Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Feathered Friends Spoonbill. Not a review, just a heads up.

This is not a review.  I have not yet used this bag.  These are just observations.  Consider it me thinking out loud.

I was browsing some web sites this morning and came across the Feathered Friends Spoonbill two-person sleeping bag.  It was unveiled in 2007.  Not sure why I didn't notice it until now.  I have been toying with the idea of building a two person quilt for backpacking with my wife and for alpine climbing with a partner.  Though I don't enjoy sleeping in the same bag or quilt with another man, it is a lot more efficient to share body heat than to have two separate sleeping bags.

There was a line in the Spoonbill description that I found really intriguing:

"This bag has been tested extensively on Denali for the past five years and the feedback has been that it is plenty warm on that mountain for the athletes who were using it."

The bag weighs 2lb 11oz in a regular length.  That's the same weight as their Snowbunting 0 degree, 1-person sleeping bag, which is not warm enough for Denali for a single person, at least not without wearing other insulating layers as well.

The Spoonbill has approximately 5" of loft, about the same as FF's 20 degree sleeping bags.  But, then you add a heater sleeping next to you and the warmth and efficiency of the bag goes way up.  I've read a couple reviews of it being closer to a 10 degree bag and Feathered Friends says that their testers show it to be closer to a 0 degree bag.

I'm sure Feathered Friends' Denali claim totally depends on who the people are inside the bag.

Here are some stats:

  • Fill Weight: 23oz
  • Average Total Weight: 2lb 11oz
  • 850 or 900 fill power goose down
  • Width: 104" of girth at the shoulders, 90" at the hips, 68" at the feet
  • Two, fully-adjustable hoods (adjusting one hood shouldn't affect the other person)
  • Comes with either a NanoSphere shell or an Ultralight Pertex Endurance Shell
  • There is no down on the bottom; one must rely on their pads for warmth.  Compressed down on the bottom doesn't do much anyway.
  • $700-$850, depending on length and shell material.  Ouch!

Why I think this is a good idea

Let's consider the possibility that this bag is warm enough for Denali.  That means with two people it's warmth is comparable to a 0 degree bag, approximately.  A 0 degree bag from Feathered Friends will cost you about $550-$600 and will weigh about 2lb 11oz.  A comparable Western Mountaineering bag will cost about $580 and weigh around 2lb 11oz.  If you multiply this by two bags, then the weight is hovering between five and six pounds.  Just one Spoonbill weighs 2lb 11oz and is big enough for two people.  That's a weight savings of almost three pounds.  And for the unlucky person that gets to carry the bag, they're still only carrying the same weight as they would be with a 1-person 0 degree bag and would be saving a pound of weight, compared to carrying their own -20 bag.

Now let's consider that this bag is not warm enough for Denali by itself, but it is if you wear an insulated jacket and pants as part of your sleep system.  You may still sleep more comfortably because the bag is roomier than a normal sleeping bag.  I'm not sure about you, but when I sleep in my down jacket, I can't zip up my sleeping bag or it's simply too snug for comfort.  I struggle in a mummy bag without extra layers.  Having a two person bag, though still snug, I would guess would be more comfortable with those extra layers.

Finally, one of these bags is a lot cheaper than two of the others.  $750 for this bag is a lot better than about $1200 for two of the others.

The Potential Downsides

I can see a few potential downsides to this bag.  First of all, as a backpacking bag for use with my wife, I don't think it could get any better.  As an alpine climbing bag with a buddy, I'm not so sure.  Just the thought of cuddling with another guy all night is enough to make me consider carrying the extra 3 pounds we'd be saving.

Here is one of the funniest things I've read on the subject, by Kelly Cordes:

The other downside is that it may not be as versatile on a solo trip.  I guess you could unzip one side and fold the extra sleeping bag over like a burrito, but probably not as light or as efficient as a single person bag for a solo trip.

Either way, I'm still strongly considering this option for my wife and I and am debating its use as a 2-man  alpine climbing bag when going really light is necessary.

These pictures were taken from Feathered Friends' Facebook Page.  Hope they don't mind:

Notice there's no insulation on the bottom of the bag.  When you sleep on down, the down is compressed and loses its insulating value.  Therefore, it's pointless weight.  Sleeping pads are the key to insulating from the ground.

3-D Hoods

2lb 10.5oz according to this scale.

1 comment:

  1. Good write up, even if it was just your thoughts. Your process makes sense. Also, thanks for the link to Kelly's article. That was seriously funny stuff!