Western Mountaineering vs. Feathered Friends

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Western Mountaineering vs. Feathered Friends

Postby Neil » Tue Dec 04, 2007 3:55 pm


Pardon the long post, but I would really appreciate everyone's help.

I am in the final stages of research for a new zero-degree sleeping bag. Thanks largely to the input of members on previous threads, I've narrowed my search to the Western Mountaineering Kodiak and Feathered Friends Ibis.

Before getting to my questions, let me give you some background on this purchase. I am looking for a bag to use throughout the winter in Colorado and spring-fall in the Pac NW -- perhaps Mexico and Alps as well. A vast majority of my camping is done in a tent, but I anticipate enough nights in bivy sack to make even a little more water-resistance worth some weight. As for other temp ranges, I've always been comfortable using a zero-degree for CO winter, so I am dead-set on the rating.

That being said, let me narrow my issues. I've browsed previous threads and will try to be specific:

1. Does anyone have any first-hand, real-world comparisons between Western Mountaineering and Feathered Friends bags? Anything to help tip the scales between these two bags would be much appreicated.

2. More specifically, can anyone discuss the advantages of the WM Dry-Loft bags over the FF eVent, and vice versa?

3. Finally, I am 5'9". WM makes a 6' and a 6'6" version of the Kodiak and FF makes a long version of the Ibis. I generally like to keep water, down layers, boot liners, etc. in my bag at night. Both of these bags are wide, but are they wide enough to skip the longer versions and still have room for the stuff? My last bag was 6', and wasn't as long as I'd like it to be, but it wasn't as wide as these either. Any input on someone my size jmping to 6'6" in this context would be awesome.

Thanks everyone...I definitely value your input on gear issues.
"On the edge of the porch in the warm evening night
Throwing the bone for the dog I see two passing lights
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Is there someone, somewhere, someway out there that I've not found"
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Postby Presto » Tue Dec 04, 2007 4:53 pm

Summitpost has a great gear review section (along with comments by people who have used the products too). I checked and both brands you mentioned have several products mentioned.
As if none of us have ever come back with a cool, quasi-epic story instead of being victim to tragic rockfall, a fatal stumble, a heart attack, an embolism, a lightning strike, a bear attack, collapsing cornice, some psycho with an axe, a falling tree, carbon monoxide, even falling asleep at the wheel getting to a mountain. If you can't accept the fact that sometimes "s**t happens", then you live with the illusion that your epic genius and profound wilderness intelligence has put you in total and complete control of yourself, your partners, and the mountain. How mystified you'll be when "s**t happens" to you! - FM
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Postby SarahT » Tue Dec 04, 2007 6:12 pm

I recently bought the WM Puma SMF bag (after much research and talking with people). I chose the SMF vs the Dry Loft because I had heard from several sources that it was the better way to go. Cost had nothing to do with my decision. Yes, the Dry Loft is more expensive and it seems to be portrayed as the best waterproof bag, but the micro fiber is also very water resistent and many believe it performs better and say Dry Loft just isn't a great material for sleeping bags. I've heard this both from live gear freaks who have taken the bags to harsh conditions and I've also read it on the internet. So far my bag has gotten wet on the outside due to heavy condensation, but there was no evidence that it penetrated into the bag. If you send robinmtns a pm he may be able to explain the issues with the Dry Loft.

As for the vs. Feathered Friends issue, I can't be of much help. I know they are a very reputable company similar to WM, but it seems that the number of people who own them is much less (at least people I've come across). Maybe its because they are a little harder to come by in stores around here or maybe people prefer the WM bags a little more? I'm not sure.

My boyfriend is 6' 1" and definately needs the 6'6" bag if that helps at all.
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Postby Couloirman » Tue Dec 04, 2007 6:27 pm

unless you are REALLY short I think everyone should have long bags. More room at the feet to put you water bottles, socks, gloves, boot liners, etc...
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Postby firsttracks » Wed Dec 05, 2007 12:11 am

I own a custom Feathered Friends Snow Goose bag with overfill down and the Epic by Nextec fabric. I love it. I also am 5' 9", and the regular length is plenty long for me and my gear in the winter. I stay nice and warm all the time.

I've heard great things about WM bags, as well, but I've never used one.

When I ordered my bag, the saleswoman talked me out of eVent, and told me that pretty much all the employees go with the cheaper Epic fabric because it retains its waterproofing longer and is slightly more durable. (I can't vouch for this -- just passing along info they told me.) I've used mine extensively for the past three winter seasons in Colorado, Alaska, and the Sierras. It's still good-as-new. I sleep better in it than in my bed at home.

I really don't think you can go wrong when your decision is WM vs. FF. I'll give the nod to FF simply from my great experience with them. It's fun to order a custom bag exactly to your specs, and it's a great company.
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Postby coloradokevin » Wed Dec 05, 2007 2:04 am

Both companies have great reputations, as I'm sure you know. Unfortunately, at this price point, I think you'll find that most people have had bags from only one company or the other.

For me, it has always been Western Mountaineering.

In looking at your choices, you should also consider the width of the bag you are choosing. The Kodiak is one of Western's wide bags, and unless you are a fairly large guy, you may find that it leaves you with wasted space to heat at night. For me, the fit of this company's regular width and standard length big-mountain bags is fine for a decent night's sleep (and my wife claims I'm like the "Princess and the Pea" when it comes to sleeping). I am 5'10" tall and around 165lbs... generally I sleep with two regular size nalgenes, and one or two clothing items in the bag with me in winter (ie: socks, boot liners, etc).

If you decide to go with one of the bags that is slightly narrower (ie: more efficient) cut than the Kodiak, you may want to look to the Antelope or Lynx. The Lynx is now listed as a -10F bag, but I honestly can't see where it is any different than the old "Dakota" bag they previously made with a temp rating listed at -5F (my wife has that bag in the dryloft version). WM has a reputation for conservative ratings, so you would probably be fine with their Antelope (a +5F bag) for regular zero-degree purposes! If you sleep on the cold side, or want to push the boundaries of the bag a bit more, the Lynx might be the way to go. By the same token, if you are a larger guy, or want a TON of room, go Kodiak!

For deep winter use I actually have the Dryloft version of the Puma bag that Sarah mentioned. While opinions vary quite a bit on the merits of dryloft, I've been VERY happy with my bag thus far (pushing a decade now).

Complaints about dryloft generally seem to revolve around: a slight increase in weight, a bag that is tougher to stuff, higher cost, and most importantly less breathability. The advantage, of course, is that the bag is very water resistant. In fact, dryloft laminated fabrics are, in themselves, damn near "waterproof". Don't interpret this to mean that the sleeping bags actually end up waterproof (due in part to the unsealed seams and such), but you aren't exactly planning to swim in this thing anyway!

As far as breathability is concerned, this has been a non-issue to me at the temperatures where I use this kind of bag. I've noticed no difference when compared with the breathability of my old zero degree NF down bag with a Microfiber shell. I suppose your results could vary depending on your average level of perspiration? I've used my Puma on winter trips up to a week in length, and haven't experienced any noticeable loss of loft from internal moisture (or external, for that matter). As individual trip lengths increase significantly, the cumulative effect of your perspiration can begin to threaten your loft... this is true with MF shells as well, but will be obviously more pronounced with dryloft. Still, you always have the option of using a vapor barrier liner on very long trips in extreme cold. Some folks I've known over the years swear by these, and it will absolutely protect your loft against internal perspiration... But, the pros and cons of a VB liner are an entirely different subject!

I should also note that I bought a dryloft bag because I often use bivy sacks, used to camp in much wetter climates in winter, and wanted the option of comfortably using the bag as a stand-alone insulation piece on top of a sleeping pad in damp snow caves. I also pro-dealed the bag when I worked at a gear shop, and thereby got a screaming deal on it... Thus, the cost of adding dryloft was negligible in my case. I've had my bag for almost 9 years (approximately), and it has never let me down. It easily exceeds the -20F rating it was given, and it is quite light for a bag this warm.

By the way, the "dryloft" versus "other" debate is nothing new, and doesn't look to be ending any time soon. Here is an article discussing it from 2003: http://outside.away.com/outside/gear/ge ... 30130.html

This debate has been going on since the fabric was developed.

My final personal feeling: You will likely be very happy with either fabric on a bag from either of these two companies (and it only took me a 5,000 word essay to get to that point... as usual)

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