Earlier this year, along with my Girlfriend, I embarked on a 230km hike through the Outback; the Larapinta Trail. On this long distance, self supported hike, everything had to be taken into consideration – not least, the sleeping bag. Western Mountaineering is a small independent Californian company with over 30 years experience in producing sleeping bags. No element is left out, and this meticulous attention to detail makes for bags that push Western Mountaineering over the top.

Choosing a Light Sleeper

The Western Mountaineering HighLite sleeping bag was the forerunner from the absolute beginning when it came to selecting a sleeping bag for the Larapinta Trail. Everything about the design of the sleeping bag focuses on weight and compress-ability.

Each Highlite is filled with 225grams (regular length) of 850+ loft European Goose down down, that is ethically sourced (not live plucked or from caged birds).  This down is contained within a durable & densely woven  ExtremeLite™  fabric shell. Whilst all of the horizontal seams are sewn through, the vertical seams are baffled with netting so that the 850+ loft down is not impeded in its performance.  Entry to the bag is provided by a quality YKK zipper that runs only half way down one side of the bag. The whole ensemble is carefully constructed by hand within Western Mountaineering’s factory in San Jose, California. All of this combines together flawlessly to produce an extraordinarily lightweight sleeping bag, that packs down to little more than the size of a water bottle.


Trying to review items such as a sleeping bag is difficult. One of the things I wanted my sleeping bag to be, for more than 50% of the time I had it on the trail, was unnoticeable. As is often the case, the best kit for any expedition is kit that can be used and carried with only the slightest presence. We want, more than anything, to be comfortable and comfort is, after all, when we are neither too hot or too cold, and when we are at ease from any physical stress.

When it was on my back, I wanted it to have as little effect on my shoulders as it does on the space it takes up in my bag. Sadly, more often than not, sleeping bags normally have a grand existence. They are often cumbersome items even when compressed, and even the lightest of sleeping bags struggle to dip much below a kilogram.

When I found the WM HighLite I was instantly taken by its glossy purple surface (I’m a sucker for shiny things!), but when a sleeping bag is out on display and is hanging in its fullest form it is hard to comprehend how heavy they are, or how small they pack. I unhooked the sleeping bag, and then took the hanger from inside it and noticed instantly the weight had near halved. A minute or two later and it was compressed down into a stuff sac barely larger than a Nalgene bottle and the sale was made.

The bag comes equipped with its own stuff sac, but its true potential can be unleashed (or maybe harnessed?) when combined with a compression sac – specifically in my case, a Sea to Summit Compression Dry Sack which both compresses the bag and ensures it stays dry when packed away.

WM stuffing sequence

The bag took up less than half of the space in the separate zipped off base compartment on my Osprey Aether, even combined with my Nemo Astro Air Lite 20R (non insulated) sleeping mat there was room to fill in said section, and weighing less than 500g (regular length is 455g) it ticked all the boxes regarding its time on my back. Now for the important part…

Sleeping in Comfort

The bag has a comfort rating of 2C, perfectly suitable for the Larapinta, even as we drifted into the winter months. There was over 25 degrees difference in temperature from the day to the night, so as we settled down to cook dinner and ready ourselves for the evening the layers would be donned and we would shiver our way through the evening ritual of topping up water bottle and cooking some food. The shivering soon ground to an abrupt halt when the two of us crawled into our respective HighLite bags. Toes would tingle satisfyingly as they heated up in our bags. Both of us would battle closing eyes as the new found heat would stop our evening reading sessions.

The very early morning would bring the bags only major challenge. The coldest part of the night would often have me rolling back and forth as the cold crept in from beneath me – however – this is less an issue with the HighLite sleeping bag, but more an issue with down in general and with sleeping mats. So, come 0-2 degrees and I would definitely recommend an insulated sleeping mattress to help get through those chillier parts of the evening, otherwise, the bag had successfully passed the second part of its test. On a recent and chilly trip to England’s Lake district it again performed with no issues, especially when combined with a Sea To Summits Comfort Light Insulated sleeping mat.


In Conclusion

If you are looking to minimise the space your bag takes up, and save as much weight as humanly possible, Western Mountaineering is the way to go. They have a range of sleeping bags that cater for not only differing temperatures, but also activities, and all utilise the absolute best down and outer fabrics that will help with saving both space and weight. For an English man in Australia, the HighLite hit the right temperature range to serve year round in most areas of the country, making it a very versatile sleeping bag as well as lightweight and packable.

REVIEW: Western Mountaineering HighLite
Packed Size95%
  • Extremely light
  • Extremely packable
  • Warm for it's weight
  • Half length zipper may save some weight, but can make getting in and out in a confined space a little trickier
  • sewn through baffles lets through cold air
  • hood isnt the most comfortable I've used (a little flat and shapeless)
85%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author

Jack Williams

Jack has thrived on travel for years, and is especially attracted to inhospitable locations. Jack has spent most of the last six years dotting around the world including expeditions to Iceland, Morocco & several Trips to Nepal. Mountaineering and hiking has always being the core of Jack’s travel, but its not unusual to find him skiing across ice caps or hiking through deserts.

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