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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Feathered Friends sleeping bags?

Lee out in LaLa-land, snuggled into a Feathered Friends Hummingbird.

It is kinda funny when you look at all your gear and it is so easy to miss the really important stuff.  Not the biners or hardware or the newest ice tool or a pair of boots.  But the really important stuff like sleeping pads, the bags and the tents. 

I'd guess part of it is I hate having to carry any of them.  So until required I try to ignore all of them.   The when I am forced to sue them I generally take the smallest and the lightest of all three.  It has made for some uncomfortable nights.  But it is never the gears fault.  It is an issue with faulty decision making.  To be specific my faulty decision making.

In the old days I carried a pack like this pretty much every where I went and spent half the year or more living out of a sleeping bag.

Now I am more likely to measure a climb by how much can I get done in 24hrs or less and how much do I  REALLY have to carry.   This size  pack is about as much as I want on my back these days.

As you might imagine that has cut down on a LOT of gear including the size and more importantly the comfort range of my sleeping bag.

I suspect there are a few sleeping bag companies that make good bags.  Western Mountaineering seems to be well liked by friends over the years.  A quick search turned up this:

I've owned a few bags.  My first down bag, which was second hand, I resold at some point.  My second, a synthetic, was stolen off my clothes line, where it sat drying one too many days and nights, after a minor epic in the Canadian Rockies.  The third the same brand of synthetic I eventually wore out and gave away.

My fourth and first really nice down bag I bought in 1976, a Trailwise Chevron, which still own.  I thought it had about died on me till I had Feathered Friends cleaned it for me a few years ago.  It was always a good bag but they worked wonders on it.

That wasn't my first experience with Feathered Friends however.  In 1980 I had them build a custom Peregrine.  Black VBL inner shell and a bright green Gortex outer.  Loved that bag.  I remember waking up at 17K on the west butt one morning with chilled feet.  Thinking sheet...not enough bag.  Until I reached for the stove pot and it singed my hand it was so cold.  That is really cold!  Wonderful bag!  17K was the first time I had actually zipped up that bag on Denali.

I sold that I didn't want to be anywhere that cold again.  That was a mistake as I did 2 more Alaska trips after that and never could afford to have another one built.

With Feathered Friends virtually willing to build you any bag you could imagine in the next 20 years I did have them build several more custom bags though.  All over filled, all with something extra I figured I needed and all of the bags truly spectacular.

I still have them.   One of each, a Humingbird, a Widgeon which I had them build to my specs.  And most recently a Vireo that I returned after using it for a couple of years to have it modified as well.

Feathered Friends makes some amazing bags you can buy off  the shelf.  But when you ask them to do some thing special....look out 'cuz you'll get more than you ever expected.  It is kinda like they appreciate the request and what to make the very best just for you.

So back to my last bag from Feathered Friends to finish up these comments.  I had my Vireo over stuffed to the max (5 oz in the body of the bag, most of it on the upper half) and a collar added.  They did quiz me on the collar...."you want what?"   "Really?"  "Ya, can you do that for me?"  "Sure?"  Price was right.  Now I have this dinky little lwt sleeping bag I can get into my dinky little packs for when I don't make those 24hr estimates.  And I'll sleep a good bit warmer in this one for the added 1/2 pound. :)  The Vireo has truly been transformed from a summer bag to a decent 3 season bag for me now.

How cool is that?

I have some brand loyalty again.  Feathered Friends has never told me "no" when asked for something  special on a custom bag.  And they are local for me.  The cost and wait has always been more than worth the end result.  Few pieces of gear get my unqualified support.  Feathered  Friends earned that support 20 years ago and continues to today.


Anonymous said...

I've had similar, excellent experiences with Integral Designs in Calgary. It with be interesting to see if Rab will keep up the quality workmanship.

Anonymous said...

Would sleeping bags made by Feathered Friends compare to bags made by PHD mountain software?

Daniel Harro said...

Can't go wrong with the spoonbill.

Anonymous said...

The current range of RAB bags aren't a patch on their old bags unfortunately.

Mountain Equipment are currently overhauling their range of bags.

From what I've seen the new bags are going to be very good indeed.

Shame most shops will still choose to stock Rab over them though.

Alex said...


What do you think of the bag designed by Steve House for Nanga Parbat, is there a reason why no one is making a one person version of it commercially ?

Eric Wright said...

What do you do if the off the shelf bags make your itch and your skin crawls? And you partner wakes you up and says "dude sounds like you are dying in your sleep".

Nicolai said...

I love my custom Hummingbird and FF's customer service. My only regret is not buying the bag with some overfill.
WM's reputation is equally excellent, but I find their bags too roomy for my skinny bod.
I also own a Valandre, but haven't been anywhere cold enough to use it, so can't say much about it. Trying it at home it seems excellent.