The Skeeter SL 20 is a super light sleeping bag, designed to provide exceptional warmth at the lowest weight and smallest pack size possible, while still tossing in a few interesting features. This is my review:
The Skeeter SL 20 is a mummy style sleeping bag with a full length, left hand zipper. The bag is widest at the shoulder, narrowing around the head and at the foot to save on material, wasted warmth and weight. The pad includes a detachable pad sleeve that can be slipped over a sleeping bag to prevent sliding and rolling off, and it performs double duty as a stuff sack. The bag is filled with 20 ounces of 650 DownTek water resistant down (regular size as reviewed), and is constructed from nylon taffeta for the lining and rip-stop nylon for the outer shell. The bag is EN comfort rated to 28 degrees F, weighs 2 lbs. 14 oz, fits up to a 72″ sleeper, and retails for $289.95. The bag also comes in a long version at 2 lb.s 7 oz.
What I liked
What is the point of a sleeping bag if it above all isn’t comfortable? Thankfully, the Skeeter definitely provides a pleasant sleeping experience. Starting with the sensation of being inside: The nylon taffeta lining is silky smooth, but not plastic feeling to the touch like many other high end sleeping bags. It is instead exceptionally soft and supple, sliding easily against the skin. This makes it effortless to shift and move inside, free of friction or bunching. The zippers are completely padded off and tucked along under the baffles the full length of the zipper, meaning there is never any direct contact or pressure points created. There are also small, down filled baffles that line the head and neck as well, providing immediate cushioning and an at home, tucked in bed like feel along every cut and angle. The mummy shape, while it still follows the form of the body, provides a little extra room at the shoulders and above the feet (where your toes point up while back sleeping), eliminating taut or otherwise constrictive zones that often form in these designs. I’m 5’8″ and 175 lbs, but still had plenty of room for my arms to sit at my side, and I could shimmy around quite a bit. I always had plenty of room at the feet, and I never felt trapped. The shape, wonderfully soft feel of the fabrics and general coziness of the design make for a lovely sleeping experience.
I also found the Skeeter to be perfectly warm and toasty within the advertised specifications. While it is named as a 20 degree bag, it has an EN Comfort rating for 28 degrees with a lower limit (basically the point that you may sleep but won’t be happy) to 16 degrees F. I’ve found the sleeping bag to be quite warm down to about 25 degrees F, where I could not feel any seeping cold or breezes working their way through, even down to just my undies and a t-shirt. A determined or perhaps desperate camper could easily push this bag to 15 degrees or so with thermals or perhaps some fleece pants, a jacket and some warm footwear. While I haven’t tested the upper limits yet (the point of spontaneous human combustion/ just being too darn hot), I have a feeling it is around 40 degrees with the zipper wide open. There are absolutely no air leaks or drafts to be felt anywhere throughout the sleeping bag. This is entirely due to the baffling design, where the thick, vertical baffles are tucked up against each other, essentially eliminating any flat, fill-less seams. Basically, it is a very warm sleeping bag.
Getting in and out of the sleeping bag is quite straightforward. The zippers slide easily and do not often hang up thanks to the stiffened zipper guides, and the zipper extends most of the way down the side of the bag, meaning you don’t really have to slide into it. You can, for the most part, just sit on top, bend the legs just a bit, slip the toes in and zip up.
The included sleeping pad sleeve does a great job of preventing the sleeping bag from moving off a pad, but also keeps it in place on the pad, mostly eliminating cold spots that typically form as a sleeper tosses around and moves about on the pad surface. Instead, it seals up against the pad, creating a more or less permanent junction between them, improving thermal efficiency. There is nothing worse than rolling over onto a cold spot on a sleeping pad but this isn’t an issue here. It doesn’t tie the sleeper in place either, as it is still possible to roll around inside, with the sleeping bag/pad staying in place. I also like that the sleeve can be detached by undoing a few clips that can then be used as a stuff sack to conserve weight (no extra stuff sack required), even if the “stuff sack” doesn’t do a great job of compressing the bag to the smallest size possible.
Speaking of compression, the sleeping bag packs down to about 5 liters in size, or a little less with a really good compression sack. This fits easily inside basically any overnight backpack and takes up minimal space at the bottom. It springs back to life with no effort upon unpacking, aside from a quick shake. Even after leaving the bag compressed for weeks, it showed no signs of damage after taking it out. I still recommend storing it uncompressed for maximum loft and life though.
Durability is very good here, with the entire sleeping bag being made of high quality rip-stop nylon and taffeta nylon. The materials are soft and relatively thin, but still impossible to tear by hand, and assuming they’re kept away from sharp objects, dirt and moisture, should easily last a lifetime. The stitching and seam work is also rather impressive, with exceptional consistency and reinforcements where necessary. The zippers are also YKK brand, which are industry known to be highly reliable.
At just over 2 lbs., the Skeeter 20 is wispy lighty and easily justifiable on long range backpacking trips. Weighing less than many summer range sleeping bags I’ve tested, I find the warmth to weight ratio to be exceptional.
What I didn’t like
My only real complaint with the sleeping pad is the sleeping pad sleeve, which provides no access points to valves of any kind. Normally, I like to inflate my sleeping pads to the point that they feel hard, put my system together, and adjust the pressure of my pad later. Often, cold weather will soften my pad (as it lowers the air pressure inside), but I still like to fine tune it after everything normalizes. This pad makes that hard to basically impossible, depending on the type of valve used. The problem is that it completely covers valves up. Instead, you’ll need to do your fine tuning before hand, or just not use the pad sleeve. Twist style valves can be felt through the material, enough to let off some air, but forget trying to blow it back up without pulling the pad out. I’ve considered cutting a small hole in the sleeve for the valve to fit through, which seems like it will work, but will require some fabric reinforcement to keep it from fraying later.
The pad sleeve is also rather tight fitting on several of my pads, with some pads not fitting inside at all. It is definitely designed to be used with ultra-light pads. Several of my pads required some real effort to get inside, while wide pads aren’t likely to fit at all. Still, it’s an optional feature, so it can be left off altogether.
Indeed, staying warm and comfortable in the winter can be a challenge, especially when targeting a light pack weight. However, having the proper sleeping bag is about half the battle. The Skeeter 20 is basically designed to provide as much warmth as possible, at the minimum pack weight without costing a fortune. It achieves this by cutting away all excess materials, reducing the weight and volume needed to be heated, while still providing subtle hint of luxury by having a taller foot box, generous baffling, and a long side entry zipper. I feel like the pad sleeve could have been designed a little better, and larger sleepers will likely find the bag to be a little too tight, but those are my only real concerns here. At just under $300, and just over 2 lbs, the Skeeter 20 is an excellent example of smart design, restraint, and proper material choice. For anyone who wants an ultra-light, warm sleeping bag but is still working with a moderate budget, this is a great choice.
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I want to extend a huge thanks to Big Agnes for providing this product for review. We couldn’t do it without their help.
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