MSRP: $299 (Regular)
A sleeping bag might not be something most would be comfortable skimping on. Aside from marginally lighter fabrics, not much can be done without sacrificing warmth–a concession most alpinists won’t want to make on big climbs. Patagonia recently came out with a modern version of an old idea–the Hybrid Sleeping Bag, which allows minimalists to only carry as much insulation as they absolutely need.
Even for ounce-counters, a sleeping bag and a warm puffy jacket are necessities in cold weather, and even though they use identical materials to do a nearly identical job, they’re not often used together. It’s more likely, when one is in use the other is just taking up space. It’s only in emergencies that you find yourself stuffed inside both simultaneously.
The intent of a hybrid bag is to remove the redundancy by ditching the top half of this bag’s insulation in favor of the jacket you had packed anyway.
“We’ve been kicking around the idea of building an Elephant-foot-style bag since [Patagonia Founder] Yvon [Chouinard] put it on the design team’s radar many years ago,” said Corey Simpson, a spokesperson for Patagonia. “Once we had the engineering methods used in baffled construction down we knew we could proceed with bringing a bag to market.”
The bottom of the bag is 850-fill traceable down in a lightweight, DWR-treated Pertex Quantum shell, tough enough for frigid bivies on granite ledges. A durable nylon lining and a roomy toe-box that could fit an elephant’s foot mean you can comfortably wear your boots inside without fear of damaging the lightweight fabrics. Plus, a narrower construction on the inside of the foot box than the outside means it’s much harder to compress the down, keeping it warm. But above the hips is that same featherweight DWR-treated nylon–no insulation at all. Just throw on your jacket, tighten a cinch at the bag’s waist, coupling the two halves, and zip the waterproof upper over your torso as the bag’s zipper only goes from the waist up.
Jumping inside, it’s obvious this isn’t your typically cozy sleeping bag. Instead of a warm cocoon, it’s more like a pair of insulated pants–your top half will definitely feel left out, compared to bundling up in your average sleeping bag. But with a good parka, temps won’t be an issue, even if your mobile arms do make you feel weirdly naked. The waist cinch of most jackets does a surprisingly good job of sealing in the heat, but it does feel a little awkward if you move or squirm–with that cinched, it will be hard to move within the sleeping bag and the whole lower half will twist with you. Zipping the shell over your shoulders will keep you dry, but you’ll want gloves: without sticking them below the cinch, they’ll be uninsulated.
The insulation in the bag is plenty warm and according to Patagonia when it’s paired with their Grade VII Belay Parka (or a similarly insulated parka), the system will keep you comfortable to around 10 degrees. Not as cold? Bring a lighter jacket. In my case, a lighter-weight down sweater was enough to keep me comfortable in near-freezing temps. The options you have for customizing the warmth of the top half makes the sleeping bag incredibly versatile.
But the real glory of the Hybrid is its tiny size and weight. Carrying effectively less than half the sleeping bag you normally would, it’s an ultralight no-brainer regardless of temperature and the parka you bring to match. The bag weighs in at only 17.3 ounces (between one and two pounds lighter than similarly-rated bags) and stuffs down to about the size of a football. For backpackers or easier trips, that savings might not be worth the strange feeling that comes with a half-sleeping bag, but on volume-critical climbs, the Hybrid is a game-changer for your packing list.
Carrying a sleeping bag and a parka always seemed redundant but this bag solves that problem and saves you room in your pack for those climbs when you need it most.
Ryan Wichelns is a freelance journalist and climber, living all his life in the mountains of upstate New York but traveling frequently to climb throughout the Northeast, Pacific Northwest and the Alaska Range. His favorite climbs are the random, unaesthetic snow and ice covered heaps in the middle of nowhere that require a weeklong scree-choked slog to maybe climb, such as a recent three-week-long first traverse of the ridge between Mount Silverthrone and Mount Brooks in Denali National Park. You can read more about his adventures at ryanclimbs.com.
Weight savings and packability