Early last spring I had the chance to pick up the new First Ascent Karakoram 20 sleeping bag for a long term review. As the season comes to a close, at least for a 20 degree bag, it’s time to inventory my impressions and fill out the report card. When I first got this bag, I wasn’t sure if it would live up to its claims; it did arrive with a good deal of hype. It’s safe to say, it exeeded my expectations.
When consumers hit the streets in search of a new sleeping bag, the name Eddie Bauer probably doesn’t rank high on their list, if appear on the list at all. I suppose that’s understandable as the EB brand has largely relegated itself to khaki pants, dog beds, and even a line of finely crafted throw pillows. It’s kind of a shame really, as Eddie Bauer himself was at a time one of the most highly regarded mountaineers of his generation. In that pursuit, he also became the man behind some of the most innovative apparel and equipment designs. In an effort to reintroduce the mountain legacy of the Eddie Bauer brand, a high caliber offshoot was recently launched under the name First Ascent. This premium line of apparel and equipment is, for lack of a better description, the real deal and the crown jewel in the First Ascent sleeping bag line is the Karakoram 20.
In the design of the Karakoram 20, few corners were cut. Strike that, no corners were cut. Everything about this bag exemplifies the word––premium. The 20-denier Pertex® Endurance Shell fabric is wrapped around 850 fill European goose down giving the bag an etherial fluffiness and loft. The baffles are well proportioned and the overall cut of the bag is snug but not constrictive, at least not for my very average build. The finish details are well executed with subtle refinements like full length zipper tape to prevent annoying snags and draft baffles at the neck and zipper. The hood is perfectly shaped and the trapezoidal foot box shows just how much bag-making experience is behind this product. What I noticed most was the efficiency of the vertical baffles along the torso section. Longitudinal baffles seem to want to collapse when shifting from side to side. The vertical baffles feel as if they are less prone to deformation and feel like a more natural, ergonomic solution. I didn’t think I’d notice the vertical baffles, and it turns out that’s what I noticed first.
The quality of the bag is undeniable. This certainly has the promise of a 10-year bag if given proper care. It stuffs down to a diminutive bundle barely larger than a football and weighs just a whisker over two pounds. Shocking as it is to say, I would put this bag on par with many of the uber-exotics from Feathered Friends, Western Mountaineering, or anyone else. It’s a far cry from a throw pillow, and deserving of Mr. Bauer’s storied name. I’m more than just a little impressed. For you mountain enthusiasts, I dare say it’s deserving of the other name it bears––Karakoram.