Whether you’re headed out camping for the night, doing a 15 day trek, or merely going to a festival for a few days of debauchery, you’re gonna need a sleeping bag.
Despite a relatively simple concept (it’s a bag in which you sleep) sleeping bags really come in all shapes and sizes and differ in more ways than you could ever imagine. Choosing the right one is therefore quite the challenge. You need to factor in its temperature rating, its weight, how well it packs and of course its price.
This review will take a good close look at the Big Agnes Torchlight 20 Sleeping Bag which I have recently tried for myself. By the end of this review, you shall know whether this is the bag for you or not.
Big Agnes Torchlight 20 Review: What Makes this Sleeping Bag Awesome?
Here are some of the big questions this Torchlight 20 review will answer:
- What is the comfort rating of the Torchlight 20?
- What insulation does the Torchlight 20 use?
- Is the Torchlight 20 an ultralight sleeping bag?
- Can I use the Torchlight 20 for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail or PCT?
- What size should I choose? Long or regular?
- Is the Torchlight 20 waterproof?
- How does the Torchlight 20 compare to other sleeping bags in its temperature rating class?
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Big Agnes Torchlight Review
As I said, selecting the right sleeping bag for your trip is a very important and sometimes complicated decision. Your entire camping, trekking or festival experience can easily hinge on the performance of your sleeping bag. As somebody who spent 2 frigid nights freezing my ass off in Yosemite, let me tell you it is NOT fun. Consider this, most of us humans sleep for at least a third of every 24 hour cycle (almost as much as cats), so you will be spending a lot of time cocooned inside your sleeping bag.
It’s funny but a sleeping bag is a very intimate & personal piece of gear – it literally surrounds your body, keeps you safe in dangerous conditions, and provides the means to a restful night’s sleep. And remember that when you are out in nature, getting a good night’s rest is more important than ever.
Who is The Big Agnes Torchlight 20 Perfect For?
The Big Agnes Torchlight 20 is PERFECT For You if…
- You want a 3 season sleeping bag
The Big Agnes Torchlight is a 3 season sleeping bag designed for best use in Spring, Summer and Fall (Autumn).
- You want an Ultralight sleeping bag
This is an Ultralight Sleeping bag which means it is light to carry – a real lifesaver when hiking out on the trails or taking a long backpacking trip.
- You move in your sleep
The Torchlight 20 is custom designed for those of us who move about in their sleep.
The Big Agnes Torchlight 20 is NOT Quite For You if…
- You only need a summer sleeping bag
If you are only after a sleeping bag for summer use, then you could save some money by going for a thinner, 15 F sleeping bag such as the REI Magma 15.
- You are headed up Mt Everest
The Torchlight 20 is not made for wintry and uber-cold conditions. If you take this sleeping bag up the top of a cold mountain, it could get dangerous. Instead, go and find a good quality winter sleeping bag.
- You don’t carrying mind a little weight
If you are happy to carry a heavy sleeping bag with you, then you maybe don’t need the Torchlight 20 and can consider lower cost options. We have reviewed plenty of other sleeping bags elsewhere on the site.
Now, you could spend a fat chunk of $$$ on the WRONG present for someone. Wrong size hiking boots, wrong fit backpack, wrong shape sleeping bag… As any adventurer will tell you, gear is a personal choice.
So give the adventurer in your life the gift of convenience: buy them an REI Co-op gift card! REI is The Broke Backpacker’s retailer of choice for ALL things outdoors, and an REI gift card is the perfect present you can buy from them. And then you won’t have to keep the receipt. 😉Buy on REI!
Big Agnes Torchlight 20 – Key Features and Performance Breakdown
Price: $400 USD
Temperature rating: 20 degrees F (- 6.6 C)
Total weight: 36 ounces | 1,020 grams
Length: 70” (also available in 76”)
Fill power: 850 Downtek water-repellent down
Fill weight: 17 ounces | 482 grams
Lining fabric: Lightweight polyester taffeta
Shell fabric: Ultralight ripstop water repellent polyester
Accessories: Storage sack and stuff sack
First up, this is a 3-season sleeping bag meaning it is typically good to use in Spring, Summer and Autumn. Another way to look at it, is that the bag is good in cold, but not freezing conditions. Unless you are headed on an Anarctic Expedition or high into the Himalaya’s, a 3 season sleeping bag will suffice for most purposes and the vast majority of campers and hikers never go beyond this level.
The second important thing to note is that technically this bag does fall into the “Ultralight” category. Basically it’s made from materials that are simultaneously warm and relatively light to carry, making it ideal for hiking. Of course the high spec of the innovative material does affect the price and if you are masochistically happy to carry a heavy, bulky sleeping bag around with you, then there are much cheaper options out there.
I guess the final bit of “key information” (before we get into boring details) is that this very dexterous and versatile sleeping bag has been designed for sleepers who move around a lot. Whether you are a side sleeper, a front, a back sleeper or all of the apver in one single night then this bag has been designed just for you.
Big Agnes Torchlight 20 – Warmth Performance
In our view, the premier job of any sleeping bag is to keep you warm. Comfort and trail weight are both important too, but first and foremost, it really does need to keep you warm at night or else you simply won’t sleep well. If you have ever spent a never-ending night shivering inside a mediocre sleeping bag (as I have several times), then you already know it sucks balls.
But does the Big Agnes actually deliver what it claims to deliver? Well I admit I was skeptical at first as -6.6 is a VERY bold claim for a 3 season bag and could in theory mean you would stay warm sleeping on the streets in London in winter. So far, I have not had the opportunity to test the bag to its limits and have only tested it in Spring. However, even when the nights dropped to around 1 degree celsius, I had the feeling of being TOO WARM in the sleeping bag and had to open it up! Therefore, I presume that Big Agnes’ claims that this bag will keep you warm even in temperatures of -6 C/20F are legit.
If you are headed out to very cold climes though, always remember to bring layers and good thermal under garments. Ideally, you don’t want to have to sleep in them but its good to have the option.
Of course, a sleeping bag that keeps you too warm can also be a problem. If I take this down to Glastonbury one summer then I will probably be sweating my balls off during afternoon siestas. Still, the solution is simple enough – unzip the bag and crawl out of it if need be.
Big Agnes Torchlight 20 – Comfort Rating vs Limit Rating
You may not appreciate the difference between the comfort rating and the limit rating but its actually very bloody important. In the case of the Big Agnes Torchlight, 20F (-6 C) is the comfort rating meaning any lower than this, and you will be uncomfortable and will start to shiver.
However, the outside limit is the lowest possible temperature in which you can use the sleeping bag before getting dangerously close to risking hypothermia. Note that Big Agnes do not provide an extreme lower limit rating for this sleeping bag and you really should stay within the advisory comfort rating as much as possible. However, typically, the extreme limit is around 15° F less than the lower limit rating.
The Torchlight’s lower limit rating is therefore around 11 degrees F (-11 C). Note that temperatures below 16° F fall into the extreme lower limit category. The extreme lower limit basically means that the sleeping bag will be able to keep you alive up until a certain threshold temperature but offers no guarantees thereafter.
To recap , on average the Big Agnes Torchlight 20 comfort rating is around 28 degrees Fahrenheit (-2.2 C and you should really try to stay within this). Once you start dipping below that number you may still be warm, but not necessarily super toasty and your sleep may be disrupted. If you are headed somewhere really cold, or simply want to err on the side of caution, then check out the Big Agnes Torchlight 30 instead.
Essentially, the Torchlight 20 is an ultralight 3-season sleeping bag, not intended for hardcore winter use although you could use it in mild winters you get in the Meditarean or SoCal.
Remember though, each person has a different sensitivity to temperature – I identify myself as a warm sleeper, whereas others identify as cold sleepers. To identify which you are, simply ask yourself whether you generally feel too hot or too cold at night.
For 99% of all your late spring, summer, and early fall adventures, the Torchlight offers more than enough warmth, even if you fall into the cold sleeper category.
In summary, this sleeping bag is absolutely not intended for use in extreme winter conditions. This means don’t take it up Everest and don’t take it to see the Northern Lights.
Big Agnes Torchlight 20 – Size and Weight
Good quality ultralight backpacking gear generally costs real money. Good dependable gear can very easily be over your price limit. As I mentioned before, when it comes to saving weight one usually has to pay. You can find warm sleeping bags for a lot cheaper, but they will be heavier and bulkier and generally a pain in the arse.
The Big Agnes Torchlight weighs in at 36 ounces | 1,020 grams. It’s actually very light to carry although I have to say it is a bit bulkier than I would have liked.
The Torchlight 20 doesn’t force us to choose between having a warm, comfortable sleeping bag and having one that is light to carry and instead offers both! Saving sleeping bag weight is of paramount importance if you are headed on a hike and have to carry all of your camping gear with you.
However, it isn’t ONLY hikers who can reap the benefits from this Ultralight Sleeping Bag. Personally whenever I go backpacking I travel with a lot of gear which I have to carry on my back quite a lot. l Sometimes I hit the road for months at a time and need to have all my shit with me. Therefore having an Ultralight Sleeping Bag that sits quietly in my backpack is Godsend.
Big Agnes Torchlight 20 – Sizing and Fit
The Torchlight 20 comes in two sizes: Medium and Large (Length 70” or 76”). If you are between 6? and 6’5, then you should probably go with the long size.
If you are below 6’, then do NOT choose the larger size simply to “be on the safe side” or because “the extra space can’t hurt”. The extra space CAN in fact hurt! Yep, having excess air space at the bottom of the bag means that there is more surface area to warm up. If you have six inches of unoccupied space at the bottom of the sleeping bag your toes will certainly feel it and remember, if your feet are cold then YOU are cold.
As I said earlier on, this sleeping bag has been designed with versatility in mind for sleepers who change position. This has been achieved by the Torchlights inclusion of two patent-pending, zippered panels that stretch from from the shoulder to foot box and add five inches of girth on each side when opened. There are zippers at each end of both panels, allowing for a bit of customization.
Big Agnes Torchlight 20 – Price & Value
Price: About $320.00 USD.
No bones here, this sleeping bag ain’t exactly cheap. BUT good quality outdoor gear is seldom cheap.
When I first went backpacking, I managed to pick up a sleeping bag for $50 and still found that to be pricey at the time. However, that $50 bag left me freezing on many frigid nights and within a few months the stuffing started seeping out.
The moral of the story is that if you buy cheap, you WILL buy twice. If you need good quality dependable gear that will last you the years, then open up that wallet.
Remember, if you want to enter into the realm of an ultralight down sleeping bag you gotta pay for it. You can find bulkier and heavier sleeping bags a good deal cheaper but you will feel every saved cent and dime on your back when the time comes to hit the trail.
For what you get in return, splashing out the $400 bucks on the Torchlight 20 is worth the investment. However, if saving money is more of a priority than saving weight, you do have some interesting alternatives.
Alternatives To The Torchlight 20
Let’s now take a closer look at how the Big Agnes Torchlight 20 stacks up against the competition…
The Nemo Disco 15 costs $299.95 but loses 5 F of warmth performance. If you are looking for the cheapest quality option and don’t mind a little extra weight, the above-mentioned REI Radiant 19 should get the job done for you as it is in a very similar temperature range.
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Big Agnes Torchlight 20 Review: Final Thoughts
Not all sleeping bags are created equal. By now, you should know all of the quirks, pro’s and con’s of the Torchlight 20 and if it is the right sleeping bag for your adventures. Our verdict? Well despite its steep price tag, the Torchlight 20 delivers sustained and proven warmth in the ultralight range.
Travelers and backpackers don’t need to sacrifice space and weight in order to be warm, which is huge. If you want to go with a single sleeping bag that will cover all of your 3-season backpacking and international travel needs, then the Torchlight 20 is where it’s at.
What are your thoughts? Did this brutally honest review of the Big Agnes 20 help you? Anything I didn’t answer? Let me know in the comments below – thanks guys!
Thanks for reading – that was fun! 😀
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