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Gear Review: Kelty Dualist 20 Sleeping Bag

Kelty Dualist 20

Kelty Dualist 20

Three-Season Sleeping Bag
Kelty Dualist 20
$150, 3 lbs. 1 oz. (regular)
Sizes: regular and long ($160)
kelty.com

Outfitting yourself with good-quality backpacking gear when you’re on a budget can be a challenge, especially core gear like your pack, boots, tent, and sleeping bag. That’s why I wanted to test out Kelty’s competitively priced Dualist 20 on a weeklong rafting trip down Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River, where I discovered this dual-insulation bag delivers a lot of value for its bargain-basement price.

With an EN comfort rating of 22° F for men and 33° F for women, the Dualist 20 sports a hybrid construction that combines 550-fill, water-resistant DriDown as an outer layer of insulation (the layer beneath the shell) with ThermaPro synthetic insulation closer to your body. This isn’t a new concept—manufacturers have for years used a combination of down and synthetic insulation in bags to achieve the benefits of both: a good warmth-to-weight ratio from down, and the ability of synthetic insulation to keep you warm even when it’s wet. But you rarely, if ever, see a dual-insulation bag at this price. The Dualist 20 was certainly more than equal to the challenge of keeping me warm on the six nights I slept in it, inside a tent four nights and under the stars on two nights, in the mild temperatures I encountered in July on the Middle Fork of the Salmon (lows in the high 40s Fahrenheit). The box-baffle construction keeps the insulation from migrating, preventing cold spots. I sleep warm and I’d probably be comfortable in this bag on nights down to 25° to 30° F.

Kelty Dualist 20

Kelty Dualist 20

I really like its roominess from the shoulders right through to the foot box: I could sleep in any position without the straitjacket feeling I get in some ultralight mummy bags. I could easily get dressed or undressed inside the bag in cold temps; it’s roomy for bigger people. When condensation in my tent dripped onto the bag, the water merely beaded atop the 50-denier polyester taffeta shell, never affecting my warmth (though more water would eventually penetrate that shell). The 60-inch zipper opens from top or bottom, letting you ventilate at your feet and head while keeping your body core warmer. The Dualist has a draft tube along the zipper, a draft collar, and an adjustable hood that closes comfortably around your face.

Sure, there are tradeoffs for such a good price: The Dualist is heavier and bulkier (stuffed size 9×15 inches) than pricier bags with a comparable temperature rating, and lacks the lighter materials and cutting-edge construction employed in high-end bags that often results in them also being warmer. It also does not come with a storage sack (only a stuff sack); you’d want to buy a cotton storage sack or use an old pillow case so as not to crush the insulation by storing it long-term in its stuff sack. But if you’re looking for functional backpacking gear on a budget, the Dualist, consistent with other Kelty products, delivers good performance and value. Kelty also offers the Dualist 30 (EN 34, $110, 2 lbs. 5 oz. for the regular length).

See all of my reviews of sleeping bags that I like and all of my reviews of backpacking gear at The Big Outside, and my articles “Pro Tips: How to Choose a Sleeping Bag” and “10 Pro Tips: Staying Warm in a Sleeping Bag.”

See also my stories “Buying Gear? Read This First,” “5 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear,” “The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun,” and “Ask Me: How Do We Begin Lightening Up Our Backpacking Gear?

NOTE: I’ve been testing 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 by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.

—Michael Lanza

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About The Author

Michael Lanza

A former field editor and primary gear reviewer for Backpacker Magazine, Michael Lanza created The Big Outside to share stories and images from his many backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor adventures, as well as expert tips and gear reviews to help readers plan and pull off their own great adventures.

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photo of Michael Lanza

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside and former Northwest Editor at Backpacker magazine. Click my photo to learn more about me and my blog. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside now to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. And click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

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