of the better recognized manufacturers seem to have adopted a mentality that only people up to a certain size enjoy the outdoors. (My younger brother is even larger and longer, with the Wiggy’s bags being the only non-custom alternative currently on the market that ‘properly’ [almost] fits him. In fact, my hunting guide friend is not-so-small either. The point being that I know a lot of people who are beginning to voice the same complaint.)
Keeping it short, Wiggy’s makes their bags in 4 sizes. For example, the Ultra Light (20° F) is sized as follows:
Regular length, regular width (80” x 31”)
Regular length, wide body (80” x 34”)
Long length, regular width (90” x 31”)
Long length, wide width (90” x 34”)
As a result, the Overbag comes even larger to allow the other bags to be inserted. While the Wiggy’s site is somewhat poorly laid out in this regard, if you read the text associated with the Overbag rather than look at the “sizes available,” you find the following…
Regular length, regular width (82” x 33”)
Regular length, wide width (82” x 36”)
Long length, regular width (92” x 33”)
Long length, wide width (92” x 36”)
Without getting too deep into it, a 66” shoulder girth is a bare minimum size for me. The 68”/69” shoulder girth of the Wiggy’s ‘wide’ bags is ‘sufficient’ and the 72” of the Overbag is ‘comfortable.’ But, such sizing comes at a price in terms of ‘packability;’ which is one of the often heard criticisms of the Wiggy’s bags despite the company’s claims regarding compressibility and ‘loft return.’ (At one time, Wiggy’s bags were vacuum packed and used under ejection seats and, so far as I know, are still ‘authorized’ emergency equipment; often stored vacuum packed.)
Since most of us don’t have the ability to vacuum pack these bags, a compression stuff sack is a viable alternative. I’ve mostly used the standard stuff sack; but, in summer, often utilize the Wiggy’s compression stuff sack, particularly for the Overbag for ‘ultra light’ trips. Frankly, my tendency when it comes to sleeping bags and internal frame packs is to obtain an ‘oversized’ stuff sack so that I can better compress/fit the bag into the bottom of the pack.
With that said, I have never managed to get both the mated Overbag and the Ultra Light to compress small enough to fit in the bottom of the nearly 7,000 cubic inch pack I use for winter excursions. Fortunately, using the standard stuff sack, I can get the Ultra Light to fit comfortably in the bottom of the pack (a little ‘tight’ in the 4,500 cubic inch summer bag) and then, using the compression stuff sack, get the Overbag to fit ‘reasonably’ by itself; joining the two bags on site.
The compression stuff sack I ordered with my 2nd Overbag last year used to be an ‘option’ at the time of purchase; with the ‘option’ being notably less than purchasing it later. I don’t currently see that ‘option’ listed on the company’s site. Instead, two versions, in two sizes are now listed as stand-alone purchases for $38 and $40. One is a top-down compression (which is what I have) and the other is a radial version.
When placed in the standard stuff sack, uncompressed, the Overbag is listed as being 11” x 20”. Since there are far too many permutations to cover here, let me just say that using the Wiggy’s top-down compression sack, if I work at it a bit, I can flatten out the bag to a ‘serving tray’ that fits easily in the bottom of my Dana Designs Big Horn with room to slide the Redington Classic Trout 8036 rod tube alongside on the ‘left’ and the reel case in a ‘hole’ on the other.
Weight is a relative concern. Synthetic bags are not going to be as light as down alternatives. Those that come close have traded off ‘durability’ of materials and, often, thickness of insulation. I know there are claims by some to the contrary; but, that is a debate I’ll let you explore.
I won’t go into all the permutations for all the bags and combinations. In fact, it is difficult to nail down the ‘factory spec’ weight; again, due to the rather poorly laid out company website. Let me simply say that the Overbag, with the compression stuff sack I have runs just about 2 ½ pounds. But, the exact weight is going to depend on whether you get the regular or long and/or wide, the stuff sack you utilize, etc. In the end, depending on your combination, the FTRSS is going to start at around 5 ½ - 6 pounds and go up from there.
Ease of Care
Wiggy’s is known as the company that wants you to wash your sleeping bag and insists that you can do so in a washing machine; preferably front load. The way they put it on their site is…
Lamilite is also easily laundered. In fact, Wiggy’s is the only company that wants you to was its products when they get dirty. When you go camping, you get dirty and so does your sleeping bag. After awhile, the dirt works its way into the insulation and combines with your body oil. This in turn causes the insulation to compact down or reduce loft, hence, loss of insulation. Therefore, it is important to was your Wiggy’s bag after each camping trip… following… simple laundering instructions… sewn into every bag…
CARE INSTRUCTIONS: All of Wiggy’s bags are machine washable (top load or front load). Use gentle cycle. The water temperature and laundry detergent are your choice. Wiggy’s bags are machine dryable. When drying your bag in a dryer, use low heat…
Okay. They’re not the “only” company that “wants” you to wash your sleeping bag. But, they are the only one that I know of which encourages it after every trip. Frankly, I haven’t found that necessary. Then again, I don’t sleep naked and dirty in the bag; i.e., if you clean up and wear ‘bed clothes’ less dirt and body oil gets in the bag. (I don’t remember the last time I washed my Ultra Light and still find the bag warm. Come to think of it, it might not be a ‘bad’ idea to wash it before it gets much farther into the ‘season.’) Of course, the fact that my bags are Olive and Black (also available in Blue and Purple; all coming with a matching pillow filled with Lamilite) suggests that the ‘dirt’ may not be as ‘obvious’ as with lighter colors.
In a conversation with Jerry Wigutow, I did hear some hesitancy when it comes to top load washers. Let’s say that he told me I could do it if I was ‘careful,’ but that the front load style was preferred. Well, I use the bathtub. Why? I don’t ‘trust’ a machine with the design of the bag. Without getting too deep into it, the outer shell, the insulation, and the lining are not all “one piece” and it is easy for some slight ‘shifting’ to take place with the ‘shell’ and ‘liner’ having the potential of being ‘caught’ by the agitator blades of a top load.
Put the unzipped bag in the bottom of the bathtub and enough water to cover it completely. (Don’t try to put the bag in after you’ve run the water or the air pockets are going to keep you busy playing a version of “Whack a Mole” for some time.) Add your ‘soap’ of choice and gently work/knead the bag. When you figure you’ve agitated enough, drain the water, add fresh water, work/knead, drain, add fresh water, work/knead, drain, etc. until you’ve worked out all the ‘soap.’
DO NOT ‘wring’ the water out. You can force some water out by simply ‘kneading’ it. I generally let mine hang dry out of the sun.
My personal ‘paranoia’ aside, the potential ability to machine wash/dry the bag is a real boon compared to the tribulations, travails, and ‘disasters’ that many other manufacturers’ bags put you through.
Speaking of 'care,' boilerplate advice is to never store a sleeping bag compressed in its stuff sack. As such, I generally store all of my bags, including my Wiggy's, in a cotton storage sack typically marketed for such purposes. The company claims you can store Wiggy's bags in their stuff sacks. I certainly wouldn't advise you do so; but, I do admit that at least the one bag was stored that way, for extended periods, over the course of a three year epoch, with only occasional use, and I haven't detected any ill effects.
Quality of Construction, Durability, and Lifespan
The shell on the Wiggy’s sleeping bags are made of 70-denier nylon; what the company says is “commonly known as single ply taffeta.” The zippers are molded tooth #10 YKK and Wiggy’s claims it has “yet to have a bag returned due to zipper failure.”
I will stipulate, however, that it is more than probable that you will get the zipper snagged occasionally on the shell/liner. I've yet to have it rip or tear the material; but, then again, I don’t try to ‘force’ it and gently ‘work’ it loose – which usually doesn’t take much effort, even when a 2 am “Nature call” has you half asleep and in a hurry due to the temperature.
(When using the Overbag, you fully unzip both the Overbag and the inner bag. The zippers on the Overbag are the ‘opposite’ of those on the inner bag so that when joined, they become a ‘single’ zipper.’ While the draft tubes on both the Overbag and the ‘standard bags’ are not ‘opposites,’ when the bags are zipped together, they ‘nest’ together, forming a decently ‘thick’ barrier.)
Wigutow makes the following statement:
“I believe Wiggy’s Bags are so durable that if all you ever do is sleep in them and wash them when they are dirty, eventually you will hand them down to your grandchildren.”
While I’ve obviously had the one Ultra Light for well over 15 years and my first Overbag for nearly as long and have yet to experience a problem, I will humbly suggest they are not ‘indestructible.’ You must pay attention, as with any other bag, to cleaning, not taking sharp ‘pokies’ to bed with you, etc. Obviously, sleeping in a tent, on a proper pad, will extend the life of any bag. Sleeping directly on the ground or using limbs/leaves as your ‘insulation’ is risking holes or tears and dirty up the bag more quickly.
At this point, I suppose we have to confront the Wiggy’s Guarantee…
Our Guarantee is for a lifetime of use. If a seam opens, the zipper breaks or the Lamilite insulation deteriorates (such as losing its loft or separating, clumping in one place or another), Wiggy’s will repair or replace your bag at no charge to you.
In my opinion, this is probably the single most significant source of ‘unrealistic expectations’ associated with the love/hate aspect of Wiggy’s Bags. I personally know one individual who tried to ‘claim’ a new bag from Wiggy’s in the latter 1990’s because the individual felt the loft wasn’t what it was when he got it; i.e., he claimed it had ‘deteriorated.’ Wiggy’s examined the bag and sent it back to him saying that the loft was still there and he might try cleaning it.
When this individual showed me the bag, claiming he had cleaned it and using various epithets for Wigutow and his company, I made a very simple observation that put a bit of a damper on my relationship with that individual. (That’s alright. I didn’t know him well anyway.) One cannot expect the loft to ‘measure’ the same as when it was fresh off the factory floor. What you can expect is that, just like any quilt or blanket, the static ‘loft’ is going to compress a bit with age and use. The critical aspect is whether the ‘loft’ holds the insulation properties – trapped air, warmed by your body heat – when properly maintained and used, with an eye to the caveats I note above related to temperature rating vs. warmth.
As I said, my Ultra Light is not cleaned after every trip. Neither is my Overbag. Neither are they as ‘lofty’ as my new ones. (A nephew has expressed interest in seeing what ‘backpacking’ is all about and I guess it’s up to his Uncle to see to it that he’s ‘geared up’ properly. He already has an old external frame of mine that’s in good shape and the 1980’s North Face sleeping bag I gave him was stolen.) But, neither has left me sleeping ‘cold’ – yet.
To put it in perspective, it’s an old rule of thumb that you could reasonably expect 5 – 7 years of ‘good use’ out of a synthetic bag and 10 – 12 years out of a quality down bag. With that in mind, given that the one Ultra Light bag has seen a ‘good amount of use’ and is looking at 20 years of service in the next couple of years, I’d say I’ve gotten my money’s worth. I mean, I haven’t even had a thread come loose. (Remember, I’ve got a series of bags that I use. If this is going to be your sole ‘sleep system’ and you put it to considerable use, your mileage may vary.)
Uh oh. I hope I didn’t just put ‘the jinx’ on it.
Any sleeping bag, no matter the manufacturer, represents a compromise. For me, the priorities for a ‘general use’ bag tend to lean heavily toward size, affordability, quality of construction, and good insulation. All things being equal and relative, size and weight can be dealt with. If it is constructed well, ‘durability’ is usually not an issue. Ease of care is, again, going to be relative to the individual and their expectations/needs. Insofar as lifespan, reality is that nothing lasts ‘forever;’ despite the sometimes grandiose claims of someone proud of their life’s work. In that sense, the Wiggy’s bags I have are more ‘generally usable’ – for me – than just about any other bag I have or see on the market.
Are they ‘perfect’ or the ‘best’ bag(s) I own. Nope. If I was headed out and needed a 0° F sleeping bag in snow or ‘dry’ conditions and/or needed to conserve space in the pack, I’d be more likely to grab my Western Mountaineering Sequoia. Would I ‘trust’ the Overbag and the Ultra Light Flexible Temperature Range Sleep System to work in minus-20 degrees F conditions? Probably not. But, I would likely ‘trust’ it to the negative single digits since it has worked for me in that context. Is my old North Face down bag a lighter, more compressible choice, with a better temperature rating, than the Wiggy’s Overbag? Certainly. However, I don’t ‘fit’ inside the North Face the way I did almost 25 years ago. (Alright. I don’t fit inside it at all these days. But, it’s still usable as a ‘comforter’ in mild conditions.)
I think you get the idea. That’s why I opened this piece with the thought that they have proven functional enough to become the proverbial “one I grab when in a hurry.” In that sense, they may not be the answer to the “If you could only have one…” question which inevitably comes up, but they are likely to be the one I grab when I don’t have time to “think about it.” Now, if you were to ask – “If you could only have two…” – then the versatility that the Wiggy’s Overbag and a carefully selected ‘main bag’ offers in conjunction with the ‘balance’ of criteria I try to achieve when selecting a sleeping bag, it’d be difficult to find a better combination for my purposes.
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Ease Of Use: Good