Ultralight Sleeping Bags
Feathered Friends Hummingbird UL and Egret UL 30/20
$459, 1 lb. 5 oz. (men’s regular 30-degree)
Sizes: men’s regular and long, women’s small and medium
Sleeping bags often look very much alike—until you spend a night inside one and carry it in a backpack. That’s when the differences emerge, and besides price, those differences generally fall somewhere along a continuum where a bag’s warmth and comfort go up or down in proportion to its weight and packed size—and balancing those competing metrics gets tricky. But for many backpackers seeking the most warmth and comfort with the least weight and bulk, the Feathered Friends men’s Hummingbird UL and women’s Egret UL, both available in 30- and 20-degree versions, strike a near perfect balance for three-season adventures.
I slept in the men’s Hummingbird UL 30 on a six-day backpacking trip in Utah’s High Uintas Wilderness and a four-day hike on Nevada’s Ruby Crest Trail, both in July; on a seven-day, 96-mile hike of Wyoming’s Wind River High Route, where I stayed warm zipped up inside the bag on two nights near freezing—testing the bag’s rating—with the hood up and wearing just underwear and a long-sleeve top; and one early-summer night at 8,200 feet under the stars in Idaho’s Sawtooth National Forest, with the low temperatures around 40° F on several nights.
I also used it on a five-day backpacking trip in the first week of March in The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, where we had a few nights in the mid-20s Fahrenheit—and while some people would get cold pushing a bag below its temp rating limit, the fact that I remained comfortable in the Hummingbird UL 30 while wearing two warm top layers and long underwear is a testament to this bag’s beaucoup insulation and adequate warmth right down to its temp rating for many people.
Weighing in under 1.5 pounds, the Hummingbird UL 30’s very high warmth-to-weight ratio is attributable to it being generously stuffed with 11.5 ounces of 950+-fill down (in the regular, 12 ounces in the long)—the highest-quality down available. Those very light feathers mean the bag lofts up fat when laid out—fatter than some bags rated for even colder temps—and packs down to a relatively small eight liters in its stuff sack and could probably get even tighter in a compression sack.
While the Hummingbird and Egret do not use water-resistant down, as is found in some high-end bags today, consider this: Water-resistant down increases the cost of any bag, and unless you’re taking extended trips in chronically wet environments—or you worry that somehow your tent may fail, or you’re not sleeping in a tent—you probably don’t need it. (My high overall score for the Hummingbird and Egret, below, is made lower by the fact that the bag will not keep you warm if it gets very wet—the typical performance of standard down. If that doesn’t matter to you, your evaluation of the bag’s overall performance will likely be higher.)
The warmth is bolstered by a fully and easily adjustable hood that closed comfortably around my head on colder nights, plus draft tubes at the zipper and collar. A full-length, two-way zipper with locking sliders on the Hummingbird (and Egret UL) not only permits controlled ventilation of the bag, it allowed me to open it up completely and use it like a quilt, with my feet tucked warmly into the foot box and the bag lying open atop me. The zipper doesn’t move quite as smoothly as some lighter zippers, but that’s a reasonable tradeoff for better durability and the locking mechanism.
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Some ultralight bags shave grams through trimming the bag’s dimensions, making it feel like being shrink-wrapped. Not so with the Hummingbird: Its dimensions of 58 inches at the shoulders, 52 inches at the hips, and a more snug 38 inches at the feet let me move around, partly extend my arms when sleeping on my side, and bring my knees up to my chest (useful for dressing inside a bag on a cold morning and just a very visual measure of a bag’s spaciousness). Similarly, the women’s Egret UL measures 54 inches at the shoulders, 56 inches at the hips, and 38 inches at the feet.
The 15-denier Pertex Endurance shell fabric on the Hummingbird and Egret sheds light moisture—such as condensation dripping inside a tent, or a short period of light rain if you’re sleeping outside—and has enough durability for normal use, but be careful not to catch this lightweight fabric on sharp edges.
The Hummingbird UL 20 is negligibly heavier and bulkier and not much more expensive ($539, 1 lb. 8 oz. for the regular; $559, 1 lb. 9 oz. for the long). The same goes for the women’s Egret UL 20 ($489, 1 lb. 10 oz. for the small; $509, 1 lb. 11 oz. for the medium) compared to the Egret UL 30 ($519, 1 lb. 8 oz. for the small; $539, 1 lb. 9 oz. for the medium).
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Wondering whether to get the 30-degree or 20-degree bag? These bags have enough down to match their temp ratings, but if you usually sleep relatively warm (as I do), I think you’ll find the UL 30 bags adequately warm for three-season trips where the low temps don’t drop below freezing. If you tend to get cold easily, get a 20-degree bag. See more tips on that in my articles “Pro Tips for Buying Sleeping Bags” and “10 Pro Tips: Staying Warm in a Sleeping Bag.”
Would you prefer an extra-roomy, high-end down bag? The men’s Feathered Friends Swallow UL 30 ($479, 1 lb. 9 oz., regular) has dimensions of 60-56-38 inches and is otherwise identical to the Hummingbird UL, with 950+-fill down and a 15-denier Pertex Endurance ripstop nylon shell, and there’s also a Feathered Friends Swallow UL 20 ($559, 1 lb. 11 oz., regular).
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FEATHERED FRIENDS HUMMINGBIRD AND EGRET UL SLEEPING BAGS
Generously stuffed with the highest-quality, 950+-fill down, the Feathered Friends men’s Hummingbird UL 30/20 and women’s Egret UL 30/20 sleeping bags deliver superior warmth for their weight, making them arguably the best three-season down bags on the market.
You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these links to purchase a Feathered Friends Hummingbird UL 30 or 20 at featheredfriends.com, a women’s Egret UL 30 or 20 at featheredfriends.com, or a men’s Swallow UL 30 or 20 at featheredfriends.com.
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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 my Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all of my reviews and my expert buying tips.