Which bag is better - WM 20 or Marmot Helium 15?

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romann
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Which bag is better - WM 20 or Marmot Helium 15?

Post by romann » September 19th, 2010, 3:58 pm

Well I'm not expecting many people to have BOTH bags since they're in the same temperature range, but if you could share the thoughts on either...

I still experiment with ultralight sleeping bags to replace my 5-pound mattress (great otherwise) - tried my first down bag (Marmot Aspen Ultralight 40) last month but had to return it to the store - despite it's 1.5 pound weight and great comfort I was shivering in it at 47 degrees, so its not good even for summer night let alone fall/spring.

Now I try to decide between Marmot Helium +15 at $369 at REI (ships from Seattle) and Western Mountaineering Ultralite in Portland OMC at $384. Both have good reviews (but some people mention WM bag "shedding" a bit too much and being colder than rated), both have full-length zipper, and the price difference is insignificant. Marmot bag is 1/2 pound heavier so I'd go with WM for the same $, but OMC (unlike REI) doesn't allow bag returns so it's hit or miss. Does anybody have suggestion on either of the bags - are they waterproof, rated close to actual temperature, long-lasting, etc? Thanks!

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turtle
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Re: Which bag is better - WM 20 or Marmot Helium 15?

Post by turtle » September 19th, 2010, 5:43 pm

I don't know anything about the Marmot bag so I can't comment on that.

I bought a WM Ultralite sometime in '03/'04. I haven't had a cold night since; including Colorado, Wyoming, 3 months on the PCT, a couple of snow trips, and various Oregon and Washington trips. Personal sleeping warmth is a subjective measure, YMMV.

The bag is not waterproof. WM has used a light shell material to keep the weight down as much as possible. The "fit" is cut close. There isn't a lot of extra room. Check the girth numbers on the WM site. The Alpinlite is almost as light but cut a bit larger. These bags have continuous baffles so you can shake the feathers to where you want them.

If you want more choices on shell material check Feathered Friends. I think they have an overstuff option for adding more feathers. Their reputation is on a par with Western Mountaineering.

My Ultralite is my go-to 3 season bag. I expect it to last for many more years. If/when I buy a winter bag it will probably be WM or Feathered Friends. Hope this helps.

OBTW you might want to take a look at Nunatak. Their price point is kind of steep but I think they are semi custom and their reputation is stellar.
Summer breezes caressed me, my legs stepped forward as though possessed of their own appetite, and the mountains kept promising. Rebecca Solnit

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Grannyhiker
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Re: Which bag is better - WM 20 or Marmot Helium 15?

Post by Grannyhiker » September 19th, 2010, 7:23 pm

My experience with Marmot was with their Hydrogen (30*F), rather than the Helium (15*F). I got cold in the Hydrogen when the temp got down to the upper 30s, which means that either it was overrated or that I sleep cold. Certainly the latter is true, but I don't think that accounts for all of the problem. I also didn't like the 3/4 length zipper, which made it harder to ventilate on warm nights. I loved the Pertex Quantum shell, which felt very soft and cuddly, but I understand that Marmot has since gone to another shell material. I just looked at the Helium online. It now has a full-length zipper, but does not have the draft collar that makes my Western Mountaineering bag so much warmer for me on frigid nights. I notice that the Helium's EN13537 rating is 22*F for the comfort rating. This is the rating for women (really, for colder sleepers). Note that these ratings assume you wear a baselayer and a hat when inside the bag!

My Western Mountaineering UltraLite (20*) is conservatively rated and will go several degrees below that even for me (it does help to have a pad with plenty of insulation underneath!). It has a full-length zipper which means that on warm nights I can leave the zipper open or just drape the bag over me as a quilt. It has a wonderful draft collar that I can snug tightly around my neck on cold nights to keep the air coming in the hood opening well separated from the rest of my body. WM doesn't use the EN13537 ratings because they don't sell their bags in Europe, the testing is expensive and there's lots of controversy about the EU ratings (different labs have come up with different results). WM has such a sterling reputation for conservatively rated bags that nobody cares. I would like to see the EN13537 ratings adopted in the US, though--for all the system's faults, it is far more accurate than the purely fictional ratings on most less expensive American sleeping bags!

As noted in other posts, the Marmot Helium is wider than the WM UltraLight and really should be compared to WM's wider 20*F "Extremelite" bag, the Alpinlite. Be sure to measure your girth (shoulder girth over your arms, and all girth measurements over your insulation layers, which on really cold nights you may need to wear inside the sleeping bag). You want to be able to fit inside the bag wearing a puffy jacket and pants (needed if it gets colder than your bag's rating) without compressing the bag's insulation, but you don't want a lot of dead air space to warm up, either. WM makes a number of bag models in various widths.

If I were going to buy a sleeping bag now, here's what I'd look at:

Price: Marmot Helium--you can find it on sale (check Backcountrygear.com in December) or you can use % off coupons when available. Western Mountaineering is never on sale. Advantage Marmot.

Draft collar (horizontal down tube that you can tighten up around your neck above your shoulders): Marmot Helium--no draft collar. WM has this feature on all their cold weather bags. This feature alone would make me pick the WM bag!

Temperature rating: Marmot Helium--possibly a bit overrated. Note the 22*F WN13537 "comfort" rating which is theoretically for women and actually for cold sleepers, which about fits my experience with the Hydrogen. Western Mountaineering--conservatively rated; many report taking 20* bags down to 15*. I'd therefore say these two bags are very close to equal in their insulating power, so neither bag has the advantage here. For those of us who fit in the UltraLite, that bag has the advantage of less dead air space. For those who would need the WM Alpinlite, no difference. Again, for me, that draft collar makes a big difference for actual warmth!

Waterproof outer shell--believe me, you really do not want this! What will happen is that the moisture from your body, which normally goes through the breathable outer shell into the air, will condense on the inside of a waterproof outer shell and wet out the insulation! I personally prefer a fabric that has a Durable Water Repellent but highly breathable finish (which WM does). I find the DWR finish on my WM Ultralite quite adequate to repel condensation drips from the tent (which, if it's cold and I've had to camp in the open, can be quite a bit if my dog wakes up and goes into his full-body-tail-wag routine before I've wiped the tent walls down!). If you want a more water-resistant (not waterproof) finish, be sure it's highly breathable, like eVent.

Return policy--REI does not carry WM bags so you can't take advantage of their return policy. However, WM bags are highly sought after, so you should be able to sell a slightly used bag on one of the backpacking forums for close to the new price, if you don't like it.

Before you decide on one of these, though, take a close look at other Western Mountaineering models, especially their Microfiber series (slightly heavier shell fabric), at Montbell and at Feathered Friends.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.--E.Abbey

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n.bumppo
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Re: Which bag is better - WM 20 or Marmot Helium 15?

Post by n.bumppo » September 19th, 2010, 8:08 pm

I like my WM Ultralite. Its one of those things in my pack that I don't think much about; it does what its supposed to do, keep in warm at night. I am a gear junkie and frequently update to newer and better things. My WM bag doesn't get updated. I haven't seen anything that looks better. Now that I think of it, it may be the only piece of equipment I haven't changed in the past two years.
Dave

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romann
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Re: Which bag is better - WM 20 or Marmot Helium 15?

Post by romann » September 19th, 2010, 9:30 pm

Thanks everyone! Looks like many people here prefer WM bags. I think to try it if it's not too small for me (BTW I misread the weight which is almost the same for Helium and WM but draft collar thing is important).
I already have several ideas for the fall (time and weather allowing) and being a cold sleeper need some warm gear.

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turtle
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Re: Which bag is better - WM 20 or Marmot Helium 15?

Post by turtle » September 19th, 2010, 10:52 pm

These guys have a good selection of WM bags, Marmots also, they're in Eugene, and have a good return policy with free shipping.
Summer breezes caressed me, my legs stepped forward as though possessed of their own appetite, and the mountains kept promising. Rebecca Solnit

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awildman
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Re: Which bag is better - WM 20 or Marmot Helium 15?

Post by awildman » September 20th, 2010, 12:58 pm

We have both. I sleep in a WM Alpinlite and Bill sleeps in the Helium. The Alpinlite is too wide for me but I got a great deal on it a couple of years ago and, as it turns out, it's big enough to fit the dog inside with me. (The Jack Russell, not the Golden Retriever.) I will eventually replace it with the snugger UltraLite when I win the lottery.

The Helium has worked great for Bill but he sleeps warm. I like the feel of the Helium better than the WM; the fabric is very soft and silky. The Helium also packs down smaller than the WM.

I don't think you could go wrong with either bag. They are both excellent.
Rambling on at Allison Outside

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Grannyhiker
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Re: Which bag is better - WM 20 or Marmot Helium 15?

Post by Grannyhiker » September 20th, 2010, 2:19 pm

To expand on turtle's post about BackcountryGear.com (no relation to backcountry.com) in Eugene: http://www.backcountrygear.com/catalog/ ... g_bags.cfm Note that they also carry Montbell bags in addition to WM and Marmot. They are a reputable firm, have free shipping for purchases over $50. Generally the order is shipped within one day and Brown leaves it on my doorstep the next. No connection here except as a satisfied customer! They even found an employee with hip girth similar to mine to crawl into the Ultralight (which is unisex) to make sure it wouldn't be too tight across the hips for me!

For Feathered Friends (in Seattle), you have to purchase direct: http://www.featheredfriends.com/Picasso ... gBags.html They can do a bunch of custom stuff for you--choice of shell fabrics, overfill, etc.

Western Mountaineering will also do some custom stuff (such as overfill) per their website.

Backpackinglight.com recently published a "State of the Market" report on down sleeping bags. Three problems: First, you need a paid subscription to read the article. Second, it only covers bags rated at around freezing. Third, they didn't measure the warmth (although the same authors did measure actual warmth in their more recent article on lightweight down jackets) but relied solely on amount of fill and loft.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.--E.Abbey

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texasbb
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Re: Which bag is better - WM 20 or Marmot Helium 15?

Post by texasbb » September 20th, 2010, 3:06 pm

I have the Marmot Helium (long) and am happy with it. The coldest I've slept in it was 16 degrees(F) and I was quite comfortable (once I got enough pad underneath). I do tend to sleep a little warmer than most, though. My only complaint is with the zipper--it likes to hang on the fabric, requiring some care when opening and closing.

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awildman
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Re: Which bag is better - WM 20 or Marmot Helium 15?

Post by awildman » September 21st, 2010, 5:49 am

texasbb wrote:My only complaint is with the zipper--it likes to hang on the fabric, requiring some care when opening and closing.
This is true with the WM, too. I've already ripped a hole in the bag from getting the fabric snagged and then trying to wrench it free in the middle of the night. :(
Rambling on at Allison Outside

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