Sorry, no pictures yet
This in no way supercedes the excellent work done by all the other posters who have made comments. These are mine. I bring this subject up again because of some changes in the military. With the change to the ACU pattern, the old patterns are now obsolete, hence there will be a large influx of the old style bags on the market. Additionally, not everyone who posts here is ex military, so they might not be automatically familiar with the system.
Why I choose this:
My current sleeping bag is a rectangular CLOTH sleeping bag. (You, snickering in the back, pipe down!) So totally inadequate. Money, as always, is tight. But it’s my birthday, so I can justify what my wife considers a bit of extravagance.
My daughters and son both have…adequate bags, so that leaves my wife and me. As she has little interest in camping, my thoughts ran “I buy this one bag for the price of a commercial SINGLE bag, and I’ll have two sleeping bags and a goretex bivvy cover. Sweet!”
Additionally, last year, I bid on this bag several times…with the result that it bid out at $200+ dollars. Too high for my blood. But as noted, the price has dropped $50 or so on average (I bought mine for $149 new, no bids, plus shipping. The market is still adjusting, so shop around.)
I’ve had several posters and some others speak highly of the system (certainly it beats a cloth rectangle which folds slightly larger then a beer keg), so I bought it.
Three things gave me a sense of trepidation. Uncle Wiggy panned the bag, and I assume he wasn’t making it up from whole cloth. Two other phrases also bounced in my mind; “lowest bidder” and “government candor”…
It came in a 12x12x18 inch box. Not a daintly lady, our MSS. But this is how it is shipped and stored militarily; the patrol bag holds the black bag, the bivvy cover and the stuff sack inside a plastic sealed bag. A quick check of tags shows that they are government illegible, with Tennier barely visible, so it’s the real deal. (A forgery would be much clearer
The Patrol Bag:
It’s green, it’s thin, it’s roomy. I like a roomy bag, and the color is irrelevant. But there is not a lot of Fill inside this bag. Looking at it, I wouldn’t use it anywhere but backyard camping (which is where it will be tested tonight). It’s a right hand zip, some kind of nylon. There is a draft guard
; a strip of nylon strap material with some nylon ticking with a little fill on the back. The zippers are heavy duty, with the little pull cords for easy handling (more on that later). The zipper opens from the top and the bottom, but the opening only goes about 2/3 of the way down (probably to keep the Marines from putting their bags together
). There is a velcro closure to keep the zipper from pulling open accidently (again to alert a Marine about possible amourous advances at night)
Along the length of the zipper, there are two parallel lines of snaps for nesting with the black bag and the bivvy cover. These snaps are female on the inside and male on the outside (which reminds me of some of our sheep posters) which makes it hard to snap the black bag. I used a coin to provide enough pressure with my girley hands.
There is a hood with a cord to pull it shut, but no draft collar on this bag. However, pretty much every bag I’ve seen seems kind of flimsy, so it needs testing. On it’s face, it seems like a 50 degree bag, which works in some the sandier climes our service men go, so I’ll refrain from too much disdain.
This bag doesn’t look like it belongs at a little girl’s slumber party. It’s heavier with fill, has a nice box for the feet. The zipper and snap system is the same, but with the blank on the inside and the male part outside. It’s easier to snap. Again with the hood, but this seems to close slightly smaller. There is a joke of a draft collar. It covers half of the front panel. Better then nothing. It has a small draft tube like commericial models, but it’s half the size of something you’d find in North Face (this comes from the later having to make a bag someone would want, vs having a bag which you are forced to get.)
Sizewise, it was (unsurprisingly) tighter then the green bag. Slightly roomier then most commerical bags I’ve tried. Lengthwise, all three were more then large enough for my 6’2”. If I were seriously camping, I’d bring this bag and the bivvy.
Let’s get Bivvy!
It’s goretex. It’s a bag. It has snaps and a zipper. The top flap goes all the way up. That is to say, if you seal it up all the way, there is a portion over your face and you’ll look like a camo version of the pods in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. So, in your bag, closed all the way up, you don’t really need a tent. The “bottom” of the bag is sandy, so I suppose you could use it for camo purposes by flipping it over if you’re in benighted places like Afganistan or Texas…I would not suggest this, as the upside down flap will catch rain and send it right into your toasty goodness.
All three mated together, it’s a bit of a chore. Three zippers and the flap snaps of the bivvy to seal. This is where those cloth extentions on the zipper really come in their own. You need them unless you want to spend 10 minutes zipping and sealing the bag.
With all three mated together, one wonders if they NEED a draft collar! You have 4 pounds or so of fill and a draft and water tight goretex tube. I was quite warm when bundled inside. As I don’t own a walk in freezer, it will be some time before I can give you honest ratings for temperature, though I’ll try it in the back yard tonight. However the temperature will only fall to the high 50’s, which is winter in Florida, so Floridians take note.
So, now that I finally have this ginormous thing put together, I look at the stuff sack. It’s regular nylon (someone much more campgeek then I am can tell you the denier) with the standard flap on top to keep out water. It also has a bunch of cinch straps (3) and compression straps (6).
I assumed that I’m a grunt in Afganistan, cold, tired and needing to move. So I roll the whole bag (still put together) into a somewhat cylindrical shape and start shoving it into the sack. Then I pretended to be a SMART grunt who knew enough to losen the cinch straps so that it could actually be PUT inside the sack.
With much huffing and puffing, I was able to get it all in and then I started cinching it down. I did not try to force it too much as a) it’s new, and b) because I wanted the horrid truth. Without working it for 5 minutes, I was able to get this thing small enough in diameter so that it will fit inside a 5 gallon bucket…and it might not poke ou t the top either. It’s a biggun! I can cinch it tighter, but understand it’s not a down bag. Also recall that most of today’s army is Mechanized Infantry…
The Bottom Line:
I expected both bags to be 3 season bags. This was an unreal expectation on my part. The patrol bag seems like a two season bag, Summer in the Northern Hemisphere and then Summer in the Southern one. The black bag seems like a pretty standard 20 or 30 degree bag, maybe a bit heavier then comperable commercial bags.
I don’t feel my money is wasted. With all the components, I am almost certain it’s a 4 season bag, at least in Ohio. This, unfortunately, leaves the wife out in the cold. Hmm. The Bivvy is a pricey item all by itself. Were I only buying for myself, I conflicted as to whether I’d have gone commerical. I’m reasonably happy with the bag, but I haven’t had to ruck it around along the AT, so I can’t say for certain. It’s rating…adequate as described. Don’t trust the -40 degree thing worth a lick, but I’m not mounting Everest.
If I was looking for a cheap and warm bag, I'd shop piecemeal and get the black bag and the bivvy. You can probably get both for around $80, which is better then closeout prices on most sleeping bags. The only problem is you probably won't find it new. It depends on what your "eew!" factor is.
If you have any questions, ask. I’ll ask Woods Walker and pretend to know the answer.