Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $525 | Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros: Excellent loft, No catch zipper, Warm, Comfortable, Lightweight
Cons: Expensive, Warm for mid-summer use, Weak velcro closure at draft collar
Best Uses: Shoulder season backpacking and mountaineering, Summer use at mid and high elevations, For people who sleep in a sleeping bag more than their bed (ie: guides and outdoor educators)
Western Mountaineering is a small, California based company that is known for manufacturing high quality down sleeping bags and garments. Their sleeping bags are made here in the USA and span the range from super-light summer backpacking bags to the loftiest, warmest winter bags. With over 30 different down sleeping bags to choose from, it is relatively easy to find the cut, length, and temperature rating that you need for your next adventure.
Our Backpacking Sleeping Bag review has included 5 Western Mountaineering bags, and they consistently rate high with testers. One of the newest bags in our review is the Western Mountaineering Alpinlite which has been awarded our Editors' Choice Award for overall quality and high performance.
This bag is a slightly wider version of the previously reviewed and well respected Western Mountaineering Ultralite. The wider cut of the Alpinlite makes it more suitable for wider shoulders and those who are willing to sacrifice a few ounces for a more comfortable fit. It features a respectable 5" of loft and continuous baffles to shift down around in order to suit the conditions. The bag is compressible and lightweight thanks to high quality down and excellent exterior fabric. Western Mountaineering bags have great no-catch zippers that are reliable and easy to slide. Overall, this bag is an excellent choice for the not quite ultra-light backpackers and climbers looking for a high quality, made in the USA, down sleeping bag for three-season use in the mountains.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Testers agree that the Western Mountaineering Alpinlite is a great sleeping bag for weight conscious, but not quite ultra-light backpackers and climbers who want a comfortable and versatile three-season down sleeping bag.
Warmth is primarily determined by the amount of loft and the fit of a sleeping bag. The Alpinlite is rated for 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but testers agreed that this felt a bit conservative. In near freezing temperatures above 11,000', the bag was cozy without the draft collar or hood cinched down. In warmer, sub-alpine terrain, the bag could be unzipped a little bit for a more comfortable sleep.
Testers who used this bag were narrow shouldered and generally found this bag to be roomy but comfortable thanks to the extra space around the upper body. Surprisingly, this did not drastically affect the perceived warmth when used in temperatures above its advertised 20 degree rating.
We feel that this bag is best suited for cooler mountain environments and will remain warm when used in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall.
It weighs two pounds in the 6'0" option, which is a very respectable weight for a bag as warm as it is. It features top quality Extremelite fabric on the top and bottom of the sleeping bag. This fabric weighs less than 1 oz. per square yard and is very compressible. The lightweight fabric makes this bag slightly more fragile than heavier bags with more durable fabrics, so take care! Western Mountaineering uses 850+ fill down which allows them to fill the down chambers to keep you warm and keep the weight down. Western Mountaineering bags are simply functional by design. They are fairly traditional mummy style sleeping bags that use high quality materials and limit features to the just highly functional in order to save weight.
With 5 inches of loft, this bag is like sleeping wrapped in a three-season cloud. It has just enough down to keep you warm at high mountain campsites and continuous horizontal baffles to allow you to shift down around to make warmer nights more comfortable. The extra shoulder girth allows for a better fit for bigger people, and allows narrow shoulders to move more freely and layer up for colder late season conditions. A two pound or less sleeping bag is a reasonable goal for weight conscious backpackers who want to carry a lighter pack on extended trips or demanding terrain.
5 inches of loft looks like a lot to pack away when this bag is laid out on your sleeping pad. 850+ fill down and superlight materials make the Alpinlite a much smaller package than you would expect when stuffed into the right compression sack.
The continuous horizontal baffles on this bag make for an easy to use thermostat. The down chambers encircle the sleeping bag from zipper to zipper allowing the user to shift down toward the top of the bag for cold nights and shift the material beneath the bag for warm nights. By opening the bag and laying it flat, you can press down and run your hands in the desired direction, pushing insulation to where you need it more.
The Alpinlite features a reverse differential hood which is very comfortable. This refers to the fabric on the inside of the sleeping bag being larger than the shell fabric. The hood can cover your head comfortably without needing to cinch it too tight. Tightening the hood on some sleeping bags is uncomfortable and can be claustrophobic for some people.
The one inch stiffening tape that Western Mountaineering uses on both sides of their zippers aids in easy, snag free exits from the bag at night when nature calls.
Western Mountaineering should consider a different method for closing the draft collar and the hood of the sleeping bag. Both closures are small pieces of velcro that are hard to spot and operate, and come open very easily during the night. Particularly on the draft collar, this allows some cold air to enter the bag.
The Extremelite fabric that Western Mountaineering uses on high-end sleeping bags weighs less than 1 oz. per square yard. The ultra-fine yarns that make up this fabric are very soft and are ultra-compressible.
Simple, functional extra features and high quality materials make this an exceptional three-season sleeping bag and help keep the weight down.
A three-season sleeping bag should be versatile by definition. It can be your single go-to bag for adventures during most of the year in a variety of environments. The Alpinlite shines as a prime example of that desire for a do-it-all sleeping bag. It is light enough to be part of a weight conscious backpacking kit, comfortable enough for long trips and long seasons sleeping in a sleeping bag most of the time, and warm enough to be used in the shoulder seasons without concern. Layer up in this bag and it can handle late fall and mild-winter conditions.
This is an excellent three-season sleeping bag, which is best suited for summer backpacking in the mountains and shoulder season backpacking and mountaineering trips. Weight conscious backpackers will appreciate that it weighs in at two pounds or less and being highly compressible. It is warmer than its 20 degree rating and its slightly wider shoulder cut will accommodate wider shoulders and extra clothing layers for the shorter days and falling temperatures of late fall trips in the mountains. This bag is a comfortable choice for people who sleep in a sleeping bag more often their own bed (ie: guides, outdoor educators) who need one bag to handle the entirety of a busy summer season.
High quality down sleeping bags have a long lifespan if they are well taken care of. Down maintains it's insulative qualities after years of compressing and unstuffing over and over while out on the trail. Good three-season bags like this one are especially valuable because you can have one bag that can be used on a variety of trips, across different seasons and in different environments.
Price is always a factor, no matter the purchase. At $500+ for a Western Mountaineering Alpinlite, the high price is definitely a concern. Sleeping bags are big investments gear-wise, and finding bang for your buck is really important. If you spend a lot of time in a sleeping bag, or have the money to invest in a single three-season sleeping bag to keep you warm most of the year, we think it is worth it to spend the extra money. This bag will give you plenty of use and life for the money.
The Western Mountaineering Alpinlite takes our Editors' Choice award for being a comfortable, light-weight and versatile three-season sleeping bag. This bag is right at home at mid to high elevations during the summer and will excel on shoulder season backpacking and mountaineering trips. We like that the sleeping bags from Western Mountaineering are made in the USA and they continue to pay attention to important design details. These bags are expensive but worth the extra money for the performance they provide and the fact that high quality down products can last a long time with ongoing care for them.
The Alpinlite is available in three sizes: 5'6", 6'0", and 6'6": Alpinlite 5'6 and Alpinlite 6'6. The Western Mountaineering Ultralite is a narrower version (59" shoulder girth) of the Alpinlite (64" shoulder girth) that weighs 2 oz. less (6'0").
— Mike Phillips
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Most recent review: August 24, 2014
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