Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that a one-sized fits all approach to gear simply doesn’t work for me – whether it is a mountain bike or a sleeping bag. Finally in 2015, after many years of utilizing a men’s sleeping bag (which dominate the higher end sleeping bag market) I decided to learn from my mistakes, branch out from the mold, and purchase a down sleeping bag designed specifically for women from Seattle-based manufacturer Feathered Friends, who currently offer 9 different women’s-specific models in their complete sleeping bag lineup.
I opted for the 10 degree rated Petrel. As a cold sleeper who mostly overnights in the nearly always chilly higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains, I hoped would allow for a better night’s sleep than the 20 degree down bag I’d previously utilized. The Petrel 10 Degree Sleeping Bag is the warmest 3-season women’s sleeping bag that Feathered Friends offers, and as you might expect from the name of the company, it is a down bag made from 20-21 ounces of 950+ down fill. It features a cut with more room in the hips and less in the shoulders to fit the average woman better than your average men’s or unisex bag. Feathered Friends however, does state that their women’s cut has been well received by men as well.
For their women’s models, the company also adds a higher proportion of down fill to the bag and with more targeting the footbox. The bag comes in two different versions – the Petrel Nano features 20 and 30 denier outer/lining fabrics, while the Petrel UL reviewed here features 10 and 15 denier fabrics to save 2-3 ounces. In all cases, the shell fabric is breathable but water resistant. All versions of the Petrel are offered in multiple colors and small (fits up to 5’3”) and medium (up to 5’9”) sizes. The medium size UL here is listed with an average weight of 33 ounces – weighing an actual 33.5 ounces on the scale.
The first thing I noticed about the Petrel is just how lofty this bag is – we are talking about a 10 degree bag after all – which goes a long way towards warmth at night, but it can make packing a bit of a challenge. However, with a little work I’m still able to get this into an Exped Schnozzel (Feathered Friends does include a standard stuff sack and storage bag), and a 13 liter Sea to Summit UltraSil Dry Sack is also a great size that makes compression a bit easier to fit into my ULA Circuit while still keeping things dry.
At night is where the loft pays off though. For my maximum comfort, I’d rate the bag warm into the 20s, but again, I sleep quite cold and have been known to stock up on the hot Nalgene bottles on chilly nights. Experiences with the rating will vary. However, to get it to the 10 degree mark I would indeed be adding in additional insulation, including thermals, hat/mittens, and a down jacket. If you’re a warmer sleeper and/or backpacking in warmer locales, the Feathered Friends Egret 20 (see a review of the Egret Nano 20 here in Issue 31) is also worth a look.
The two way zipper rarely snags (when a little care is used) and the snap at the top of the bag is an especially nice feature – no Velcro or fasteners to touch your nose and wake you up at night. The hood fits nicely, but seems a bit smaller than previous bags that I’ve owned. The bag’s draft tube and collar both work to seal in heat. While the overall fit is indeed a benefit, there are no more cold spots in the hips and too much cold space in the chest. However and oddly, the medium is rated to fit up to 5’9” and at 5’8” the bag does seem just a bit short lengthwise and I do have to remember to get my feet all the way to the bottom of the bag to have an ideal amount of room in the hood. As such I would really say it’s a 5’8” bag, and unfortunately this is the longest women’s bag that is offered by Feathered Friends. While with a tent over my head the odd spill and condensation are the main water issues to worry about, the shell fabric DWR and water repellency does a good job at keeping your insulation dry and warm till morning.
While there are a few nitpicks regarding the bag - and the price tag is something to think about - as a cold sleeper I’ve greatly enjoyed backpacking with the Petrel and find that the women’s specific cut helps increase sleeping comfort and eliminates the cold spots that I’ve previously experienced with other men’s or unisex bags. The bag is on the bulky side which should be considered if you’re low on pack space, but taking the time to get the bag into an appropriate stuff sack and a little work – or taking the right pack – can mitigate the issue. Also, if you’re 5’9” or taller, this bag may not be the right fit for you. In the end though I’ve been very happy with the bag and staying warm at night goes a long way towards being ready to start the next day!
The Petrel Nano retails or $430 in the Nano version and $510 for the UL seen here. Find both here at FeatheredFriends.com.