Kelty Dualist 20 ReviewJune 4, 2015
- Very warm—rating is spot-on
- Comfortable hood and upper body sections
- Best price in class
- Not as compressible as some
- Narrow leg/foot section
- One of the heaviest bags in the test
The Kelty Dualist 20 pairs water-resistant down with a thin, quilted layer of synthetic closer to the body, to provide some of the loft of down in an affordable synthetic bag. The Dualist proved itself a warm, comfortable bed, though somewhat heavy and bulky despite the use of down to reduce those two things. But as the least expensive bag in the test, it also earned my respect for providing a lot of top-notch qualities at a budget price.
The Kelty Dualist 20 layers two forms of insulation throughout the bag in an effort to grab the benefits of both down and synthetic fills. A layer of 550-fill down baffles covers a thin layer of ThermaPro synthetic fill. The synthetic provides good insulation even when wet, and keeps costs down, while the down adds warmth and—theoretically—trims weight and improves compressibility.
Generally, down packs can be compressed more than synthetic fills, but to get the fill benefits of that, high loft down most be used. Kelty layers 550-fill DriDown on top of ThermaPro synthetic fill inside the Dualist. Unfortunately, 550-fill down is the bulkiest down used in quality bags, so the weight and space savings I expected as benefits of the blend didn’t pan out. The Dualist 20 stuffs into a bulky 9-inch by 15-inch stuff sack—about the same size as full synthetic bag like the REI Lumen.
The dual layers of insulation do pay off in terms of warmth. After a few nights shivering in other bags, one of my testers switched over to the Dualist during a snow-camping adventure on Mount Hood and dubbed it a perfectly cozy bed for 20º nights. I found it plenty warm in temperatures well below freezing myself, so I would not hesitate to take it out into colder conditions.
The DriDown insulation layer resists absorbing water, but if the bag gets soaked, the layer of synthetic insulation will provide decent insulation on its own—I tested this by dipping the bag into the Yakima River a couple hours before heading to bed in a late winter fishing camp. Despite temperatures in the high 30s, I was able to stay warm throughout the night.
The Dualist’s hood is the bag’s other stand out feature. Though its not the most effective hood I’ve used, it does work well with little fuss or effort. And it’s roomy enough to hold a small pillow inside when only partially cinched—a feature I love as I tend to shift positions frequently during the night and this keeps the pillow in place as I move.
Kelty designers crafted the Dualist with a generous width that allows free movement inside the bag, especially through the torso. The footbox was the one area I felt a little constrained during testing. It wasn’t tall enough for my size 12 feet when I was laying on my back, and not wide enough to let me shift my lower legs apart as I turned over.
Though the outer shell proved tough and durable, I frequently caught the inner liner in the full-length zipper. These frequent snags eventually resulted in a few minute cuts and tears, which makes me a bit concerned about the long-term durability of the bag.
At $149, the Dualist easily comes in as the least expensive bag in the test, yet for that modest price, it offers good comfort and warmth—and the security of knowing you have some nighttime protection even when conditions get very wet.