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Hands-on Gear Review

Feathered Friends Vireo Review

Top Pick Award
Price:   $309 List | $309.00 at Feathered Friends
Pros:  900 fill down, variable fill, compresses very small, weighs only 14-16 ounces
Cons:  Must be paired with warm jacket, feet can get hot in warmer weather, not as versatile as other ultralight bags
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Feathered Friends

Our Verdict

Our Top Pick for Alpine Climbing, the Feathered Friends Vireo is the most specialized ultralight bag in this review: it's a mummy-style half bag that is designed to be used with a very warm down parka in cold weather. While a true half bag, aka elephant foot, often ends just above the waist, the Vireo extends the fixed girth mummy design up to shoulder height but uses differential fill. From the waist down, this bag's loft is equivalent to 25F, but from the waist up (where it overlaps with your parka) the temperature rating is 45F. While the upper portion of the bag is sized generously enough to layer over your down parka, it can be layered underneath as well. With 3 lengths available, you can choose a size with either the length to go over your shoulders and cinch up around your neck over your parka for maximum warmth, or save a little weight and use the shorter option to cover you to armpit level, either over or under your parka.

The 62" version we tested in our updated review weighs in at 13.9 ounces! The longer 68" version we previously tested also weighed in at less than 16 ounces. We recommend the Top Pick Award winner Vireo to alpinists and cold weather adventurers who climb or hike with a very warm winter parka.

For the majority of ultralight backpackers and thru-hikers, we recommend a quilt for warmth and versatility. The closed footbox quilt Katabatic Gear Palisade 30, our Editors' Choice winner for ultralight sleeping bags, is simply the warmest and most comfortable option we tested. If you are more budget conscious, the Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20 fully-opening quilt is one of our top scoring models overall, and has a relatively modest price tag.

Product Update — February 2017
The Vireo bag has seen an update this year! Keep reading for more information.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Ultralight Sleeping Bags of 2017

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Score Product Price Style Nominal Rating Weight (bag only)
84
$460
Editors' Choice Award
Quilt - Closed Foot 30F 18.8 oz
81
$375
Hoodless Mummy 20F 17.2 oz
75
$250
Best Buy Award
Quilt - Fully Opening 20F 21.9 oz
74
$309
Top Pick Award
Mummy - 3/4 Length 45F/25F 13.9 oz
71
$350
Top Pick Award
Quilt - Closed Foot 45F 20.5 oz
70
$219
Quilt - Fully Opening 40F 14.8 oz
70
$390
Hooded Mummy 32F 18.3 oz
70
$339
Quilt - Fully Opening 40F 18.7 oz
65
$480
Hooded Mummy 32F 16 oz
64
$300
Quilt - Closed Foot 30F 28.5 oz

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Brandon Lampley
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Wednesday
February 1, 2017

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Product Update — February 2017


As of early 2017, the Vireo has a new type of down filling. The bag has the same look and is still available for $309. It is still offered in both orange and bright blue and in three different lengths: 62, 68, and 74 inches. Here's a summary of the update:
  • Down — The new standard for the Vireo is 950 fill power, RDS certified down, compared to the original bag's 850 fill down.

We haven't tested this bag with the new down just yet, so the rest of this review continues to reflect the original materials.

Hands-On Review


The Feathered Friends Vireo is a very warm and lightweight half bag that is designed to be paired with a winter down parka. Thanks to its short length and zipper-less design, this is the lightest bag in our updated ultralight review. Paired with a parka like the Feathered Friends Volant, our testers have been warm enough in temperatures around 0F. Our warmth rating for this review reflects the warmth achieved when the bag is used with common warm layers for three-season backpacking: a base layer plus synthetic insulated jacket with hood.

How to Get It
Feathered Friends bags are not sold by major commercial or online retailers.

Get the Vireo online at: FeatheredFriends.com/

Chad Kellog in the Feathered Friends Vireo sleeping bag in the Picket Range  Washington. Our Top Pick for Alpine Climbing is designed for use with warm upper layers and works well for sleeping sitting up.
Chad Kellog in the Feathered Friends Vireo sleeping bag in the Picket Range, Washington. Our Top Pick for Alpine Climbing is designed for use with warm upper layers and works well for sleeping sitting up.

Performance Comparison


Check out the Overall Performance chart shown below to see where the Vireo ranked against its competition in the ultralight sleeping bag category.



Warmth


Fast and light alpinists make every ounce count in the mountains, sleeping in every warm piece of clothing they brought along. Half bags like the Vireo adopt this approach by requiring a down jacket for cold weather use. Feathered Friends suggests using the Vireo with their fully baffled Feathered Friends Volant, but it will work well with any top quality winter parka. The Vireo insulates your legs and feet with the equivalent of 25 degrees of insulation and roughly 45 degrees of insulation in the upper body area. We have found the lower part of this bag impressively lofty relative to this claimed rating. The Vireo is cut trim in the legs for warmth, and wider in the upper body to allow a down parka to loft properly with the bag over top.


The Vireo is very warm for its weight. We have tested it with the Volant Parka and were "warm" enough down to round -10F. Keep in mind, alpinists like to suffer and "warm" is relative. (This was while wearing Smartwool Expedition socks, Patagonia Cap 4 bottom, Cap 3 top, and R1 Hoody.) Sleeping in a light base layer and a synthetic insulated jacket (the Rab Xenon X), we were warm enough to sleep well down to the mid 20s. This bag is a warm and comfortable ultralight tool for alpine assaults.

Weight & Packed Size


The 62" version we tested this year is the lightest product we tested. The longer version we previously tested also weighed in less than one pound. This bag also comes with a large cotton home storage sack.
The 62" version we tested this year is the lightest product we tested. The longer version we previously tested also weighed in less than one pound. This bag also comes with a large cotton home storage sack.

No doubt about it, this specialty half bag is very light. Our 62" test model tipped the digital scale at 13.9 ounces, making it the lightest product we reviewed this year. The 68" model we tested last go round weighs just a couple ounces more. Feathered Friends uses top notch lightweight fabric and down in this bag and eliminates most features: no zipper, no hang loops at the foot of the bag, nothing to add unnecessary weight.


This model's super light weight is largely due to the necessity to pair it with a burly warm parka for cold weather. The lightest ultralight quilt we reviewed is the Hammock Gear Burrow 40, one of two bags appropriate for warm weather use (nighttime temperatures of 40F and warmer). Although the Vireo and Hammock Gear Burrow are incredibly light, they both fall short when evaluating the warmth-to-weight ratio. The Katabatic Gear Palisade 30 and the ZPacks 20 Degree weigh 18.8 and 17.2 ounces respectively, and are the warmest ultralight bags we tested.

Versatility


Versatility is not one of the strong points of the Vireo. While we have used it for three-season backpacking, we would not purchase it specifically for backpacking. It definitely functions best used as intended — with a big down parka for cold temperatures. Because alpine climbers carry a very warm parka to wear while waiting at belays and during extended break times to melt snow for water, it makes sense to have a specialty sleep system designed to work with the parka. We would not purchase this half bag and a big down jacket for backpacking or thru-hiking. But, if the Vireo sounds like a perfect complement to your belay parka, it functions well enough and is super light for three-season backpacking.


If you are looking for a more versatile product, be sure to consider a fully-opening quilt that turns into a flat blanket. Our Best Buy winner, the Enlightened Equipment Revelation is our favorite. Even though the Editors' Choice winning Katabatic Gear Palisade has a permanently closed footbox, we found that its excellent pad attachment system accommodated a large range of nighttime temperatures and clothing worn to sleep in.

For warm weather use with a synthetic insulated jacket  you can either snug this model up in your armpits with arms free  or bring it up to neck height and put your arms inside for more warmth.
For warm weather use with a synthetic insulated jacket, you can either snug this model up in your armpits with arms free, or bring it up to neck height and put your arms inside for more warmth.

Comfort


The Vireo is a very simple bag that is designed for warmth and minimal weight. Its fixed girth doesn't offer any flexibilty. This bag is cut fairly trim through the legs, which is awesome for warmth and saving a few ounces. But, if you're an alpinist moving from a big down mummy bag, and you're used to keeping your water bottles and some extra clothing down by your feet at night, you may need to adjust. We find it most comfortable to not fill up the limited space down by our feet in the Vireo, but keep water bottles and gloves either by our thighs, or in the pockets of our parka.


One design detail that contributes to comfort is the shaped neck collar. While most hoodless mummies have a simple top opening, the Vireo's is taller at the back of the neck than at the chin by about 3 or 4 inches. We found this detail quite comfortable, and the cord lock here is at the side rather than the chin…another nice detail.

An offset top opening is one of the nice details on this otherwise very minimally designed half bag.
An offset top opening is one of the nice details on this otherwise very minimally designed half bag.

Features


This half bag, or elephant foot, has no zipper and a fixed girth the entire length. Eliminating the zipper saves weight and removes a possible point of failure for a bag used in rough and frozen bivies in the mountains.


The top or neck opening of this bag is offset, with the back about 4" taller than the chin area. The cinch cord is not stretchy and passes through a sewn-in cord lock located on the right side of the neck, rather than at the chin (common on other bags). This cord runs through a small non-insulated sleeve, internal to the upper most baffle and about 2 inches below the top. We find this very comfortable on the chin.

The foot of the Vireo has a lot of loft  especially considering Feathered Friends describes it as equivalent to 25 F. Our testers that found it kept feet warm well below freezing.
The foot of the Vireo has a lot of loft, especially considering Feathered Friends describes it as equivalent to 25 F. Our testers that found it kept feet warm well below freezing.

Continuous 360 degree baffles hold the 900 fill power down in this bag, and the end of the foot box is built with two large baffles as well. We find the foot of this bag very lofty relative to the nominal 25F description. Finally, there are no hang loops sewn into the foot of this bag, and while that fits the minimalist gram saving design, we'd like to see a clip in loop or hang loop here.

Best Applications


Although the Vireo was designed and is best used for alpine climbing and below freezing temperatures, our testers have found it to be acceptable for warmer weather use as well. A lightweight fleece like the Patagonia R1 Hoody does a great job in the summer. Add a lightweight insulated jacket when the temps drop slightly, or a serious down parka for temps near OF. Without a zipper for ventilation, your feet can get hot in warm weather. This bag is best suited for people that want to save weight by using it only in cold temperatures with a down parka, perhaps around 25 degrees and lower.

Value


$309 for a top-of-the-line, ultralight half bag? Yep, that's right. Pair the Vireo with a big down jacket for the winter and you have a enviable ultralight alpine climbing sleep system.

Conclusion


We think the Feathered Friends Vireo is one of the best half bags out there. It is designed to be paired with a big down parka: it has lots of loft in the lower bag and much less in the torso where it layers with your jacket. For alpine climbs or other adventures where you're already bringing a big down parka along, this is a perfect light and fast sleeping option.

The Vireo is designed to be used with a winter parka like the Feathered Friends Volant parka shown here.
The Vireo is designed to be used with a winter parka like the Feathered Friends Volant parka shown here.

Sizing, Accessories, & Other Versions


The Vireo comes in 62", 68", and 74" lengths. We have tested both the 62" and 68" models. You can use this half bag several ways: under your parka (under the armpits) or over your parka (under the armpits or over the shoulders snugged up around the neck). Snugged up around your neck over top of a winter parka is the warmest use mode. In order to employ the Vireo like this, you should opt for just a little extra length. This will allow you to comfortably cinch the neck without compromising loft and will give you a little extra room in the foot to dry some gloves and socks, or maybe keep your boots on. We found the 68" version to be a good fit for people up to six feet tall, and the 62" version good up to 5'8" or so. Err on the longer side: the increase in weight is minimal and longer gives you more options.

Feathered Friends Vireo Nano
Vireo Nano
  • Half bag with slightly different specs
  • No hood and no zipper (Same basic design)
  • Lower half is rated at 25F, the upper half 45F
  • Designed to be used with a down jacket
  • Fill Power - 850+ (compared with 900 Fill)
  • Average Weight - 17.8 oz (weighs a couple ounces more)
  • Costs $60 less than the Vireo
Brandon Lampley

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Most recent review: February 1, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
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5 star: 100%  (1)
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