ZPacks Classic Review
Cons: A little constricting, small foot box, not the best neck draw cord design
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Zpacks Classic is a hoodless mummy bag that also opens up into an enclosed foot box style quilt. While it is awesome enough to be the second highest rated bag in our test, it also has a number of drawbacks, including a more restrictive fit than some other bags, and slightly less than awesome functionality out of its features. This sleeping bag is made by a small independent manufacturer that makes all products to order and is thus supremely customizable (for a price, of course). While we tested a 20F Standard girth bag, they are also available in 10F, 30F, and 40F and in slim and broad girths. An additional feature that can also be added on is a zipper draft tube. We tested this bag during many nights spent sleeping in guesthouses, in homestays, in a tent, and outside while trekking in the Khumbu region of Nepal in the early spring month of March.
All Zpacks products are custom-made in Florida. They are only available for purchase through their online store: ZPacks.com.
Stuffed with 13.1 ounces of light and fluffy 900 fill power down, this is indeed a warm bag. When looking at how well it lofts up in comparison to other bags we tested, it is puffier than most. Also contributing to its warmth is vertical box baffle construction around the torso and upper legs, and horizontal box baffles around the feet. Insulation sewn into box baffles means that there are no points where the material on the outer and inner parts of the bag meet, creating down "dead spots," where there is effectively zero insulation. With its high rating and thoughtful and quality sewing work, this was one of the warmest bags in our test.
However, there were a few things that stuck out to us as we tested this bag well below freezing, and once while being snowed on, in Nepal. The first is that there is no draft tube that covers the zipper, although Zpacks claims this is no big deal since you should be sleeping on top of the zipper (they will also add one to your bag for $20). We also found that without a hood, the collar needs to be drawn really tight to keep warm air from escaping, and the very thin bungee cord that accomplishes this was not the most ideal for this purpose. However, the end result was that this bag was quite warm.
At 20.3 ounces (1 lb. 4.3 oz.) our Standard Long bag weighed in slightly heavier than Zpacks claimed, although the difference was negligible. The waterproof cuben fiber rolltop stuff sack, without doubt, the highest quality stuff sack to come with a sleeping bag that we have found, weighed an extra 0.9 ounces. Compared to the competition, this bag was merely average when it came to weight, although was still super light given how warm it is.
The most important aspect when assessing for comfort was the fit of the bag. Despite the fact that we bought a "long" bag good for people 5'10", and our head tester is 5'11", we found that this bag was long enough and easily covered the tops of our shoulders. That said, the foot box was fairly small, and the fit overall was a bit constricting. Since it doesn't have a hood, on cold nights a hat is mandatory, but we were often more comfortable wearing a jacket with a hood, even though it meant filling even more of the valuable space inside.
One minor complaint we had when it came to comfort was that the neck drawcord, when fully tightened around our neck to keep the heat in, was excessively long and dangled around, often getting wrapped up around our neck as we moved about in our sleep.
When considering how versatile a sleeping bag is we like to consider how easily it can be used in all different temperatures, climates, and seasons. As a warm bag that can be zipped all the way up into a mummy, this bag is for sure appropriate for those colder shoulder seasons — spring and fall — or during rogue storms. In Nepal, we were camped out in early March in this bag when a surprise downpour hit us, which soon turned into an all-night snowstorm. Suffice to say it was cold and the inside of our tent was completely soaked, but the DWR coating on both the inside and outside of this bag held up, retaining its loft, and our comfort. With the ability to open up most of the way and use it as an enclosed foot box-style quilt, this bag also does a plenty adequate job of ventilating on warmer nights.
With the ability to use it during all seasons, we graded this bag as one of the highest when it came to versatility. The only way it could score higher is if it could be opened into a full blanket and shared with two people, like some quilts we've tried.
We can honestly say that if Zpacks chose to employ slightly higher quality features, this would be far and away the best ultralight sleeping bag in this review. Particularly annoying to us was the very thin, lightweight, stretchy bungee cord used as the neck drawcord. Ours did not even have a buckle to cinch the cord tight, and after using it one night by trying to tie knots to keep it tight, we eventually had to pirate a buckle off of another stuff sack. The bungee cord is also not an ideal choice, as it requires pulling the cord super tight to keep it snug around your neck, and leaves a very long dangling end near your face.
We also found that the zipper was prone to catching on the inside of the nearest baffle fabric, and thought this could have been fixed with a draft tube made with some tougher material. While we didn't test this bag to failure, we surmise that one of these two features will be the first fail point in this otherwise well-constructed sleeping bag. Even considering the super awesome roll-top, waterproof, cube fiber stuff sack that is included with your purchase, we couldn't give the features on this bag nearly as high a score as some other products.
Since you can only order this bag from the manufacturer, it's unlikely that you will end up finding a discount deal online somewhere. At its price, it is on the upper end of the price spectrum for ultralight bags we tested. Since we consider it to be one of the best ones available, we think it presents a pretty good value. We would be slightly happier to pay this price if the draft tube came included and the neck drawcord was beefier, but even so, we think this is a bag worth spending the money on.
The Zpacks Classic is one of the highest-rated bags in our review for several years now, packing a surprising amount of insulation and warmth into a relatively light package. We used it during high altitude treks and even snowstorms in the Himalaya and found it pretty true to its temperature rating. While we have a few complaints about the components used as its principal features, we still think it is one of the most versatile ultralight bags available on the market today and is one we would love to own personally.
— Andy Wellman