REI Co-op Trailbreak 30 Review
Cons: Subpar warmth, annoying hood drawcords, no storage sack, mediocre versatility
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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Our Analysis and Test Results
In the past few years, we've tested more than twenty budget sleeping bags from a wide variety of manufacturers. Most of these products are advertised as ideal for backpacking. In our tests, however, many proved to be poorly suited for the task. The primary reasons were excessive weight and bulk. Although the REI Trailbreak 30 is not as light or compact as most premium sleeping bags, we do believe it's svelte enough for backpacking or other forms of human-powered travel.
The size Long Trailbreak 30 that we tested was filled with 1 lb 5 oz of water-resistant polyester insulation. That's a modest amount for a bag with its dimensions and a 29F temperature rating. It's also disappointing because the same whole bag weighs 2 lbs 11 oz, which means the insulation only comprises less than half the overall weight.
In our tests, we concluded that this bag doesn't seem to provide quite enough warmth to match its temperature rating. For example, several ultra-premium bags with identical 30F manufacturer temp ratings provide significantly more warmth. Still, the Trailbreak is an acceptable choice for many backpacking applications. We think it's up to the task of 40F lows and best suited for summer overnights or spring and fall trips in warmer climates.
We measured the weight of a size Long Trailbreak at 2.74 lbs on our digital scale. That's rather impressive for a budget bag, but it equates to double the weight of some premium bags that supply similar levels of warmth. REI claims that the size Regular weighs 2.5 lbs.
Still, the Trailbreak provides a reasonable warmth-to-weight ratio and an outstanding value for its level of performance. Although there are some budget sleeping bags that weigh less, you'll likely have to pay more to enjoy their weight savings.
To attain the awesome cost savings of the Trailbreak 30, you have to be willing to accept some sacrifices. One of the biggest sacrifices, in our opinion, comes in the comfort department. Our testers weren't impressed with the feel of the polyester lining fabric, which they described as coarser than most. They were also frustrated with the combination of elastic and shoelace hood drawcords because these seemed prone to dangling into the bag and irritating our testers' faces.
The interior dimensions of the bag are roughly average. Its 62-inch shoulder girth should supply enough space for moderately large people as long as their not sensitive to claustrophobia. As the bag tapers toward the foot, however, the dimensions do not stay spacious enough to achieve the luxurious sensation of some roomier bags.
Synthetic insulation, such as the polyester used in the Trailbreak, is not known for its compressibility. Using a third-party compression sack, we were able to squeeze it down to 9.8 liters in volume. That's excessively bulky compared to most premium bags, but it's impressively small for a bag at its bargain price point.
We were disappointed, however, that the Trailbreak does not come with its own compression sack or even a proper storage sack for that matter. Instead, it ships inside a small but loose bag that seals with a simple drawcord. This design is simultaneously ineffective at real compression while also being too tight for long-term storage. We caution all purchasers from storing the Trailbreak in this included sack because we believe it might undermine the longevity of the polyester insulation and cause the fibers to pack down prematurely. Storing the bag uncompressed will increase the longevity of its insulation. In a pinch, even a large yard waste garbage bag would be a better bag for long term storage or hang it up in the back of a closet.
There are both pluses and minuses when it comes to this bag's versatility. On the positive side, it relies on simple synthetic insulation. If the polyester fibers composing this insulation get wet, you can trust them not to clump like more expensive down feathers. That also means that the polyester will retain more insulative power and continue to provide some warmth even if you get surprised by a heavy downpour.
On the negative side, the Trailbreak doesn't include very many design features to enhance the range of temperatures that it would be useful in. The main zipper runs three-quarters the total length, which limits your ability to shed excess heat by one's feet, and means it can't easily be shared as a blanket. It also lacks an effective neck baffle for preventing heat from escaping out the hood on cooler nights. We don't consider either of these issues deal-breakers, but they undeniably reduce this bag's versatility compared to some other bags.
Features and Design
The Trailbreak 30 is a bargain bag, so it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that it doesn't include a plethora of deluxe features. One thing we do like is the organizational pocket situated near the hood of the bag. This zippered pocket is a great spot to store a headlamp or your smartphone, and keeping these items close to your body will also ensure your technology's batteries don't get too cold.
On the other hand, we really dislike the hood drawcord system. The combination of one elastic cord and another one made from shoelace material seemed ineffective at sealing the hood closed. To make matters worse, these cords tend to hang into the bag where they become a source of irritation. The Trailbreak also doesn't provide a neck baffle or any accessory venting features to extend its usefulness to a wider temperature range. Additionally, we were disappointed with the main zipper because it seems to snag more often than the main zippers on many other bags. Still, this bag is clearly designed to meet backpacking requirements at a rock bottom price, and it successfully achieves this goal.
Assembling all the gear needed for overnight adventures can be an expensive proposition. The Trailbreak 30 can fulfill one essential gear requirement at an affordable price. Although its performance pales compared to the best premium sleeping bags, it still provides acceptable specs for most backpacking situations. If you're willing to accept it's modest flaws in terms of weight, comfort, and packed size, it presents a solid value that could save you some coin and ensure you have more to invest in a tent, backpack, or cooking setup.
The advantages of premium down bags are undeniable when it comes to weight and packed size. However, blowing several hundred dollars on a sleeping bag probably doesn't make sense if you only go backpacking occasionally or are just getting introduced to the sport. For those people, there are budget sleeping bags, and specifically the REI Trailbreak 30. We believe it's one of the most affordable sleeping bags that can supply acceptable performance for human-powered activities like backpacking.
— Jack Cramer
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