By T.C. WORLEY
Each year, as winter settles into the northerly regions of the U.S., a division occurs in the populous. A large number of people head indoors to wait out the cold with TV shows and card games. But the outdoor-crazed among us, of whom I am one, cannot sit idle. All a person needs is the right gear to turn the icy landscape into a winter playground.
Case in point: Winter camping! On a recent camping trip to the deep woods of Wisconsin, I looked to my warmest sleeping pad as well as the new (and bargain priced!) Mount Rainier -20 sleeping bag from High Peak, a little-known brand in the U.S. It would, I hoped, keep me resting comfortably when the day was done. At just $150 msrp, and with a quoted minus-20 F temp rating, the Mount Rainier model costs significantly less than comparable bags in its range.
For a moment, let’s talk straight about sleeping bag temperature ratings. I’ve yet to sleep in a bag that has a rating as warm as it’s purported to be. On the packaging, High Peak claims the “temperature rating is based on an enclosed environment with a mattress.” I appreciate the honesty. But my test would be conducted on a camping pad, in open air, and with the winter stars overhead!
Inside the bag, I wore one layer of thermals (top and bottoms), a pair of wool socks, and a thin balaclava. Temps dipped to around 10 degrees F on the coldest night of my trip. Except for a light snow waking me with icy kisses on my cheeks, I slept like a baby. It wasn’t 20-below, so the bag didn’t get its full thrashing. But at around 10 degrees, on a thin pad, and with one layer on. . . I was pretty impressed with the $150 bag’s toasty warmth.
To be sure, High Peak includes some “performance” features on the Mount Rainier bag. It is not just a simple over-stuffed sleeper. It’s a true mountain-ready mummy bag, and it packs small enough to fit in a mid-size backpack. Total weight is an understandable 5.4 pounds. A bit heavy for sure, but for the price not bad.
Features include draft guards along the zipper and a chest collar to keep heat in. Cinch cords inside the hood and collar dutifully kept the bag up and around my face for max comfort. However, rather than stretchy cords, the company uses cheaper barrel-locks and nylon cinch cording that would snag on my ears, get in my mouth, and generally bug me. A small fault.
The bag is cozy and thick. Insulation comes from synthetic Invista Thermolite Quallo, and the interior lining is Invista Tactel nylon. And here’s a kicker: The bag has fully-taped seams and an “Amphibia 3000” rip-stop nylon external fabric to make it wind-proof and waterproof! A rare combination.
All in all, the bag worked as I’d hoped it would. In a tent, with a good pad, I know I would feel comfortable sleeping in this bag down to slightly below zero. Twenty below? Maybe. It’s worth a test. I’m guessing this winter, in the frigid North where I live, that will soon be on the order.
—T.C. Worley is a writer and photographer based in Minneapolis.