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Hands-on Gear Review
Marmot Col -20 Review
Cons: Heavy, zipper snags
Bottom line: This is a great bag for longer trips or expeditions.
The Marmot Col is a hulking yellow behemoth of loft and warmth. Possibly the warmest bag in this category, the Col boasts a tough weatherproof shell, vertical baffles to keep the down over your core, and loads of features that make it an excellent choice for expeditions and long trips where you could be hunkered down in foul weather for extended periods of time. If you're looking to go lighter, but still want to stay warm in sub-zero temps, check out the equally warm The North Face Inferno -20, or the Brooks Range Drift -10 which has a better warmth to weight ratio while still remaining highly weather resistant.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Winter Down Sleeping Bags of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Col is packed with 44oz (!) of 800 fill down, giving it incredible loft and insulative powers, and an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio. The cut of this bag is wide to accommodate movement and layers, and in the case of this bag, our testers felt that the extra space did not affect the warmth factor considering that there is so much down between them and the elements. The extra space accommodates more layers, and a whole bunch of other stuff you might want to keep from freezing solid like water, and your boots.
The appropriately named The North Face Inferno -20 is just as warm as the Marmot Col, but has a tighter fit. This makes the Infernomore thermally efficient and lighter than the Col. We feel that in the prolonged cold temperatures that these bags are designed for, room for boots and water bottles is an essential feature. When sleeping on your back with the hood completely cinched tight, the air hole is suspended several inches above your face, so you can still breathe without your nose freezing off. A thick draft collar with a dedicated cinch cord keeps out any drafts that make it past the hood. If you need something offering average warmth, the Western Mountaineering Versalite or Western Mountaineering Antelope MF will do the trick.
The robust shell fabric, wide cut, and amount of down make the Col the second heaviest bag in this review, only a smidge lighter than the Kelty Cosmic Down 0 10oz heavier than The North Face Inferno -20 and 12oz heavier than the Brooks Range Drift -10. However, it's way warmer than the Cosmic Down, roomier than the Inferno, and more weather resistant than the Drift. In a backpack, 4lbs 1.3oz is a lot of sleeping bag to haul around, so the The North Face Inferno may be a better choice. If you're carrying this bag into the snowy wilds on a sled or snowmobile, the warmth, space, and features easily make up for the extra weight. The Western Mountaineering Versalite 10 was the lightest bag in the review.
The Col gets a solid 8 for comfort because there is so much room to move around, change clothes, and burrow down inside the bag. This is essential if you are going to be spending many hours inside this bag, waiting out bad weather. The extra space makes the Col more comfortable than The North Face Inferno, which has a tighter fit and a half zipper that doesn't allow for any venting at the feet. The Col loses a few comfort points because of the light duty draft collar, and the thick material around the inside of the foot box that some testers didn't like against their feet. These problems are easily mitigated with a down jacket and a pair of socks. The Nemo Sonic 0 was the top scorer in this category, earning the only 10 out of 10 for its wide cut.
All that down and shell material make for a relatively large packed size when compared with the Western Mountaineering Antelope and the Feathered Friends Snowbunting. The Col still holds its own against similarly rated bags, stuffing down in our compression sack to the same size as The North Face Inferno, and a little bigger than the Brooks Range Drift -10. Due to high-quality materials, the Col still manages to pack down small enough in a 60-liter pack to allow room for other winter gear.
This contender is designed for extended winter trips. The features are right on with what our testers who've lived and worked in cold climates like to see. The inside of the foot box is reinforced with a thicker shell fabric to protect the bag from your boots. There is enough room in the footbox to sleep with your boots on or leave them down in the bottom of the bag, so you don't have to thaw your boots out, making it way easier to get up in the morning. Two thick, full-length draft tubes prevent cold air from entering through the zipper, though they tend to snag when opening or closing the bag. The full-length, two-way zipper is useful for venting if you get too hot in this bag (we sure did).
The zipper pull is glow-in-dark so you can see where it got snagged. We felt the draft collar was a bit lacking. It's thin compared to the collars on much lighter bags like the Western Mountaineering Antelope, and it connects with one small snap that is hard to find at night. Inside the draft collar you'll find a small stash pocket, hidden away until you pull a tiny cord. Our testers generally find stash pockets useful for batteries and headlamps, and a few of them thought the pocket on the Col was hidden too well, and difficult to find in the dark.
The 30 denier Pertex Microlite shell is truly waterproof and breathable. In our submersion test, we fully dunked parts of the bag underwater and tried our best to squeeze out all the air so that the bag could absorb as much water as possible. The Col didn't absorb any under water; it remained airless and compressed, and no water was allowed in through the shell or the stitching for the baffles. It doesn't have a hydrophobic down treatment and who cares?
Unless you're going swimming in it, that down isn't going to get wet. Since all the water remains on the shell of the bag and none is absorbed, the Col had the fastest drying time of all the bags in its class. Though heavy, you aren't likely to need to carry a bivy sack or an over bag when sleeping out in this bag. A simple lean-to, lightweight tent, or snow cave will block the high winds, and the Col will take care of the rest.
This top scorer is an excellent bag for those who are spending multiple weeks at a time living outside in cold environments. It is large and roomy enough to change clothes inside, or even burrow down and read a book while remaining enclosed and protected from the elements. Our lead tester constantly remarked much how he would have loved to have this bag during the winters he worked for wilderness therapy, when temps would barely reach the single digits for weeks, and sometimes he would spend 12 hours straight in his sleeping bag. Though heavy for fast and light alpine missions, it makes for a big yellow beacon of warmth to return to at base camp.
$699 is a big chunk of change but totally worth it if you're going to be spending serious amounts of time living, working, and adventuring out in the cold. 3 months equals about 90 nights in the bag. That comes out to $7.76 a night for warmth, comfort, and respite after bitter cold days.
The Col is the bag you want when warmth, comfort, and weather resistance are your top priorities. We feel it's the best bag in the review for long expeditions where you will be spending a lot of time in your sleeping bag, and need lots of space to protect yourself and critical gear from the cold.
— Matt Bento
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