Whether you're sleeping outdoors or overnighting in lodges, a sleeping bag is an essential piece of kit.
Whether you're sleeping outdoors or overnighting in lodges, a sleeping bag is an essential piece of kit. Start by cutting through the technical stuff and make a shortlist of bags rated to the lowest temperature you expect to encounter on a trek. Then it's a compromise between weight, pack size and cost (for longer treks, durability is an issue).
You may have heard that you need one of each bag for all the different temperature zones – tropical, summer, three-season, winter and expedition – but one will be fine. Your first consideration ought to be whether to purchase a down or synthetic bag. Duck- and goose-down bags have a better warmth-to-weight ratio, pack smaller, loft better and keep their thermal qualities longer than those with a synthetic filling. Quality and performance is measured in a down-to-feather-ratio (ie 90/10) and fill-power (ie 700) – the higher the numbers, the warmer the bag. Synthetics are warmer than down when wet, are usually less expensive, and the more sophisticated synthetic fillings produce near-down performance. But if money is no object, down should be your first choice.
Using a liner increases the temperature rating and keeps your bag clean. Stuff or compression sacks are also essential, for minimising pack size and weatherproofing. Standard bags are made on the basis that everybody is the same height. But close-fitting – not too tight – is better than baggy. Choose a smooth and snag-free zip (a double-side zip configuration is the best for ventilation). Zips cause cold spots and warm air escapes from around the shoulders and face; a zip and shoulder baffle will keep you warmer. Finally, most body heat is lost through the head – ensure the bag has a well-fitting, comfortable hood secured with a drawcord around the face.
Designed to compete with down fillings on weight and pack size. DuPont Thermolite Micro filling has ultra-thin fibres for small pack size, low weight, good thermal qualities. Decent bag for long-distance trekker who has to carry own gear and keep eye on bank balance. Weight:1.3k. Filling: synthetic. Rating: To -10c. Price: £60
At £75, one hell of a deal. Filling is notsame quality as other down bags on test (down-to-feather ratio is only 70/30) and it's fairly heavy, but it does have high claimed temperature rating of -16C. Coleman are giving it away at this price; if weight is acceptable and down is a requirement, buy it. Weight: 1.9kg. Filling: down. Rating: to -16C.
Ferrino Down Micro HL
Ultra-light, ultra- small pack size, 90/10 down-to-feather ratio. Excellent anti-snag zip (and baffle), Velcro secured to prevent unplanned openings, but no chest baffle. Ferrino's Baltoro 650 at £100 is worth considering if warmer bag is required. Weight: 0.9kg. Filling: down.
Rating: To -12C.
The North Face
Cats Meow 3D
Polarguard 3D fill makes bag feel warmer than others with similar rating. Hood pocket can be fill and used as pillow, double pull cord at neck height closes around chin and forehead independently, trapping warm air below neck without hood closing tight around face.
Rating: To -9C.
Close to upper-limit weight if you're carrying your own kit on a long-distance trek, but very warm – with chest baffles and hood pulled close it's possible to overheat at -10C. Snag-free zips, and as comfortable as they come. Only niggle is lack of fastener to stop zip sliding open during night. Weight: 1.9kg. Filling: synthetic. Rating: to -15C.
Rab Ladakh 600
Can't be faulted. Ideal for serious high-altitude treks and climbs. Passed extensive tests across whole range of trekking environments with flying colours. Comes with every feature required for comfort at temperatures far lower than manufacturers claim.
Rating: to -5C.
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