Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Lightweight for synthetic sleeping bag, Soft insulation, Warm when conditions are wet, Comfortable for synthetic sleeping bag
Cons: Heavier than down, Does not compress well like down
Best Uses: Three season backpacking in wet conditions, Extended trips in wet conditions, Outdoor Education Programs
Extended trips in wet climates, big wall climbers, and NOLS and Outward Bound students can't beat the warm-when-wet performance of the Mountain Hardwear Ultralamina. It retains its loft and insulating properties even when you're soaking wet and offers several features that set it apart from the synthetic competition: a small hood opening and full neck baffle to seal in warm air. Unique laminated construction saves weight and increases warmth and weather resistance. Our testers have spent months inside the this bag in Patagonia. There's no other bag we'd rather have when everything else is damp and miserable.
The Mountain Hardwear Ultralamina 15 is our highest rated synthetic sleeping bag. It earns high marks because it's built with high quality materials and constructed in an efficient and innovative way. It is lighter and more comfortable than other synthetic sleeping bags.
For wet trips in warmer weather we prefer the Enlightened Equipment Prodigy because it's 12 ounces lighter and nearly as warm. Check out our full Backpacking Sleeping Bag Review to see how synthetic bags compare to their down counterparts tested. If saving weight is a top priority, consider a down backpacking sleeping bag and if you really need to go light, see the Ultralight Sleeping Bag Review.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Mountain Hardwear Ultralamina 15 is our highest rated synthetic sleeping bag. This high performance cocoon is filled with Thermal.Q fibers, a quality synthetic insulation, and uses a lightweight ripstop nylon shell fabric. These materials are soft and silky, and the insulation is light and feels more like down than the heavy, suffocating feeling of other synthetic bags.
The primary factor enabling this bag's high warmth-to-weight ratio is its unique laminated construction. This method uses an adhesive to bind the insulation and shell material. The result is a flat, stitch-free seam that's lighter, warmer, and more water-resistant than traditional construction. It's more water resistant because there are no holes for water to permeate; it's lighter because there are no seams; and its warmer because the insulation isn't pinched at the seams (see illustration below). This construction makes it particularly well suited to unprotected alpine bivis.
Credit: Mountain Hardwear<br>
At 43 oz.(size reg.) this bag is comparable in weight to some of the down sleeping bags in our review. Although not super light, it comes with the insurance that if your bag is wet, you will stay warm. A wet down sleeping bag will lose its loft entirely and will not keep you warm at all.
The lightweight nature of the insulation in this bag makes it more comfortable than comparable synthetic bags like the North Face Cats Meow. Synthetic insulation is not as light and luxurious as down and can feel a bit smothering.
The Ultralamina has a comfortable hood. There are three good characteristics about the hood area. First, the bag has differentiated pull cords (one round, one flat) so you can tell what you're tightening by feel in the dark, not sight. Secondly, an elasticized draft collar let's you reach outside the bag without loosening the pull-cord. Lastly, like most Mountain Hardwear bags, the hood is compact and only needs to be tightened in temperatures near the bag's limit. These three attributes make the hood area more comfortable than most other sleeping bags.
The draft collar in this bag detracts from the comfort of the bag. The cinching cord for the draft collar is positioned below the collar itself. When tightened, it lessens the circumference of the entire bag. This tightens the fit around the shoulders especially. The draft collar has no closure (velcro or snaps) but the puzzle piece like shape of it fits well around your neck and still keeps warm air in the bag.
The Ultralamina has a slightly relaxed fit, which is comfortable and allows extra space for layering clothing if you are a cold sleeper. The extra space in the bag will also allow you to throw damp clothes in the sleeping bag to try to dry them or just keep them warm overnight.
Synthetic insulation does not compress as much as down. This bag comes with a decent quality compression stuff sack that packs it down to a reasonable size to squeeze in your pack.
The laminated insulation construction keeps the bag light, more water resistant, and more wind resistant. The warm-when-wet nature of synthetic insulation can't be beat when things are cold, damp, and generally uncomfortable. We also like the ¾ length zipper for weight savings and comfort in the footbox of the bag.
Warm-when-wet synthetic insulation is hard to beat when you need it. This bag excels in wet conditions. Due to its lightweight construction and soft feel, the Ultralamina is an acceptable bag for general backpacking use if you prefer the security of knowing it will keep you warm if it happens to get stormy. The 15 F temperature rating makes this bag a good choice for three-season use, and it has a slightly relaxed fit, which allows you to add clothing layers if things get too cold.
The Ultralamina 15 is built for wet weather. Its best for unprotected alpine bivis or extended trips that span multiple climates. Because of its loft retaining properties, a high quality synthetic sleeping bag like this one is a good choice for outdoor education programs where guides take less experienced groups on extended trips. Beginning backpackers may not have developed the skills or tricks to keep their sleeping bag or themselves dry.
Although synthetic insulated bags are typically marketed as less expensive alternatives to down bags, we've learned by testing sleeping bags of all types and styles that down bags are more versatile and a better long term investment than even the best synthetic bags. The Marmot Sawtooth 15 is a warm bag that is comparably priced, weighs the same, and is filled with water resistant down. We believe the only reason to get a synthetic bag is for its increased performance when the insulation is wet.
That being said, for a high performance synthetic sleeping bag, the Mountain Hardwear Ultralamina is a great value for a reasonable price.
Overall, we consider the Ultralamina 15 to be one of the best synthetic sleeping bags available. It is comfortable, warm, and light for its category.
The synthetic insulation Ultralamina line from Mountain Hardwear spans the temperature range from 0F to 45F. All versions are available in regular and long sizes. The Mountain Hardwear Ultralaminina 32 won a top pick award from OutdoorGearLab. The Mountain Hardwear Ultralamina 0 is available for those seeking a warmer bag. Check out the Women's Backpacking Sleeping Bag Review to see how the synthetic sleeping bags compared in the women's review.
— Mike Phillips
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Most recent review: September 1, 2014
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