In the extraordinarily close contest for the best backpacking sleeping bag, the Western Mountaineering MegaLite once again takes home our Editors' Choice Award. Like most of the ultra-premium down bags we tested, it is extremely lightweight and packable. But unlike the other ultra-premium bags we tested, the MegaLite is also luxuriously roomy and earned top marks for comfort. Our testers found it to be warmer than most 30°F bags, giving it an ideal level of insulation for many 3-season applications. The only drawback? The price. Keep in mind that if you can stomach the initial cost and then care for it properly, this bag could maintain its impressive loft for more than a decade.
Western Mountaineering MegaLite Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Spacious dimensions, super comfortable, great loft, lightweight, made in the USA
Cons: Expensive, awkward hood, good but not great zipper
Manufacturer: Western Mountaineering
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Even with the recent addition of Feathered Friends products to our sleeping bag reviews, the MegaLite still receives our Editors' Choice Award. It accomplished this with few, if any, changes from its previous versions. Why change what's perfect, right? In all seriousness, the MegaLite's now faces stiffer competition than ever. We still love its spacious dimensions, low weight, and cozy warmth. However, if minor issues with the zipper and hood aren't addressed, it could potentially lose its throne.
The MegaLite is filled with down advertised as "850+" fill power. When comparing it with other bags, however, it's important to understand that its fill power is a conservative estimate. Western Mountaineering claims the actual rating of their down is "almost always above 900." They report the lower 850+ number to be on the safe side and indicate the level of loft that's expected once the down is slightly compressed within the fabric of a sleeping bag or garment. In our tests, the 13 ounces of down inside this bag felt every bit as lofty as the bags with reported fill power over 900.
Although Western Mountaineering doesn't have their bags EN tested, we believe the MegaLite outperforms its 30°F temperature rating. Our testers feel like it provides comparable warmth to an average bag that receives a 20° EN Lower Limit rating. This makes it ideal for use in the shoulder seasons and the cooler nights of summer.
The size long we tested weighs in at an impressive 1.63 pounds on our scale. This places it close to the front of the pack. When you also factor in its considerable warmth, it results in an impressive warmth-to-weight ratio.
Its more comfortable, wide dimensions, however, do require additional materials. We've tried a few slimmer primo bags that are able to achieve similar warmth while weighing a few ounces less. The stuff sack Western Mountaineering includes with the MegaLite is light at 1.6 oz, but there are other sacks that weigh half as much.
The characteristic that ultimately nudges the MegaLite past its competitors is its comfort. With several extra inches of upper body girth, even our largest testers didn't find this bag constrictive. Although this adds a few ounces, the added weight will be worth it for most users, especially when you consider an ultra-premium down bag can maintain its loft and performance for a long, long time. Think about it — ten years from now, you might find yourself appreciating the extra room?
Another subtler aspect of MegaLite's comfort that distinguishes it from its closest rivals is the shell fabric. All primo bags feature shells that are soft and weather resistant. However, we've noticed that some can also be strangely noisy, with at least one tester complaining that the crinkling sound of Pertex Endurance fabric disturbs their sleep. No noise issues were observed with the ExtremeLite fabric found on the MegaLite.
In our tests with an aftermarket compression sack, this bagged compacted to a respectable packed volume of 7.2 liters. Although this wasn't the smallest size we saw, it was the smallest for bags that provided a similar level of warmth.
To take advantage of this benefit, however, you will need to purchase a third-party compression sack. The simple drawstring stuff sack that comes with the MegaLite does an OK job at compression but will still leave you with a bag that occupies a couple of extra liters in your backpack.
Although the down insulation isn't ideal for wet conditions, the MegaLite has enough versatility for many other applications. Its spacious dimensions ensure there is plenty of room for wearing additional layers on colder nights. Meanwhile, its full-length zipper gives you good venting options when it's warmer out.
Ultra-premium down bags, like the MegaLite, offer versatility advantages due to their continuous horizontal baffle construction. This means the down insulation is contained within fabric tubes, or baffles, that are perpendicular to the length of the bag. These baffles are also called continuous because they're uninterrupted by seams of stitches. This design gives you the ability to move feathers to the top or bottom of the bag depending on conditions. On cooler nights shifting feathers to the top will trap additional heat. On warmer nights you can do the opposite to avoid overheating.
Both Western Mountaineering bags, however, receive a slight versatility deduction because their "full-length" zippers end ten inches short of the end of the bag. Although this doesn't really affect their venting ability, it does limit their use as a blanket or quilt. The Feather Friends' zippers, in contrast, extend four inches farther. This may not sound like much, but it has a real impact on the possibility of sharing one bag between two people.
Features and Design
All the Western Mountaineering, including the MegaLite, feature a flexible internal strip of plastic along the length of their zippers. This strip gives the fabric next to the zipper critical stiffness that prevents it from snagging in the zipper. Western Mountaineering zippers could be slightly improved, however, by incorporating anti-snag slides and an internal pull tab.
Another small issue is the hood. It is anchored at the zipper closure with a weak piece of velcro that felt awkward to use. When cinched tight, the hood only provided below average comfort.
All ultra-premium down products have staggering price tags. The MegaLite is no exception. For dedicated backcountry travelers, however, the performance benefits should be worth the cost. Also, in our experience, premium down holds up better to being repeatedly compressed than lower-quality down or synthetic insulation. This means that over the full lifetime of a bag, a MegaLite could ultimately be cheaper per use than some lower priced bags.
In the best backpacking sleeping bag review, there can only be one overall winner. Due to impressive performance in all areas, along with best-in-class comfort, the Western Mountaineering MegaLite earns our Editors' Choice Award. Although it's certainly pricey, if we could only have one bag for all our adventures, this would be it. The competition, however, was incredibly close. So depending on your preferences, there's a chance another ultra-premium down bag could be a better choice.
— Jack Cramer