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Hands-on Gear Review
Feathered Friends Spoonbill UL Review
Cons: Top hood cinch can dig into your face when tightened.
Feathered Friends has some of the most comprehensive and most innovative line of sleeping bags in the world. The Spoonbill is the best of the bunch, arguably their finest bag, and, without a doubt, our testers' favorite. However, ordering it is not very convenient, since it is not available from major retailers, and only directly from the small manufacturer in Seattle. But, if you can get past the idea of waiting for the sleeping bag, you won't be disappointed.
The Spoonbill was inspired by Colin Haley and designed and refined by a team of people over 8 years. This double bag is as warm as a -25 degree expedition bag but as light as most single person 0 degree bags. It uses the best fabric and down available and keeps two people fantastically warm despite frigid temperatures.
Check out our complete Winter Sleeping Bag Review to compare other models tested.
RELATED: Our complete review of winter sleeping bags
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
The Spoonbill is available in two versions:
The Spoonbill is a giant expedition style down quilt enclosed with a footbox and thin fabric on the bottom. The key feature that makes it so successful as a winter bag is the hood design. Each person has their own adjustable hood and adjustable neck baffle. Tricky patterning makes it so that when one person adjusts one side the other person is not strangled to death by drawcords and such. Each side has a half-length zipper insulated with a draft tube. Put the bag on top of two sleeping pads.
Warmth depends, to some extent, on who you share the bag with. If your adventure partner has an average BTU output the Spoonbill will likely be toasty below zero degrees Fahrenheit while wearing baselayers. If your adventure partner cranks out BTUs like a furnace and/or you wear insulated jacket or pants, the bag will carry through into much lower temperatures. This is the bag of choice for fast and light ascents of big mountains.
The absence of insulation on the bottom of the bag makes it very important to have two warm sleeping pads of equal height. We highly recommend the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XThem. As with any bag, sleeping on snow with two closed cell pads, like the Therm-a-Rest ZLite SOL, results in a significant loss of heat to the ground.
We have found the Spoonbill to be too warm for most three-season applications. It's possible to unzip the sides and not use the hoods, but your feet can roast like a turkey in the unventilated bottom. Our favorite three-season double bag is the ZPacks Twin Quilt, which is much lighter than the Spoonbill, much better for snuggling with your honey (because there's no center draft collar), and can carry-over into light duty winter trips, too. For backpacking our testers much prefer the ZPacks Twin Quilt.
Weight and Packed Size
The bag weighs 41 oz. on our scale and packs to the size of a zero degree down bag.
In comparison, a very light traditional style three-season bag weighs around 25 ounces, more than half the Spoonbill's weight. All of the 15-degree synthetic sleeping bags we've tested weigh more than the Spoonbill. Many zero degree sleeping bags weigh as much or more than the Spoonbill. Thus, this little gem delivers winter expedition level warmth in a three-season package. Absolutely PHENOMENAL warmth to weight ratio.
The bag is wide enough so that two people do not need to spoon. However, facing the same direction, and turning over when the other person does, is often the warmest and most comfortable way to sleep in the bag. Therefore, the more comfortable you feel around the person you're sharing the bag with the better.
The Spoonbill's largest drawback, and it's a small one, lies with the design of the top hood drawcord. When tightened, this digs sharply into your face and nose. Many sleeping bags with more comfortable hoods use a small tube of down below the drawcord for cushion. We've noticed that this is a drawback common to many Feathered Friends sleeping bags. Their hoods are never as comfortable as bags like the Marmot Plasma 15 and Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15, which pad the top drawcord well. Though not a major drawback, the Spoonbill's hood could be considerably more comfortable when fully cinched.
Besides a few initial trips in warmer temperatures, our testers only use the bag below freezing. We've heard of people using the bag for three-season backpacking, and that makes sense if you own two heavy traditional bags (not ultralight sleeping bags), but we feel the bag is best for winter use. Again, we prefer the ZPacks Twin Quilt for three-season applications.
Fast and light winter trips, high-altitude mountaineering.
Some 15-degree sleeping bags cost $500. Many top-tier single person -25 degree bag cost around or over $700. If you primarily venture into cold temps with another person this Spoonbill could be the only bag you need. We believe it is a fantastic value.
How to Get It
Feathered Friends bags are not sold by large commercial or online retailers.
Shop online at http://featheredfriends.com/.
— Chris McNamara
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: August 1, 2013
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