Winter Sleeping Bag
Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 30F/-1C
$235, 1 lb. 12 oz. (regular, 72-inch)
Sizes: men’s and women’s regular and long
On the second night of a four-day, roughly 50-mile backpacking trip in Yosemite in the last week of September, when nights dipped into the 40s Fahrenheit, I laid my bag and pad out under the stars, without a tent, in one of the neatest spots I’ve ever slept outside: on a dry granite slab between two braids of a creek, lulled by a tiny cascade just a few steps from my head. And all night, a strong, cool wind blew down that creek valley, prompting me to zip deeply inside the Bishop Pass 30F/-1C. Despite that wind chill, I stayed warm and slept like a baby.
A mummy bag packed with 12 ounces of RDS-certified, flourine-free, 650-fill down, the Bishop Pass sports a confidence-inspiring four inches of loft: It’s warm enough for typical overnight temps of summer in most mid-latitude mountain ranges or spring and fall in the Southwest canyon country except for people who tend to get cold more easily.
Draft tubes around the face opening and along the zipper’s full length help trap heat, making the bag more efficient. The two-way zipper allows venting the bag from the top and bottom and is backed by strips of heavy-duty fabric that’s impossible to snag in the zipper.
The men’s regular bag measures a roomy 62 inches at the shoulders, 53 inches at the hips, and 86 inches long; although Hardwear doesn’t provide a circumference measure for the foot box, I found it has a comfortable amount of space, not feeling cramped on my lower legs. Similarly, the adjustable hood closes neatly around the face and head.
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The 10-denier shell helps minimize the bag’s weight but that’s as lig ht as bag shells get—15- or 20-denier fabric is more common—and it has a DWR to repel moisture. Exercising reasonable care not to catch it on any sharp points—like sticks or rock edges if sleeping under the stars—will prevent accidental tears. It also has convenient details like a zipper pull that glows and an internal stash pocket.
No, the Bishop Pass does not match the high warmth-to-weight ratio of bags with a higher-quality down (800-fill and higher). But at under two pounds, with a stuffed size of 7×13.5 inches/18x34cm/7.8 liters (regular, which fits people up to six feet tall), it’s still reasonably lightweight and packable for backpacking.
Plus, while bags with higher-quality, 800- to 900+-fill down offer more warmth and packability for their weight, they also often cost upwards of twice as much or more than bags in the Bishop Pass series (when comparing models at the same temp rating).
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The Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 30F/-1C sleeping bag delivers good warmth and comfort for many three-season backpackers while remaining under two pounds—and saving you $100 to $200 or more compared to high-end down bags.
For colder temps or cold sleepers, there’s also the Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 15F ($275, 2 lbs. 8 oz. regular) and Bishop Pass 0F ($315, 3 lbs. 7 oz. regular), both in men’s and women’s models, and Gore-Tex shell versions of the 15F ($395, 2 lbs. 10 oz. regular) and 0F bags ($480, 3 lbs. 9 oz. regular).
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You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase a men’s Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 30F at moosejaw.com, or a women’s Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 30F at backcountry.com or moosejaw.com, or other versions of the men’s and women’s Bishop Pass bags at backcountry.com or moosejaw.com.
Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned backpacker, you’ll learn new tricks for making all of your trips go better in my “12 Expert Tips for Planning a Backpacking Trip,” “A Practical Guide to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking,” and “How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be.” With a paid subscription to The Big Outside, you can read all of those three stories for free; if you don’t have a subscription, you can download the e-guide versions of “12 Expert Tips for Planning a Backpacking Trip,” the lightweight and ultralight backpacking guide, and “How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be.”
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See The Big Outside’s Gear Reviews page for categorized menus of gear reviews and expert buying tips.