The North Face Bigfoot
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: Don't recall.
Probably the most versatile, useful bag ever made.
- PRO construction
- Excellent zipper
- Roomy footbox
- Heavier and bulkier than a down bag
- Zipper can snag if you're not careful
I haven't used this bag to climb Everest, but I've done just about everything else with it. I've used it a lot in the snow. I've used it on the open snow (with a pad underneath), in snow caves, and in tents on the snow. I've never felt a cold spot with this bag, nor have I've ever felt a draft from the zipper, even in high winds.
The draft tube is excellent. The bag works when wet from rain, snow, or condensation. That's its chief virtue, and why you'd accept that it's a bit heavier and bulkier than a down bag and some of the inferior synthetic bags. I've woken up in this bag surprised to find myself covered in 2 to 3 inches of snow, with the top of the bag all wet. Didn't feel it. Add a good bivy cover to it, and it's definitely a four-season bag. I've survived a few nights in the bag (with a bivy cover) in the arctic circle at -25F. I've slept perfectly comfortable in the bag without a bivy cover at around 15°F to 20°F.
The Bigfoot has something a lot of the newer, good quality bags don't—a big-foot box. I want a roomy footbox for cold weather, to store stuff in overnight, like food, water bottles, batteries, or clothing I want to wear in the morning. I just went to REI's site and found that North Face's Snow Leopard, which appears to have replaced the Bigfoot, has an "internal draft tube pocket [that] stores small items to keep them warm (headlamp batteries) and within easy reach."
How cute! But, the footbox is so tight you can't put anything substantial in there or alongside your lower legs. In really, really cold weather, you've got to sleep with your boots in your bag. You either have to wear them, which with a tight footbox is misery, or store them in the bag alongside your feet or calves. (Although I have used a boot as a pillow once.)
The Snow Leopard has about the same temp rating as the Bigfoot. It's a bit lighter in the regular size, I think, but it looks way too tight in the footbox and lower leg area. I'm not sacrificing needed room in the bag to shave off a few ounces so I can say I'm an "ultra lightweight" guy.
How does it do in warmer temps? Leave the bivy cover at home, of course, unzip the bag a bit, and it's still comfortable on a cool summer night. Even all the way unzipped, it won't sleep well above . . . I'd say 65°F or so. Too warm. But, below 60°F or maybe 55°F, it's comfortable even zipped up. For me. This can depend on the person, of course.
The zipper itself has worked flawlessly for 25 years, but if you're not careful you can snag the zipper on the inside, bottom liner. What bags don't have that problem? (Not purely a rhetorical question.)
I was required to give a speech in an English class in high school. After using the bag for a year, I chose to sing the praises of the North Face Bigfoot in my speech. I brought it into class, talked about all its features, and described where I'd been with it. Apparently I was so passionate about it that the teacher gave me the highest grade for that round of speeches. I'm still singing its praises 25 years later. It is truly one of the best things I've ever owned.
If you can find one that's been properly stored, unstuffed and out of the light, for less than $100, I think you've got a deal. Less than $50, and it's a steal.
This concludes my paean to the North Face Bigfoot.
Fill: Synthetic something or other
Temperature Rating: -15 F
Weight: Just right for the need
Price Paid: $195 in 1985
An absolutely awesome bag--wish they still made it! I've used it for years from climbing, hiking, biking, and canoeing to camping with Cub Scouts. From the 1000 lakes of Northern Minnesota to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia--always warm and packable--(well, except that one time in da U.P. it was 60 below on Lake Superior, but that really doesn't count).
The 3 stars rating before this for it being "heavy or bulky" only shows ignorance for a bag of this type--(sorry pal). North Face made 'em the best early on and are still top dog. If you find one of these originals, grab it (and let me know where you found it)!
Be safe, Pete D.---
Great bag, I have used it for over 25 years, and I have never been cold, even at 17 f below.
The only drawback is its weight. I bought another North Face last year.
Fill: Polarguard HV
Temperature Rating: -5 F
Price Paid: $200
A nice warm bag, but it is a little bit on the heavy/bulky side.
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