TETON Sports Polara 3-in-1 Review
Cons: Grabby liner, may be confining to larger body types
Manufacturer: TETON Sports
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Even the most casual observer can see the thoughtful care and effort that went into designing and constructing the Teton Sports Polara 3-in-1. First of all, it's large and roomy. Secondly, it's well-crafted, with a design that we feel will stand up to years of use. And finally, it's warm and chocked full of features that allow campers to customize the bag to their personal sleeping preferences. The biggest difference between this bag and our Editors' Choice Award Winner is that the Polara is smaller and it's comprised of all synthetic materials, which are a little lighter, cheaper, and simply less luxurious. But, this bag's modular design allows it to adapt to varying temperatures more effectively.
Boasting a layering system on par with your favorite ski jacket, warmth can be individualized with this bag. Its integrated design allows it to adapt to many types of users. If temps are warmer than expected, simply unzip and remove the toasty fleece liner and sleep in the just the main bag. Still too warm? Grab the removed liner and zip it together to create your own fleece bivy. (We then suggest sleeping on top of the main bag for added comfort and padding). You can even leave the fleece unzipped to be used more like a blanket. For colder mountain temps, zip the liner back in place, anchor it with the bag's interior Velcro tabs — and voila — you're ready for some of the coldest air Mother Nature can blow into your camp.
We tested this bag thoroughly and placed it squarely among the top three of the warmest bags we've studied. It held its own in mountain temperatures near freezing with an interior temperature measurement of 83 degrees. (While spending the night in the bag, we took interior temperature readings with a laser thermometer to see how well it held in our body heat). Additionally, this bag would be excellent for cold weather, late Fall or early Winter camping above 0-degrees. It would be ideal for hunters who are headed out for a long week in the cooler Fall temperatures.
Stuffed to the hilt with SuperLoft Elite™ Hollow Fiber, we found the Polara 3-in-1 to be quite thick and cushy. It's tough taffeta exterior, thick insulation, and soft PolarLite™ Fleece liner create a sleep system that some campers may find comfortable enough to use without a sleeping pad or camper bed. This bag is excellent for a wide variety of users, from young children to teens, young adults, and adults. The only area of limited use would be for campers who are tall or larger-bodied. This bag could seem too narrow or confining due to the nature of the fleece liner.
We flopped the bag down on a hard-packed, gravel, campground roads and climbed inside for 10 minutes to feel firsthand just how much natural padding the bag actually had. It goes without saying that we were quite impressed. The bag received one of our highest scores for its natural padding.
Speaking of comfort, our testing and overall use of the bag did discover one potentially negative aspect of the fleece liner: It tends to grab onto other fabrics like underwear, nightshirts, long-johns, and socks. Although providing a very noticeable increase in warmth when attached as an added layer, the fleece liner is less accommodating to movement when compared to polyester, poly-cotton, or flannel. The grabby nature of the Polara's fleece liner created a more constrictive space for our taller or larger-bodied testers. Some users felt overly cocooned or knotted by the fabric, even a little claustrophobic at times.
Based on our tests, this bag ranked higher in the features area than any bag we looked at, scoring very high in nearly all the areas we judged. Some of the features we like are the bag's limited lifetime warranty, zipper quality, Velcro zipper closure, and water-resistant shell. The one area that received our lowest mark is the bag's ease of cleaning rating. Tags on the bag require the bag to be hand-washed and placed flat to air dry. The manufacturer specifically states that if the bag is washed any other way, the warranty will be voided. With any large sleeping bag, ease of cleaning is an important feature. We feel the bag's washing directions are a drawback.
Overall, we still feel a lot of extra time and thought went into the design of this bag. Our favorite feature is the bag's removable liner. The liner zips securely into the bag, but when removed, it can use the same zipper system to zip itself closed, forming a thin fleece bag nearly the same size as the main sleeping bag. This is an excellent feature that allows campers to sleep comfortably in warmer weather. The manufacturer does not specify any washing directions for the liner; however, we feel even washing the liner by hand still provides a quicker and more simple alternative for cleaning. Instead of washing and drying the entire bag, simply wash the liner separately for an easy way to freshen up the whole bag with very little effort.
The Polara has two storage pockets, one on the liner and one inside the main bag, so regardless of the combination of the sleep system you choose, you will always have a place to store keys or a cell phone. It also has a thick adjustable shoulder baffle to more effectively trap heat inside the bag. And finally, the Polara 3-in-1 sports a very thick, full-length draft tube that runs the entirety of the bag's zipper, to help block chilly nighttime air from creeping in on your backside or pinky toes.
While not the smallest packed size on the market, it's also not the largest. For the quality, warmth, comfort, and features this bag provides, we feel it packs up relatively well, all with a stuff sack that has compression straps to condense the packed size a little more. Overall, we don't feel the compression straps are necessary, and although a nice feature, they really don't reduce the size all that much. Additionally, we feel a little more than average effort is required to stuff the bag into its storage bag. If we had our way, we would have the manufacturer make the stuff sack just a little bit larger.
Based on our testing and overall use of this bag, we feel its price tag is about right on the mark. Its overall quality and design demand a more than an average price. After using the bag for more than a month, we feel you will get what you pay for and more.
We are incredibly impressed with the thoughtfulness of the bag's design and features. After years and testing and dozens of bags, we can honestly say the Polara 3-in-1 is one of our all-time favorites.
— Jason Wanlass