Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $314
Pros: Efficient cut, passive draft collar, available in three other cuts, two fabrics options, multiple color choices.
Cons: Best for summer, other hooded bags are warmer for weight.
Best Uses: Ultralight everything.
The Feathered Friends Merlin is the highest performance summer weight traditional style sleeping bag we've reviewed. However, ordering it is not very convenient, since it is not available from major retailers, and only directly from the small manufacturer in Seattle (often custom-made, involving long delays in delivery). But, if you can get past the idea of ordering a custom-made bag, you won't be disappointed. You can choose from one of four different cuts, two fabric options, a variety of colors, and either 850 or 900-fill down. The ability to customize the bag to your needs and body type is a tremendous advantage over bags that let you choose from several fit options.
We've found that quilt style bags are lighter, warmer for their weight, and more versatile than bags with hoods and zippers. Check out our Ultralight Sleeping Bag Reviewfor details.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Feathered Friends gives you the option of getting the Merlin in either a top quality 850-fill down with a Schoeller Nano fabric or the best possible 900-fill down with a slightly better Pertex Endurance UL fabric. We tested the Nano, taking it all throughout the High Sierra, climbing up to 13k ft., and hiking the length of the John Muir Trail. The bag is excellent.
We found that the Merlin is slightly warmer than most other bags tested in this review and roughly as warm as the Marmot Plasma. This is nice for people who sleep cold or those looking for a warmer summer bag to use in colder temperatures. The Merlin is the only bag tested here with a passive draft collar, which hangs down around the front of your neck. Unlike, full collars on most three-season bags (and the Marmot Plasma 30 and Rab Neutrino 200), a passive collar is considerably lighter yet almost as effective at sealing out cold air.
Like most Feathered Friends sleeping bags, the Merlin is available in four different cuts that allow you to get the best bag for your body type. Fit matters a lot. From narrowest to widest you can choose from the Merlin, Osprey, Kestrel, and the Grouse is the women's cut. Through using over thirty different sleeping bags from various manufacturers we've found that the right cut for your body type makes a huge difference in how efficient the bag is. Bags that are too large will have drafty dead air space. Those that are too small won't allow the down to properly loft.
We've found that quilt style bags are warmer for their weight, lighter, and more versatile than bags with hoods and zippers. Visit our Backpacking Sleeping Bag Review for more info.
After about twenty days of use the Merlin's zipper pull cord came undone. You can easily fix this or rig up your own cord, but a more reliable pull cord from Feathered Friends would be nice.
All Feathered Friends bags are handmade in Seattle, WA. They have some bags ready to ship, others party constructed, and can also build you one to order. Plan to wait one to four weeks for a bag. This could be a potential drawback for people who need something within a short timeframe. Their bags are not available from major online retailers, are rarely in retail shops, and we've found it to be difficult to order a sleeping bag through their website. This is problematic because it would be great to try on a few of their bags before purchasing one. The best option, therefore, is to call them (1-888-308-9365) to discuss what you're planning to do with the bag, your body type, and another other considerations. Feathered Friends' customer service is exceptionally knowledgeable.
This is a good buy for the type of bag. The problem is other types of bags perform much better in three-season conditions. See the Ultralight Sleeping Bag Review to compare top-tier bags that prioritize weight savings.
How to Get It
Feathered Friends bags are not sold by major commercial or online retailers.
Shop online at http://featheredfriends.com/
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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Most recent review: November 17, 2012
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