MSRP: $359 (for 25?F quilt and sheet)
I like to starfish when I sleep. This becomes a problem in only three situations: when my wife wants to fall asleep in each other’s arms; when I’m on a portaledge with a partner; or when I’m bundled in a mummy bag. (Ironically, if my wife joined me on the portaledge I’d be a very happy husband indeed!)
I wager that if you’ve spent a frozen night in a mummy bag with down baffles zipped up to your nose you’ve likely experienced the claustrophobic panic of waking up inside a dark, sweaty cocoon, unable to find the air hole after a bad dream.
But mummy bags do serve a purpose in that they are the best way to keep us warm while we sleep.
That’s why I’m a fan of the Zenbivy Light bed system: I can use it as a glorified down blanket, spreading out in all directions, but it also becomes a form-fitting sleeping bag when I need to close in the warmth. Paired with a “sheet” that connects it directly to a camping mattress, these nylon quilt-bags are available in three temperature ratings: 40?, 25? and 10?F. The 40? quilt has synthetic insulation while the other two are insulated with 800 fill-power HyperDRY water-resistant duck down.
I’ve been using the 25?F Zenbivy Light for the past year. I’ve slept comfortably with it on summer nights at around 10,000 feet in Colorado’s Elk Range and in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, and it’s also been nice to have for warmer camping trips around Moab, Utah. My main criticism is that it’s more tedious to set up the bed than inflating a mattress and throwing a bag on top.
The Zenbivy setup is like this: The bottom “sheet”–which has an insulated hood similar to that of a mummy bag–secures to a typical camping mattress. (I’ve been using a Sea To Summit air mattress, which works well with the Zenbivy system, and Zenbivy also makes its own air mattresses, with the Light insulated mattress starting at $159. The company makes a small inflatable, 2.5-ounce pillow as well ($39), which has served me well as a guy who normally scoffs at such accouterments.) With the sheet secured to the mattress, the quilt connects to the sheet with a series of color-coded loops and clips. You can leave the quilt open around the feet for ventilation, or you can set it up so that the bottom is closed all the way up with a drawstring. Learning the different iterations of which hooks connect to different loops for various setups can be confusing at first. (Practice at home before you need to set it up in a dark, cramped tent.) The setup is finicky enough that I most enjoy the Zenbivy when I don’t have to move camp everyday and am able to leave the bed situated, such as when I spent a week at Lonesome Lake in the Cirque of the Winds. For occasions when I have to move camp, I’ve been able to leave the quilt attached to the sheet so that all I have to do is re-attach the air mattress, but sometimes the hooks come undone and I’ve been faced with a confusing mess to sort out anyway.
As for warmth, I’ve been pretty happy with the versatility of the 25?F Zenbivy Light. I simply wear a combination of base layers to bed when I need to stay warmer, which has allowed me to sleep quite comfortably during some frosty nights. On the flip side, the lightweight quilt and open design have helped me avoid that nightmare scenario of waking up in a sweat, stuck to the nylon and fighting to free my arm. Plus, the open quilt makes it much easier for my wife to cuddle up next to me, and I can still starfish.
Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz remains hopeful that his wife will share a portaledge with him someday even though she has told him repeatedly that it will N-E-V-E-R happen.
Versatile–use it as a blanket, a bag or a “bed”
Made with water-resistant duck down
Lightweight (1 lb., 13 oz. for regular size)
Stays attached to mattress when paired with a “sheet”
Setting up the “bed” is a little tedious and can be a wee bit confusing