Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Warm, very comfortable, high quality materials.
Cons: 15 degree rating is slightly optimistic.
Best Uses: Backpacking and climbing in cold and wet conditions.
Manufacturer: Mountain Hardwear
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. This is our top choice for extended trips in wet conditions where everything else is cold and miserable.
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 the bags compare to the others tested. If saving weight is a top priority see the Ultralight Sleeping Bag Review.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Note: this bag was updated in 2013 and now includes, among other things, a full-length zipper. Keep this in mind when reading the user reviews at the bottom of this page.
The Mountain Hardwear Ultralamina 15 is our highest rated synthetic sleeping bag. This high performance cocoon is filled with Thermic Micro fibers, a high performans 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 like the heavy, suffocating feeling of most other synthetic bags.
The primary factor enabling the Ultralamina'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 particulalry well suited to unprotected alpine bivis.
Credit: Mountain Hardwear
Most sleeping bags with dual zippers are uncomfortable when the hood is fully cinched. Fortunately, Mountain Hardwear did an excellent job at addressing this problem with the Ultralamina. There are three good characteristics about the hood area: one, the bag has differentiated pull cords (one round, one flat) so you can tell what your'e tightening by feel not sight; two, an elasticized draft collar let's you reach outside the bag without loosening the pullcord; and three, 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. Overall, the Ultralamina 15 is the warmest, most compressible, and second most comfortable three-season synthetic sleeping bag we reviewed.
Synthetic insulation is neither as compact, as light, nor as durable as down. Our testers only use synthetic bags for extended trips where there's a high probability that the bag will get significantly wet, or that our bodies and clothing will be soaking wet and unable to dry off before we get into a sleeping bag. We use down bags for >90% of trips.
Although synthetic insulated bags are typically marketed as less expensive alternatives to down bags we've learned, by testing nearly seventy sleeping bags off all types and styles, that down bags are better and cheaper than best synthetic bags. We believe the only reason to get a synthetic bag is for its increased performance when the insulation is wet. See our Backpacking Sleeping Bag Review for a general overview and consider, specifically, the Kelty Cosmic Down 20 or the Enlightened Equipment Revelation.
The Ultralamina has one annoying drawback to its dual zipper design: the front (elasticized) pull cord could use a better cinching mechanism. As is, the cord can only be tightened by jamming it between one of several small notches in a round plastic device (see photos). While this is lighter than a traditional cincher, its considerably less functional; we found that the cord loosens over time or pops loose all at once. Although this isnt a serious drawback, wed prefer to have a fully functional traditional style cincher.
Another nuisance: As with most Mountain Hardwear bags, the zippers are extremely prone to snagging. They use two thin grosgrain strips that help to insulate the zipper. This is a feature commonly found on -25 to -40 degree expedition winter bags. Mountain Hardwear chooses to use it on their three-season bags as well. Convenience or warmth? Although we don't like how the zipper snags we do value a warm bag and this feature helps to increase warmth.
The Ultralamina 15 is built for cold wet weather. Its best for unprotected alpine bivis or extended trips that span multiple climates.
The Ultralamina is an excellent value for its performance.
The Ultralamina is available in a zero degree version and a womens cut in the Mountain Hardwear Ultralamina 15 - Women's. It also comes in a long version. We highly recommend getting the warmer version for extended trips in really wet conditions.
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: March 13, 2013
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