Simba Tested: Western Mountaineering Ultralite
Simba Tested - Our gear guru & resident thru-hiker, Bryden Bowley (Trail Name = Simba), spent the summer of 2019 thru-hiking the Continental Divide Trail over 2,000 miles across Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. While hiking, he chose 22 products to use, abuse, and give his unbiased review. Bryden's hiking resumé includes over 5,400 miles of trails since 2017 - for comparison that's about the same distance from LA to NYC and back again.
- 21 day hike across the Swedish Kungsleden trail - 270 miles
- The Anna Purna Circuit in Nepal, topping out at 17,800 feet above sea level - 175 miles
- 2017 thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail where he earned his trail name "Simba" - 2,650
- 2019 Continental Divide Trail - 2,300 miles
Each week we'll release a new review that Bryden shot while on trail last summer - plus a follow up with his honest feedback about each product. We're proud to share Bryden's unbiased opinion about these products, and you can ask him questions directly through our Instagram Page. This is Simba Tested.
Western Mountaineering Ultralite Sleeping Bag
Reviewed on the CDT in the Summer of 2019
Let's start out with your sleeping bag history, what was your first sleeping bag you purchased?
About six years ago I bought a 0 degree synthetic bag from The North Face that I used for car camping. At this point, I had never done any backpacking and I only needed a bag for casual camping at a campground or sleeping in the back of my truck. There were a few times that I tried to put the sleeping bag into a backpack to walk to a campsite about half a mile down a trail to a campsite. I remember it taking up almost the entire space in the backpack.
Sounds like that sleeping bag isn’t ideal for backpacking, when did your thoughts shift towards Western Mountaineering?
Fast forward a few years and the idea to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail was planted. I did endless research online on ultralight sleeping bags. I came into GEAR:30 and was immediately introduced to Western Mountaineering. I went home and thought about it, and throughout the next two weeks I went back to the store to look at the bag a few different times. I felt like it was an expensive investment at the time, but after some serious thinking, I realized that I wanted something that would last me very long time, would keep me warm, would be ultralight, and something that could compress into a small space.
I came back to GEAR:30 and purchased a Terralite in spring of 2017. I used the bag for the entire Pacific Crest Trail. At the end of the trail, the bag was still in amazing condition and the down was still lofty. I was shocked.
The next year, I started to make plans to hike in Sweden and Nepal. I knew that I was going to be in colder climates, so I looked into Western again for a warmer bag. I found the Ultralight and bought one. A year later I decided I wanted to hike the CDT and I was confident this was the bag I would be continuing to use.
How did the Ultralite do in colder conditions?
In Sweden I faced a lot of cold rain and wind at night. There were a couple mornings where there was snow on the mountains surrounding me. I was warm every single night and I was never scared of being cold. There were some cold nights that I used some base layers to have extra warmth, but for the most part I usually slept shirtless and in underwear. This bag is warm.
What do you notice in the Ultralite that varies from the more popular sleeping bag brands?
Theres a lot of things that Western does that set them apart from most sleeping bag companies. First off, they are made in the USA. Each bag seems stitched with a practice that will make the bag last a very long time. All of their products are made with intentions of offering the best down products on the market, and I stand by that. The materials used on my sleeping bag doesn’t show any signs of wear and tear, even after using this sleeping bag over 2,000 hiking miles.
Are you interested in trying any other Western Mountaineering Sleeping Bags, or are you set with the Ultralite for now?
I’m definitely interested in trying some of the lower temperature rated bags. The 20 degree Ultralite is perfect for summer and shoulder season hiking, but if I were to do some winter backpacking or be in the alpine in the fall, sometimes it can be in the single digits or below freezing. There are a couple bags that Western makes that I’m interested in. I might try the Versalite this fall.
Would you recommend this to someone else?
All day long I recommend Western Mountaineering to anyone who asks about sleeping bags. When you buy a Western, you’re investing into a better wilderness sleeping experience. The Ultralite is a perfect summer/shoulder season ultralight backpacking sleeping bag.
Want to special order a Western Ultralite or other model?
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- Brandon Long