An ultralight sleeping bag for staying warm through three seasons
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TripSavvy / Justin Park
Warm for the weight
Roomy for a mummy bag
Needs careful handling
The Western Mountaineering Versalite 10 Sleeping Bag is an ultralight, goose-down mummy-style sleeping bag that’s built for long treks through three seasons.
We purchased the Western Mountaineering Versalite 10 Sleeping Bag so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
Western Mountaineering is a California-based cottage outdoor gear brand. With more than 50 years of history specializing in mountaineering-grade sleeping bags, the company manufactures its bags right here in the United States. I recently tried the Western Mountaineering Versalite 10 sleeping bag in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and foothills, testing the bag's three-season ability in springtime conditions, which often include wild temperature swings.
The Versalite 10 weighs in at just 2 pounds for the regular-sized version, thanks to lofty 850-fill goose down.
Like most colder-weather sleeping bags, the Versalite 10 has a mummy shape that's more efficient at trapping your body heat, which is how sleeping bags keep you warm. Most car campers use roomier rectangular bags that are better for adapting to your normal sleeping position. But that comfort comes with less warmth-to-weight efficiency.
Justin Park / TripSavvy
Mummy bags can feel restrictive for first-timers. But after a few nights, most figure out how to move the bag with your body to achieve a comfortable position. The Versalite 10, however, is surprisingly spacious, especially around the chest and shoulders which was welcome for my relatively broader 44-inch chest. Coming in short, regular, and long, the regular size, has a max height of 6 feet and was a good fit for my 6-foot frame. My toes weren’t pressing against the end of the bag, which can increase the likelihood of having colder toes and feet.
At the head end, there’s a hood that cinches down around your noggin—a must for extra-cold nights. The cinch is easily reachable with your arms inside the bag. An internal zipper pull makes it easy and convenient to seal yourself up for the night. Because the down is so light, the hood basically compresses into nothing under your head. So you’ll likely still want some kind of pillow or pad for head support.
If you’re counting grams in your pack, the Versalite 10 does an incredible job of making a comfortable bag that keeps you warm and your pack light for thru-hiking.
This is a three-season bag, meaning it’s not built for sub-zero, high-alpine expeditions. Generally, if a bag is up to that task, it’s a specialty item you’d only use in winter. It’d simply be too hot for warmer temps. That said, this is the warmest bag in Western Mountaineering’s ExtremeLite Series. Western Mountaineering makes warmer bags, but those are heavier, bulkier, and cost closer to $1,000.
The lowest I was able to test the bag was in nighttime temperatures at about 15 degrees. Still, I was never cold and felt like the bag would hold up if the temps dropped further. Rated as 850+ fill, Western Mountaineering explains the unique rating reflects the fact that their Eastern European down is at least that grade but often above 900. The upshot: It's some of the best down money can buy. What that gets you is more insulating power for less weight. That's the ideal combo for pushing your backpacking or bike touring journeys into multiple seasons.
The way companies name their bags doesn’t necessarily reflect a standardized temperature rating. Some brands may use what’s called the lower limit temperature while others use a higher temperature that reflects the lowest temp at which the bag is comfortable. Complicating things further, everyone experiences cold differently and one person may sleep colder than another. Read: Just because a bag is rated to 10 degrees doesn't necessarily mean you'd feel comfortable in it at those temps. It's a general rating. When in doubt, avoid pushing the bag to its temperature limits the first time you use it.
This can make it tough to buy a bag that’s going to be right for the temperatures in which you’re camping. Liam Hoefer, who works in dealer services at Western Mountaineering's San Jose headquarters, says their ratings are not the lower limit. So, in this bag's case, you can probably take it into temps lower than 10 degrees if needed.
The Versalite has some nice additional features that solve common problems with sleeping bags like the aforementioned cinch and a Velcro strap that goes across the top of the zipper to keep it from inching down while sleeping. To avoid snagging the delicate fabric in the zipper, there’s a piece of plastic running down either side of the zipper's inside to give it a clear runway. This cuts down a little on the comfort inside the bag, but it’s a minor concession to avoid infuriating snags that can ruin your bag in an instant.
The bag's 12D nylon is thin and smooth to the touch for comfortable sleeping but it does require careful handling. The minimalist material is what helps the bag pack down to a fairly tiny 8 x 15 inches inside the included stuff sack. But it's thin to the point of being transparent enough, you can nearly see the down inside. The bag didn't rip when I inadvertently hit it on a sharp rock while setting up, but you should still treat the bag with the care you’d afford an expensive puffy jacket.
In terms of actual waterproofing, the goose down loses efficacy when wet. So be mindful that Western Mountaineering's ExtremeLite Series prioritizes weight savings over waterproofing and it’s the least water-resistant fabric the brand makes. If waterproofing is essential consider their Gore Windstopper series which features a much more burly exterior in a 15-degree bag.
Breathability isn’t a big concern with a cold-weather bag such as this one. If you're trying to avoid overheating, it might be best to have another bag in your rotation for warmer nights. Save the Versalite 10 for when you need its warmth.
At $605 ($620 for the larger size), this bag isn’t cheap. This is a specialty product for backpackers and other outdoor enthusiasts that value the warmth-to-weight ratio generated by smart design and quality materials.
If you’re counting grams in your pack, the Versalite 10 does an incredible job of keeping you warm and your pack light for thru-hiking. If you’re budget-conscious and an extra pound won’t make or break your trips, you can spend less.
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