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Hands-on Gear Review
Wenzel Grande Review
Cons: Heavy and bulky, not appropriate for warm or wet weather, slightly difficult to roll up
Bottom line: This old-school bag is tough as nails, super warm, ultra cozy... and it doesn't break the bank, winning our Editors' Choice award!
We're not going to beat around the bush. The Wenzel Grande is not necessarily sleek and stylish. It's not petite and well-mannered. This bag is big-boned, in your face, and rugged. Above all, it's warmer than any bag we tested and we believe its thick, overstuffed insulation and soft flannel interior is the coziest on the market. This bag isn't about fanfare. It's about function. And what it may lack in features, we feel it greatly makes up for in warmth and comfort all at an incredibly reasonable price. That's why our testers, hands-down, selected the Wenzel Grande as this year's Editors' Choice Award.
Warning: People have been known to slip into this bag and never want to leave.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Warmth accounted for 35 percent of each bag's overall score, followed by comfort (25 percent), features (25 percent) and packed size (15 percent). When we tallied the results, the Grande's amazing warmth and incredible comfort resulted in it receiving our overall highest score.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we are going to say it just one more time: the Grande is the warmest bag we slept in during our testing! And just like our "broken record" lead-in sentence, this bag is old-school. It's also rugged — with just a hint of get-the-job-done-lumberjack-tough-guy attitude. Scoring a 10 out of 10 for warmth, this bag kept us warm from head to toe. From our ice test to our laser thermometer readings, this bag's 6.5 pounds of Insul-Therm insulation passed the tests with flying colors.
We spent a 20-degree night in Bryce Canyon National Park in the back of a pick-up truck and stayed toasty all night in the Grande. Although this bag doesn't come with zipper draft tubes, its overstuffed insulation and soft poly-cotton flannel is so thick it completely seals off the zipper and prevents any cold air from sneaking up on your backside or your toes during a cold mountain camp out. During our laser thermometer test, the Grande maintained the highest interior temperature at 87 degrees. Followed by the Slumberjack Country Squire 0 at 81 degrees. Likewise, during our ice test, the Grande proved its impressive insulating abilities by maintaining the lowest interior temperature at 36-degrees, followed by the Slumberjack at 37-degrees.
As we said, our warmth score accounts for 35 percent of each bag's overall score, which is why this big boy tipped the scales with our highest overall performance score.
Coming in as the third-largest bag we tested, the Grande scored 9 out of 10 in terms of comfort. Its spacious design (81 X 39) — topped only by the Teton Sports Celsius XXL and the Slumberjack Country Squire — can nearly swallow a tired camper whole. Additionally, its smooth, soft, flannel lining is easy on the skin and allows for all of the tossing and turning that comes with sleeping away from home.
One of our comfort tests included spending a bunch of time laying in this bag directly on hard, flat sandstone rock; you can read more in how we test. We felt this was the easiest way to get a true feel for how comfy these bags really are. None of the bags we tested even came close to the comfort we experienced in the Wenzel's naturally thick design. When we considered the combination of the Grande's thick insulation, its soft flannel lining and its tough, 8-ounce cotton exterior, we found that the bag is quite comfortable even on bare rock. We even dozed off a little during our test, and can honestly say that, with a little bit of patience and imagination, we feel we could sleep directly on hard rock in this bag and almost think we were actually lying on a sleeping pad ok, we probably would want to be really tired too.
Scoring a 7 out of 10, the Grande lands somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to features. While the bag lacks features like an interior pocket, shoulder baffles, a draft tube, and a lifetime warranty, it does offer outstanding craftsmanship, a hearty Velcro closure tab above the zipper, and an amazing ability to double as a picnic ground cover or quilt (thanks to its rugged exterior and green, plaid interior that hides the dirt). The Grande is also made in the USA and comes with a limited 10-year warranty.
Although very common for natural-fiber bags (cotton), we were disappointed at the Grande's inability to repel or resist water. We also found this to be a problem with the Slumberjack CountrySquire, which is made with natural fibers as well. One thing we did notice during our water test, is although all the water did penetrate the exterior lining of the Grande relatively easy, the water never soaked all the way through to the ground. The interior of the bag was relatively dry as well. Basically, the Grande is so thick that insulation completely absorbed the water. As for the Slumberjack and the Coleman Brazos, the water passed all the way through the bag to the ground.
If you're looking for petite and well-mannered, this is not your bag. The Grande is big, bulky, heavy, and a tiny bit hard to roll up or stuff into its storage bag exactly what a camp bag should be, in our opinion. When it comes to packed size, the Grande comes in next to last in terms of compactness, followed by the massive Slumberjack Country Squire.
You'll notice that even though the Slumberjack is bigger than the Wenzel, we gave the Wenzel the lowest score for packed size than all of the bags. This is because the Wenzel is a little more difficult to roll up and stow than the Slumberjack.
There's no doubt about it, the Grande is a tough, no frills, bring-your-lunch-pail-to-work, extra large, furnace of a sleeping bag that is built to withstand years and years of chilly nights. This bag is ideal for trailer, tent, truck-bed or right-on-the-ground camping.
We can't say enough about this bag's value. Coming in at under $90, we feel the Grande focuses on what's really important: warmth and comfort. When we combined these two features with the price tag and the construction quality, it was somewhat easy for us to name it this year's Editors' Choice Winner.
We were amazed by this bag's ability to perform at such a high level with such a relatively low price tag. This Editors' Choice Award Winner doesn't have it all but it doesn't need it. Its price, warmth, comfort, size and construction trumps any other factor we studied.
— Jason Wanlass
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