Gear Review: Brooks Range Drift 30 Degree Sleeping Bag
The bag I’ve used more than any other in 2015 is Brooks Range’s Drift 30-degree sleeping bag. On paper, this looked like a great bag (very light weight, DownTek treated 850-fill down), but like with any piece of gear, any evaluations should be reserved prior to ample testing.
Worth noting- earlier this year we surveyed ~50 2014 AT thru-hikers on their sleeping systems. Not one of them carried this bag, let alone a single Brooks Range product. I was excited to see if this could hold up to the test, considering that it does use DownTek, which is a worthwhile feature for the humid environment of the Appalachian Trail.
So let’s get into it…
Insulation: 850+ fill power goose down
Degree: 30 deg
Comfort Rating: 35.2 deg
Lower Limit Rating: 25.1 deg
Weight: 23 oz.
Height Limit: 6 feet (Regular, also comes in a long)
Material: 15D nylon, DWR treatment
Pockets: 1 internal storage
Suggested Retail Price: $469.95
Although there are lighter options, at only 1 lb 7 ounces, you’ll be hard pressed to do much better. This is certainly an ultralight sleeping bag (at least by REI’s standards, which I think might be a tad conservative). For comparison, the NEMO Nocturne (a bag I use and enjoy), comes in at 9 ounces heavier at the same temperature rating. Additionally, this bag is wider than some of the top of the line competitors including the Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 and Marmot Plasma 30. The bigger the bag, the more it weighs. For most, weight is the primary concern for sleeping bag selection, and on this consideration, the Drift 30 does very well.
In most scenarios, down is going to be the insulation type of choice for long distance backpackers. This because of its superior warmth-to-weight ratio compared to its synthetic counterparts. The biggest drawback of down is that it will lose its insulation in damp and/or humid environments. The Appalachian Trail certainly fits this bill. Some will opt to use a down bag during the colder parts of the trail (Springer – Grayson Highlands & Glencliff – Katahdin), and swap out a warmer, synthetic bag or fleece for the warmer months, to preserve their expensive down bags. Hydrophobic down treatments help to give backpackers the best of both worlds: down insulation and weight with synthetic moisture resistance.
Most of my testing has been done in the dry climate of Colorado plus a few days on the Appalachian Trail, so I’m not able to provide a first hand account of its ability to retain loft in humid environments. However, others have reported DownTek bags and garments holding up much better than the their non-treated counterparts. This video offers a nice visual demonstration of DownTek’s ability to repel water.
Mentioned above, this bag is wider than some of its competition. Whoever designed me thought that my life’s purpose would be to move large rocks. In other words, I am barrel chested. For this reason, some bags can be too constraining for my build. Not the case for this bag.
I’ve tested this bag down to 37 degrees, just two degrees above the comfortable limit, without even waking up, which I always do when uncomfortably cold. This bag will suffice at elevation (much of my camping is done around or above 10K feet) throughout the summer and at lower elevations deep into the fall. The drawstring around the hood is a nice touch, which I can tightly synch around my face for purposes of both warmth and comedy.
I’ve used this for a total of 26 nights of camping thus far, and the baffling has held up consistently, nor has the bag received any sort of cuts or tears. By a long distance backpacker’s standards, 26 days is nothing- so I will update this section after additional use.
Although this is not the most expensive bag, at $470 MSRP, it is certainly on the pricier end. Since this is the lone drawback of the bag, it seems the high price tag can be justified.
For those who backpack primarily in drier climates, the Western Mountaineering SummerLite 32 might be a better option, as it’s both cheaper and lighter. Also, some prefer to save even more weight by using hoodless sleeping bags or quilts. Z-packs offers extremely light weight sleeping options.
This bag carries a high price tag, but for those who backpack in humid environments, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a lighter bag at its weight that’s also hydrophobic down. For the purposes of a thru-hike, where washing your down bag to restore its loft can be a major pain in the sitpad, splurging on a DownTek or Dri-Down product, like the Brooks Range Drift 30, is certainly a justifiable expense, if it’s in the budget. Overall, this is an excellent bag.
Disclosure: the following product was donated for the purpose of review.
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