Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013 Preview: Sleeping Bags

Down's never been better, but prices are through the roof.
This SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Summer Market preview is brought to you by Cordura.

This SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Summer Market preview is brought to you by Cordura.

Leading up to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, SNEWS is previewing new trends and products you’ll see at the trade show in Salt Lake City, July 30-Aug. 3. Today, we take a peek at footwear. You can access all these articles and more in our digital edition of the O.R. Daily Day 0.

With the advent of water-resistant down and 900-plus fill powers, down sleeping bags have never been more popular.

But wait until consumers take a look at 2014 price tags.

Increased demand for down, coupled with recent avian flu scares in Asia, have constrained supplies and vaulted already-rising costs even higher. That’s leading to planned price increases of 20 to 30 percent for some models next year.

“All the brands and retailers are going to have a lot of work to do to educate the consumer on these price increases — that it’s not the hydrophobic down treatments, which are pretty inexpensive, but the increased demand and decreased supply of the down itself,” said Samantha Killgore, marketing manager at Rab USA. “At the same time, we recognize the [price] realities for the consumer.”

In response to the latter, expect to see brands like Rab, Big Agnes and others paying closer attention to innovations on the synthetic side of sleeping bags to hit lower price points. Brands also are targeting down bags at 700-fill power ranges to address costs. And more manufacturers continue to turn to duck down fills, particularly at 600-700 fill power range.

Not everyone is inching away from down, however. Sierra Designs is making a commitment to its water-resistant DriDown technology down by abandoning all synthetic insulation in its sleeping bags and apparel.

“Why would anyone want a synthetic sleeping bag for backpacking? Nothing beats down,” said Michael Glavin, vice president and brand manager at Sierra Designs. “If you’re trying to save money, cut your budget elsewhere. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for a good experience in the backcountry.”

Insulation cost and debates aside, there are a few other sleeping bag trends to note on the show floor, including an inventive new zipperless design, more water-resistant down technologies and the continued rise in backcountry blankets and sleep systems coupled with pads.

>> No more snagging and fumbling with noisy zippers at night. Sierra Designs debuts what it calls an “anti-traditional mummy bag” in its Backcountry Bed series (MSRPs $249-$349). The bags are able to go zipperless, yet still include a hood, by employing a circular entry inspired by a shoe’s tongue. It allows the bag’s top core to be tucked in to seal off drafts or provide a blanket-like cover. The bags are meant to work with pads for underside insulation and will come in 600- and 800-fill versions with roughly 15- and 30-degree EN temperature rated options.


>>Rab introduces its first-ever synthetic sleeping bags in the Ignition series, with shingled construction, a mummy-tapered shape and a 3/4-zip to save weight. The warmest bag in the lineup, the Ignition 4 (MSRP $155), is EN-rated to 30 degrees at the comfort level (roughly for women), and 20 degrees at the comfort limit (roughly for men) and weighs in at 3.6 pounds. Rab also enters the water-resistant down market in 2014, signing a two-year exclusive partnership with Nikwax for its technology.


>> As pads increasingly do more of the insulation work in the sleeping system, brands are looking to capture new customers with more palatable price points. Enter Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir Venture WV (MSRP $70), which provides a modest insulating R-value of 1.8 in a lightweight package — thanks to its interior waved-baffled construction — along with a modest price.


>>Millet brings a full line of sleeping bags to the U.S. for the first time, and takes a dual down approach — 800-fill goose down up top and 700-fill water-resistant DownTek duck down below — in its 3-pound, 7-ounce World Roof bag(MSRP $599), EN-rated with a comfort level of 18 degrees and comfort limit of 3 degrees. There’s a combination of vertical baffling in the core area for better heat flow, and horizontal baffling in the legs.


>> A few years ago, Marmot wowed with its 900-fill power Plasma bags, but not everyone needs or can afford the top-of-the line. That’s where its new Outdoor series (MSRPs 259-$329) of bags fits in, offering 700-fill of its water-resistant Down Defender insulation with lower price points and slightly wider cuts for wiggle room. They’re available in EN-rated comfort limits of about 0, 15 and 30 degrees.


>> If only sleeping bags had thermostats to adjust throughout the night. The next best thing might be Nemo’s Thremo Gills, which can open and close to regulate temperature without letting in a big rush of cold air. Nemo introduced the innovation at Winter Market for extreme negative temperatures, and for Summer Market hits the 0-degree category with the Coda 0 (MSRP $700) with 850-fill goose down.


>>Montbell enters the ultralight 900-fill power sleeping bag game with its Down Hugger 900 #5 (MSRP $419), which employs a super-thin, 8-denier nylon to come in at just 15 ounces. The bag is EN-rated to 38 degrees at the comfort limit, and features the brand’s signature spiral baffle stretch construction with Insotect FlowGate to distribute warmth.


These are just a few of the new products to debut at the show. Be sure to check out many more new products and trends in the O.R. Daily, Days 1-4, published live at the show, and available digital format each following day of print on SNEWS.