Gear Review: Marmot Scandium Sleeping Bag

Marmot Scandium sleeping bag.
Marmot Scandium

Three-Season Sleeping Bag
Marmot Scandium (20° F)
$199, 2 lbs. 14 oz. (regular)
Sizes: regular and long ($219)

A backpacking truth: You can say what you want about the details of a bag’s construction, but the real measure of its value comes on nights when you need it to accomplish just one function—keep you warm. Beside Quiet Lake at over 9,200 feet in Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains in early October, I awoke to find frost coating much of our gear that we’d left outside the tent; the overnight low had dropped nearly to freezing. And I had not even noticed the cold, snoozing comfortably all night in the Scandium.

When overnight rain blew into our tent through a vestibule door (before I closed it) in the White Clouds, dampening one side of the bag, its warmth wasn’t compromised at all. The explanation: The Scandium is stuffed with a blend of water-resistant, 650-fill down on top and Marmot’s proprietary SpiralFill synthetic insulation on bottom. A combination designed precisely for wet circumstances, it also marries the benefits of down (low weight and bulk) and synthetic insulation (retains warmth when wet), and helps keep the bag’s price well below the sticker on many competitor bags.

A mummy-style bag with a 20° F rating provided by Marmot (and an EN comfort rating of 19° F for men and 30° F for women), it’s plenty warm for most three-season trips, even for the coldest sleepers. My wife gets cold easily, and normally uses a 15° F down bag for summer trips in the mountains, and she found this bag very warm for three nights backpacking the Rockwall Trail in Canada’s Kootenay National Park in August, with lows near 40° F. I also slept in it in October in the City of Rocks, on a calm night with a low in the mid-40s, when the full-length, two-way zipper proved its value, letting me ventilate as much as needed.

Marmot Scandium hood
Marmot Scandium hood

Despite the price, it doesn’t skimp on features like a hood that cinches snugly around your head and an adjustable collar around the front of the neck to seal in heat. The girth of 61 ins. at the shoulders, 58 ins. at the hips, and 45 ins. at the feet achieves a balance between thermal efficiency and reasonable space to move around. The draft tube didn’t snag in the zipper, and the nylon ripstop and polyester shell has not leaked any feathers. Bonus value: It comes with a compression stuff sack.

You can pay a lot more for a three-season sleeping bag, mostly to get one that uses only water-resistant down with a higher fill rating, making it lighter and more compact. But for anyone on a budget, the Marmot Scandium delivers high value for your dollar.

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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 “My 10 Most-Read Gear Reviews,” “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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