Sunday, 9 January 2011

A new sleeping bag (review).

I bought my last winter sleeping bag in the late eighties, it was to replace a synthetic bag that I'd been using previously (which was quite warm but VERY bulky). Since then it's provided sterling service keeping me warm on trips and packing reasonably small when compressed. Around two years ago I started to notice I wasn't staying as warm in extreme conditions and had to start wearing more clothes while sleeping in it in cold conditions. Latterly I've been using it with a fleece liner inside as well as keeping my thermals on at night, I've even started to wonder if my (newer) Mountain Equipment two season down bag would be warmer (probably not). I  had to accept the inevitable and start looking for a replacement.
 I've bought a fair bit of outdoorsy stuff over the last few years from a company called Alpkit. They have their own gear made in the far east (same as most stuff these days) but sell it directly themselves via the internet. They have no shops or middlemen so the prices are very reasonable and everything I've bought from them so far has been decent quality.
 Alpkit's top of the range sleeping bag (the Pipedream 800) retails at £180, it's filled with 750 fillpower down and has a super light Toray nylon shell and lining and is supposed to be good down to -17C. These bags sell out almost as fast as Alpkit get them in so I put myself on their mailing list last autumn so I'd know when the next batch was arriving. In late December I got the word and took the plunge and ordered one.
 With the festive postal rush and weather chaos I didn't get my bag til early January (Alpkit usually manage next day delivery) but I hoped it'd be worth the wait. The package was quite small and when I opened it I noticed that the bag (in it's compression bag but not compressed) was smaller than my old bag. I was a bit worried it might not be warm enough but hoped the superior down and lightweight shell accounted for the small pack size. I got the bag out of the compression bag and left it on the sofa to loft (expand) for a few minutes. When I came back it was huge! I was reassured! It comes with a compression sack, stuff sack and a huge cotton storage sack (great value again, a lot of name brand bags don't even come in a compression bag). When I put it back in the compression bag and squashed it down it packed much smaller than my old bag. First signs were good then.
 I used it in anger to bivy out on Friday night. it started out a coldish night (snowing) but not enough to really test the bag. That being said it was sub zero and I was too hot with my thermals and socks on (I had to take them off during the night as I was overheating). In the early hours the sky cleared and the temperature dropped (it was forecast to be -5C) and I was still toasty warm. Early days still but so far I'm very impressed and chuffed with my new sleeping bag.

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