My first impression of the Slumberjack Sojourn 20 down sleeping bag was pretty straightforward: Wow. For an entry-level down sleeping bag, the Sojourn 20 is packed with features and boasts a surprisingly versatile design.
So let’s talk about the overall design, which is the Sojourn’s best feature. Unlike most sleeping bags designed for backpacking, the Sojourn features two three-quarter length zippers down the sides. Instead of choosing a right or left-hand zipper, you get both. Nice. It gets better, though. Each zipper zips in both directions so you can open the bottoms for venting or to let one leg or the other out. Quite handy for warm summer nights backpacking.
To make the zipper system even better, Slumberjack created its “arms-out” feature, which lets you poke both arms out each side while keeping the bag over your chest and head. This gives you a lot of flexibility in how you sleep, read, or get your clothes organized inside the tent on cold mornings.
Slumberjack Sojourn 20 Sleeping Bag Review: Overall Design
How does the “arms-out” feature work?
Slumberjack placed a Velcro-type closure on each shoulder as well as two more just below the chest area. If you unzip both sizes of the bag and fasten these two closures, you can poke your arms out either side. It seems simple, but it’s amazingly cool to use in real life. I’m a big fan.
On warm nights, the dual-zipper system is a good way to help regulate temperature without opening up your whole bag to drafts. On hot nights, you can ignore the closure flaps and just unzip both sides, which lets you use the top like a blanket or quilt. On cold nights, you just zip it all up and let the down insulation do its job.
For me personally, I like to read an ebook on my iPhone while I’m backpacking, and the arms out feature lets me stay up way too late at night while also staying warm. It’s just awesome. I had no idea I would be such a fan of the two-zipper design.
Inside the Slumberjack Sojourn Sleeping Bag
The Slumberjack Sojourn series comes in four temperature rating options: 40, 20, 0, and -20. The 40 is essentially a bag that’s rated to be comfortable at 40° Fahrenheit, and the others would rate to 20° F, 0° F, or -20° F.
A sleeping bag rated at 20° F is a typical rating for most three-season backpackers. It’s usually warm enough for most cooler weather trips but not so hot as to be uncomfortable for summer trips into the mountains. What’s nice is that if you tend to sleep cold or you know you’re going to be out in cold weather, you still have options to choose a more insulated bag. Better yet, all versions retain a sweet entry-level price point.
What about the insulation? The insulation is 550 fill power duck down, which has been treated using a DriDown hydrophobic finish to make it water and moisture-resistant. So let’s talk about down and what that means.
Down is basically the softest, fluffiest feathers from geese or ducks. It poofs out and creates millions of tiny air pockets around it, making it a fantastic insulating layer. Down is a better insulator than any man-made synthetic fiber. Better yet for backpackers, down is the lightest material that also offers great insulating abilities.
So for backpacking, down sleeping bags are the best.
SJK Sojourn 20 Sleeping Bag Review: Cons?
If any down gets wet, it’s worthless as an insulating layer. It flattens to almost nothing and you get cold. Synthetic fibers don’t loft as much — or conversely, crush as much as down when they get wet — so they still offer a bit of insulating properties when wet. But that doesn’t mean you should buy a synthetic bag for backpacking. To help fight moisture, down sleeping bag manufacturers have started using hydrophobic treatments.
Slumberjack fills its Sojourn bags with 550 “DriDown” duck down. The DriDown treatment helps the down resist moisture, and if your bag does get wet, it will dry faster. If you’re a three or four-season backpacker, hydrophobic treatments are worth getting.
Meanwhile, what about that 550 fill power rating? Frankly, 550 is on the lower end of the down “loft” scale, which means each down plume is smaller and less springy than plumes rated higher. A 550 down is still better than any synthetic, and a 650 fill power is slightly better than a 550 fill power. A 750 fill power is a midrange-plus sort of down fill power while 800 to a theoretical 900 round out the high-end down fill power scale.
The higher fill powers let manufacturers use less down fibers to create the same insulating abilities, resulting in lighter sleeping bags. For instance, a high-end bag, using high-end down, with ultralight materials throughout, can get you a 20-degree sleeping bag that weighs less than two pounds. The Sojourn 20 weighs 2 lbs 14.5 ounces and has an MSRP of just under $180 (sometimes it is priced even lower so check out the links below). The point is, for about one pound of weight difference, an 850 fill-power down bag can easily cost three times as much as the Sojourn. But that’s not the whole story. An 850-fill power bag rated to 20° F is not necessarily any warmer than a 550-fill power bag rated to 20° F. All other things equal, though, the 850-fill bag will be lighter.
Savings vs Weight
What does this mean in the real world?
For starters, if you’re a beginning backpacker gearing up, an 850 down bag is probably way beyond your budget. Even if you’re an experienced backpacker, it’s always a good time to consider ways to save weight and reduce what you have to carry. What’s this mean? Instead of splurging on an 850-fill power bag right away, invest in the surprisingly good and cost-effective Slumberjack Sojourn . . . and use any leftover budget to buy a lighter sleeping pad or a lighter tent.
This tactic can get you more overall “weight savings” in your backpack than you would if you had simply picked up an 850 fill power down bag.
Any other cons?
I like to see zippers in the foot box so you can poke your feet out in warmer weather, and the Sojourn has a sealed foot box. With the dual-zipper design, though, the need for this feature is definitely reduced. If I had to choose between two side zippers or one side zipper with a foot box zipper, I would choose the two side zippers every time.
I saw one reviewer online who was upset about the Sojourn bag material being too loud. He or she opted instead for a heavier synthetic bag made from a different material. Personally, I didn’t notice the noise at all. Curious, I rounded up three other backpacking bags, two synthetic and one down bag and started thrashing them about to make noise. They were all made with a nylon-type material, so they all made a little noise as I thrashed them about, but the Sojourn was a bit louder. And yet, “loud” is too strong of a word here. I wouldn’t worry about it unless you’re a very sensitive sleeper, and if that’s the case, you’re probably not going to be sharing a tent with a fellow backpacker, either. And if that’s also the case, you probably need to avoid the best ultralight inflatable backpacking sleeping pads and instead choose a less comfortable closed-cell pad.
SJK Sojourn 20 Sleeping Bag Review Recommendations
The bottom line is that the Slumberjack Sojourn 20 DriDown Sleeping Bag has an excellent price-to-value ratio that makes it great for both beginning backpackers as well as more experienced backpackers who are looking to ditch their heavier synthetic bags in favor of affordable down bags. The Sojourn series also includes multiple insulation levels and it is offered in both a regular and a long version.
Better yet, the Sojourn series uses an innovative two-zipper design that makes it one of the most comfortable and versatile sleeping bags available in 2016. Highly recommended.