Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2014 Preview: Sleeping bags

Hybrid fills, center zips and hi-tech synthetics cover campers better. Get a preview of sleeping bags to hit retail shelves in 2015.
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Leading up to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2014, SNEWS is previewing some of the top trends and new products you’ll see at the trade show and Open Air Demo in Salt Lake City, Aug. 5-9. You can access all these articles and more in our O.R. Daily Day 0 edition.

Sleeping bag zippers are front and center for 2015.

The center-zip is infiltrating sleeping-bag design and could become the norm in a short period of time.

“I’ll admit, I was skeptical,” said Robert Fry, global director of marketing and design at Mountain Hardwear. “But then you try it and ask yourself, why hasn’t it always been this way? It’s so intuitive, like zipping up a jacket … no more awkwardly reaching to the side.”

Center zips aren’t new and there are precedents for sleeping bags that wear like apparel — see Sierra Designs’ Mobile Mummy or Exped’s Dreamwalker from previous years — but the trend of the center zip is shifting to more mainstream mummies.

The challenge has been structuring the baffling and insulation tube to effectively insulate and not bunch or create dips. “We went through 10 versions to get it right,” said The North Face Product Director for Equipment Andy Coutant.

Water-resistant down has been a great hit with consumers and the technology continues to improve, with increasingly consistent test results, manufacturers said. The only drawback is higher down prices, which are no fault of the technology itself, but rather the continuingly high demand for the material in the face of lower supplies.

Hence, the hybrid synthetic/down designs that invaded insulation apparel this winter have arrived to sleeping bags with a similar variety of ideas on how best to insulate against both high prices and low temperatures.

There’s definitely a battle brewing — read more in our O.R. Daily editions at the show — whether it’s better to layer or blend down and synthetics for the best results.

Last, but not least, synthetics aim to step up their game to win back consumers in 2015 with a lot more diversity in options.

>>Kelty tackles the hybrid insulation trend by baffle layering its synthetic fill closest to the body (where it can trap heat and wick moisture) with a row of water-resistant DriDown-filled baffles on the outside for loft. The result: a bag that’s 45 percent more compressible than an all-synthetic model, but maintains a friendly price tag (MSRP $149) for the 20-degree ThermaDri Dualist.

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>>Mountain Hardwear sets out to upgrade its popular synthetic Lamina line of sleeping bags for 2015. It starts with a new Hyper (formerly Ultra) lamina, which will be available in 0-, 20- and 35-degree versions (MSRPs $230-$290). The trademark welded seams remain, with improvements such as zone-mapped insulation — more in the feet, chest and neck — and a center-front zip.

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>> Price point brands are taking advantage of a flood of synthetic fill technology coming from Asia to design their own proprietary versions, such as Eureka’s Synthesis insulation in its Spero 20 (MSRP $129). It utilizes different filament deniers and varying interlocking staple lengths that provide structure and compressibility — reducing packed size by about 15 percent along with less weight at 3 pounds, 1 ounce.

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>>Marmot employs down/synthetic layering in its Alloy 20 (MSRP $315), but flips the insulations on the underside, with the synthetic closest to the ground and its water-resistant, 700-fill Down Defender on the inside, while on top, the down remains above the synthetic for loft. Down-only is used in the hood and neck for comfort.

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>>The North Face sticks to all down in its Inferno 0-degree bag — rumor is down prices are stabilizing, Coutant said. This 800-fill version (MSRP $599) has a center zip and a little more room than a tight mummy for comfort. Chevron baffling (zigzagging on a horizontal line) helps boost the bags strength and it weighs in at 2 pounds, 15 ounces.

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>> In the world of sleeping pads, more brands are leaning toward the comfort advantages of air. Yet, the allure of self-inflating foam remains. Therm-a-Rest evolves the latter with its EvoLite Mattress (MSRP $120), which provides a lightweight (1 pound, 1 ounce; 2.1 R-value) foam option (just a few breaths to top it off) with the comfort and loft of strategically placed air channels.

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These are just a few of the new products to debut at the show. Be sure to check out much more new 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.

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