My Mountain Equipment Xero 550 is a great three season sleeping bag, but really can’t be expected to manage those cold winter nights. I’ve used it a number of times in sub-zero conditions, but have only remained warm by adding more and more clothes as the temperature dropped. I’m also a really cold sleeper which doesn’t help.
For years I’ve lusted after a winter weight down bag, I’ve stood for hours admiring the mounds of brightly coloured down filled bags in many gear shops but they nearly all suffer from one of two problems, they’re either over £400 or far too heavy.
So when the December issue of TGO magazine came through my door, I was delighted to see a review of winter sleeping bags by Chris Townsend. Here was a comprehensive review of winter down sleeping bags with sufficient detail to satisfy even the most enthusiastic gear freak.
Before reading the article, I wrote down my minimum requirements for a 4 season down sleeping bag. The most I was prepared to invest was £250, it must be good for at least -12C, it must have a full length jip (for ventilation on warmer nights), and must weigh less than 1100g. I was probably expecting too much, but surely Chris would com e up with the goods, and if he didn’t then I wouldn’t have to convince myself to spend the cash.
Most of the sleeping bags in the article could be discounted straight away, because they were either far too expensive, or too warm or too heavy, or in the case of the Crux Torpedo 900 at £499, -18C and 1705g tested weight, all of these things.
I quite fancied the Mammut Ajungilak Lahar Winter, which came in at £280, -13C, 1300g and had a full length zip, but it was a bit more than I wanted to pay, and heavier than I’d hoped for.
The Western Mountaineering Apache MF looked good, it was light at 973g tested weight, but I didn’t fancy the idea of the continuous horizontal baffles, which allow the down to be shifted around, at -10C it’s probably not warm enough for me, but the killer was the price at £375 it was far more than I was prepared to spend.
The Sea to Summit looks a super bag, above my weight limit at 1248g tested weight. I could have been tempted if the price had been £200 lower, but £470 it’s far too expensive for me!
The PHD Hispar 500 ticked most of my box’s, at -15C it may be a tad too warm, even with the optional extra of a full length zip, the makers weight was only 975g, but the killer for me would be the price at £433, including the extra £14, for a long zip.
So that left the Alpkit Pipe Dream 800, at -17C, 1199g tested weight, and £180 it was looking pretty good. It may be 100 grams over my ideal weight, and at -17C, a bit on the warm side, but at £180 it’s an absolute bargain, and if I feel too hot I can always open that full length zip.
Decision made, it’s the Alpkit Pipedream 800 for me!
Alpkit only sell their products online, and although I’d much rather see before I buy, I know the quality of their goods and service is excellent, so I logged on to their site to check the latest price, and delivery conditions. Unfortunately they were out of stock, but the 2012 version was expected sometime in the New Year. Hmmm… Time to be patient!
After a number of fruitless checks on their website, Alpkit finally announce that the 2012 Pipedream 800 was available for pre-order at £190, with a delivery promise of the late February. Great!
My brother had also decided to invest in an 800, so I quickly grabbed my credit card and began the ordering process, before their stock ran out. Then disaster stuck, they were only available in BLACK!!!!!!
I rang Alpkit in the hope that their product range would have wider appeal than Henry Ford’s, but to no avail, I could have any colour, as long as it was black! “So what happened to the lovely cherry red bag, pictured in the TGO magazine” I asked? “We had loads of requests for black, so that’s the only colour were supplying” was the reply. Grrrrrrr!
I can’t understand this pre-occupation with black for mountaineering clothing, which now seems to be spreading to sleeping bags. Black may look smart in the coffee houses of Keswick and Ambleside, but an injured or lost mountaineer on the hill, will not show up in black. Black also shows up every stain and dirty mark, also winter nights are dark and dreary enough when wild camping, without using a black sleeping bag!
So what do I do now? Buy a black sleeping bag, yuk! Spend £200 more than I really want to, or go without. It’s a stark choice but I think I’ll probably go without!
So feeling glum I’ve parked my credit card back in my wallet, and I’m off for a beer!