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Hands-on Gear Review
Western Mountaineering HighLite Review
Cons: Too short, hood and collar doesn’t seal well, zipper comes undone by itself
Bottom line: While this bag is the second lightest in the review, its features and fit drag it down toward the bottom of the rankings.
The Western Mountaineering HighLite is a hooded mummy bag that is the second lightest in this review. It also packs down into a very small stuff sack, making it one of the best choices for those who need light and small. That said, it ranked near the bottom of our comparative overall rankings. We had issues with the fit, which was narrow and constricting, and a bit shorter than advertised. We also thought the features like the hood and half zipper performed pretty poorly compared to the many other bags we tested with the same features. While this was a bag that we really wanted to like, at the end of the day it is not one we would recommend over other products tested for this review.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Ultralight Sleeping Bags of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
In previous years we have reviewed the Western Mountaineering Summerlite, a slightly heavier and mildly warmer mummy bag that has a full length zipper. This year, in the interest of trying out an even lighter offering from Western Mountaineering, we tested their HighLite. We loved how light it was — at 15 ounces it was the second lightest bag in our review, and packed down into a very small stuff sack as well. Unfortunately, despite these awesome attributes, we found that there was not a whole lot else about this bag that we could give it props for. It used a relatively small amount of down in a sewn through construction that wasn't super warm. We thought the bag was tight, especially in the feet and legs areas, and it was also a bit too short when the hood was over our head. The hood and neck enclosure didn't do a good job of sealing out cold air, and the zipper also had issues. As such, this bag was ranked near the bottom of our comparative rankings.
The Western Mountaineering HighLite is shown in blue in the comparative overall ratings table below:
The HighLite is rated to 35F, although we did not feel like it was comfortable enough for us to sleep at that low temperature. It uses 8 ounces of 850 fill power down sewn into horizontal sewn-through baffles. The cut is designed to be low volume, so there is less space to heat up. We agree that it did seem to warm up inside pretty quickly, but that the overall design didn't keep us very warm all night long.
For a hooded mummy bag, we were disappointed that the hood was so shallow and didn't cover our entire head very well, in stark contrast to the deep and highly insulated hood on The North Face Superlight 15. We also wish that the zipper had a draft tube on it, like the one found on our Editors' Choice winning Feathered Friends Flicker 40 UL, or that there was a neck draft collar. The whole hood and neck ensemble didn't allow for a tight cinch, and didn't fit very well to begin with, so we found that warm air easily leaked out, and cold air in. The tight fit also meant it was not comfortable to wear extra layers on cold nights, and thus we just thought this bag wasn't very well suited to temperatures near its 35F rating.
Our size 6'0" sleeping bag weighed 15 ounces on our independent scale, which is even an ounce lighter than advertised. The included stuff sack weighed an additional 1.5 ounces. This low weight is the shining bright spot for the HighLite, which was second behind only the Sea to Summit Spark I in the weight ratings. It is lighter even than the Feathered Friends Vireo UL, which doesn't have a hood or a zipper!
Comfort is largely a product of how well the bag fits, and we thought that this one was perhaps the smallest and tightest fit compared to its advertised dimensions. Despite ordering the 6'0" size bag, our 5'11" tall head tester found the bag too short to be comfortable when the hood was pulled up over the head. It also felt narrow and tight in the feet and hips, although wide enough for comfort around the torso.
When it comes to the comfort and fit of a hood and neck enclosure on a mummy bag, our gold standard proved to be the Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag 30. It used two recessed cord lock buckles that lived inside the fabric, and pull tabs on the outside, to completely seal off the face region, leaving only a tiny air hole if desired. By comparison, the HighLite's hood and neck really wouldn't close up around the face all the way, and left a long cord dangling in the face and around the neck. Because they were both smaller than advertised, to the point of not being comfortable to use properly on a cold night, we gave it the same score as The North Face Superlight 15 for comfort.
It's hooded mummy bag design with a short half zipper meant that the HighLite was certainly less versatile for warm weather use than a quilt, like the Katabatic Gear Palisade 30. Conversely, we found that since it wasn't very good at sealing in the trapped heat, this bag also wasn't all that great for really cold temperatures, like the super insulated Superlight 15. As such, we thought the range of comfortable usage for this bag was pretty small, from about 40F — 50F. It certainly makes for a better summer bag than one that you push the temperature range at high altitude for. It also doesn't use treated down, or advertise itself as having a DWR treatment applied to the face fabric, although we confess that it seamed to bead and shed water pretty well when we spilled our tea on it one evening.
Yet again, we found the features of this bag underperforming. We have already mentioned how the hood was shallow, didn't fit well, and how the draw cord at the face was not very effective in fully tightening up the opening around the face on cold nights. This bag also comes with a half-length side zipper, much like the other mummy bags in this test like the Sea to Summit Spark I and the Patagonia 850. However, we found that this zipper seemed almost too slippery, as it would literally slide itself open at night as we slept. Additionally, when opened all the way, which happens frequently with a half zip, it would always come unthreaded, meaning we had to re-thread it every time we zipped it. In short, we wish this bag had a different zipper.
While it is rated to 35F, design features mean that this is a bag more suitable for summertime use than true three-season usage. It is very light and packs down very small, making it a great choice for lightweight backpacking, bike packing, or any other sort of overnight summer adventure. We also recommend checking out the similar, but more versatile, Summerlite if you are into buying from Western Mountaineering. Also consider checking out one of the higher rated Western Mountaineering Bags in our Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags for Men of 2017 review.
This sleeping bag retails for $350, placing it right around average for an ultralight sleeping bag. Since it ranks near the bottom of our comparative review, we would recommend spending that money on a different bag instead.
The Western Mountaineering HighLite is one of the lightest and smallest packing sleeping bags in this review. It is a hooded mummy bag that is best used during summertime temperatures, as we did not find it comfortable down to its recommended 35F rating. Overall it was one of the lowest performers that we tested, and while we tried to love it, we simply didn't think it worked as well as its competitors.
— Andy Wellman
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