Gear Guy

Why aren’t there any high quality sleeping bags designed specifically for women?

I've been looking for a zero- or minus five-degree sleeping bag for use in early spring, but found that nobody makes any quality down bags for women. What's up with that? All Western Mountaineering bags are huge, while Feathered Friends makes only two women-specific bags, but they're rated only for 10 and 20 degrees. I just wonder, does the outdoor industry think that every outdoorsperson is some huge guy with wide shoulders and skinny hips? That has got to change! Anyways, for the problem at hand: I'm five-foot-six and on the lean side. What's a quality down bag that won't require me to expend extra energy in order to heat up excess room inside the bag? Jennifer San Diego, California

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Sleeping bag makers are slowly coming around to the idea that women need their own style of bag, but it’s not a fast evolution. To some extent I see why—sleeping bags have such a basic shape that reconfiguring it for women will add production costs without a huge benefit. Still, it’s also true that a women-specific bag can be created. It should be cut a little narrower at the shoulder and wider at the hips, with maybe more insulation around the torso and feet. As a general rule, I think women should buy a warmer bag than a man for the same climate. In theory, most women don’t sleep as warmly as men, largely due to their lower muscle mass.
Anyway, pretty much the leader in women’s sleeping bags is Sierra Designs. Their Synthesis ($299) is a zero-degree women’s bag that uses good 600-fill insulation. For more dough, the Katie Crux ($475) uses 775-fill down and has a zip-off top, so you can adjust it for different temperature conditions. And, although it’s a men’s bag, you might look at the Marmot Aguille ($499), a high-quality bag that’s rated to minus five yet has a very slim cut.

You also could call Feathered Friends, tell them you want the Petrel (the ten-degree women’s bag they make—it’s $370) but want it over-filled for more warmth. They can do it for you, I know.

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