It is still only August, but I am counting the days until we hit North America’s winter.  Skiing, snowshoeing, and ice climbing are some of my favorite activities.  Those activities mean having bombproof gear that can keep you healthy and safe during the worst weather winter can throw at you.  With that in mind, today I’m going to review a high quality piece of gear that I used in South America this year.

The Marmot Col EQ -20 Sleeping Bagis a down filled bag rated to -20F (-29C).  This bag is packed with interesting features.  The real question in my mind is always whether or not those features are worth the weight.

Detail view of the inside of the Marmot Col footbox reinforcement

Detail view of the inside of the Marmot Col footbox reinforcement

The first feature I want to talk about, because I really like it, is the reinforced foot box.  This is such a great idea.  I’m always cramming gear into the bottom of my bag to dry it out, keep it from freezing, etc.  Put some stuff with zippers in your bag, and then kick around at night, and you’ll start to notice down leaks inside your bag over time.  This reinforced foot box seems to address this concern pretty nicely.  I’ll be sure to report on this over the long term.

The second feature I like is the vertical baffles over the chest.  I am really starting to believe that appropriate insulation under the body is important.  This is why I picked up the Exped Downmat 9 for cold weather conditions, the type of conditions where I’ll use the Marmot Col sleeping bag.  In providing insulation under my body with a pad, I want to be sure that my down sleeping bag does not allow the down to shift underneath me where it will be compressed and not serve to insulate me well.  The vertical chest baffle system accomplishes that effectively.  I’m sure it is not the only method, but it is a method that works.

The pocket in the draft tube of the Marmot Col, sized perfectly for contact lenses, batteries, or other small essentials.

The pocket in the draft tube of the Marmot Col, sized perfectly for contact lenses, batteries, or other small essentials.

I wear contact lenses, even in the field.  I prefer daily lenses under field conditions because they reduce the hassle of cleaning and storing.  Marmot came up with a small little pocket that can tuck right into the draft tube of the bag.  It is the ideal size to hold tomorrow’s contact lenses and keep them nice and warm so that in the morning, I’m not putting ice cold contacts into my eyes.  Well thought out.

This is a big sleeping bag, especially because I need a long size.  The stuff sack that Marmot includes is massive and takes up a huge amount of pack volume.  I use a compression stuff sack to keep it a bit more reasonable.  It does tend to be resistant to compressing, which I suspect may be because of the waterproof-breathable layer on the shell of the sleeping bag, but by taking my time, I’m able to reduce it in volume significantly.

The size of the original stuff sack, compared to a 1 liter Nalgene water bottle.

The size of the original stuff sack, compared to a 1 liter Nalgene water bottle.

The zipper of the bag is a pretty good snag proof design.  I haven’t had any issues with snagging, and even with cold hands, it is easy enough to operate.  Similarly, the draft collar is nice.  It cinches up nicely and eliminates the need to drape a sweater or something around your neck to seal in the warm air around your body.

A final comment about features that I want to make is about the color.  I find when I’m storm bound in my tent; bright colors tend to be a bit “healthier”.  It helps keep a positive mood.  For a lot of my gear I prefer very neutral colors in the earth tone palette.  But I like my tent and sleeping bag to be bright and happy colors.

As I use and abuse this bag around the world, I’ll post long term reviews.

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3 Responses to “Marmot Col -20F sleeping bag – initial review”

  1. Barry Thomas says:

    Thanks for the additional information on the stuff sack. Keep up the good work on your blog…it’s very educational.

    Take Care,
    Barry

  2. Chris says:

    Glad I provided some useful information for you. Currently, I use an old Lowe Alpine compression sack, it is a medium. When I get the time, I plan on getting a lighter sack, maybe something in silnylon.

    Chris

  3. Barry Thomas says:

    Chris:
    I’ve enjoyed reading your articles. Hope you keep reviewing gear and providing tips, etc. Due in part to your review of the Marmot Col, I decided to purchase the Col and it has proven to be a great bag. I would appreciate it if you would let me know the size and brand of compression sack you use.

    Thanks,
    Barry

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