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Feathered Friends Vireo UL Review

Price:   $329 List | $309.00 at Feathered Friends
Pros:  Super simple and light, highest quality down, spacious and comfortable
Cons:  No zipper, hard to tell the difference between variable fill zones, must be paired with warm jacket, feet can get hot in warmer weather, not as versatile as other ultralight bags
Bottom line:  A lightweight, variable fill, hoodless mummy without a zipper, designed to be used for alpine climbing in conjunction with a belay parka.
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Feathered Friends

Our Verdict

The Feathered Friends Vireo UL is a specialty bag that is designed for use while alpine climbing. With this goal in mind, this hoodless mummy completely cuts out the zipper to save weight and bulk, and while it has a temperature rating of 25F for the lower body, it uses less down fill on the upper body, which is rated to 45F. The idea is that you will pair it with your insulated belay jacket, which you have to carry on the climb with you anyway, to again save weight and keep you warm during your bivy. At 16.4 ounces, it is indeed very light. While it will serve one well as an alpine climbing sleeping bag, we also found it to be comfortable and enjoyable for use while backpacking as well. The 62" version we tested in our updated review weighs in at 13.9 ounces! The longer 68" version we previously tested also weighed in at less than 16 ounces. We recommend the Top Pick Award winner Vireo to alpinists and cold weather adventurers who climb or hike with a very warm winter parka.

For the majority of ultralight backpackers and thru-hikers, we recommend a quilt for warmth and versatility. The closed foot box quilt Katabatic Gear Palisade 30 is one of the warmest and most comfortable options we tested. If you are more budget conscious, the Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20 fully-opening quilt is one of our top scoring models overall and has a relatively modest price tag.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Ultralight Sleeping Bags of 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Andy Wellman
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Friday
July 7, 2017

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The Vireo UL is quite unique in that it has a few different design elements not found on any other sleeping bag in this review. It is the only mummy bag to forego the use of a zipper, which we somewhat lamented. No zipper meant this bag is not easy to get in or out of (can you say wriggle?), and for a bag that is designed for climbing, creates quite a conundrum as to the best way to stay tied in. Well, there is no debate, the only way to stay tied in is to run the cord out the top of this bag, but we find this to be annoying and less than ideal. In our opinion, the two way zipper used on the Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag 30 is far more practical as a way to manage the tie in point while on a wall or bivy on a mountain, while also adding versatility to ventilate.

What we did like was the unique variable fill: the bottom half of the bag is rated to 25F, and the top half to 45F. The idea is to use an insulated jacket that you must carry anyway to keep you warm at night. Because it is meant to be paired with a bulky jacket, the fit in the torso is the most spacious of any mummy bag we tested, and on warm nights you can always sleep in this bag without the belay jacket. That's what we did most of the time when using it for backpacking, and we simply loved the extra space.

How to Get It:
Feathered Friends bags are not sold by major commercial or online retailers.

Find it online at: FeatheredFriends.com

Performance Comparison


The Feathered Friends Vireo UL scored right about in the middle of our overall rankings, as shown below by the blue highlight.


Waking up to a chilly morning after sleeping out in the San Juan Mountains. The Vireo  in blue  and the HighLite in purple.
Waking up to a chilly morning after sleeping out in the San Juan Mountains. The Vireo, in blue, and the HighLite in purple.

Warmth


As we have mentioned many times already, the Vireo UL has a variable fill of 25F on the lower body, and 45F on the upper body. To be honest, observing from the outside, it is hard to discern the difference in lofting insulation between the two halves. In order to accomplish this, Feathered Friends uses 9.4 ounces of 950+ fill goose down, which is amongst the highest rated down of any bag we tested. The baffles are horizontally oriented, rather wide, and sewn through. Unfortunately, we noticed that down seems to be able to move around quite freely in these large and wide baffles, and toward the end of our testing period we noticed that a few total dead spots had developed where the down had migrated out of a certain area, leaving it devoid of insulation.

The Vireo is designed to be paired with a warm jacket to take advantage of clothing you already have with you. With this idea in mind  it uses less insulation on the upper half than on the lower half  which is rated to 25F. We liked how the torso region of this bag was super spacious to fit our extra clothes.
The Vireo is designed to be paired with a warm jacket to take advantage of clothing you already have with you. With this idea in mind, it uses less insulation on the upper half than on the lower half, which is rated to 25F. We liked how the torso region of this bag was super spacious to fit our extra clothes.

While it doesn't have a hood, we still found this bag to be pretty warm, roughly the same as the Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20. We tested it primarily while backpacking and camping out on climbing trips, and found that on nights where the low temperature was in the 40's, we still felt comfortable without needing to add our down puffy jacket. We did not find it to be as warm as the more heavily insulated The North Face Superlight 15, which also had a neck baffle and a hood.

Weight


We tested a 74 inch long Vireo UL, which is the longest size that they make. Our test model weighed in at 16.4 ounces, slightly lighter than the advertised 16.7 ounces, and the included stuff sack weighed an additional 0.8 ounces. This made it the third lightest sleeping bag in our test, behind only the Sea to Summit Spark I and the Western Mountaineering HighLite. Of these three lightest bags, there is no doubt that this one slept the warmest, and also had the most spacious fit.

The Vireo UL packs down relatively small into its included yellow stuff sack. At 16.4 ounces  it was also the third lightest sleeping bag in our review.
The Vireo UL packs down relatively small into its included yellow stuff sack. At 16.4 ounces, it was also the third lightest sleeping bag in our review.

Comfort


Since this is a hoodless mummy bag that is only meant to come up over the shoulders while being worn, the size choices are a bit short compared to most that we tested. For this test we purchased a 74 inch bag, which was the longest option (it also comes in 68 and 62 inches). This length easily fit our head tester's 5'11" frame, comfortably coming over the top of the shoulders. While the legs and feet of this bag are quite narrow, the torso and upper body region are the widest and most spacious of any mummy bag tested, significantly adding to how comfortable we felt. When we didn't wear an extra jacket inside, this bag felt downright palatial! Even with the down jacket on, as it is designed to be used, the upper body is not too restricting.

We ordered a 74" version of the Vireo  which was the longest that they had. It fit our 5'11" head tester nicely  easily covering his shoulders. The hood on his down jacket helped keep his head warm throughout the night.
We ordered a 74" version of the Vireo, which was the longest that they had. It fit our 5'11" head tester nicely, easily covering his shoulders. The hood on his down jacket helped keep his head warm throughout the night.

With no zippers and only one single draw cord at the neck, there were virtually no features or cords that could annoy us while sleeping, and the score of 8 out of 10 for comfort was near the top of the ratings. Only the Patagonia 850 and the Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt 700 were more comfortable for a night of sleep according to our testers.

Comparing and testing mummy bags in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming  we found that the Vireo had by far the most spacious fit through the torso  and was also really light!
Comparing and testing mummy bags in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming, we found that the Vireo had by far the most spacious fit through the torso, and was also really light!

Versatility


With no zipper or enclosure system of any sort, this bag suffers in the versatility department. Not only is it a pain to wriggle in and out of, but it is literally impossible to ventilate on a warm night to let out some of the built up heat. Used in the mountain setting as it is designed to, this shouldn't be a problem, but if you are intending to stretch this bag's usage to camping at the base of a mountain, or a simple backpacking trip, then it's a tad annoying.

The variable fill of this bag does add to the versatility a bit, as you always have the option of wearing an insulated jacket on cold nights, or foregoing any extra layers on warm nights. We also liked how the outer shell fabric is made of naturally water resistant Pertex Endurance UL fabric, lessening the chances of water being an issue in the mountains. It still ranked near the bottom though, roughly the same in our minds as the Western Mountaineering HighLite, and slightly lower than The North Face Superlight 15.

Chad Kellog in the Feathered Friends Vireo sleeping bag in the Picket Range  Washington. Our Top Pick for Alpine Climbing is designed for use with warm upper layers and works well for sleeping sitting up.
Chad Kellog in the Feathered Friends Vireo sleeping bag in the Picket Range, Washington. Our Top Pick for Alpine Climbing is designed for use with warm upper layers and works well for sleeping sitting up.

Features


With very few features, there is not a whole lot to talk about here. The only feature that hasn't already been discussed is the single draw cord and buckle on the collar. We liked how the cord is made of static cord, as opposed to stretchy bungee cord, and the buckle does a fine job of holding the cord tight. Like many of the other bags, we still had the complaint that the long cord, when fully tightened, dangles in one's face and near the neck. Regardless, this bag scored just below the Zpacks 20 Degree, which included a ¾ length zipper, and the Sea to Summit Spark I, which added a hood and zipper, at a lighter weight.

Pretty much the only feature to speak of on this zipper-less mummy bag was the single draw cord around the neck opening. It worked just fine.
Pretty much the only feature to speak of on this zipper-less mummy bag was the single draw cord around the neck opening. It worked just fine.

Best Applications


According to Feathered Friends, this bag is designed specifically for alpine climbing adventures, where weight is of critical importance. We agree with them that this will be the best use of this bag, but we found that it works really well also for ultralight backpacking, and its design makes it a decent choice for the cooler spring and fall seasons. It would not make an ideal choice for warm summer trips, unless you are in the high mountains.

Drying out your down sleeping bag in the morning after it gets moist from condensation inside the tent is essential on long backpacking trips to keep the down lofting as much as it can.
Drying out your down sleeping bag in the morning after it gets moist from condensation inside the tent is essential on long backpacking trips to keep the down lofting as much as it can.

Value


Retailing for $329, the Vireo UL is about average when it comes to price. While we think the craftsmanship of this bag is excellent, ensuring that you get what you pay for, we have to concede that the design is a bit quirky, and probably is not ideal for very many people. Unless you are going alpine climbing and you don't mind the inconvenience of staying tied in while in this bag, we wouldn't recommend spending this much money for the Vireo UL.

Conclusion


The Feathered Friends Vireo UL is a specialty bag designed with alpine climbing in mind. Its variable fill is meant to take advantage of the insulation you are already carrying with you in the form of a belay parka, thereby saving weight. With no zipper at all, entering and exiting this bag is best described as awkward, and we aren't sold on the idea of needing to run our tie in cord down through the top of our bag while bivying. That said, its very spacious fit was among the most comfortable we tested, and it is an adequate lightweight bag for backpacking during the shoulder seasons, not just while alpine climbing.
Andy Wellman

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: July 11, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (4.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
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   Jul 11, 2017 - 08:01pm
toddball · Climber · Seattle
My opinion of this bag is pretty similar to the reviewers'.

I have a 68" Vireo UL with ~5 oz of overfill in the torso, so the warmth/"rating" of the bag is more uniform. It's very light and packs down very small; with the overfill it was a struggle to get it into the supplied stuffsack (which I have since mangled after using it as a deadman), but I often put it in the bottom of a big compression stuffsack with my clothes and the whole package gets pretty small. I've never used it in the winter, but it has been plenty warm for spring/summer climbing and ski trips in the Washington Cascades. I don't miss having a hood; if it's cold enough to need headwear I'm usually wearing an R1 or light synthetic puffy anyway.

It is truly awesome how much room there is in the torso/hip area of this bag for how warm it is. Granted, I'm pretty scrawny, but I can comfortably fit water or fuel bottles on either side of my hips and several pairs of socks, gloves or whatever at my sides without feeling restricted.

The lack of venting for temperature regulation is where this bag loses a star. The drawcord does a decent job of regulating temperature in your torso, but once your legs get warm you have to take clothes off. I don't think I've used this bag on a night warmer than 50 degrees or below treeline, but I imagine it would be a sweaty affair. I don't think this would be a good bag for summer trips at low elevation.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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