The U.S. military surplus ECWS modular sleeping system solves all of your sleeping bag needs. It goes from summer to winter camping and keeps you dry in all weather. It transitions from a recreational camping sleeping bag to hardcore bug-out use. The package includes four pieces: a black warmer-weather bag, an OD green bag, a camo bivy cover, and a black compression bag. When used together, the sleep system keeps you warm to -30 degrees Fahrenheit. The bivy cover protects you and your bag from getting wet from morning dew or rain. All the pieces fit together by heavy-duty snaps. Each piece has dual-sided zippers with inside zipper pulls. Both the black and OD green bags have bungee cords to tighten the hood around your head.
This bag is rated Grade II, which CheaperThanDirt.com defines as “used in good condition, may show minor use” and that is an accurate description. The compression sack came a bit dusty, but the black bag and bivy cover looked brand new. There were a few minor paint-like stains on my green bag, but they are of no consequence. All the zippers, snaps, and pulls were there. None of the stitching is loose and the entire system is of solid construction.
On a hard surface with no rocks or sticks, the two bags together without the bivy cover provided enough padding to be comfortable and the two bags together are very soft. However, since I have never used a mummy-style sleeping bag before, I first felt claustrophobic when I was finally all zipped up inside. The bag measures 84 inches by 32 inches, which some of our ex-military guys said is a smaller-sized bag. I’m 5 feet, 5 inches, and have a medium frame. My length and width fit just fine, but there was no moving around. Laying your arms straight down along your body may have you feeling closed in. Once I crossed my arms over my body, I felt more comfortable. In mummy-bag fashion, the tapered bottom of the bag accommodates combat boots. My feet are small at a 7-1/2 shoe size, so I had plenty of room.
I must admit that I am a wimp when it comes to cold weather camping. I would just rather not do it, so I tested my bag at about 67 degrees Fahrenheit. I used both the black and OD green bag together and immediately got very warm. A friend with military experience told me that I was not supposed to be fully dressed while inside the bag. Its design uses your own body heat as an insulator, so you are supposed to wear light clothing or just your underwear.
The instructions—sewn on the bag—describe how to get out quickly, which I assume is more for military use than everyday civilians, but I tested it out anyway. You simply quickly pull down at the zipper point. The zippers pulled down very smoothly and quickly without snagging and I was out of the bag. Not to worry though, as the zippers do not come loose by themselves.
I am not going to win a race repacking the sleep system, but it was not hard and did not require a lot of strength to do so. I rolled the black and OD green bag together and stuffed it into the compression sack in one try. Then, I folded the bivy cover up as I would a sheet and stuffed it into the top of the sack. The sack has compression straps both length-wise and around its circumference, so you can pull it as tight as needed. The sleep system weighs 10 pounds, but the straps give you multiple carry options and it might be best for butt carry.
I feel very confident that the ECWS sleep system will suit all my needs from camping trips to being an essential item in my bug-out bag.
Pros: comfort, warmth, durability Cons: size, weight
Specifications and Features
- Military surplus US ECWS modular sleep system
- Down to -30 degrees F
- Camo, waterproof bivy
- Black patrol sleeping bag
- OD green intermediate sleeping bag
- Black compression sack
- Tapered bottom
- Boxed foot accommodates boots
- Weighs 10 pounds
- Grade II- used in good condition, may show minor use