View Full Version : Western Mountaineering ExtremeLight series

10-18-2009, 16:32
Has anyone had moisture problems with Versalite, Ultralite, etc? Are the microfiber bags really more water resistant--enough to warrant the extra weight?


10-18-2009, 18:52
If it helps Western Mountaineering's Extremelite fabric is really Pertex Quantum. I have two Extremelite bags a Ultralite and Summerlite and only had a problem one time when I had rain blow under my tarp. I haven't used a microfiber bag to compare it to, but perhaps you have had prior experience with the Pertex

10-19-2009, 15:13
Mocs123, what happened when the bag got wet? I know the microfiber is tougher and a little more water resistant, but I'd rather have a Versalight.

10-19-2009, 15:51
Unless you plan on cowboy camping in the rain the extremelite fabric is plenty water resistant. It has been my experience that condensation from the inside of the tent or very high relative humidity have never done more than make the surface of the fabric damp, never penetrating to the down. This moisture is then easily wiped off with a bandana.

Also, I would like to add that I comfortably spent the night on top of Standing Indian mtn this weekend with low temp of about 7-10 degrees, in the snow, in my 20 degree rated WM Ultralite, wearing only midweight long underwear, knit hat, and socks, in a very airy tarptent. Any doubts about WM's very conservative temp ratings have been dispelled for me.

10-19-2009, 18:07
If you're at all concerned about the DWR on your bag, you can always buy a spray-on product to renew it; I did that for two (WM) bags recently, wasn't that difficult.

10-20-2009, 21:18
When the bag got wet, It didn't loose much loft until I stuffed it in the stuffsack and unpacked it at home. I should have dried it off better (i.e. at all) before I stuffed it, but it was the last day of the trip, it had been raining for 48 hours straight, and I couldn't wait to be 24 miles down the trail at my truck! When I got home, I put it in the dryer with a few tennis balls and it was good as new.

10-22-2009, 12:39
The Versalite and Ultralite bags are from the "Extremelite" series which are very different from the "Microfiber" series that use heavier and less water resistant fabric. I've got a Western Mountaineering Highlite bag made from the "Extremelite" fabric which is NOT Pertex Quantum... Exactly... :)

In regards to Spirit4earth's question on water resistancy of the fabric itself... The DWR coating on these types of fabrics is VERY good. I'm not aware of any sub 1 ounce downproof fabrics that are'nt DWR treated unless you look for the really cheap stuff. Western Mountaineering is definitely not the cheap stuff though and uses very high quality fabrics. In my book, using one of these ultralight DWR treated fabrics is the ONLY way to go for your down products. Anything less is just a waste of good quality down insulation.

On a recent trip to the Sierra's with my Highlite bag we spent 3 nights above 13k in freezing temps. I was using my MSR e-Bivy made from Silnylon and my highlite bag rated to 35*. The e-bivy doesn't breath too well if you really zip the thing shut allowing for some condensation to form. I woke up the first day with a solid layer of condensation from about my knees up to my head that was frozen on my bag. I had an especially heavy frozen layer closer to my face.

Here is our Bivy Spot:

I pulled the frozen bag from the bivy and let it start to thaw and bead up with water before shaking it vigorously. Most water simply shook off while the panels around my face were moist and the loft was less due to moisture in the panel and down. I stuffed the bag and by the time we bivied the next night it was nearly dry. Two more nights in the bag and it continued to do it's job. The DWR does such a great job repelling the condensation I wouldn't want anything less.

What I think is really important to note though is the use of high quality down in addition to the fabric for helping with moisture. The higher the quality down, the better water resistance the down actually has and the quicker it dries. 800+ fill down is made of nearly all puff balls which have very uniform and rigid down filaments. If you get them wet they quickly distribute the moisture and help to wick what seeps through from the fabric. Whether it's raining on the outside or you are sweating on the inside the down will actually help distribute the moisture allowing the garment to dry out.

Here is the difference between low and high quality down. The feather on the right has less loft and retains more water. The puff ball on the left is what you want for a higher warmth to weight ratio. 700 fill has lots of feathers mixed in with the puff balls, 800 has a handful of feathers and 900 has no feathers at all.


As for the actual fabric, Western Mountaineering doesn't use "Pertex Quantum", but they do use one of the many ultra-light downproof fabrics on the market. I'd categorize these fabrics more by the specs and less by the brand. They are usually 15-25 denier fabrics which is what really labels them "downproof" and usually weigh in at .9-1.4 oz. per square yard with a nice DWR coating. Many of which are also calendared strengthening the fabric and helping with the porosity of the material.

Here is a list of fabrics and who uses them in their down products:

Pertex Quantum - The North Face, Millet Gear, Rab
Momentum-MR - Mountain Laurel Design, Black Rock Gear
Ballistic Airlight - Montbell
Generic Polyester - Patagonia, Outdoor Research

If you want more info, I've actually got a post where I've been testing the Momentum-MR fabric. I've had samples sitting outside in the rain, sun, sleet and snow for the last 7 months. I'll be posting an update to the test today and more later this week.

Down Testing - Wear and Cleaning (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?t=47681&highlight=black+rock+gear)

Hope this helps,
Evan Cabodi
www.blackrockgear.com (http://www.blackrockgear.com)

10-22-2009, 15:00
I am not saying you don't know what you are talking about because you seem very knowledgeable, but Western Mountaineering shows the Pertex Quantum Logo beside the "Extremelite Fabric" on their Materials section of their website


I have both a Summerlite and an older Ultralite (pre UltraliteSuper) and they definitely use different shell fabrics, so they obviously have changed in the past. I heard (so take it for what it is worth) when Pertex was in danger of going out of business (they ended up being bought by another company) that WM bought large quantities of material to keep up production until they found a suitable replacement.

10-22-2009, 15:37
this is interesting! when it's time to spend $400 on a sleeping bag, it helps to know the differences in the fabrics.

10-22-2009, 15:51
They do indeed Mocs123. Last conversation I had with them they'd moved on from Pertex and were using there "New Extremelite" fabric making it sound as if it were a differerent fabric. That was just a couple months ago.

Who knows about the site, maybe it's an older image, or maybe they still have a stock of Pertex they use for some colors or products.

Either way, Pertex Vs Momentum Vs Ballistic Airlight is nearly impossible to tell the difference. They are all so similar in specs to one another you mine as well call them the same fabric. Now if I had samples of each I could try to test them, but I don't think I'd want to cut my Highlite bag up for testing :)

10-22-2009, 18:18
so, if we have two almost-equals, such as an Antelope MF and a Versalite with overfill, what would make the Antelope worth the extra 5 or 7 ounces?

10-22-2009, 19:10
The Antelope has 26 ounces of down fill while the Versatile only has 20 ounces. There's the 6 ounce difference plus another ounce or so of material to hold that extra goose down.

10-22-2009, 19:27
if the versalite gets the overfill, which is ~2 ounces, there's a 5 ounce difference in the bags, and probably an equal rating of 5 degrees (with the overfill a versalite goes from 10 degrees to around 5 degrees)--so there needs to be a true advantage in having the microfiber to make the extra weight worthwhile. durability, perhaps?

10-22-2009, 19:38
BlackRock - They must have changed fabric and not updated their website. The Summerlite I have was one of the first made (2005?) and the Ultralite is from 2002 or 2003 I think, and it has a stiffer feeling shell fabric.

According to the Western Website, overfill for the Versalite is 3 ounces. For comparison again according to the website, the Extremelite Fabric is 0.9 oz per yard and the Microfiber XP is 1.15oz per yard.

10-22-2009, 20:02
I've got a Western Mountaineering Highlite bag made from the "Extremelite" fabric which is NOT Pertex Quantum... Exactly...

Me too! I have a Marmot Helium, not Helium EQ, and it has a Pertex Quantum shell and it is not the same shell as on the two WM Highlite bags I've owned over the last three yrs. One WM Highlite purchased 3 yrs ago from Backcountry and one purchased from Backcountry within the last 6 months. The Pertex Quantum shell on the 3 yr old Helium still provides a decent amt. of water repellancy, but I'm close to spraying on a fresh coating of DWR.

The higher the quality down, the better water resistance the down actually has .....

My experience would also bear this out.

Western Mountaineering is definitely not the cheap stuff though and uses very high quality fabrics.


I have a MLD Momentum bivy. The fabric is highly water resistant. I've never experienced the fabric wetting out. In my use, I would say the bivy is water proof if it was not for the non WP stitching/non seam-sealed seams, non WP zipper, and bug net window. I would be very interested in seeing Momentum used in sleeping bags.

I would like more info BlackRock.

MOCS123, I've read some of your other posts concerning sleeping bags that enlightened me. If you find out anything new I would also appreciate some more feedback.

10-22-2009, 20:35
Spirit4earth - The zipper on the Antelope might be longer and larger accounting for some weight too, not positive though. I only see the #5YKK listed for the Versilite but nothing for the Antelope except the picture looks to show a full length zipper.

The thing is, I don't think the weight difference in this case should be the deciding factor. The two bags are actually very different though specs are similar. Same size and style baffles but different amounts of fabric used to allow the baffles to either loft to 6 or 7 inches plus more or less down.

I think I'd try comparing the two a little different. The microfiber might be heavier but it's also a very different material than you'll get from the Extremelite fabric. The versilite will pack alot smaller ( 8x15 vs 8x17 ) though. The other thing is that even with the 3oz overfill on the versilite you are still 3oz of down and a thicker fabric away from being as warm as the Antelope.

3oz of down is actually really big difference aside from another 30 bucks. So the real question is how warm do you sleep, what type of trips do you take, how much space do you have in your pack for the bag and how hard will you be on it.

The antelope will be warmer for sure even if you got a Versilite with 3oz overfill. So does the 3oz and extra space you'd get with the Versilite outweigh the extra warmth, durability and water repellency of the Antelope? I chose my highlight purely for weight but when I get a new cold weather bag I'd probably not worry on the weight and get the warmer more weatherproof bag.

Dogwood - As for Momentum used in sleeping bags... I've got prototypes of alot of things that I've done. Down quilts, down booties, down gloves, etc. All of which were done with the momentum. If you bought a bag made from momentum it would be exactly like getting one of the Extremelite bags from Western Mountaineering.

I have a brand new Highlite right now and it's exactly like everything I have made in Momentum. Same feel, sheen, softness, etc. The two fabrics are nearly identical. Both are a DWR coated 20d square weave, single calendared and weigh in at .9 to 1.05 oz depending on exactly what roll you have in your hand or how you weighed it out (with or without DWR).

I'm not even sure I could choose which fabric I like best. Honestly my best guess is the two fabrics are churned out of the same factory and sometimes only differ in color depending on what Vendor you are purchasing from.

The other thing people might not realize is that some of the colors look shinier which is not due to the type of fabric (momentum vs pertex), but which side of the fabric was sewn outward. The calendared side is shiny but the DWR is empregnated so there is no "outside" side of the fabric. My highlite bag has the calendared side on the outside, which is why I thought of it.

10-22-2009, 20:39
After looking at the bags on WM's website, I wonder if the Antelope does have a full-length zipper? The Versalite does. I definitely want a full-length zipper for venting.

10-22-2009, 20:48
I would bet it does. I just wasn't sure if it was a #5YKK or larger. Most of your weight though is fill with negligable amounts in the fabric.

10-22-2009, 23:57
BlackRock, but if MOCS123 was right or if he saw the Highlite w/ Pertex Quantum it has never had the water beading chacteristics of the Marmot Helium which I'm sure is PQ. So I don't think the Highlite, at least the ones I have, have Pertex Quantum fabric. If the WM Extremlite series uses PQ(sorry didn't contact them first to find out) I would guess that its shell acts just like teh Marmot Helium. And, to take it one step further, I don't think the Pertex Quantum has the water resistance/repellancy of the Momentum.

Thanks for all the info. You make some comparisons that got me thinking in some different directions.

10-23-2009, 10:22
From BlackRocks conversations with Western Mountaineering they used to use a Pertex Quantum, but now have moved to another material and just have not updated their website. Pertex lists 12 different style numbers for Quantum so just because your Helium has a Quantum shell (it seems like I read the latest (full zip) Helium has also gone from Pertex Quantum to another shell) doesn't mean it will be exactly like the shell of the Helium.

10-23-2009, 10:57
I've only seen Pertex with a DWR finish. In fact I'm sure it has a DWR finish, but you are right Dogwood, I don't believe it's as good as what you find on Momentum. Even my brand spankin new Highlite doesn't bead as aggressively as the Momentum I use in all my stuff.

Even the guys at Mountain Laurel Design mention the difference. If I could get my grubby little paws on some Pertex fabric I could easily make up and test it out compared to the Momentum. I once had a couple yards of the stuff I snagged from a local fabric shop, but used it up and sold it last year when I first started out.

As for the label, Mocs, you'd mentioned Pertex might have gone under? I hadn't heard that but wasn't necessarily looking for it. I would bet there are only a handful of textiles pumping out this type of fabric and who knows if the label was purchased and is now used on a fabric with Pertex Quantum "inspired" designs. The other issue is back stock. For instance I've got enough yards of Momentum right now to make another 75 hats. WM may just have stock piles of the stuff and use it on certain things.

Either way, whatever exact fabric is used on my newest Highlite is pretty nice. An added bonus though for the Momentum is that it's made in the USA, although I've yet to actually track down the factory.

Although if I had my pick of fabrics I'd love to get some of the new stuff Montbell uses on their down sweater jackets. Like I mentioned I pretty much oggle over every down item that comes out looking at stitch size, seam allowance, seam design, stitch consistancy, external baffle stitch holes, zipper attachments and fabric in great detail to try and make my own product better.

The Montbell stuff is a 15d with a multi-pattern weave of large and small squares one inside the other. I'm not sure if it's the denier, the calendaring they do, the dying process or maybe even the DWR coating but it's the softest fabric of that type I've felt.

The fabric industry is really tricky though. So much of it's overseas and many of the vendors only deal with extremely large companies like Patagonia, Arcteryx, Marmot, Montbell, etc. Half of those companies seem to buy entire runs of a certain fabric which may be identical to whatever the next company gets. They literally just "brand" it with their own name like "Extremelite" or Ballistic Airlight, etc.

10-23-2009, 11:29
Back in 2006? the company that owned "Pertex" was in finacial trouble but Mitsui Bussan Textile Co., LTD. bought the mill in England that was making the Pertex line of fabrics. It moved everything to Japan and the Pertex line has been back in production for some time. Mitsui makes the fabric for a lot of different companies such as The North Face and also makes eVent.