Outdoor Retail Gear Trends: 2016 sleeping bags

Sleeping bag designs move beyond just the mummy, bringing features from home. Check out what's ahead for outdoor retail shelves in 2016.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 5 – 8

Sleeping bags continue to break out of their mummy mold.

As more consumers chase comfort in camp, they not only want a light bag to carry in, but one that feels more like their bed at home. That means more room to stretch, plus the flexibility to throw down the covers when it’s hot or snuggle in tight when it’s cold.

“I think the race right now is for innovative new ideas that break the mold and enhance comfort,” said Cam Brensinger, founder and CEO of Nemo Equipment. “The minimalist angle has been covered by decades of gradual fine tuning of the traditional mummy bag. The mummy of course has its place, but the market is ready for new approaches.”

To that end, Nemo introduces the 700-fill-power, water-resistant DownTek Concerto (MSRP $400), which employs integrated sheets (like adding or subtracting another blanket at home) to extend the comfort temperature range from 20 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In a similar vein the Kelty Tru.Comfort (MSRP $120) is a 20-degree synthetic bag built with a traditional mummy shape, but a unique two-layer blanket system lets you sleep in any position and helps regulate your temperature. A selling point for both these bags: hoods that fit pillows from home.

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Even the most technical of sleeping bag brands are noting a rise in car campers — whether they’re at the National Park or going to an outdoor festival.

One of the frontrunners in breaking out of the crypt of mummy bags, Sierra Designs — with its popular Backcountry Bed, featuring a zipperless design with an integrated comforter — brings the experience to the frontcountry, with, you guessed it, the Frontcountry Bed (MSRPs $89-230), a synthetic version with roomier cuts. Some versions will even fit a twin or queen size air mat. And Big Agnes debuts the 600-fill-power, water-resistant DownTek Summit 15 (MSRP $349), built for professional warmth, but with a wider and longer cut than normal. It also has double zippers down each side to give it more of a comforter feel and hand pockets at the top corners to quickly bring everything in when there’s a chill.

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That desire for versatility is also helping grow the technical quilt and blanket category, said Jim Giblin, sleeping bag category director at Therm-a-Rest.

“Traditional mummy bags are efficient, but they’re not always the best option for every situation,” he said. “Consumers want to create customizable sleep systems.” Designers have to make sure that their brands’ bags, quilts and mattresses all work together to provide “a full range of options for different sleeping styles, conditions and adventure types.”

Enter the Therm-a-Rest Ventana (MSRP $200) an affordable, rectangular summer bag (40-50 degrees) that can be zipped open flat to create a two-person quilt or mated with a second Ventana for a double sleeping bag. Also check out Therm-a-Rest’s Proton (MSRP $120), a 100-percent waterproof, synthetic-insulated blanket lined with reflective material to boost insulation. It’s a versatile piece to keep in the trunk that can serve campers in a myriad of situations, including a quick shelter from the rain or as a mat inside a wet tent.

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The revolution of insulated air pads to the sleep system has been a blessing for those that sleep on their sides, but the buoyant air pads aren’t perfect — many have complained of slipping off during the night. Eureka shares a solution in
its synthetic Lone Pine 30 (MSRP $90), which features its patent-pending Stealth-Grip fabric technology that creates a no-slip interface between the bag and pad.

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Car campers will applaud the above efforts, but what about your core outdoor customers? Don’t worry, there are comfort nods to them as well — importantly with little to no weight added.

Wade Woodfill, Marmot’s category merchandising manager, has been watching the sleeping bag market for some time, and while he agrees that consumers want comfort, he’s lately seen too many “trick” and “gimmicky” features that core campers don’t need at the cost of extra weight.

Marmot takes the approach of “engineered comfort” and for 2016 it introduces the Ion (MSRP $419), an ultralight (1 pound, 12 ounces) sleeping bag rated at 20 degrees. It body maps 850-fill-power goose down on the top and sides of the bag (plus the bottom of the hood) with a synthetic fill on the rest of the bottom — the reason being that it stands up better to body weight to maintain insulation. Keeping comfort in mind, a second side zipper allows for that comforter ability, a new zipper promises to reduce snags, plus there are the added benefits of a roomier footbox.

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There are even some car campers who prioritize warmth over abundant stretch room these days, said Robert Fry, global director of product merchandising and design at Mountain Hardwear.

“The campground camper, who historically didn’t necessarily expect too much from their kit, has gotten infinitely more sophisticated,” he said. To keep them well rested and happy, Mountain Hardwear brings the affordable HotBed Flame (MSRP $159), which utilizes the company’s well-known Lamina synthetic down that lofts high, compresses easily and has a soft, down-like feel. The bag is built with vertical baffles and, while mummy-shaped, still offers a roomier cut.

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Ending on the extreme niche user, we find ourselves back at the Nemo booth to check out the Moonwalk sleeping bag (MSRP $280), part of a three-piece camping system (see tents story, pages 23-24) targeting bikepackers, but adaptable for ultralight backpackers, too. The Moonwalk marries what was previously the tent’s duty of a “bathtub floor” into the bottom of the sleeping bag, which makes it perfect for floorless shelters. The 700-fill-power DownTek bag is rated at 30 degrees and the hoodless design helps cut the weight to 2 pounds, 2 ounces.

Your sleeping bag shoppers will be set for 2016 — from ultralight to ultra comfortable.

The luxury of sleeping pads
If our ancestors saw how we camped today, they’d call us out as bunch of wimps.

Snuggly sleeping bags? “Pssh.”

Two-burner stoves and a separate coffee-specific JetBoil? “Really?”

Cushy sleeping pads that insulate you from the cold earth? “Wait… let me see those.”

More than any piece of gear, a good sleeping pad will vastly improve the camper’s night’s rest. Ask anyone who says they hate camping, and you will likely find that they’re not using one. Introduce it to them, and change their worldview. Even the advances in sleeping pads over the past few years will have your regular camping customers impressed. So, help them indulge their inner glamper with an upgrade to a new pad.

Brands continue to up the plush factor, said Brandon Bowers, mattress category director at Therm-a-Rest, as consumers increasingly list comfort and convenience as their main priorities over weight.

Therm-a-Rest introduces a new line of Camp & Comfort mattresses for 2016, including the NeoAir Camper SV (short for speed valve) (MSRP $140), which it claims users can blow up three times faster than normal and deflates “almost instantaneously.” It also brings the MondoKing 3D (MSRP $180), a new 4-inch thick, self inflating foam pad with vertical sidewalls, giving users more room to sleep on without falling off.

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But wait, “it’s still all about weight for the backpacking crowd” said Nemo Equipment founder and CEO Cam Brensinger.

Nemo’s new Tensor and Vector pads (MSRPs $100-200) use a patent-pending construction called Spaceframe that reduces the amount of coating inside the pad and allows for the use of both continuous filament and metallic film insulation. That leads to less weight (the pads range from 7 ounces to just more than a pound), less stretch in the material for greater side-to-side stability and a much quieter pad.

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--David Clucas

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