While adding a liner (Big Agnes makes a nice one that attaches inside the bag) can make this a true three-season bag, the Katabatic Gear Palisade 30 is the best and warmest ultralight model we tested for thru-hiking and three-season backpacking. Its warmth-to-weight ratio in exceptional, and it adjusts well to both cold and warm nights. If you're on a tight budget, no model we tested delivers more warmth and versatility for the price than the Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20.
Big Agnes Pitchpine UL 45 Review
Cons: Poor warmth-to-weight ratio, requires a liner or LOTS of clothing for three-season use
Manufacturer: Big Agnes
Our Analysis and Test Results
Our Top Pick for Summer Use earned an overall score in our top five, even though it is one of the least warm models we tested. Indeed, top scores in comfort and features moved it up in our overall rankings. If most or all of your trips take place in the summer, we think you'll love this roomy "system bag."
Reference the Overall Performance chart below to see how the Pitchpine UL 45 fared in comparison to the other bags in our review.
The Big Agnes Pitchpine UL 45 is not one of the warmer models we tested this year, but it does not intend to be. Rather, the design is focused on providing roomy comfort for summertime backpacking…and the construction technique reflects this goal. Rather than baffled construction, the 850 fill power hydrophobic down is contained in quilted (or sewn-through) pockets. This technique works very well to contain and control the distribution of smaller volumes of down. We have observed that similar amounts of down placed into box baffles in the Feathered Friends Flicker 40 UL tends to shift around and create cold spots. In short, sewn-through construction is a great option for bags intended for summer temperatures. However, fully baffled construction is the best choice for bags with greater loft for colder temperatures.
Only the Hammock Gear Burrow 40 received a lower warmth score. It is also best suited to summertime use. If you seek a warmer ultralight sleeping bag, the Katabatic Gear Palisade and Enlightened Equipment Revelation, both award winners, received our highest recommendations.
Weight & Packed Size
Our test model Pitchpine weighed in at 20.5 ounces, and the included stuff sack weighs .8 ounces. It measures 7.5 x 12 inches in the included stuff sack, but it can compress much smaller. According to Big Agnes, it measures 5 x 6 inches with fully compressed.
Where closed footbox quilts like the Katabatic Gear Palisade and Nemo Equipment Tango Solo are open on the back side, the Pitchpine has two layers of shell fabric that form a sleeve that accepts a 20" wide sleeping pad. While this adds a little weight, it is very quick and convenient to slip your pad inside, and the sleeve holds it perfectly in place underneath you. The pillow pocket and #5 zipper are also features we quite like, but do add weight to this product. Again, the Pitchpine's focus is roomy comfort for warmer temperatures, not minimal weight.
This bag earned a versatility score in the middle of the models we tested. We evaluated the Pitchpine's versatility a bit differently than the other ultralight products. Basically, with the loftier bags, we judged how well they adapt to warmer nights, but for the summer-focused Pitchpine, we considered how to adapt to colder temperatures. The Pitchpine can be mated with a synthetic liner from Big Agnes to augment its warmth; there are small internal loops in the Pitchpine to attach it.
Our lead tester used a similar 40-degree system bag from Big Agnes for his PCT and AT hikes in 2010 and 2011, adding a homemade fleece liner and insulated jacket for colder nights at the beginning and end of the hikes, and enjoying the roomy comfort during the warm summer months.
A unique feature of this bag is a pillow pocket sewn to the top opening. It will accept either an inflatable camp pillow or your extra clothing, and hold it in place through the night right where it should be.
A 48" #5 YKK zipper closes the upper half of this "system bag," and there are zipper pulls at both ends so you can ventilate at the side on hot nights. True to the summertime temperature rating, no draft tube backs the zipper.
Big Agnes' system bags use a sleeve of fabric to attach your pad to the bottom of their bags, rather than straps or cords. This adds a little weight, but makes for a fully enclosed bag. For cowboy campers in buggy conditions, this is a great feature to keep bugs out of your backside. You'll just need to add a head net.
A bungee cord with a sewn-in cord lock on the top part of the neck opening allows snugging up this bag.
The foot of this model has insulation on both the top and the bottom in quilted pockets up to hip level, allowing use with a half length pad if you desire. Above hip level, there is a pad sleeve without any insulation on the bottom of the bag.
There are two grosgrain hang loops sewn into the foot of this bag. In addition, there are two loops inside the bag that are designed to secure a liner. These are sewn in 6 inches down from the top opening of the bag.
The Big Agnes Pitchpine UL 45 is the best ultralight bag we tested for summertime backpacking, if your focus is comfort rather than the lightest possible weight. Its roomy fixed girth accommodates side sleepers and folks who toss and turn a lot, and the attached pillow pocket is an awesome feature. Sleeping in base layers and an insulated jacket with a hood, we found it warm enough down into the mid-30s, but it's best suited to nights in the 40s and warmer.
At $350, this bag falls right in the middle of the range of ultralight products we tested. If you're looking for a sleeping bag for summer use, we think it's an excellent value.
If you seek a comfortable ultralight sleeping bag for dedicated summertime use, we think the roominess and features of the Big Agnes Pitchpine UL 45 make it an excellent choice. In fact, we like it so much for warm nights, that we gave it our Top Pick for Summer Use.
— Brandon Lampley