For years Sierra Designs has been cranking out some amazing gear — always built for true mountain athletes such as Eric Larsen. I remember lusting after a red Sierra Designs anorak jacket back in college, and being even more impressed after I bought it and put it to use out in the elements. It performed better than my flashier Marmot jacket. Out of everything that Sierra Designs has put out there year after year — and I’ve tried a lot of it — the Cloud 15 sleeping bag is my favorite item yet. In fact, the Cloud 15 may be the best piece of camping gear I’ve tried this year.
In my opinion there is nothing out there like the Cloud 15, visually or functionally. First of all, at one-pound-something it is confirmed to be the lightest 15F degree sleeping bag on the market. Secondly, it is one of the coolest looking pieces of soft goods I’ve seen from any brand. See the images at right? In the pictures it kind of looks like a white or silver bag with blue accents — but if you look closely, that’s not white or silver. It’s transparent material, so you can see the down inside. I can’t wait until Sierra Designs makes their Gnar puffy jacket out of this material. I was camping with some buddies up in the Cottonwood Canyons of Utah and had my Cloud 15 lying out to fluff before bed. It made gawkers out of my friends. Like I said, it is unique in the market. And I’ve used everything from Mont Bell to The North Face and everything in between.
The Cloud 15 is precisely 1lb 12oz, has 900-fill down with 10D nylon ripstop (an ultralight nylon material), and is EN-tested for an accurate comfort rating at 15 degrees. That means it even comes in under the weight of the Marmot Plasma ultralight sleeping bag, which is listed 2oz heavier. As you can see in the full length image, the Cloud 15 uses vertical baffles rather than horizontal to save weight. The vertical baffles employ a technology called Insotech Flow, which is a patented approach to keeping down from migrating. If I understand it correctly, it is basically one-way flaps of material in the baffles — similar to the principle you see at work in the veins of some mammals to reduce the backward flow of blood. Simplicity is elegance, making the Cloud 15 one of the most technologically advanced bags you could find. It comes with a storage bag and a stuff sack, as you might imagine. To save weight, the stuff sack lacks compression straps but is made of the same 10D ripstop nylon. And with 900 fill down, the Cloud 15 is highly compressible to avoid bulk.
The bag has some great standard design features. As you can see in the pictures, Sierra Designs has cut the bag with a bit of a jacket-style hood (meaning it fits closer to your ears and comes down in a bit more of a straight angle towards the base of your neck, instead of being a broad triangle shape that drapes from your crown to the outside of your shoulders). As you would expect, it has a drawcord for the collar and draft tubes on both the zipper and the collar. It has a 40″ zipper for entry and venting, and a trim but ergonomic foot box.
Of course, you can’t get every last creature comfort when you cut down the weight so deeply. For example, the 40″ zipper doesn’t allow for venting just your foot (unless you are under four feet tall). So when I’ve used this on warmer nights in Southern Utah I just laid out my whole left leg comfortably. This bag also doesn’t sport draft tubes at the neck (just the collar and the zipper). And it isn’t stitched with heavier flex thread to allow for stretchy movement the way the way some other Sierra Design bags are.
But given the extreme light weight of this bag, the few missing features aren’t enough to deter me from being thoroughly impressed. Great function, great performance, and very stylistic design. This is not muted earth tones. The performance-minded will be very pleased with this bag in almost all situations except snowy winter camping or extremely hot summer nights.
Watch for the Sierra Designs Cloud 15 bag to come out in Spring 2012 at a retail price of $499.