Western Mountaineering Versalite 10 Sleeping Bag Review

Western Mountaineering Versalite 10 Review
The Western Mountaineering Versalite 10 sleeping bag is the sleeping bag I would choose if I could have only one. It can be used very comfortably between 10 and 40 degrees and pushed a little further in either direction. I’ve taken it below 10 wearing some layers and have draped it over me quilt style when temps are warmer than 40. The Versalite is pretty pricey, but worth it if it’s going to be your primary or only sleeping bag. I’ve owned mine for six years, during which time I’ve owned a number of other sleeping bags, but the Versalite has remained in my possession for longer than any of the others. The reason I’ve kept it around is that it’s a truly versatile sleeping bag.

Specs at a Glance

  • Temperature Rating: 10*F / -12.2*C
  • Fill Power: 850 + Goose Down
  • Size: Regular 6′ / 180 cm (also available in 5’6” and 6’6”)
  • Weight: 32 oz / 938 g (34 oz, measured)
  • Fill Weight: 20 oz / 905 g
  • Dimensions: 62″ / 53″ / 39″
  • Packed Size: 8″x15″
  • Collar: Full draft collar
  • Baffles: Continuous
  • Sleeping Bag Shell Fabric: WM Proprietary ExtremeLite Fabric
  • Lining Fabric: 15d ripstop nylon
  • Zip Side: Left (also available in Right)
  • Color: Green
  • Country of Origin: Made in San Jose, California, USA

Sleeping Bag Weight / Fill Weight

The Versalite’s advertised weight is 32 oz, but mine came in at 34 oz on my scale. Hopefully, those extra ounces are all down! The fill weight is advertised at 20 oz making this bag about 67% down. That’s a fantastic fill to shell ratio. Compare that to other similar mummy bags and many won’t come close. As well, 34 oz is very light for a bag that can be pushed to 10 degrees or less.

The Versalite Hood is deep and puffy. Note draft collar inside.
The Versalite Hood is deep and puffy. Note the draft collar inside.

I should note that although Western Mountaineering claims to use 850+ fill in their bags, this is not exactly accurate. When they say 850, they are saying that 850 is the lowest quality down they will ever put in their bags. Often, they are using down ranging between 850 and 970! They never advertise this, however. So, just remember, if you’re buying a Western Mountaineering sleeping bag, you’re getting the absolute best down available; don’t worry about the numbers.

The Versalite has an exceptionally thick draft collar
The Versalite has an exceptionally thick draft collar

Hood and Draft Collar

The Versalite’s hood is deep and comfortable. The drawcord is easy to find in the middle of the night, easy to adjust, and holds well. My only complaint with the hood is the Velcro closure which doesn’t hold all that well. A small snap would be easier to use, be about the same weight, and hold more securely. That said, even though the Velcro pops open sometimes, it doesn’t really matter that much. The drawcord really seems to keep drafts off my face regardless of the Velcro.

The draft collar is extremely poofy and comfortable. It too has a Velcro closure which I’ve never really tried to use, so I can’t say much of anything about it. The collar’s drawcord is made of elastic shockcord, which increases the overall comfort of the draft collar.

The two-way zipper allows you to vent if your feet get too hot (zipper)
The two-way zipper allows you to vent if your feet get too hot (zipper)

Two-Way Zipper / Stiffener / Draft Tube

The Versalite has a full-length, #5, two-way, separating, coil zipper. #5 is an ideal size for a sleeping bag zipper as it’s easy to use and the sliders won’t wear out for years. The two-way zipper means you can unzip the bag from the bottom to vent if your feet get hot.

We’ve all been there.  You try to zip up your bag only to have it snag. Not with the Versalite! Sewn under the liner fabric, next to the zipper on either side is a stiffener. This is a small, probably often overlooked feature, but it really sets this bag apart from many less thoughtful bags. The stiffener means you will almost never snag the zipper on the fabric. Seriously. It never happens!

A stiffener sewn along the zipper keeps it from snagging.
A stiffener sewn along the zipper keeps it from snagging.

On one side of the zipper is sewn a full-length draft tube. It lies across the zipper quite precisely when the bag is closed and effectively seals out the cold.

Sleeping Bag Shell / Lining

The Versalite shell is made from Western Mountaineering’s proprietary 12d ExtremeLite nylon ripstop. This is a tightly woven fabric that repels water quite well even long after the DWR finish has worn off because it has such a tight weave.  The liner is a very comfortable 15d nylon taffeta with no DWR treatment. This combination of fabrics is a great balance of weight and durability. I personally wouldn’t want lighter fabrics on a bag that I plan to keep in my life for 20 years. And you really can keep Western Mountaineering sleeping bags that long.

Versalite 10 Comfort

I am 5’ 11”, 160 lbs, and the Versalite 10 bag fits me perfectly. The 62” shoulder girth is a great balance of thermal efficiency and comfort. The mid-section of the bag is 53” which allows some space to bend my knees, and the 39” footbox is simply perfect. I don’t know why the footbox is so good, but it’s the best I’ve encountered on any bag or quilt.

The hood is non-constrictive and conforms well to my head and shoulders
The hood is non-constrictive and conforms well to my head and shoulders

I’m probably thin enough to get away with the 59” shoulder girth offered in other Western Mountaineering bags like the Ultralite 20, but the weight savings and thermal efficiency probably wouldn’t override the comfort of the Versalite’s 62” width for me. I’ve also used a couple of Western Mountaineering 64” girth bags including the Alpinlite 20 and the Megalite and they’re very comfortable but they take a while to warm up.

My Use/Temp Rating

I’ve had my Versalite for six years and have used it in temperatures ranging from about 0 to 50 degrees. Typical winter temps where I hike on the Colorado Plateau range from 15 to 30 (sometimes much lower), and I’ve used this bag most often in the 25-degree range. On one high-humidity, 25-degree night sleeping on the banks of the Dirty Devil River in southern Utah, I shivered all night in the Versalite. Why? Dehydration. On a 15-degree night sleeping on some windswept badlands, I slept like a thousand baby angels inside this bag. I was well-hydrated and well-fed. It makes a difference.

The draft tube sewn along the edge of the zipper very effectively keeps the warmth in and the cold out
The draft tube sewn along the edge of the zipper very effectively keeps the warmth in and the cold out

Last year I took this bag on a solstice trip through the Kanab Creek Wilderness. The first night was spent in the back of a truck where it was about 8 degrees. I slept fine, but I could feel some cold creeping in through my Therm-A-Rest NeoAir and my nose felt like a frozen strawberry stuck to my face. The bag itself, however, kept my body warm.

It was about 25 degrees most nights during the trip and I never zipped the thing up; I just wore my parka and used it as a quilt. This was ridiculously comfortable but left me wondering if it was a bit silly to be carrying a 34 oz mummy bag if I wasn’t going to zip it up. I should note that I used a NeoAir/Zlite combination on this trip, which is heavy, but I like the reliability of foam in the winter. It reduces anxiety knowing that there will always be something between me and the icy earth. I was also inside a single-wall pyramid.

The Versalite staving off a dawn chill in the Stansburys
The Versalite staving off a dawn chill in the Stansburys

I feel comfortable saying the Versalite can be taken to 10 degrees or a little less on a pad, inside a shelter. I will continue to use it in temps ranging from 5 to 20 degrees or thereabouts. It’s also a great three-season bag for cold sleepers. I know people who often use this bag when temps are right around freezing. Some folks sleep cold and enjoy the extra down even in the 30s.

Sleeping Bags vs Quilts at Low Temperatures

So, when am I going to choose the Versalite over a quilt? Only if I know it’s going to be below 20 degrees. Recently, for example, I pulled my truck up to a trailhead at 11:30 at night. The elevation was 8,500 feet and the temperature about 15 degrees. I slept that night in the back of my truck in my Versalite wearing only socks, baselayers, and a fleece and was very warm. Then I left the Versalite in the truck and carried my Nunatak Arc UL 20 into a canyon where the nighttime temperature was 17 degrees. Wearing all my layers I was just barely warm enough, wishing I’d chosen to carry the extra weight of the Versalite for a decent night’s sleep.

Let me be clear, I don’t have draft issues with quilts, so that’s not why I choose the Versalite at these temperatures. The combination of its efficient cut, the huge amount of down, and effective hood give it an advantage over most 20-degree quilts.

Recommendation

The Western Mountaineering Versalite 10 sleeping bag is an extraordinarily versatile sleeping bag that can be used to cover all three-season conditions. While the Versalite is pricey, it is completely worth it if this is going to be your primary (or only) sleeping bag. The materials and craftsmanship are fantastic. The dimensions are a perfect balance of comfort and thermal efficiency. The draft collar is comfortable and effective. The hood is super poofy and comfortable. The design leaves almost nothing to be desired.

Disclosure: The author owns this product.

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Last updated: 2020-12-02 12:22:48

About the author

Ben Kilbourne has been backpacking at least once a month every month for the last twelve years. His explorations have taken him all over the west, but especially the canyon country of the Colorado Plateau. The geography of the west has become familiar to him. He has developed a rudimentary understanding of its geology, and an awareness of the subtle changes in flora and fauna due to soil, elevation, aspect, and precipitation and how these elemental things interact with both ancient and modern humans. His experiences on the land, whether triumphant or thwarted by events either in or out of his control, have provided the foundation for the work he does. Find Ben’s paintings, songs, and essays here http://benkilbourne.com/.

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