TBT Gear: Feathered Friends Hummingbird

My first backpacking forays were comical.

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.

Yes. This color. Also known as “1970s Shag Carpet Orange.” From AliExpress

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.

Camels Hump in the dark ages of 1997.

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 [1], 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.

Snug as a bug in my high quality down bag.

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.

Josh and the boys on a backpacking trip we did together a couple of seasons back. Snow ice cream was mandatory!

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.

[1] I question how much goose down technology has changed in recent years. But I am not the only one. 😉     

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6 years ago

I recently bought a hammock gear econ burrow quilt. I would be shocked if there is a better deal out there. 800 fill, well under 2 lbs (I don’t remember the exact weight), for a 20-degree quilt from a respected company. Price for the regular length/width:. $150. I got a long/wide version and it was under $200 total. With this quilt, i think it IS possible to get a quality sleeping bag on a budget. Just thought you might be interested!

Dale Matson
6 years ago

I have always been partial to the Mountain Hardwear “Phantom” series sleeping bags. When I was young, the Phantom 45 was adequate for the high Sierra in summer. Then it was the 32 and now the 15. I am 72 years old and thin. It is more difficult to stay warm above 10,000′. The Phantom 15 still comes in at about 2 lbs.