Who knew that a coffin shaped bag of goose plumage could be so useful (and so expensive)?
The general consensus among past PCT hikers is that a sleeping bag rated to 20 F / -6.5 C will be suitable for any and all situations hikers can expect to encounter on the trail.
Being the incredibly safety-conscious person that I am, I decided to play it safe and go with one rated to 15 F/-9 C (if I go out on the trail it will be at the mercy of a bloodthirsty (pack) of animals, not the cold).
However, deciding which sleeping bag was best suited for my Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hike was quite the educational experience. I sifted through a mountain of jargon about mummies and synthetic and quilts and down (and fill power – a sleeping bag's combat level) to finally decide upon a Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15 sleeping bag.
For nearly five months straight, this bag was my home, and for nearly five months straight, I crawled into this haven of goose plumage to survive each night (except of course when strangers invited me into their homes and subsequently, their beds).
For those wondering, I did not use a bag liner during my time on the PCT, and the Phantom 15 stood up to my filth (and for those still not wondering, I have since started using a liner and I love it).
The Phantom 15 has become my de facto sleeping getup and it now follows me everywhere, including my trip to the arctic circle where I camped in northern Sweden in temperatures down to 15 F/-9 C, testing the bag's supposed limit (spoiler alert: it works).
Note: I have this bag in a regular. It also comes in a long, but the information below specifically corresponds to the regular version of the bag (sorry, tall people).
- Insulation: Q.Shield™ Down 850-Fill
- Bag Shell: Filament Weave 10D Léger
- Bag Fill Type: DOWN
- Weight: 2 lb. 1 oz. / 0.95 kg.
- Bag Shape: Mummy Cut
- Bag Loft: 6 in / 15 cm
- Bag Stuff Size: 7 in / 18 cm
- EN Rating: T-LIMIT: 15 F / -9C
- EN Rating: T-COMFORT: 26 F / -3C
- Bag Fill Weight: 572 g. / 624 g. / 1 lb. 04 oz. / 1 lb. 06 oz.
- Inside Length: 78 in / 198 cm
- Hip Girth: 53 in / 135 cm
- Foot Girth: 38 in / 97 cm
- Shoulder Girth: 59 in / 150 cm
- MSRP: $500
WHAT WE LIKE
THE PACKABILITY: Weight is one thing (down is lighter than synthetic – this bag is down), but space presents a different challenge for the pack-conscious. I can fit this thing into a 13 L stuff sack with a liner incredibly easily (I bet I could get it into a 10 L sack of stuff). Even though packing your down sleeping bag into incredibly tight space it not highly advisable (or so I've been told), it's nice to have the option.
THE WARMTH: This bag is true to its expected performance. I have slept through rain, snow, and below freezing temperatures in this bag, and it managed to provide me with an acceptable level of warmth through it all. I have only had to pull the drawstrings on the hood and face gasket a couple of times and they have done a great job of preventing heat loss (and of making me incredibly claustrophobic, OH MY GOD LET ME OUT!).
THE DURABILITY: I take care of my things, but this isn't a perfect world (judging by the lack of money I receive from strangers) and I and not always able to take perfect care said things (don't worry, I would take perfect care of you). As mentioned before, this bag has undergone very little maintenance and has taken a lot of abuse. Despite this, it performs just as well today as that first fateful night on the PCT.
WHAT'S JUST OKAY
THE ZIPPER: A lot of reviews out there bash the zipper on this bag pretty hard. Personally, in what has to be close to over 200 nights using this bag, I have only had maybe one or two serious zipper snags that took more than a few seconds to resolve. I have learned to position my finger in such a way as to prevent the zipper from snagging (but which probably puts my finger at risk of becoming snagged – highly undesirable).
THE MOISTURE: More than a few times I woke up to my bag covered in moisture (and no, not from the inside). It did dry out incredibly quickly, but that was only when I was fortunate enough to encounter the sun. Another day of rain? Looks like this thing is going to be damp when I take it out to sleep tonight.
THE PRICE: The price of this bag (MSRP: $500) is nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to 850 fill 15 F / -9C down bags. However, that doesn't mean I can't gripe about it. Honestly, to be the truth, this bag is actually a bit cheaper than some of the comparable bags on the market (albeit a tad heavier as well). Also, oreos.
WHAT WE NO LIKE
THE WARMTH: I sleep warm, and honestly, many times this bag was too warm for me. Waking up covered in sweat and then having to climb out of my sleeping bag is far less fun than the other reasons I typically wake up covered in sweat. Luckily, now that I have taken to using a liner, that seems to work well in conjunction with leaving the bag unzipped. At least getting up to pee in the night is now easier.
THE CLEANING ISSUE: This is the case with all down bags, but honestly, I am afraid to clean this thing. I have only had it cleaned (I won't say how many times), and I know there will come a day when I need to clean it myself (okay, two times). Still, the bag doesn't smell (at least I never noticed) and it has remained free of any permanent looking stains or otherwise undesirable blemishes.
For a relatively lightweight bag that will keep you warm in not too extreme of temperatures, Mountain Hardwear's Phantom 15 will not let you down (except for maybe that whole pocket thing).
But full disclosure: I am currently looking into a new bag. Not because I am unhappy with this one, but instead because I plan on doing some reckless things in the near future that may require an extra bit of warmth (I am looking in the 20 F/-29 C range – updates to follow).
Check out the Phantom 15 here!