Exped DreamWalker 450
$349, 2 lbs. 1 oz. (medium)
Sizes: medium (fits up to 5 feet, 11 ins.), large (fits up to 6 feet, 5 ins.)
On a cool, early morning at Numa Creek camp on the Rockwall Trail in Canada’s Kootenay National Park, I told my wife I was heading for the camp’s cooking area to fire up our stove for breakfast. She responded in her way of letting me know she wasn’t getting up yet: “It’s cold out there.” I said, “That’s why I’m staying in my bag.” And I was: Within seconds, I converted my DreamWalker 450 bag into a long down parka and proceeded to wear it walking and sitting around in camp.
With a full-length, two-way, center zipper, zippered armholes, and a foot end that opens and seals with a drawcord, the DreamWalker morphs from bag to long down parka or blanket. To wear it as a parka, you fold the foot end up and snug the drawcord around your like a belt. It lacks sleeves, so I needed a long-sleeve base layer and often a shell jacket underneath it to keep my arms warm. Still, the DreamWalker allows you to leave a down jacket at home on many three-season trips, or bring a lighter puffy jacket than you would otherwise on colder outings—removing significant weight and bulk from your backpack. For side sleepers like me, the center zipper offers the added benefit of no zipper pull hanging in your face. The design is so simple and efficient it’s a wonder more manufacturers aren’t copying it (or more consumers aren’t demanding it).
The bag’s EN ratings of 46° F for comfort, 37° F limit, and 12° F extreme seem conservative. Stuffed with 11.6 oz. (330g) of 750-fill goose down, it proved warm enough for me (I’m a warm sleeper) wearing only a long-sleeve top or T-shirt, underwear, and socks, and for my skinny 15-year-old son on nights in the 30s and 40s Fahrenheit in Kootenay in August, and Idaho’s the City of Rocks National Reserve in June, Sawtooth Mountains in September, and White Cloud Mountains in October. On two mild nights in the 50s, backpacking the 34-mile Royal Arch Loop in the Grand Canyon, I used it opened up like a comforter.
Handwarmer pockets let me warm my fingers while doing camp chores sans gloves on chilly mornings. The armholes are convenient in surprising ways, such as allowing me to zip inside the bag and have my arms outside it to read in the tent. When the armholes, which have draft tubes over them, are closed, and the foot box drawcord is tightened, there’s no loss of warmth from them; it performs like any other bag. The 20-denier nylon shell fabric is what you’ll find on many lightweight bags. The DreamWalker 450 packs down to 8.7×9.5 inches (22x24cm), roughly the size of a load of bread, and comes with a roll-top, waterproof compression stuff sack—the rare sleeping bag stuff sack that I use. (I typically use a dry sack like the Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack; see my review of my favorite backpacking accessories.)
The design’s inherent limitations are that you can’t easily walk any real distance wearing it—as you might wearing a down jacket in deep cold—and I found the 29.5-inch (75cm) shoulder width a little snug. But for many trips, it delivers undeniable efficiency by pulling double duty. There’s also a DreamWalker 650 ($479), rated to 35° F comfort and 26° F limit.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to purchase an Exped DreamWalker 450 at moosejaw.com.
See my review of another convertible bag, the Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 800, all of my reviews of sleeping bags that I like and all of my reviews of backpacking gear, and my articles “Pro Tips: How to Choose a Sleeping Bag” and “10 Pro Tips: Staying Warm in a Sleeping Bag.”
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews organized by categories at my Gear Reviews page.
Do you like The Big Outside? I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by a USA Today Readers Choice poll and others. Subscribe for updates about new stories and free gear giveaways by entering your email address in the box at the bottom of this story, at the top of the left sidebar, or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
This blog and website is my full-time job and I rely on the support of readers. If you like what you see here, please help me continue producing The Big Outside by making a donation using the Support button at the top of the left sidebar or below. Thank you for your support.