Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Very warm for its weight, highest quality down and materials, continuous horizontal baffles increase versatility.
Cons: Nearly a winter bag= heavy and possibly too warm for summer backpacking, relatively uncomfortable hood closure, weak neck baffle velcro can come undone easily, top quality fabric only on top.
Best Uses: 3+ season use
Manufacturer: Western Mountaineering
The Western Mountaineering Versalite is an exceptionally high quality all-purpose sleeping bag suitable for everything from summer backpacking to moderate winter adventures. This is one step warmer than the company's Ultralite and one step colder than the Antelope, both of which we've tested. The Versalite is ideal for below freezing temperatures and can be too warm (and too heavy) for summer trips. However, if you want one bag for a wide range of temperatures, this is among the best available.
The Versalite competes most directly with the Valandre Bloody Mary, which has a wider cut in the upper body to accommodate a down jacket. We believe the Versalite is a better choice for most people, and it's roughly 10 ounces lighter!
Though our testers love the Versalite, we've found that quilt style bags offer more versatility and more warmth for the same amount of weight. On trips that drop below freezing our testers usually opt for the Katabatic Gear Sawatch over the Versalite and some go one step warmer with a Winter Sleeping Bag. Check out our full Backpacking Sleeping Bag Review to compare all of the bags tested.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Versalite ties with the Valandre Bloody Mary as the warmest bag included in our backpacking sleeping bag review. This bag is toasty for three-season use and will keep even the coldest sleepers warm on frosty spring and fall nights at elevation. This ten degree bag is much warmer than the average ten degree bag we've tested. It uses the highest quality materials and best down available, and is constructed to Western Mountaineering's exacting standards. This a tried and true performer for cold sleepers and people who want one bag for all three-season and light winter conditions.
The Versalite has continuous horizontal baffles that allow you to move down from the top to the bottom of the bag, and vice versa. This increases versatility because it lets you sleep on (compress) unwanted down in warm conditions and shift most or all of the down to the top of the bag when the temps really drop. Continuous horizontal baffles are a common feature found on top-tier three season bags --Western Mountaineering's Ultralite, and all of Feathered Friends' 3-season bags have them, and the vast majority of the bags tested in our ultralight sleeping bag review.
The only design limitation to the Versalite is its neck baffle Velcro closure, which we've found comes undone easily. Other than that, the bag is exceptionally high quality.
At 32 ounces, it's on the heavy side for three-season camping. For most people, we believe that the additional warmth will be unnecessary in the vast majority of situations. However, if you sleep cold, this bag could be a great choice. For some people that want one bag for all three-season applications and light duty winter use, the extra warmth might make this the ideal do-it-all bag.
Several other top-tier bags encroach upon the Versalite's space. Most notable of the lot is the Katabatic Gear Sawatch, which is nearly as warm and 7 ounces lighter, and the Katabatic Gear Blackwelder, which is considerably warmer and only two ounces heavier. These two bags fall into our Ultralight Sleeping Bag Review, which houses all of the hoodless bags we've tested. If you prefer a hood attached to a bag then the Versalite can't be beaten. If you want to save a bit of weight and have the benefit of an adjustable girth consider an ultralight bag.
A minor drawback: the Ultralight only has Extemelite fabric (green) on the top of the bag, not the top and bottom. This fabric is very very good (possibly the best in the world for its type and weight) and we wish Western Mountaineering used it for the entire exterior shell-- doing so would increase durability and weather resistance. All other top-tier sleeping bags are constructed entirely or almost entirely of the same shell fabric.
The Western Mountaineering Highlite, $329, is a supremely lightweight, hyper compressible summer weight down sleeping bag made of top quality 850-fill down, while the Western Mountaineering Summerlite, $395, is the best and most lightweight summer weight traditional style sleeping bag we've tested that has a full-length zipper.
The Western Mountaineering Antelope MF, $575, wins our Best Buy Award, as it is a stellar high performance five-degree sleeping bag.
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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Most recent review: March 4, 2014
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