This spring (if spring ever comes to the polar vortex), I’ll be testing out Big Agnes’ Wind Lip sleeping bag on kayaking and canoe trips, but I had a chance to test it out over the last week while in the Badlands National Park. I was out there photographing the park and scouting locations for a potential photography workshop that I’d run in December (if you’re interested, email me). I used to be a geek about sleeping bags and sleeping bag insulation when I worked as a buyer/line leader for a major sporting good retailer, but since then I’m fallen out of the loop. The Big Agnes Wind Lip sleeping bag features the new Pinneco Research Limited’s Pinneco Core® insulation, which seems to me an interesting solution to the problem of insulation saturation, i.e. your body sweat soaking your bag out, and condensation penetration, i.e. your breath or moisture settles on your sleeping bag and wets it out from the outside. This is more of a problem when winter camping, but can be an issue at other times.
Out of the many sleeping bags that I’ve owned, I’ve owned a few that have tried to address this problem. The usual way is to slap a vapor barrier into the sleeping bag and then sleep inside the barrier. The barrier stops your moisture from going into the sleeping bag. I’ve also had bags that use a thin version of a waterproof breathable that lets out moisture and tries to keep condensation off the bag. There are also other exterior fabrics that attempt to do this, but Pinneco Core® insulation is the first that I’ve heard of that uses a membrane inside the insulation to attempt to let the moisture out while keeping condensation out of the insulation. Here’s Big Agnes’ description:
Pinneco Core® is a new synthetic insulation designed to be more breathable, thermally efficient and sustainably engineered. Pinneco’s Core Screen™ resists water from outside, while the Core Fusion™ technology seals the insulation like an air pump, actively drawing sweat from inside the bag.
Pinneco Core® features a breathable membrane between two fiber layers, allowing sweat and moisture to leave the bag while heat stays next to the body.
Basically, Pinneco Core® sucks the sweat away and keeps the condensation out of the insulation. My initial test was a tough one for any sleeping bag to face. It was sub-zero fahrenheit temps in a winter mountaineering tent that I decided to completely zip up to try and maintain a little bit of warmth on the inside. I had a 0°F sleeping bag and then I used the Wind Lip on the outside of it as a quilt. This kept me more than warm enough, and I sweated at points through the night. My 0°F down breaths well enough and tends to move the moisture out of the bag quickly. I never notice much moisture in it that I can tell. I’m sure it builds up, but over a week of winter camping, it’s isn’t much. Over that I threw the Big Agnes Wind Lip. Here’s what I kind of expected to happen: I expected the inside of the Big Agnes to get a touch damp and the outside to get really damp and that I’d feel clammy inside the two sleeping bags. The outside did get really damp, but it felt more like the outside fabric was damp and not the inside. The inside of the sleeping bag that was resting against my down bag was completely dry. Condensation in the tent was so bad that there was frost over everything. While I woke up a couple of times sweating, I never had that clammy feeling that I’ve gotten using winter bags with a thin waterproof breathable shell. I was pleasantly surprised about the Big Agnes Wind Lip and 0°F bag combo.
As far as fit, I found the Wind Lip comfortable and roomy for a mummy bag when used by itself. That’s exactly what I want in a shoulder season/summer bag rated in the 30°F range. The bag features an interesting draft collar which wraps around your neck and keeps drafts out. This one is shaped like a horseshoe and I have doubts that it will work as well as others that have draft tubes that circle the bag and include cords that cinch it tight around your shoulders/neck. I tend to change sleeping positions during the night, so I expect that this won’t stay in place, but I haven’t had a chance to really test it yet.
The other two items included with this bag is a mesh storage sack of the quality that I expect from a high-end sleeping bag and a stuff sack. The stuff sack seems slightly large to me, but with most synthetic insulation, it’s best to pack it loosely because each time you stuff the bag, you reduce the loft. Less loft means a colder sleeping bag. This is one advantage that down still has over synthetic (that and weight). Pinneco Research Limited claims that by using its CoreScreen™ technology to seal the insulation and reinforce the structure, its able to pull the insulation quickly into its ready state regardless of how long it has been pack and regardless of the number of time it is stuffed. If it works as claimed, that’s good news for synthetic insulation.
At first I didn’t like the color, but Lee of A whole bunch of ings reminded me that bright, high-contrasting colors are more visible from the air during a search and rescue operation. If that’s why Big Agnes made it look the way it does, then I can accept the colors. If it was just an attempt to make the sleeping bag pop off the retail wall, then I’d rather they just use one high-vis color.
I’m really excited to be able to test this sleeping bag, and had it been available a few years ago when I bought my Sierra Designs’ Lazer, I would have probably bought this sleeping bag instead and used it on my Port Huron to Home Expedition.
Big Agnes Wind Lip Manufacturer’s Specifications for the Regular Size
Temp Rating: 28°F
Length: fits up to 6 foot
Weight: 2 pounds 2 ounces (Actual: 2 pounds 5.3 ounces plus 1.2 ounces for the stuff sack)
Shoulder Girth: 60 inches
Hip Girth: 54 inches
Foot Girth: 36 inches
Stuff Sack Size: 8 by 17.5 inches
Compressed Bag Size: 8.5 by 9 inches
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the Big Agnes Wind Lip for free from Big Agnes as coordinated by Deep Creek Public Relations in consideration for review publication.