Johnson Outdoors’ products are distributed widely through a variety of outdoor recreational channels, including national and regional sporting goods retailers and independent specialty products dealers. They have a wide range of outdoor gear for the fishing, boating, paddling, diving, and camping enthusiast. Their subdivision, Eureka!, is perhaps best known for their tents. They publicize their products to the mass market as being suitable “from the backcountry to the backyard” at an affordable cost.
Eureka makes mass market tents and gear equally at home camping in a campground, at a backyard sleepover, on winter camping expeditions, biking or hiking in the wilderness.
Eureka has separate lines of recreational, backpacking, outdoorsman and children sleeping bags. They have three backpacking models marketed for winter camping: the Eagle Point, Wild Basin and Kaycee 0º degree F. This review is focused on the Kaycee 0º F Long with Rteq insulation http://store.eurekatent.com/products/432845/Kaycee_0.
Characteristics of Winter Camping Sleeping Bags
If you’ll be winter camping when the temperatures dip down to zero you need a mummy bag. Mummy bags taper from head to foot, creating a smaller-volume bag that makes it easier to maintain body heat. Additionally mummy bags have a hood you can draw around your head for extra warmth.
Sleeping Bag Terminology
Even a simple piece of gear like a sleeping bag can have a confusing number of parts, features, and terms. Here are the basic parts of a typical mummy bag from http://www.trailspace.com/articles/sleeping-bag-parts.ht
- Insulation: The material inside the sleeping bag that traps your heat to keep you warm. Some bags have differential fill, where more insulation is used on the top and less (or none) is used on the bottom where it is compressed by your body.
- Synthetic Fill: A synthetic material, like polyester, that has been formed into a thin fiber. Synthetic insulation comes in two varieties: continuous filament is one long strand, sometimes with a hollow core; short staples are chopped up pieces.
Parts and Features
Baffles: The internal pockets of insulation that prevent the insulation, from shifting, clumping, and developing cold spots. Sewn (or stitch) through and box are examples of baffle techniques.
Layers: Construction method using two offset layers of synthetic insulation. The top layer is sewn to the shell and the bottom layer to the lining.
Shingles: Construction method using overlapping sheets or pieces of insulation stitched to the bag’s shell and lining. Typically used with synthetic insulation.
Shell: The exterior shell keeps the insulation close to your body, and provides a little insulation on its own. Some shells are made of water-resistant materials and some with waterproof-breathable membranes.
Lining: Usually made of a softer material than the external shell, the interior lining is designed to feel soft and wick moisture away.
Hood: An insulated hood prevents heat loss from your head, and keeps warm air from escaping the rest of the bag.
Pillow Pocket: Give you space to stuff extra clothes or a camp pillow.
Hood, Chest, or Stash Pockets: A small pocket in the hood for your watch or MP3 player.
Draft Collar: An insulated collar, tightened by a cinch cord near your neck and shoulders, intended to prevent heat from escaping and cold air from entering.
Draft Tube: A thick tube of insulation along the zipper that prevents air exchange.
Zippers: Come in different lengths. A full-length zipper can help regulate your temperature if you start to sweat while a half-length zipper may save some weight. Zippers should be anti-snag. Many bags give you a choice between a left- or right-side zipper. A right- and a left-zippered bag with compatible zippers may be zipped together.
Zipper Pulls: Winter bags often feature long cords on the zippers, for easier use with gloves. Some bags have glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls for easier nocturnal exits.
Pad Loops: Connect your sleeping bag to your sleeping pad, holding the pad in place and preventing the bag from sliding off the pad.
Foot Box: The space at the foot of the bag. Some bags offer venting from the foot box. In winter, extra space in the foot box can be used to store hot water bottles, extra clothing, and boots or boot liners.
Hang Loops: Permit the bag to be hung to dry to maintain its loft.
Kaycee 0º F Long Sleeping Bag Description
The Kaycee sleeping bag is made from a proprietary synthetic insulation, Rteq™. Rteq™ is a blend of 4 polyester fibers, blending suspension fibers with micro-hollow fibers. Multiple sheets are layered to achieve a desired temperature rating. RTeq fibres are blended without a bonding agent, which theoretically holds up better after washing compared to traditional constructions.
The sleeping bag is rated to degrees 0º F. Its dimensions are 87″ x 34″ x 22″ with a packed weight of 5 lbs 3 oz.
The Kaycee 0º F Long sleeping bag has features standard to a good winter camping sleeping bag including:
- A differential cut to holding in the Rteq synthetics insulation.
- An insulated draft tube along the length of the zipper preventing warmth from escaping
- There is a draft collar to keep air from escaping from around shoulders and neck.
- The polyester lining is a synthetic fabric with the soft feel of cotton.
- An adjustable contoured hood with that cinches with a drawcord
- An inside stash pocket
- A trapezoidal foot box
- 2-way zippers permitting the foot box to be opened up for ventilation.
Synthetic sleeping bags are not as compressible as down bags. The stuff sack for the Kaycee 0º F Long comes equipped with compression straps to help reduce the bulk of the sleeping bag. When compressed the Kaycee 0º F Long is still a fairly large package, over 18 inches long and nine inches wide.
I had two concerns prior to using Kaycee 0º F Long:
- I was concerned the sleeping bag would be too small and confining for my 6’4”, 220 lbs frame.
- I tend to sleep cold. I was concerned about the proposed 0º F rating. I found the following Eureka article on temperature ratings. (from http://www.gear-up.com/articles/164 and http://www.eurekaeurope.com/en/sbtechnology.php)
“Be careful when choosing a sleeping bag. At present there is no standardized rating system. Eureka ratings are based on a combination of test results and taking into account environmental and physical effects. Our Comfort Rating is a range where most users would realize a good night’s sleep at the listed temperature. We recommend you make your selection based on the Comfort Rating temperature ratings. (Note women, older people, tend to require a sleeping bag even a few degrees warmer.) Our Extreme rating is a temperature where sleep would be uncomfortable but providing a measure of warmth. Young, physically fit individuals, primarily men, produce more body heat, whereas an older person will produce less body heat. The graphic below will help guide you in choosing the right sleeping bag for your intended use.”
Needless to say, I was not looking forward to an experience where “sleep would be uncomfortable but providing a measure of warmth”.
The Sleeping Bag as a Component in a System
The sleeping bag is one component in an overall sleeping system. To fairly evaluate a winter camping sleeping bag one must be sleeping in an appropriate location and using the sleeping bag along with other components of a sleeping system. A comprehensive discussion on sleeping warm can be read here.
It is important to be sleeping in an appropriate site – out of the wind and off the valley floor and other low areas where cold air settles. Use an appropriate winter camping shelter such as a winter tent, tipi, lean-to, tarp or snow shelter to block the wind.
A good sleeping pad is crucial element to staying warm at night. Unless you have the right amount of insulation below you the ground will absorb most of the radiant heat vented by your sleeping bag and you’ll feel cold at night. You can prevent this by using an insulated sleeping pad. I use some combination of a closed-cell pad and an inflatable Therm-a-Rest pad. The closed cell pad has a R-value of about 2.6 and the Therm-a-Rest has an R-value of about 3 for a total of 5.6. I recently discovered the combination of using an inflatable pad on the bottom and a closed cell pad on top for winter camping. It seems a bit counter-intuitive to use the inflatable on the bottom but it ends up acting like a balloon and floating the closed cell pad off of the cold snow.
A sleeping bag liner serves as an insulating layer inside a sleeping bag, it provides a layer of protection between your body and any water bottles or clothes you include in your sleeping bag at night and they keep your sleeping bag clean from dirt and body oils.
This evaluation was accomplished using the Kaycee 0º F Long in a well ventilated tent as part of an overall sleeping system as described above and shown below.
Upon unpacking the sleeping bag from its compression sack and giving it a quick shake I was pleased to see how quickly it lofted.
The Kaycee 0º F comes in two sizes, regular and long. At 6’4” and 210 lbs I found the Kaycee 0º F Long an adequate but snug fit. While there wasn’t’ room to store water bottles, extra clothing or electronics in the foot box the shoulder and torso space was not confining as I originally anticipated. I felt the girth was appropriate for a winter rated mummy bag. However, this is a mummy bag; the bag turns with you – not you within the bag. This was an advantage for me as I am a side sleeper and by starting off facing the zipper it remained “in front” of me throughout the night.
Shoulder collars are common to mummy bags used for winter camping so this next observation is not unique to the Kaycee 0º F Long sleeping bag. During the night I got annoyed by the shoulder collar as it pinned my hands and arms next to my torso. If I wanted to scratch my nose or adjust the hood it was a lengthy process to find and loosen the collar’s drawstring, work my arms loose, perform my task and then reverse the process. I solved the issue during the night by leaving the draft collar wide open and dragging my insulated jacket into the bag and using it to seal the space around my shoulders. The shoulder collar is clearly depicted in the image below.
The fabric of the Kaycee 0º F Long is very comfortable. It feels plush and warms up quickly.
The Kaycee 0º F Long relies on its trim mummy shape, hood and draft collar as part of an integral system to achieve its temperature rating. As the overnight temperature dropped to the mid-teens my lower back felt chilled. I pulled my down vest into the bag and laid it over my torso to add insulation and slept comfortably through the remainder of the night.
I was diligent about ensuring the bag was part of an overall sleeping system appropriate for winter camping. I slept wearing capilene long underwear tops and bottoms. My biggest concern is that the temperature rating for this sleeping bag is over rated by at least 15 º.
Synthetic sleeping bags with comparable ratings include the REI Radiant +0 Sleeping Bag ($259), the Big Agnes Farwell +0 ($189), the North Face Snow Leopard ($209), the Marmot Trestles ($129) and the Mountain Hardwear Lamina ($195). Obviously, the Kaycee 0º F Long priced at $139 is cost competitive with all these offerings.