Gear Review: Mountain Hardwear UltraLamina™ 32
The UltraLamina 32 is one of the most underrated sleeping bags in the woods. I took the plunge before my 2014 thru hike and couldn’t have been more pleased. Ideally, I wanted a bag smaller than a Bear Canister and under 40 ounces. Rather than making the jump with my dollars to down, I went Cadillac synthetic.
Shape: Mummy w/Articulated Footbox
Degree: 32 F (Emergency 28F; Comfortable 34F)
Weight: 27 oz.
Height Limit: 6 feet (Regular, also comes in a short and long)
Material: 15D Ripstop
Pack Size: Football
Suggested Retail Price: $240.00 Currently $179.99
Material: It’s What You’re Made of that Counts
Synthetic loft is your best option in the East. Thunderstorms are regular occurrences year round and the humidity is frequently 3 to 5 times higher than on the PCT. Down is effected by humidity over time causing a loss of loft like it was rained on (even if you treated it like a museum relic). Hydrophobic Down is an energy intensive alternative that can’t retain quality over time. Synthetic can perform at 95% of its loft while wet, making a huge difference when you need it most.
In all my childhood in scouting, years as a Wilderness Ranger, and hundreds of nights under leaves, I’d never had an emergency wet sleeping bag. My last week of my thru hike, I woke up in the Hundred Mile Wilderness with a river flowing beneath me. 3 inches deep and 2 feet wide, it bisected the 1 man tent in the most devastating way. My footbox to my nips were soaked. I pulled my bag off and wrung out a Nalgene of water out with little effort. Eventually the tent was moved and I fell back asleep. It continued to rain on and off for days leaving my bag damp in October in Maine. Each and every night I slept deeply like a cat in a lap. Synthetic keeps you warm when wet and doesn’t degrade with moisture. After I summited Katahdin, fulfilling the prophecy, I got to throw my sleeping bag in the washing machine, keeping it fresher than a farmers market.
Size: It Does Matter
You can find a bag that can keep you comfortable in the 40s anywhere. It’s hard to find one that’s smaller than a spare tire. When your carrying capacity is limited to the bag on your back, it’s important to keep it as open as possible. The UL 32 performs at low temperatures and packs down as small as a football. When I switched from my large summer bag, I was able to fit my UL 32 in the bottom of my clothes bag, eliminating a dry sack (bowling ball) to have to pack and pack around. This is my first bag that’s smaller than a bear cub and the difference in my pack shows. No stress to close your bag, more room for doughnuts and Franzia.
Weight weight don’t tell me…it’s lite
A Synthetic bag below 30 ounces is a diamond in a sea of feathers. At 27 oz, this baby is in a league with other sleeping bags that cost as much as rent. How did they do it? Lamina refers to Mountain Hardwear’s proprietary technique to adhere the insulation to the bag itself. No baffles, no cold spots. You also reduce fabric (bulk and weight) with the Lamina Technique. I feel a bit like a car salesman because I sound like one*.
Snugger Fit: Tight as the Eiger
One of the ways Mountain Hardwear cut down on bulk and weight is by making the cut tight. For the sake of perspective, I am just over 6 feet tall, with a physique that screams cuddly over sixpack. Whereas a skinnier friend wouldn’t notice a difference, the bag felt tight at times. It never kept me from sleeping but I’m not sure anything can. Tight fits are also much warmer and they made the footbox articulated so my toes did not suffer. The cut doesn’t bother me but if I weighed over 230, I’d consider getting into one at REI before taking the plunge.
Price: Not that Nice
Good equipment is not cheap. This sleeping bag is no exception to the rule. At $179.99, its a sizable bite out of your checking account. $179.99 pales in comparison to deluxe down Western Mountaineering (SummerLite 32 $389.95) or Brooks-Range (Drift 30 $469.95). You can rest assured that this $179.99 bag will last you twice as long as a $90.00 bag, at twice the quality. If you don’t agree enjoy shivering your ramen off in your ALPS mountaineering bag.
I love it. Finally a summer bag that can hang Spring to Fall that can stuff into a hoodie pocket. High quality synthetic bags get snubbed too often for down bags that can under-perform and require geese lives to create. I highly doubt you’ll regret your UltraLamina 32 but if you do, Mountain Hardware customer service is fantastic. Almost worth giving them a call to check in on their bubbly customer service reps.
*Mountain Hardware did not incentivize this article in the slightest. I did receive a ProDeal through the gear store I was working at when buying the bag which reduced the price significantly. The ProDeal did not effect my decision (other than it put it in my hands easier). ProDeals are a nice bonus for gear shop employees, some of which are paid 60% of a living wage.
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