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Sierra Designs Zissou 6 DriDown sleeping bag

The winner
The winner

Sierra Designs Zissou 6


Down-filled sleeping bags are light, warm, and compact when stuffed in a stuff sack, and have relatively long lives. There are few greater feelings in the world than curling into a down cocoon when it’s cold outside.

Should that down bag get wet, whether by accident or human folly, it’s a waiting game for it to dry. Until then, it’s lost the ability to keep you warm.

There are a couple of choices to avoid this kind of tragedy. One is to book a room at the Hampton Inn. The other is the Sierra Designs Zissou 6 with DriDown™ ($359.95) .

DriDown™ is the result of a hydrophobic finish that is applied to down plumes to increase performance in the presence of moisture. It stays dry 10 times longer and retains 170 percent more loft in the presence of moisture and repels moisture instead of resigning to it.

Or so Sierra Designs says.

I came up with my own goofball scientific rigor to reproduce the elements that one might encounter in the wild with down sleeping bags and water. But in a controlled environment before heading out into the wild.

Test #1: Recreate the dampness from normal nocturnal exhalation while winter camping

When camping in the winter, the breath that you exhale at night builds up on the tent walls and on top of your bag. This isn’t a bad thing, because it means you’re alive, but you’ll still need to dry out the bag before you crawl back into it. How long would this really take?

I filled a spray bottle with water and semi-drenched the outside of the Zissou. Then I laid the bag to dry on my deck (outside temperature was 16 degrees) to see how long it would take to dry in a cold-weather camping situation.

Because the down never fully compressed, and the bag did in fact repel the mist, the Zissou dried completely in about three hours.

Test #2: Same as #1 but pitted against non-DriDown bag

This test was tricky because I didn’t have a non-DriDown bag that was 700-fill and rated at eight degrees. The closest contender was a 600-fill Sierra Designs Diamond Spring that was rated to 15 degrees.

So, same game. Spray down both bags and see what happens, despite the difference in down fill and warmth rating. The comparison was cool.

The Zissou never compressed, the Diamond Spring struggled. I set both bags on my deck in the nighttime temperature of 18 degrees. The Zissou was dry in three hours; the Diamond Spring was frozen.

Test #3: Recreate a leaking tent on a spring camping trip that leaves a big puddle on the bag.

I soaked the footboxes of both bags in the kitchen sink, wrung them out, laid them side by side on the dining room table and then gave both a good flattening pat down.

The Zissou’s soaked footbox lofted the nanosecond after that I stopped wringing. Patting it down was a waste of time because it just didn’t flatten. It also dried completely in two hours.

After declaring the Zissou the winner, I went to bed. The next morning, the Diamond Spring’s drenched footbox was almost dry.

Bam! This s*** they call DriDown works.

How this translates to you is that when you’re in the backcountry and your bag gets wet, your DriDown bag will retain enough of its loft to speed the down to dry. This little piece of new technology will help stave off hypothermia.

For all its lofty 700-fill down, it packs down nicely into a 15-liter compression sack. Perfect for backpacking.

I know what you’re thinking right now. How long does the DriDown last? Is it safe for the environment? Is it safe for me? Were any geese harmed in the creation of DriDown? The answers to these questions, and more, are on FAQ page.

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