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Backpacking Gear Review: Snugpak Softie 9 Hawk Sleeping bag
The Snugpak Softie 9 Hawk is a rugged, very lightweight, and warm sleeping bag. In the three years I have had it, it has seen mostly military use, and has performed excellently, while saving me the weight from issued sleeping bags. It has been my one and only choice for military and backpacking/hitchhiking use, so for any travelers looking for a sleeping bag good in all weather and climates, here you go.
The number one selling point for me, was weight. This bag comes in at 3.3lbs, which beats most other multi-season issues military bags by at least two or three pounds. When you need that extra weight for ammunition, water, or booze, it's a very attractive feature.
With a decrease in weight generally comes a decrease in size, and the Softie 9 definitely rates high in that area as well. It packs down to just about the size of a football (for you Americans) in it's included stuff-sack, so a lot of room can be saved. If you add a liner, however, you will be hard-pressed at getting the sleeping bag in the stuff sack. This is minor, however, and you can always pack the liner in another sack, or if you have the room, you needn't worry about this at all - personally, I don't usually use the stuff sack, as I like using a big rucksack anyway.
I am a big guy, and at around 6'1 and 240lbs, I think I might be pushing the boundaries of this bag a little. I sleep comfortably, and I can roll around with ease, but when trying to reach my arms down to my feet to remove or add socks/long underwear, it can be a real chore - when the bag is zipped up that is. With almost a fill zip on this bag, however, there is no real problem.
At my height, my head is still comfortably in the hood of the bag. I am a bit of a kicker, and I like to roll around and stretch in my sleep - this is where the Softie 9 is lacking. There is little room to move your legs around, unless you stretch them together, which works. This is a 'mummy' style sleeping bag, however, and the idea of this kind of bag is to sacrifice room for increased warmth and less weight. In the end, it's a worthwhile sacrifice, but it may take some getting used to. The foot-end of this bag is reinforced, and circular shaped as to accommodate boots, for soldiers who may have to get up and get into a firefight in the middle of the night. This is a nice feature, but unless you have to, I wouldn't really recommend wearing your boots to bed.
This bag is rated for 'comfort' down to -5, and 'extreme' down to -10. I have slept in and around the -5 level, and I have stayed warm, but I was definitely getting chills, even with an added Gore-tex bivy bag. I would recommend a fleece liner, such as a cheap Belgian army liner, which you can get for around $13 on some surplus websites. With the liner, I would have no problem sleeping to the -10 limit, and maybe more if I still used the bivy bag.
I have used this bag in all seasons, and I simply open up the sleeping bag and use a blanket instead of being completely enveloped. The added benefit of a moisture wicking lining in this bag means you wont be waking up in pools of sweat, and in the winter this makes a big deal for those sweaty-sleepers, as sweat will only make you clammy and cold in the winter-time.
The Snugpak Softie 9 Hawk is great. It's lightweight, olive green (for you other stealth campers, it's nice), roomy enough to be comfortable, and very packable. I have used it for a few years, and plan on using it for years to come as my only sleeping bag. The retail price is high, but if you check ebay or sporting goods forums, i'm sure you could find a great price - mine came to around $160 brand new, shipping included, from England.