Cross-Continent Tested: Montbell Sleeping Bag

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Montbell Ultra Light Super Stretch Down Hugger #3

For a two-week trip across America you need a sleeping bag that fulfills all of the requirements and expectations of a discerning motorcycle traveler; namely warm, light and compact. Happily the Montbell UltraLight Super Stretch Down Hugger #3 fits the bill.

The Montbell #3 is rated to keep you toasty down to 30°F/-1°C and is insulated with high quality 800-fill down. That fill doesn’t come at the price of excessive weight or bulk though, the Montbell #3 packs into a feather-light 23 ounce, football-sized package that easily slips into nearly any motorcycle luggage system. The Montbell also combats the constrictive feeling of most mummy bags.

People who have never considered or have given up on mummy bags due to being “big boned” or because of the claustrophobia these tighter bags invoke should Note Montbell incorporates elastic into the sleeping bag fabric. Montbell’s Super Stretch mummy bags then allow free and easy movement, but also lightly contract to eliminate excess space and cold pockets of air.

Nighttime conditions on my recent trans-America trip hovered in the 40s, and ranged from 60°F/15°C in balmy Oregon to a frigid night in Yellowstone that left frost on the backs of bison. After a long day of riding, slipping into the Montbell #3 is a wonderful luxury: the bag shell material is light and never stifling and the Super Stretch system expands and contracts naturally as you twist and roll while combating the usual soreness of a long time spent in the saddle. I wasn’t quite doing Pilates in the bag but movement is so close to effortless that the Montbell #3 is the first mummy bag that never felt restrictive or left me feeling wrapped like one of its name-sake pharaohs. Every night I fell asleep feeling happy and relaxed, looking forward to a good night’s rest and the next day’s ride, and contemplating the nature of the large creature plodding about outside the tent.

My primary complaint with the bag comes down to personal preference and I wish to emphasize that everyone sleeps differently: some sleep hot, some sleep cold, some sleep on their backs, and some sleep at the dinner table slumped over desert. On nights when temperatures were in the low 40s (5°C) and below, I was cold. Not Gulag inmate in December shivering, but not the coddling warmth I expect climbing into a sleeping bag. The Montbell #3 is rated at 30 degrees but based on experience this seems between 5 and 10 degrees optimistic, a fairly common trend in ultra-light sleeping bags. If you are a warm sleeper, than the #3 might be the right choice for you but someone who is usually cold should consider getting the Montbell UL SS #1 or #2, bags which share the same features as the #3 tested here, but are rated at 15 degrees and 25 degrees respectively for only a few dollars and ounces more.

Another compression concession is the stuff sack included with the Montbell #3 -. I know that the small stuff sack is a concession to ultralight backpackers but for the money I expected something a bit more functional – it takes forever to pack. Eventually I caved to practicality and replaced the sack with a dry compression bag and used the Montbell sack as a pillow-case. I will caution anyone considering the Montbell bags to adhere to their sizing guidelines and anyone over 5’10” should get the Long version of their bags.

The Montbell Ultra Light Super Stretch Down Hugger #3 retails for $278.98, not cheap, but few parts of motorcycle travel are. While the Montbell #3 supplies a great weight and space savings over other sleeping bags and is ready for a sunny trip to Baja, a voyage to the Yukon or an impulse weekend trip or a cross-country epic… provided it’s a summer adventure.

MSRP $278.95 US for standard length, $298.95 US for the long

16 days on the road, 5051 miles and a 1994 Honda VFR 750 – OWD contributor Jake Moritz crossed the continent putting the latest camping gear to a motorcycle specific test. Though given Jake is a geography major, we might point out that his route isn’t direct; north from San Francisco to Bend, Oregon, across central Idaho to Yellowstone NP, all backroads From Caliornia to South Dakota, jetting across to Wisconsin into Canada, arcing around the North Shore of Lake Superior, across Ontario and Quebec, then down into New Hampshire before arriving at Middlebury College in Vermont.

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