Mountain Equipment Xero 300 (2013)

An impressive product from the ever-impressive Mountain Equipment, the Xero range has been redesigned for 2013 and now comes badged up with branded credentials, including a Down Codex stamp assuring that the 850+ Ukranian goose down within has been ethically sourced (as opposed to live-plucked) and features a breathable He30 shell and DC7 hood. This is all very impressive-sounding, but it’s all pretty meaningless if the bag itself isn’t any good. Happily, it is. It’s certainly warm: sharing the Rab’s -2 comfort rating, it’s joint warmest in our test. The foot box is roomy, as is the rest of the bag, allowing plenty of extra clothing if necessary to up the temperature rating, increasing the overall versatility of the bag. The shoulder baffle has a popper closure, the interior face fabric is nice and soft, the stuffsack is an excellent and tough roll-clip affair, and you get a loft bag. It isn’t perfect, though: the ¾-length zip is difficult to unzip from inside despite being designed to allow this, and there are lighter bags in this test. But otherwise this sleeping bag is pretty hard to fault.

 

Weight (with stuffsack) 778g (823g)
Size 185x76cm
Packed size 28x15cm
Outer fabric He30 shell
Inner fabric Supersoft 20 lining
Insulation 850+ Down Codex-sourced goose down
Construction slanted box wall construction
Lower comfort limit -2 deg C
Extreme temp rating -18 deg C
Website www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

 

Verdict

The Mountain Equipment Xero 300 is a terrific bag, which matches or exceeds the performance of higher-priced options for a lot less cash in an impressive package ideal for the British summer. It won Trail magazine’s ‘Best in Test’ accolade.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine August 2013


Therm-a-Rest Antares (2013)

A design that’s likely to polarise users, the revolutionary system used in the Therm-a-Rest Antares dispenses with insulation on the base of the sleeping bag, and instead features straps into which a sleeping mat (any will do, but preferably a Therm-a-Rest, naturally) slides, providing the insulation underneath. The result is an application of logic (down that is squashed flat underneath you does little to insulate, so why have it?) and the bonus of being held in place while you sleep, as opposed to rolling off your sleeping mat. Not everyone will like this – especially fidgety sleepers. You can still move around in the bag, but the bag can’t move around on the mat, so your appreciation will depend on your preferred sleeping position. It’s a little heavy considering it’s stripped of underside insulation, but Therm-a-Rest claims the 405g of down fill (at least 100g more than most in our test, excluding the Terra Nova, which has 375g) has been redistributed around the bag, which – when used with a sleeping mat – will push the warmth of this sleeping bag higher than most. Nice touches include a zipped pocket near the head, ties on the main zips and a comfortable inner. 

 

Weight (with stuffsack) 888g (912g)
Size 203x76cm
Packed size 31x17cm
Outer fabric nylon ripstop with DWR
Inner fabric 100% nylon
Insulation 750+ fill goose down
Construction baffled/zoned insulation
Lower comfort limit 1 deg C (with airmat)
Extreme temp rating -22 deg C (with airmat)
Website www.cascadedesigns.com

 

Verdict

If the Therm-a-Rest Antares works for you, it will work really well – and it’s terrific, market-leading quality at a great price. But it’s a bulky option compared to many.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine August 2013


Mountain Hardwear Ultra Lamina (2013)

Now here’s something new: a synthetic bag that can compete on every level with a down bag. The Mountain Hardwear Ultra Lamina just gets away with it too, packing down to a size comparable to the Rab and Marmot bags featured here, with similar EN-tested temperature ratings and the benefit of being insulated with synthetic Thermal Q fill, which – unlike down – stays warm when wet, which is an asset in the British summer. Therefore this offers exceptional value from the get-go, though there are extras that this bag doesn’t have, which will have to be forsaken as a trade-off. These include a shoulder baffle, a decent foot box (large feet? Try before you buy) and a fumble-friendly zip. The inner is also a bit clammier-feeling than some here, lacking the softness of the Pertex models; however these are fairly minor gripes considering the Mountain Hardwear Ultra Lamina is less than half the price of the most expensive bags in our test and actually has advantages over them in terms of its resistance to damp. These come in the shape of a competitive comfort temperature rating of 0 deg C, impressive weight, weather-friendly fill and a proper compression stuffsack.

 

Weight (with stuffsack) 763g (833g)
Size 198x76cm
Packed size 26x16cm
Outer fabric 100% nylon ripstop
Inner fabric 100% nylon taffeta
Insulation Thermal Q
Construction MH welded lamina
Lower comfort limit 0 deg C
Extreme temp rating -11 deg C
Website www.mountainhardwear.eu

 

Verdict

Minor gripes are forgivable given the price tag, making the Mountain Hardwear Ultra Lamina an excellent option for the UK summer.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine August 2013


Rab Infinity 300 (2013)

Rab’s heritage with down products can’t be knocked, and the Infinity 300 – while pricy – has this in its favour before it’s even left the starting blocks. On paper it’s joint warmest bag in our test with the Mountain Equipment Xero, pushing its comfort limit to a more useful -2 deg C with an extreme of -18. The shell fabric – in and out – is Pertex Quantum GL, which is silky and windproof (and a bit transparent!), while the fill is 850 power white goose down. Insulation baffles run the length of the sleeping bag, allowing warmth to travel and improving lofting (fluffing) of the down to an impressive degree. This system – developed by InsoTect – features vertical baffles and ‘flow gates’ to hold the down in place, and is also featured in the Marmot Plasma 30. In use, the Rab Infinity 300 is excellent: luxurious-feeling, fluffy and pretty warm, featuring a shoulder baffle to avoid draughts and a double-ended ¾ zip for top ’n’ tail venting. The bag comes with a cotton lofting sack and a basic stuffsack that you can’t compress – the cinch buckle of which broke on first use, annoyingly. This might seem like a minor gripe, but at this price it really should be perfect.

 

Weight (with stuffsack) 661g (682g)
Size 215x76cm
Packed size 31x16.5cm
Outer fabric Pertex Quantum GL
Inner fabric Pertex Quantum GL
Insulation 850 fill European goose down
Construction InsoTect Flow trapezoidal vertical baffle
Lower comfort limit -2 deg C
Extreme temp rating -18 deg C
Website www.rab.uk.com

 

Verdict

The Rab Infinity 300 is a luxurious sleeping bag, which will no doubt be many people’s favourite. Ideal for spring in the hills; minor quality issues and a high price are the only problems.   

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine August 2013

 

 

Marmot Plasma 30 (2013)

sleeping bags

spring/autumn

down

644g

£400

The Marmot Plasma 30 has a very hefty price tag, but this is nevertheless an outstanding sleeping bag that pulls off something rare: it actually seems better than Marmot says it is. In comparison to the Rab Infinity 300 – with which it shares a similar InsoTect insulation system and Pertex outer – it manages a higher fill power of goose down, includes little touches like popper closures on the neck baffle and zip ties, yet manages to weigh less than its rival. This is impressive in itself, but the surprises don’t stop there. The Marmot Plasma 30 feels a lot warmer than it suggests; the quoted comfort limit figure is -1 deg C (the Rab’s is -2 deg C) but the Marmot bag feels instantly warmer when used side by side with the Infinity. This could be due to the higher fill power or simply a better fit due to my body shape, but the high loft of the bag and the snugger fit overall means I personally would select this one for a slightly colder night out. Either way, there really isn’t much in it – and while this is arguably the better bag, for this reason that price is a big turn-off.  

 

Weight (with stuffsack) 644g (665g)
Size 215x76cm
Packed size 35x17cm
Outer fabric Pertex Quantum with DWR
Inner fabric Pertex Quantum
Insulation 900+ fill goose down
Construction InsoTect vertical baffle
Lower comfort limit -1 deg C
Extreme temp rating -14.4 deg C
Website www.marmot.com

 

Verdict

The Marmot Plasma 30 is an excellent bag – arguably the best here – though not sufficiently so to justify that price tag over near competitors.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine August 2013


Marmot Plasma 30 (2013)

The Marmot Plasma 30 has a very hefty price tag, but this is nevertheless an outstanding sleeping bag that pulls off something rare: it actually seems better than Marmot says it is. In comparison to the Rab Infinity 300 – with which it shares a similar InsoTect insulation system and Pertex outer – it manages a higher fill power of goose down, includes little touches like popper closures on the neck baffle and zip ties, yet manages to weigh less than its rival. This is impressive in itself, but the surprises don’t stop there. The Marmot Plasma 30 feels a lot warmer than it suggests; the quoted comfort limit figure is -1 deg C (the Rab’s is -2 deg C) but the Marmot bag feels instantly warmer when used side by side with the Infinity. This could be due to the higher fill power or simply a better fit due to my body shape, but the high loft of the bag and the snugger fit overall means I personally would select this one for a slightly colder night out. Either way, there really isn’t much in it – and while this is arguably the better bag, for this reason that price is a big turn-off.  

 

Weight (with stuffsack) 644g (665g)
Size 215x76cm
Packed size 35x17cm
Outer fabric Pertex Quantum with DWR
Inner fabric Pertex Quantum
Insulation 900+ fill goose down
Construction InsoTect vertical baffle
Lower comfort limit -1 deg C
Extreme temp rating -14.4 deg C
Website www.marmot.com

 

Verdict

The Marmot Plasma 30 is an excellent bag – arguably the best here – though not sufficiently so to justify that price tag over near competitors.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine August 2013


Mammut Sphere UL Spring (2013)

Mammut’s Sphere range has been around for a while and has a proven reputation for featuring superlight, high-quality sleeping bags that are lean on features but offer robust performance. So, you don’t get a neck baffle, the zip is ¾ length and small, and the fit is slim and fitted to minimise on extra fabric and therefore weight. That said, it does have a couple of neat features, specifically the zip garage and a little peak on the hood, which can be useful if draughts or condensation are a problem. After the OMM Mountain Raid the Mammut Sphere UL Spring is the leanest sleeping bag in our test, and it comes with a decent compression sack (Rab and Marmot: take note!) and so it is good for those who want to keep weight well down. Temperature ratings are decent (it has a -1 deg C comfort limit) and you can’t argue with the quality. What lets the bag down is the touch-test of the inner layer. It is of the shiny black variety; and while not uncomfortable per se, it does tend to get a little clammy. Plus the quirky little games Mammut has added to the labels inside the bag – while quite sweet – are utterly mystifying.

 

Weight (with stuffsack) 596g (637g)
Size 195x76cm
Packed size 24cm x15.5cm
Outer fabric prolightTX with DWR (100% polyamide)
Inner fabric lightTX (100% polyamide)
Insulation 850 fill goose down
Construction stitched through
Lower comfort limit -1 deg C
Extreme temp rating -17 deg C
Website www.mammut.ch

 

Verdict

The Mammut Sphere UL Spring is a solid buy for lightweight fans who still want warmth. But comfort could be better, and the Mountain Equipment Xero does better for less cash and only a little more weight.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine August 2013


Terra Nova Voyager 800 (2013)

Striking a middle-of-the-road note on performance and a slightly on-the-heavier-side one on weight, the Terra Nova Voyager 800 comes from a design stable well used to paring high-quality products down to a minimum weight. Its lower comfort rating is freezing point, which means it’s very much a spring/summer bag if used on the tops, but would stretch to 3-season use if camping in the valley. It feels a lot more robust, eschewing the slinky Pertex of pricier models for proprietary nylon; and there are places where comfort has been sidelined. There’s no neck baffle, therefore the hood is important; but the drawcord around the face has no padding and is therefore hard-edged; and the zip is a bulky, no-frills double-pull affair with no cords. The stuffsack makes an attempt at being a compressor, which is something – but wrestling the bag in is difficult. I understand the thinking here as it keeps pack size small, but it’s so tight I actually broke a piece of the compression system while doing so, meaning it’s unlikely to last long with repeated use.

 

Weight (with stuffsack) 827g (848g)
Size 215x76cm
Packed size 26cm x15.5cm
Outer fabric 100% nylon
Inner fabric 100% nylon
Insulation 800 fill white goose down
Construction box wall
Lower comfort limit 0 deg C
Extreme temp rating -15 deg C
Website www.terra-nova.co.uk

 

Verdict

If pure function is your priority, the Terra Nova Voyager 800 is a solid, roomy option – but it’s all very workaday, and with just £10 between this and the Rab it’s hard to not spend the extra.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine August 2013