Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Gear Closet: Eddie Bauer Kara Koram 0º Sleeping Bag

We're living in a golden age of sleeping bag technology. Not only have our bags gotten lighter, warmer, and more packable, they now come with a wide variety of insulation types designed to perform better in difficult situations. Case in point, is the 0º Kara Koram sleeping bag from Eddie Bauer, a comfortable, well made product that is designed for cold weather expeditions where space is at a premium and getting a good night's sleep is crucial.

The Kara Koram line of sleeping bags continues Eddie Bauer's recent trend of creating high quality outdoor gear designed for use in the mountains. The company originally made a name for itself back in the 1940's and 50's by making great outdoor gear that was made for use on expeditions to remote places. But over the years the brand became more consumer focused, moving away from the rich heritage that it had in exploration and adventure. However, a few years back, the company launched its First Ascent line of gear, which was an attempt to get back to its roots. That gear was extremely well received, and got rave reviews from those who used it. In fact, some of my favorite pieces of gear that I own are from the First Ascent line, and I have loved everything that I've used. This sleeping bag is a continuation of Eddie Bauer refocusing on the outdoor market, and it delivers on the promise of high quality gear that is built to perform well in demanding conditions.

One of the first things that struck me about the Kara Koram bag was just how well it is built. Every aspect of the sleeping bag screams high quality, from the fabrics used on the outer shell, to the zippers, inner lining, and even the stitching that holds it all together. This feels like a product that can accompany you on many adventures, and come back in perfect shape. That kind of confidence is difficult to find in a lot of outdoor gear, but you'll feel it here.


Packed with 850 fill down, the Kara Koram is incredibly warm and comfortable, while still maintaining the ability to pack down to a surprisingly small size. That means it won't take up much room in your pack, but will still provide plenty of warmth on those cold nights in a tent. I haven't been able to test it at temperatures approaching its 0ºF (-17ºC) rating just yet, but I can attest to the fact that it has exceeded my expectations at every temperature range that I've used it in so far. I have every confidence that it would perform very well at the stated temperature rating, and possibly even lower should the need arise.

We all know that down is warm and provides great packability, but that it becomes all but useless when it it gets wet. That's why the Kara Koram features StormDown, which is Eddie Bauer's name for the water resistant insulation that comes from DownTek, the company that pioneered the hydrophobic down movement. Essentially, the down that is included in this sleeping bag has been treated with a water resistant coating that allows it to repel moisture, while maintaining its loft and ability to keep us warm. It is truly a revolutionary product, and I'm happy to say that it is put to good use here. For this bag to fail in the same manner as older down sleeping bags, conditions would have to be incredibly bad.

Getting a good night's sleep is imperative to enjoying your time in the backcountry, and this bag will help you to do jus that. Its interior is very comfortable, and while it does feature a mummy-cut design, I never felt cramped or claustrophobic inside. The designer at Eddie Bauer were even thoughtful enough to include an interior pocket for storing your electronic devices. This has the two-fold benefit of keeping those items close at hand for when you need them, as well as keeping them warm in cold conditions – something that can help with maintaining battery life and protecting LCD screens.

As with any mummy bag, the hood plays an important role in keeping you warm throughout the night, and the Kara Koram is no different. Fortunately, I found it easy to cinch up the hood, and still sleep very comfortably. But if you're the kind of person who finds this style of sleeping bag confining, you may have issues here.

For those who are concerned about how much their packs weigh when setting out on an adventure, the Kara Koram tips the scales at 2 lbs. 12 oz for the regular version, and 2 lbs. 15 oz for the long. While that doesn't make it the lightest sleeping bag on the market of course, those are still impressive numbers for bag that is rated for 0ºF. Winter gear is always heavier and bulkier than what we can get away with during the warmer months, but all things considered, this sleeping bag provides excellent performance for its weight and size.

Of course, any piece of gear that offers this level of performance tends to come with a steep price tag, and the Kara Koram 0º is no different. MSRP for this sleeping bag is $549, although it can be found online for less if you search hard enough. That price will probably be enough to put some people off, but good winter gear always costs more, and you'll be hard pressed to find a bag that performs this well for less.

As you can tell, I'm highly impressed with this bag. If you need something for cold weather adventures, I'd recommend it highly.

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