Western Mountaineering HighLite Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Very light, packs down small, finely crafted
Cons: Too short, hood and collar doesn’t seal well, zipper comes undone by itself
Manufacturer: Western Mountaineering
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Our Analysis and Test Results
In previous years we have reviewed the Western Mountaineering Summerlite, a slightly heavier and mildly warmer mummy bag that has a full-length zipper. This year, in the interest of trying out an even lighter offering from Western Mountaineering, we tested their HighLite. We loved how light it was — at 15 ounces it was the second lightest bag in our review and packed down into a very small stuff sack as well. Unfortunately, despite these awesome attributes, we found that there was not a whole lot else about this bag that we could give it props for. It used a relatively small amount of down in a sewn-through construction that wasn't super warm. We thought the bag was tight, especially in the feet and legs areas, and it was also a bit too short when the hood was over our head. The hood and neck enclosure didn't do a good job of sealing out cold air, and the zipper also had issues. As such, this bag was ranked near the bottom of our comparative rankings.
The HighLite is rated to 35F, although we did not feel like it was comfortable enough for us to sleep at that low temperature. It uses 8 ounces of 850 fill power down sewn into horizontal sewn-through baffles. The cut is designed to be low volume, so there is less space to heat up. We agree that it did seem to warm up inside pretty quickly, but that the overall design didn't keep us very warm all night long.
For a hooded mummy bag, we were disappointed that the hood was so shallow and didn't cover our entire head very well. We also wish that the zipper had a draft tube on it, or that there was a neck draft collar. The whole hood and neck ensemble didn't allow for a tight cinch and didn't fit very well to begin with, so we found that warm air easily leaked out, and cold air in. The tight fit also meant it was not comfortable to wear extra layers on cold nights, and thus we just thought this bag wasn't very well suited to temperatures near its 35F rating.
Our size 6'0" sleeping bag weighed 15 ounces on our independent scale, which is even an ounce lighter than advertised. The included stuff sack weighed an additional 1.5 ounces. This low weight is the shining bright spot for the HighLite.
Comfort is largely a product of how well the bag fits, and we thought that this one was perhaps the smallest and tightest fit compared to its advertised dimensions. Despite ordering the 6'0" size bag, our 5'11" tall head tester found the bag too short to be comfortable when the hood was pulled up over the head. It also felt narrow and tight in the feet and hips, although wide enough for comfort around the torso. The HighLite's hood and neck really wouldn't close up around the face all the way and left a long cord dangling in the face and around the neck. Because they were both smaller than advertised, to the point of not being comfortable to use properly on a cold night.
Its hooded mummy bag design with a short half zipper meant that the HighLite is certainly less versatile for warm weather use than a quilt. Conversely, we found that since it wasn't very good at sealing in the trapped heat, this bag also wasn't all that great for really cold temperatures. As such, we thought the range of comfortable usage for this bag was pretty small, from about 40F — 50F. It certainly makes for a better summer bag than one that you push the temperature range at high altitude for. It also doesn't use treated down, or advertise itself as having a DWR treatment applied to the face fabric, although we confess that it seemed to bead and shed water pretty well when we spilled our tea on it one evening.
Yet again, we found the features of this bag underperforming. We have already mentioned how the hood was shallow, didn't fit well, and how the drawcord at the face was not very effective in fully tightening up the opening around the face on cold nights. This bag also comes with a half-length side zipper, much like the other mummy bags in this test. However, we found that this zipper seemed almost too slippery, as it would slide itself open at night as we slept. Additionally, when opened all the way, which frequently happens with a half zip, it would always come unthreaded, meaning we had to re-thread it every time we zipped it. In short, we wish this bag had a different zipper.
This sleeping bag retails right around the average price for an ultralight sleeping bag. Since it ranks near the bottom of our comparative review, we would recommend spending that money on a different bag instead.
The Western Mountaineering HighLite is one of the lightest and smallest packing sleeping bags in this review. It is a hooded mummy bag that is best used during summertime temperatures, as we did not find it comfortable down to its recommended 35F rating. Overall it was one of the lowest performers that we tested, and while we tried to love it, we didn't think it worked as well as its competitors.
— Andy Wellman