2012-06-23

Review: Feathered Friends Lark Sleeping Bag

Feathered Friends 10F Lark Sleepingbag

Advertised specs

  • Weight: 2lb 3oz
  • Rated temp: 10F
  • Cost: $499.0

Back Story

In 2008 I'd just moved to CA and after a trip to the desert in a 20F rated REI sub-kilo I decided I wanted a warmer sleepingbag, knowing I'd want to explore the high Sierra. I got a Feathered Friends Lark sleepingbag. I got a custom 5'6" bag (they come in 4" increments, I'm 5'6"). Full-length zipper, epic for the shell, pertex for the inner layer. I had intended to get a half-zipper and eVent shell, but the salesman talked me out of both on the phone. I'm still not sure about the shell, but I'm *really* glad I got the full zipper.

I used it for a while and loved it so much that when Jess and I started dating in 2009 I talked her into getting one. I payed for half of it as a gift. She went to the actual store in Seattle and they spent the time to make sure her 6' bag would zip to my 5'6". After a couple of other trips that year we carried them on the AT. I carried mine for all 1500 miles I did and Jess for her 1000. CIMG0463

I'm writing this because I finally gave up the poor beaten bag as it's lost too much loft. I recently got a down quilt that so far I'm in love with. This seemed like the perfect time to write a review of my old trusty sleepingbag

Things We've done to our bags

  • In 2009, a while before the AT I decided to go up into Humboldt Toyobe wilderness. The second night I was at ~9600ft, and the temperature plummeted. I slept behind a giant boulder to break the wind and the venturies behind it were still enough that if I rolled off my pad it would blow away. I didn't use a tent. I was a bit on the cool side until I remembered the bag had a neck baffle, I fell asleep staring at the beautiful stars, otherwise naked in the bag.

    The next morning I woke up and the ground had grown crystals up, it was rock hard. The lake had frozen over. This means it was no warmer than ~20F that night. I was perfectly comfy.

  • On a trip to silver-peak wilderness I camped on a ridgeline one night near the ocean. I didn't yet know this was a bad idea. The fog blew over me FAST the whole night. It was a pretty cold and uncomfortable night, but I was okay. When I got up in the morning I went to pack my sleepingbag and I literally rung water out of it. I packed it anyway not having much choice.

    Later that day I stopped in a field in the sun and lay it out to dry for a while. I unzipped it all the way and spread it out. As it got towards evening I zipped it up and crawled in. By the time I went to sleep it was just damp, and by morning it was basically dry and fluffy again.

  • In 2010 we decided to go snowcaving . The temperatures dropped to 7 outside that night. I soaked my bag by accident with my tights. THIS night I slept in a lot of extra clothing (tights and jacket), due to exhaustion and soaking the bag.
  • We carried these bags for the whole time we were on the AT, despite them being "warmer than needed" we were *extremely* happy we had them when in the smokies.
  • In 2010 in Yosemite I had gotten soaked due to a failed raincoat experiment. Jess barely got a fire started to cook dinner. I was going hypothermic and had soaked my vest. I crawled into my bag, and after a bit of shivering was just fine.
  • A couple other snowshoe trips. Trips with heavy dew. Jess got her bag damp many many nights on the AT as she would slide out of the tarp while sleeping. 9 days of rain in the Smokies near freezing. 5 days of rain just crossing freezing at night with my parents in the whites. etc. With all of that I've always been fine, the snowcaving trip was the only time I needed clothing with it.

Discovered properties

  • Jess and I both put off a fair amount of heat while sleeping, we can dry these bags after a normal natural soaking (I.E. not a full long-duration dunking) in 1 day in the sun, and 1 night sleeping.
  • The 5'6" model fits in a 3 liter eVent drysack (my favorite sacks), if you're a bit talented.
  • The 6' model needs the larger 6 liter compression sack.
  • I've slept in this bag ~10F with no additional clothing. New, I'd trust it to 0F. This is in contrast to an REI sub-kilo 20F, which I'd be confident with down to ~25F.
  • It depends on the person how much it loses loft as it ages. My sweat is very caustic. I wear out a set of sheets in ~1 year, but now (2012) my bag is relegated to being a 30F bag. Washing only helps it a little for me. Jess' bag is still going strong. With a washing it returns almost to new condition each time. We've been following the manufacturers recommendations including mostly their soap, it does seem not all soaps are created equal. Jess' washed her bag twice, mine has been washed maybe 4 times or so.
  • Jess' bag formed one hole in it in it's whole lifetime. This was due to a hot ember, not a flaw. Remember that we (especially Jess) often sleep directly on the ground and are generally pretty hard on gear. She stitched it up no problems.
  • The baffles are circular. When the bag is new this doesn't matter, but when the down is less fluffy then optimal, you'll find yourself shifting the down around on a cold night. It also slows down drying more if the down starts clumping, since it makes bigger clumps. Personally I do NOT see this as a feature, and other things being equal would prefer a full box baffle.
  • In practice we don't zip them together. Jess sleeps curled up. We tried zipping them together a couple of times and it didn't go well :P.
  • A full zipper is really really nice, as it can reduce drying times and allows it to work better as a quilt.
  • Simple neck baffles are the bomb.
  • It will shed light dew relatively well, but only light dew.
  • The grey color disappears in a field (great for stealthing).

So, what do we think?

Is it expensive? Yes. Is it worth it? That depends. Note my temperature commentary above (good too 0F for me). Now look at the weight of the bag at the top. Now try and name another bag that can do that temperature in < 1 KG and 3 liters. THAT is what this bag is for.

I figure the single piece of gear most likely to save my life is my sleepingbag. For me the weight and volume means there's rarely a reason not to carry this bag. I don't worry where I'm going or what I'm doing. 12,000ft on whitney? used it. A weekend with a tiny little daypack in mendocino? Yup, used it there too.

If that's worth paying double the price of some other bags to you? That's the decision. This is a great bag. It's well made, and absolutely is as warm as advertised. You're getting at least what you think you're paying for. Jess thinks it's like sleeping in a cloud, so there's always that too :). If you don't need it though, there's numerous cheaper solutions.

There are of course other options in this category as well. This is the 3'rd decent sleeping-bag I've owned. All have been down. I've heard great things about several other brands, and so far I'm loving my new overstuffed 10F down quilt. YMMV as always.

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