As much as I love my Phantom 15 sleeping bag, it is not suited to keep me warm in the bitterly cold temperatures – the kind I expected to encounter high in the Himalaya.
For this expedition I was going to need something known as a four-season sleeping bag (but more accurately a one or one and a half sleeping bag if you really think about it). My newest destination called for something capable of withstanding temperatures of down to -20 °F / -29 °C.
It was in this dire time of need that I drafted the Mountain Hardwear Wraith sleeping bag to my team (twas a first round pick).
I used this bag for the entirety of my EBC trek, and never once found myself cold whilst huddled in its domain (even when I needed to fight off dogs in the middle of the night). For the first five nights I cowboy camped outdoors with just the bag and my Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad. My last night outdoors I slept at an elevation of 14,862 ft / 4,530 m in temperatures down to -2 °F / -19 °C.
For the latter half of the hike, I moved inside to the Himalayan lodges (which were exactly the same temperature as outside, save the wind), but this decision was not a result of my being cold. Instead, I moved indoors because I decided that paying $1 US for a room was easier than going out and setting up camp alone in the dark (yes, I'm afraid of the dark). Temperatures at the pinnacle of the expedition dipped down to around -6 °F / -21 °C. I lived.
This bag is currently among my favorite pieces of gear, and it makes sad that I will not be able to use it once temperatures rise above “cold as balls”.
NOTE: I have the regular size of this bag. It is also available in long. What follows reflects my experience with the former.
- Insulation: Q.Shield™ Down 850-Fill
- Bag Shell: 20D Dry.Q Elite Micro Rip
- Apparel Fit: Regular-Sleep Bags
- Weight: 4 lb 6 oz / 1.99 kg
- Bag Shape: Winter Mummy Cut
- Bag Loft: 9 in / 23 cm
- Bag Stuff Size: 10 in / 25 cm
- Bag Fill Weight: 1.02 kg / 1.08 kg / 2 lb 4 oz / 2 lb 6 oz
- Inside Length Regular: 78 in / 198 cm
- Inside Length Long: 84 in / 213 cm
- Hip Girth Regular: 56 in / 142 cm
- Hip Girth Long: 59 in / 151 cm
- Foot Girth Regular: 41 in / 104 cm
- Foot Girth Long: 43 in / 109 cm
- Shoulder Girth Regular: 62 in / 157 cm
- Shoulder Girth Long: 64 in / 163 cm
FROM THE MANUFACTURER
- Q Shield™ 800 fill down resists moisture and retains loft in damp conditions
- Dry.Q™ Elite shell is waterproof, breathable, windproof, durable and lightweight.
- Hidden baffle construction preserves waterproofness and durability.
- Laminated, double external zipper flaps keep water out.
- 5″ baffle spacing keeps down controlled for even, predictable loft.
- Six-chamber hood design maintains even loft around head for consistent warmth.
- Ergonomic draft collar blocks the escape of heated air from inside the bag. The two-piece collar drapes over neck and shoulders creating a soft comfortable seal. Two draw cords can snug down as needed to secure the collar.
- Down-filled face gasket blocks drafts at the hood opening. Only a slight tightening of the draw cord is required to seal in warmth.
- Two small pockets above collar provide storage for small items.
- Double draft tubes along zipper prevent cold spots.
- Comfort footbox follows natural foot position for maximum warmth and comfort.
WHAT WE LIKE
THE WARMTH | I purchased this bag because I needed something to keep me warm, and it has delivered. My first few nights in this bag, I had to leave it almost half unzipped to keep from sweating. Once temperatures dipped well below freezing, I could finally convert to mummy mode. My favorite part? When crawling out of this bag in the morning, the residual heat from inside the bag was usually enough to allow me vital minutes of getting-ready-in-the-morning time before needing to hike to keep from freezing. When I was too hot to cinch the bag all the way up, I simply left it a bit unzipped and used the hood as a pillow. Did I mention this thing is insanely warm?
THE WATERPROOFNESS | When I first received the Wraith I could tell that the bag was excellent at defending against water based attacks – it literally looks and feels like it's wearing waterproof armor. I didn't have the opportunity to use this bag in the rain or snow, but when my old enemy condensation decided to sneak into my bed during the night, the bag showed me what it could do as far as moisture is concerned. The bag's shell is waterproof and I was legitimately impressed with how good a job it did repelling moisture. I had no problems with moisture buildup inside of the bag either. Every morning, by the time I managed to crawl out of the bag and get ready, any condensation that may have collected on the outside of the bag was already evaporated.
THE COMFORT AND ROOMINESS | If I had the choice between sleeping in a bed indoors where it's warm and this bag outside in the cold, I would opt for the bag. I had no problems sleeping (or falling asleep) in this bag (which is surprising given my track record of sleepless nights outdoors). I'm 5'10” / 178 cm and even through I purchased a regular, I still had room at the bottom of the bag to stick a DSLR, small stuff sack of valuables, and a water bottle. At shoulders, I had enough space to move freely and sleep on either my back or side (when temperatures allowed). The bag's loft easily kept the hood rigid around my face and I never experienced discomfort from the hood sagging down during the night. That being said, I did not find any cold spots in the bag, despite the wiggle room.
THE NECK BAFFLE AND POCKETS | I am a fan of details and the Wraith has plenty. The bag includes a zipper pocket that was large enough to fit my phone, and another stash pocket behind the zippered one for even more storage. The hood and neck baffle are incredibly comfortable and each has it's own drawstring for cinching and snugging. The neck baffle and the outside zipper of the bag both have velcro flaps to secure them in place. On nights I had to cinch the bag all the way down, getting to the drawstrings and velcro from inside the bag was not a problem (luckily I don't (usually) wake up to nature calls during the night, so I can't speak for hasty, disoriented escapes mid-slumber).
WHAT'S JUST OKAY
THE PACKABILITY | Maybe people venturing into Himalayan winter conditions typically have more gear and larger packs (or even porters), but my solo adventure out of my Osprey Exos 58 almost required a change of plans when the Mountain Hardwear Wraith showed up. I quickly realized that a -20 °F / -29 °C sleeping bag is no joke, and that my 13L dry sack was not going to cut it. I used the compression sack that came with the Wraith, which isn't my favorite (it's not a dry sack, for one), but it still gets the job done. The bag is very compressible, and despite thinking “there's no way this thing is going in that stuff sack”, I had no problems after the first few attempts at said sorcery.
THE WEIGHT | I am by no means a hardcore ultralight hiker, but I do enjoy keeping my pack weight down and traveling with as little as possible. I've now learned that winter expeditions make this a bit more difficult. Obviously you are not going to find a winter bag that weighs under two pounds / one kilo, but the Wraith is a bit on the heavier side (4 lb 6 oz / 1.99 kg) when compared to other -20 °F / -29 °C down sleeping bags. I don't know whether this can be attributed to the waterproof shell or simply a difference in design; regardless, I can't complain. This bag performed well enough to justify the little extra weight.
THE ZIPPER | The zipper on this thing is no joke. It's designed to be used with gloves, and it really feels solid whilst zipping and unzipping. However, I did manage to get it snagged quite often on the inside of the bag – even when I was trying to be careful (go slowly!). Despite this frustration (which I have experienced with every bag I've owned), it was always simple to unsnang and carry on with the (un)zipping process – never did I encounter a truly ensnared zipper (with the Wraith, that is).
WHAT WE NO LIKE
THE PRICE | Who knew that sleeping outdoors on the ground could be such an expensive hobby? On that note, who knew that this could possibly be a hobby? Mountain Hardwear's Wraith retails for $900 US. It's not the most expensive of the winter bags, but it isn't the cheapest either. But do you really want to pay bottom-dollar when you're shopping for something that is literally designed to keep you alive? Either way, it's still expensive.
THE COLOR | Sure, the color isn't anything to gripe over, especially when this is such an amazing cocoon of feathers, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't a just a little hurt by the discrepancy between what's pictured on Mountain Hardwear's website and what shows up at your door. The sleeping bag is pictured to be bright yellow (called Solarize) and for whatever reason, I was excited for this (maybe because I've always wanted to be a giant banana). However, the bag I received (and I don't know if this is the case for every Wraith or if I am special) turned out to be more of a dulled, bright orange. Definitely not Solarize.
My trek to Everest Base Camp was my first in cold weather, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't worried about freezing to death during the night (because waking up and having to hike through the night to keep from freezing is not something I ever hope to do).
The Mountain Hardwear Wraith did its job. I would happily use this bag on another expedition, and would hope that it will be many years before it need be replaced.
Check out the Wraith here.