SJK RONIN -20F Sleeping Bag Review
SJK RONIN -20F Sleeping Bag Review
I recently had the opportunity to test out the SJK RONIN -20F degree sleeping bag. Did a guy that’s 5’6” need the LONG version of this bag? Absolutely not. Did I want it? You betcha!
Coming in at 6lbs, 3oz, it is indeed a little heavier than your average sleeping bag. However, this isn’t your average sleeping bag. It’s a 6lb transforming toaster oven for your cold-weather camping. Side note, 6lbs is like two and a half fully filled Nalgene bottles. Also, SJK (Short for Slumberjack) isn’t the new kid on the block when it comes to sleeping bags. These guys have been around for over 50 years.
If you’ve been doing your research on cold weather sleeping bags, then you know that it’s pretty easy to drop some serious cash, and finding a -20℉ degree bag for under $200 is a damn good deal. At the end of this review, I’ll compare a few others in the 0-25℉ range to show you what I mean. The RONIN -20℉ is extremely reasonable at $124.99.
Now back to the weight. Personally, If I’m camping in the cold, I’m likely not hiking that far with my pack (if at all), so I wasn’t too concerned. I feel like unless you’re doing a legit mountaineering expedition (where money is no object) you don’t really need to worry about a couple of pounds on a winter camping bag. For every pound you try to save, you’re likely going up in price by the hundreds $$$. Worth it? Like many things, it depends on your goals.
For me, living in Colorado, I camp mostly in the spring, summer, and fall. However, when the founder of Engearment himself invited me on a winter camping trip, I knew that my 15-degree bag probably wouldn’t cut it.
Regardless of what my intentions are with a camping trip (hiking 14’ers, canyoneering, partying in the woods, or just exploring new areas of this beautiful state), I want the best night’s sleep possible. While I do understand the benefits of exposing oneself to things like cold showers, ice baths, and the like, I do NOT want to be freezing when I’m sleeping.
Whatever temperature I’m camping in, I want a bag rated for about 20 degrees colder than that. For instance, if I know it’s going to be in the 20s, I’m going to opt for a bag that’s at least a 0℉ degree rating. So if you’re buying a -20℉ bag because you know you’re camping in -20℉ (you might be fine….but personally, I’d opt for something like a -40℉). Then I’d ask you, why the hell are you camping in -20℉??? Did you lose a bet?
I took the RONIN sleeping bag on a car-camping trip around Idaho Springs, Colorado, in the dead of winter. The temp dropped that night into the single digits, possibly even into the negatives. Since this was the first time I used the bag, I decided I might as well REALLY test it! So I stripped down to my birthday suit. At first, I was nice and toasty (although that might have been the Mezcal).
However, a few hours into the night, as the temps dropped lower and lower, I realized that I might have been a bit hasty in shedding every layer. I decided to put my socks and long underwear back on, and after that, I was good to go. While it may be rated to -20℉, I wouldn’t push it too close to that, especially without extra layers on inside the bag. I think for car camping in single-digit temps; this bag is absolutely perfect. Especially with the right accessories (layers, ground pad, gloves, etc.)
This is a good time to mention some of the other reviews I read on the Slumberjack website. While there aren’t a ton of reviews for this bag online, the overall feedback is very positive (4.5 stars and 24 ratings at the time of this review). I did read a couple of reviews where the buyer mentioned getting cold… What they didn’t mention, however, is what else was involved with that cold…
There are a lot of factors to consider here. Were they wearing layers? Were they sleeping in a tent? A hammock? The back of a car? Were they using a ground pad? If so, was it a closed cell? Was it self-inflating? What was the R-Value** of the pad??? Each one of these questions could change how one experiences a sleeping bag.
**The “R-Value” is an industry semi-standard to describe a material’s insulative properties. The scale goes from 1-10. If you’re using a -20℉ bag, chances are you’re camping in the winter. Personally, I wouldn’t go with anything under an R-Value of 5 for winter camping but that’s just me. Curious about R-Values? Check out the wiki page here:
Back to the experience! When I busted it out for the first time, I wasn’t even aware of one of its coolest features. They call it the “Arms Out.” With two #8 Zippers* on each side of the bag, you can unzip from the top or bottom. Along the hood-like top, there are a few patches of velcro. You can unzip from the top, velcro the patches, and stick your arms out the side. Now you’re ready to read, sip mezcal, or high-five your tent-mate. Also, if you want to let your feet breathe, you can unzip from the bottom and kick a leg out.
*#8 Zipper refers to the length of the teeth on the zipper. #8 = 8mm. For reference, most zippers are usually 4-5. #8 is a substantial zipper.
Pros and cons of the bag:
- It’ll keep your ass warm all year round
- With the “Arms Out” functionality, you can read Backpacker magazine, eat burritos, sip mezcal, and high-five your tentmate whilst still 95% in your bag
- Two heavy-duty zippers (one on each side) that don’t go all the way to the bottom. I imagine that is to ensure that your feet aren’t anywhere near a zipper. However, the zippers also have “draft tubes,” which are insulated flaps on either side so they keep the heat in.
- In warmer weather, you can roll the “hood” up to create a pillow
- If you’re shorter and you order a LONG, there’s crazy room in the bottom
- You can unzip from the top or the bottom (if you want to let your feet breathe)
- It’s $124.99, which is far and away one of (if not THE) most inexpensive priced cold weather bags on the market today.
- It might be a little heavy if you’re backpacking (but again, if you’re backpacking in 0-20℉ weather, you’re a braver man than me.
- It currently only comes in one color
I tried to find a few more cons, but honestly, I dare you to find a bag that’s rated for this temperature, with features like this, at a better price. The “Arms Out”, Dual zippers, and the “Pillow hood” make the SJK (in my opinion) the best sleeping bag in its category.
|Name||Weight (lbs)||Approx. Price|
|NEMO Sonic -20℉||3lbs||$680|
|Peregrin EX -25℉||4lbs||$900|
|Mountain Hardward Phantom 0℉||2lbs||$650|
|Marmot Ouray 0℉||3.4lbs||$340|
|Mountain Hardware Bozeman 0℉||4.5lbs||$190|
SlumberJack RONIN -20℉ —————–> 6lbs —————–> $124.99
Growing up in southeast Missouri, Ryan spent most of his days playing in the woods, swimming in creeks, capturing wildlife, and dreaming of adventure. His asthma kept him from playing a lot of sports as a kid, but it didn’t stop him from achieving the ranks of both Eagle Scout and a Black Belt in Taekwondo by the age of 16.