The steam from my mug of morning tea drifted up through the unzipped doorway of my tent. The sun was rising over a perfect wild camping morning. When everything goes well, there is nothing more idyllic than waking from a good sleep high on the mountains. The problem is that the weatherman’s forecast is never that reliable. Knowing how much gear to take wild camping to stay warm and comfy is a balancing act between carrying so much that your rucksack is uncomfortably heavy and packing too little, which can result in a sleepless night. The key to staying warm at night is all about efficiency. The more efficient your gear the warmer you will be without having to carry extra kit.
Vango’s new Supernova 5000 sleeping bag is designed to maximise the efficiency of its insulation. It features Vango’s Thermal Embrace System; elasticated threads on the inside of the bag. These threads cause the bag to fit closer to the user than one with the usual non-stretch threads. The lining is pulled comfortably close to the curves of the body, holds the insulation closer to you too and does not allow warm air to billow out of the bag when you move. Equally the insulation inside the bag is allowed more space to ‘loft’ (fluff up) due to the stretch inner hugging the body. The result is a bag that works far more efficiently than a conventional sleeping bag – so it should keep you warmer. There are other bags that use stretch systems, such as the Mountain Equipment Dreamcatcher range and the Mont Bell Down Hugger. It is basically the same system but they put stretch on the outside too, which is a drawback as that compresses the insulation. Vango’s Thermal Embrace System is better as the stretch is only on the inside so the insulation has more space to loft.
I used the new Supernova 5000 sleeping bag in early November. It is insulated with synthetic hollowfibre, so it is not as light or as compact as an equivalent down-filled sleeping bag, but at £90 it is far easier on the wallet.
The bag erupted from its stuffsack effortlessly and immediately felt big, warm and cosy. It is rated as being comfortable down to -8 to -12 deg C, which is ideal for milder winter conditions. Annoyingly, Vango describes this as a 5-season bag, but I’m sure most people would describe it as a 3- 4 season bag.
I found it comfortable, though, with a great side zip that did not snag on the large baffle. The hood fitted well and was easily adjusted. A large shoulder baffle enhanced efficiency further by preventing warm air from escaping the bag when the hood was not fully tightened.
The Vango’s new Supernova 5000 is definitely a step forward in efficiency, and I look forward to seeing the Thermal Embrace System on their down bags too, and more stretchy bags from other brands in the future. Those elasticated threads cannot guarantee the weather, but at least they do mean the sleeping bag is doing more than its fair share of work to keep you comfortable and cosy at night wild camping in the winter hills.
Outer Polair ripstop nylon
Inner 40D Polair ripstop nylon
Insulation Insulite Aero hollowfibre
Temperature rating comfort -2 / comfort limit -8 / extreme -26 (recommended temperature range +15 to -12 deg C)
Packed size 42x22cm (28x22cm compressed)
Weight 1990g (including stuffsack)
Made in China
The Vango Supernova 5000’s internal stretch baffles increase insulating effect; good side zip; good hood. But the weight and packed size are high compared to higher-priced or to down-insulated alternatives. In summary, the Vango Supernova 5000 is an excellent bag for year-round use for those on a tighter budget, but packed size and weight are always the drawbacks at this price.
Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine January 2010