Friday, December 26, 2008

Exped Wallcreeper 2006

Expedition Paddle Gear Review - Exped Wallcreeper 200623oF, Goose Down 90/10 700 fill spring/fall sleeping bag

Picture courtesy Exped

Most camping paddlers tend to avoid down sleeping bags because of the tendency of down to absorb water and paddling tends to be a wet activity. Down looses it's insulation properties when it gets wet. I have experienced my own horror of a wet down sleeping bag and have heard many others as well.

Synthetic sleeping bags don't absorb much water and when damp, they still provide some insulation and dry faster than down.

The problem with synthetic bags is they take up more than twice as much space in the kayak hatch, too much space to consider anything warmer than a 45 degree F USA rated summer bag on a long expedition.

I had always been a big fan of the concept of the down bags with waterproof breathable shells, like the Exped WB series that I had mentioned in an earlier post.
The problem is, these waterproof breathable down bags are out of my price range and often don't breath well so condensation can be a problem. Besides, how waterproof does your sleeping bag need to be when used in a tent? You just need a bag that repels any water that should happen to splash on it in extremely wet conditions. A well designed tent should keep the splash to a minimum.

After spending a couple of cold autumn and spring nights in my summer synthetic sleeping bag, I decided that I had to save up and get something warmer that would not take up much room in a kayak hatch.

One bag that caught my attention was the Exped Wallcreeper series. This design seems about perfect for me and the type camping I do, in particular the 23 degree 700 goose down version should cover me for all the three season camping that I do.

Most people think the design gimmicky, weird looking and a bit silly. I think it is a great multi-use design and I found a place that had the 2006 models on sale so I snapped one up at a very good price:

This place is a good source for quality camping gear as they are are a no-hype company and publish their own honest reviews and details of the gear they sell. They carry good gear for serious outdoors people.

What this Wallcreeper apart from other sleeping bags:
1) Water Blocking breathable Pertex Quantum shell - Pertex Quantum is not as waterproof as Gortex, EVent or other waterproof breathable materials, but is more breathable, so helps keep condensation from reducing the insulation factor. It is also soft, very light, durable, airs out better and should be more comfortable in warmer weather.
Pertex Quantum is a popular material for top of the line ultralight sleeping bags, sports windshirts and jackets. It is highly breathable, light weight and repels a light rain.

2) Converts into a rectangular comforter - Means you only need to carry one bag for two people in the summer and sometimes a comforter is all a solo paddler needs.

3) Converts into a warm sleeveless jacket/vest with hood and hand warmer pockets - This means that you don't have to get out of your sleeping bag when you leave the tent for a pee or on cold mornings to make breakfast.
It's also a warm addition on cold nights before you go to bed. Reduces pack size by substituting as a thick down hooded vest when needed.

4) The big storage bag that it comes with is made of light no-see-em mesh - use the storage bag as a bug shelter with or without a tarp, when you really want to cut down on your weight and don't need a tent.

5) It has very good/warm draft tubes and hood. Keeps cold out very well on the neck, sleeve zippers and head. No drafts and that is important when the temperature drops.
Some have complained that there is a slight draft at the foot opening, but I find no issue when the foot opening is tied properly.

My short term tests

I consider it warm down to 30 degrees F, (-1 degree C), warm enough for most three season trips.
On a very windy low 20's night I started to feel a bit cold, but not shivering, but I woke up a few times. I am sort of a warm sleeper. I would compare it to a good USA 30 degree F rating.

I don't do much winter camping, but when I camped in my secret NYC camping spot in December, I combined it with another bag. I used it layered with a light and inexpensive down hood-less Campmor sleeping bag. This allowed me to sleep warm to below 20 degrees F and I'm sure would have been fine down to 0 degree F or lower.

I'm sure the newer model Wallcreepers are even better in some ways, but probably more expensive.


Silbs said...

My experience has been that when compressed into the small bag that comes with them, synthetic bags take up far less room. Once out of the bag they take on air and expand to their full size.

kayakbrooklyn said...

Thanks Silbs

I'm not an expert, but I do follow the backpacker forums a lot. And there are lots of articles about these issues.

There hasn't yet been invented a synthetic beg that can compete warmth to compression size with a down bag. It would be great if one existed.

Another thing to consider is that synthetic bags don't handle heavy compression as well as down and tend to not recover as well after each compression.
You actually loose more insulation factor over time with the synthectics than you do with down.

So down bags last longer if you pack them a lot.