I became lost, packed way too much, and carried gear that was both bulky and heavy.
But I enjoyed myself immensely.
I learned quite a bit that first year or backpacking: The rudiments of reading a map, how to manage layers, how to be comfortable in various conditions, and the joys of backpacking solo.
One fact I quickly learned? The synthetic Campmor house brand bag in a lovely shade of 1970s rust orange was way too bulky and heavy.
Even when I was hiking with leather boots, a Whisperlite stove, and schlepping it all with an EMS 5500 pack (7+ lbs empty!), I knew this sleeping bag had to be replaced.
I researched, saved up my money, and purchased a Feathered Friends Hummingbird. A version of which is still made today. Around two pounds, water-resistant, made with the (then) highest quality down at 750+ fill , and cost $335 dollars at the time. Or a bit over $500 in 2017 fun tokens.
I’ve used this bag for many nights. It has been stuffed in my backpack for many miles and used heavily for over a decade. A thorough washing and the bag is almost as good as the day I bought it.
I’ve since transitioned to a quilt, but this is the bag I tend to loan out.
The bag is of such high quality, that I feel confident enough to loan out to my good friends so that their son, who I am an honorary uncle, may use it for the extended family road and camping trip on the West Coast.
I am all about budget gear as I think much outdoor gear, and clothing, in particular, is overpriced and overhyped. And not everyone can purchase a higher end sleeping bag or quilt.
But if there is one item I absolutely suggest NOT getting a budget item if possible, it is a good quality three-season sleeping bag or quilt. There are pros and cons for a sleeping bag or quilt. Regardless, settle on the one best for your style of backpacking and then purchase the highest quality one you can afford.
And here it is, twenty years and many bag nights later, the Feathered Friends Hummingbird is still a worthy item to add to anyone’s lightweight kit.
Overall thoughts? A high-quality bag or quilt is an investment that will serve a backpacker well for many years and nights out in the backcountry The more you use it, the overall cost of the bag becomes more than justified. The Feathered Friends Hummingbird I purchased back in 1997 was, and still is, such a bag.
UPDATE FALL OF 2018: I gave the bag as a “long-term rental” to the boys above. I suspect they will outgrow the bag on a literal level as they inherited their Dad’s height! But a good quality piece of gear will accompany them as they backpack into their teens.