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Feathered Friends Flicker 40 UL Review
Cons: 40 degree not as warm as others, neck draw cords loosen over time
Bottom line: The highest scorer because of its versatile design that allows it to be a fully opened blanket or a fully zipped hoodless mummy.
The Feathered Friends Flicker 40 UL was the highest scoring ultralight sleeping bag in our review and was an easy choice for our Editors' Choice Award. Versatility is a large part of what makes a summer bag great, and this one proved to be an optimal choice whether the temperatures were warm or cool and chilly. The full length zipper and draw cords that enclose both the foot box and the neck collar allow you to zip and cinch this quilt up like a hoodless mummy, ensuring the warmth and fully wrapped snugness that you simply can't get with a non-fully enclosed quilt. And when the temperatures are hot it can be unzipped and un-cinched to form a large flat blanket with great ventilation. While it wasn't the absolute warmest or lightest bag that we tested, its best-of-both-worlds feature set and versatility pushed it over the top as our favorite ultralight sleeping bag of 2017.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Ultralight Sleeping Bags of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Flicker 40 UL ended up as the top selection in this year's review because it simply did everything slightly better than the competition. The Flicker 40 is our highest rated bag because we liked that it opened up fully into a blanket for the warmest nights, or for two people, which the enclosed foot box of the Zpacks 20 Degree did not allow. And unlike the other quilts such as the Best Buy Award winning Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20 or the Katabatic Gear Palisade 30, we were able to fully zip ourselves up and cinch the draw cords at the head and feet to be fully enclosed when we got chilled. No matter how warm the temperature rating or how much high quality down was used, we could never get the other quilts to be totally draft free on chilly nights.
Not only were we thrilled with the versatility and design of this bag's unique features, but we enjoyed the attention to detail on other aspects of the Flicker 40 UL as well. The Pertex Endurance UL shell fabric is lightweight and naturally water resistant, meaning there is no coating to wear off, and it offers great first-line protection against condensation inside a tent. The 950+ fill down lofts up nicely and is supremely light weight. Attention to design detail, such as adding more durable fabric to the zipper baffle that cannot catch in the zipper, and including a neck collar to help seal in the warmth, further endeared this bag to our hearts. It is worth noting that while we tested a 40F version of this bag, it is also available in 20F and 30F versions, and for sleeping in the mountains in the spring and fall, we would probably order a warmer version in the future. It also comes in wide and long versions.
How to Get It:
Feathered Friends bags are not sold by major commercial or online retailers.
Find it online at: FeatheredFriends.com
The Flicker 40 UL uses 8.4 ounces of the highest quality 950+ fill goose down to give it loft and warmth. The down is sewn into place using horizontal box baffles, which means there is no point at which the interior and exterior fabric of this bag meets, creating down "dead spots" or points where there is no insulation. It has a number of features that contribute to the overall warmth effect, such as the aforementioned full length center zipper, lined the entire way by a reinforced draft tube, and a down-filled neck collar that has two buttons to hold it closed at the top of the zipper. The effect of all these features is that it is a reasonably warm bag, good to around 40F, but not as warm overall as the warmest bags in our testing, as evidenced by the chart below:
We tested this bag numerous nights at temperatures well above its 40F limit and found it to be very comfortable. We also used it two nights at, or even slightly below, its 40F limit, and while it did not keep us piping hot at those temperatures, we were still reasonably comfortable, and not suffering like we were when we tested other quilts such as the Katabatic Gear Palisade 30 and Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt 700 at their lower-end limits. However, it is worth pointing out that at its best, this is still a 40 degree bag without a hood, and so it was not as warm as the warmest hooded mummy bags, like The North Face Superlight 15, which was the top scorer in this category. We think this bag performs very admirably for a 40F bag, but would not hesitate to order either the 30F or 20F versions in the future for added comfort during chilly spring and fall trips into the mountains, and would recommend you do so as well if you want a truly three-season bag.
Our size regular Flicker 40 UL weighed in at 19.1 ounces, slightly lighter than the 20 ounces advertised on Feathered Friends' website. While not included in our measurements, the included stuff sack weighed 0.8 ounces. You can see how this compared to the rest of the products in the chart below:
At 1 lb. 3.1 oz, this is certainly a very light sleeping bag, and packs down small enough to easily carry with you during virtually any ultralight endurance activity. That said, it is not nearly as light or as small as the Sea to Summit Spark I, the lightest and smallest bag in this review, or even the Western Mountaineering HighLite, a mummy bag that managed to weigh in at only 15 ounces. It weighed virtually the same as other quilts we tested, like the Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20, and of course ended up with a higher overall score. In our opinion, despite not being the lightest out there, this is still a very light bag, and we would even happily add the four ounces of weight to buy ourselves another 10 degrees of warmth with the Flicker 30 UL.
According to Feathered Friends, our regular sized Flicker 40 UL is 6'6" long in blanket mode, and 6'0" long when the end is cinched. This should make it plenty long to suit a six-foot tall person, and in our experience we found this to be true. With our feet comfortably in the bottom of the bag and the end cinched, the neck collar and baffle easily came over our shoulders and sat snuggly around our neck. We also found that when fully zipped up, enclosing one in mummy mode, the bag was spacious and comfortable throughout, without the claustrophobic constriction inherent in some mummy bag designs. We found that the Flite 15d ripstop nylon inner material was plenty comfortable against our skin, although it wasn't our number one liner material. Check out where this bag ranked for comfort:
While certainly among the more comfortable bags in this review, we couldn't rate it as high as the Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag 30, which was our most comfortable mummy bag, mostly due to its roomy foot box and very well designed hood and facial enclosure. Likewise, we didn't find the Flicker 40 UL to be quite as comfortable as the Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt 700, the most comfortable quilt, which is super long and wide, has no zipper of any sort, and is meant to be simply wrapped around oneself like a giant tortilla. While comparatively it wasn't the absolute best, we genuinely can't complain about how comfortable this bag is.
We define versatility as the ability for a sleeping bag to be effectively and comfortably used in the most possible different situations, and there is no doubt that this is where the Flicker 40 UL truly shines. While we have already talked at length about how much we love the fact that this bag can be either a fully opened blanket or an enclosed mummy, no other bag in this test can say the same. It easily received the highest score in this metric:
One of the design premises of many of the quilts we tested is that laying on top of down insulation compresses it, rendering it ineffective. Quilts like the Katabatic Gear Palisade 30 and the Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20 use this reasoning to simply not include a bottom side, and instead are designed to wrap around a sleeping pad. Our hard-earned experience with regards to these designs is that logic aside, quilt designs that could be made fully enclosed were noticeably warmer than their non-enclosed counterparts, regardless of temperature rating. Simply put, air manages to leak in and out of a person's warmth envelope if not fully enclosed.
That is what makes quilts that can fully wrap a person, such as the Flicker 40 UL, as well as the high scoring Zpacks 20 Degree and Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt 700, more versatile overall.
Yet again, the Flicker 40 UL received the highest score for features, a perfect 10. When considering features, we assessed for how useful the features were to the design of the bag, and also how well they worked. Besides the full-length zipper, we loved how well the foot box draw cord worked on this bag. With one pull this bag goes from fully flat blanket, to having a completely enclosed foot box. Unlike similar designs, there is not even the smallest hole left in the bottom of the bag for air to escape, and we found the draw cord easily stayed tight through many nights of usage. Here's how the competition compared when it came to features:
The quilt most similar in design to the Flicker 40 UL is the Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20. As our Best Bang for the Buck award winner, it is a very worthy alternative for those wanting a more budget conscious choice, but we found that the draw cords on its foot enclosure, as well as around the neck, were simply too light and didn't snug up as well as those on this bag. The little quarter zipper and buckle combination of closing the bag was also not up to the standard of the high quality zipper found on the Flicker 40 UL, and so it wasn't rated as highly. Of the mummy bags we tested, the Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag 30 had the best set of features, which we still felt were not quite as perfect as this award winner.
As a supremely versatile quilt/mummy bag combo, this ultralight sleeping bag is suitable for use in any three-season conditions. It would be a great choice for long distance thru-hikers who need one bag usable in all conditions. It makes a great choice for backpacking or simple car camping. If we were to use it primarily at high altitudes or often use it during low temperatures near its 40F rating, we would probably choose to opt for a warmer version.
Retail price for this sleeping bag is $339, planting it squarely in the middle of all of the ultralight bags we tested when considering price. Since we called it the best overall ultralight sleeping bag, and think it is very versatile for different seasons, temperatures, climates, and uses, we think this presents a fantastic value. While we didn't rate for durability, we can also say we feel the workmanship displayed on this bag is top notch. Highly recommended.
The Feathered Friends Flicker 40 UL sleeping bag is our best overall ultralight sleeping bag winner because it scored higher than the competition. Of particular note is how versatile it is, and how well its particular design features help it score above the rest. It shines as both a down blanket and hoodless mummy, and is plenty light and warm to be considered an ultralight enthusiast's dream piece of gear.
— Andy Wellman
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