Like a lot of Feathered Friends sleeping bags, the Swallow is available in 'UL' or 'YF' versions. The difference between the two is the type of shell fabric. UL stands for ultralight and uses 10-denier Pertex Endurance to shave an ounce off the total bag weight. YF stands for YFuse and relates to the Y-shaped fabric filaments that supposedly improve its long-term downproofing and water resistance. The Swallow we tested was a YF version and the Hummingbird was a UL. Although the water resistance benefits of the YF fabric were hard to perceive, we preferred it over the UL because the UL fabric makes a crinkling noise that annoyed some testers.
The Feathered Friends Swallow is an awesome sleeping bag. Its exceptional loft and 20F rating are ideal for "cold sleepers" or cooler nights in spring and fall.
Feathered Friends gives the Swallow a 20°F temperature rating. They choose not to have it rated on the industry-standard EN test, but our testers believe its warmth exceeds the manufacturer's rating and is comparable to the average bag with an EN lower limit rating between 10° and 15°.
It achieves this substantial warmth using 17.5 ounces of super lofty, 900+ fill power down. Although this is more and better quality down than many bags we tried, the Swallow didn't feel the warmest because it lacks a draft collar to prevent heat from escaping out the hood.
The Swallow doesn't have a neck baffle but its snap closure is simple, light, and effective at keeping it closed. We preferred it over the Western Mountaineering velcro closures.
This bag weighed in at 1.89 pounds on our scale for a size long. Although that's about average for our backpacking sleeping bag review, the warmth of this bag is way above average. This means its more important warmth-to-weight ratio is a lot better than most.
The Swallow has some of the loftiest down we've seen. The hood design, with the drawstring set back from the opening, also fits better than any of its rivals. Its overall comfort, however, is slightly diminished by the bag's shape. The Swallow has a pretty roomy torso and hip areas but gets narrow at the feet. The awesome loft of its down still makes it cozier than the average bag, but wider mummy-style bags or innovative hourglass-shaped offerings are more comfortable.
The Feathered Friends Swallow stuffed in an after-market compression sack (left) and the stuff sack that it comes with (right).
This bag comes with a simpler drawstring stuff sack. Although this sack weighs just an ounce, it's not effective at compressing the bag to its minimum volume. Using an after-market compression sack, we measured its minimum volume at 8.5 liters. This is toward the upper end of our 3-season backpacking sleeping bag category, but much better when you factor in the bag's substantial warmth. Its 8.5-liter packed size is also much smaller than most backpacking sleeping bags in the budget category.
The big advantage in versatility most high-end down bags like the Swallow share is their continuous horizontal baffles. This means that their down insulation is contained with fabric tubes, or baffles, that are perpendicular to the length of the bag and uninterrupted by any stitches. With this kind of construction, you can move feathers from the top to the underside of the bag to adjust the amount of insulation covering your body. After some practice, it's possible to calibrate the warmth to match conditions.
Bags with truly full-length zippers, like the Feathered Friends Swallow, can be zipped open to share as a quilt on really cold mornings.
Until you have that dialed in, the Swallow also has a full-length zipper for venting excess heat. This long zipper also lets you open the bag fully for sharing as a quilt.
Features and Design
This is a pretty basic mummy bag that doesn't include a stash pocket or neck baffle. Of the few features that it does have, the one that we absolutely love is the zipper. Like other Feathered Friends bags, there's a strip of flexible plastic inside the fabric next to the zipper. This gives that fabric important stiffness that keeps it away from the zipper's teeth.
The Y-shaped slide and strip of internal plastic combine to make the Swallow's zipper virtually snag-proof.
The Feather Friends bags also have Y-shaped zipper slides that further reduce the chance of snagging. Finally, the button closure at the top-end of the zipper is simple but effective. Although the Swallow's overall design is spartan, we think the extra zipper features are smart and worth their weight.
This bag ain't cheap. However, it's a little cheaper than some other ultra-premium down bags at the same temperature rating. We also expect ultra-premium down bags, like the Swallow, will have excellent longevity because their higher quality feathers seem to maintain their loft better through repeated compression cycles. Thus, over the full life of this bag, we believe it's a great value.
All the Feathered Friends and Western Mountaineering bags impressed us with their high loft, good build quality, and exceptional warmth-to-weight ratios. The Swallow is no exception. But they can't all be award winners. This bag missed out because we ultimately concluded that a 30°F bag is better for most 3-season temperatures. At higher latitudes or elevations, a 20°F bag may be ideal, but when dealing with cooler temps we think most shoppers will want a neck baffle to seal heat in. The competition between 20°F bags, however, was incredibly close. If you personally dislike neck baffles and consider an awesome zipper important, the Swallow might be the perfect bag for you.