It was the May-Day bank holiday weekend. I was heading for the south of Spain, just 30km or so from the Mediterranean coast. I'd be camping out and would need a sleeping bag. Easy huh? All I'd need was a super lightweight bag. Surely the Andalusian climate would do away with the need for anything too insulating? Only, it wasn't that simple.
I'd be sleeping in the ruins of a 1930's re-forestation hut at an altitude of around 2500m, where there would still be snow, and lots of it. Temperatures at night could reach below freezing. But then again, at this time of year the weather there changes day by day, so equally it could be getting up towards double figures. So perhaps a thin summer sleeping bag wasn’t the best choice – I didn’t want to freeze. But neither did I want to hump a great big super-thermal bag up to our mountain refuge, only to find it too warm to use. Decisions, decisions…
As luck would have it, Mammut had a new range of sleeping bags on the way and were keen to get opinions on them. I’ve always been a fan of Mammut. I think their gear is well made, reliable, and the red and black mammoth logo is super cool. But with several new models on offer, I still had to choose which bag to go for. In the end I plumped for the new Mammut Montana 3, and it was this bag that accompanied me to the Sierra Nevada in the south of Spain.
It turned out to be a great choice. The water-resistant compression sack lets you squeeze the bag down to a pretty compact size: just 7.2 litres which is small enough to sit in the bottom of a 60 litre rucksack. At 1400g it’s not too heavy either, and when it comes to trekking at altitude, bulk is your enemy.
Of course, there is a compromise to be had here. In general to less bulky a bag, the less warm it is. In the concrete refuge at 2500m, the overnight temperature got close to the Montana’s -2°C minimum comfort rating. This did mean that I was fully clothed within the bag (something which the minimum comfort rating tests assume anyway) but I was not uncomfortably cold at any point. This is partly down to the effectively placed draw cords that allow you to pull the hood tight around your face and upper body, trapping the warmth within, although the latter of these cords did end up uncomfortably close to my neck during the night! All in all, a successful nocturnal test.
Another contributor to a good night’s sleep was the Mammut Inflatable Air Pillow. It really requires no further explanation; it’s a small pillow that you inflate with air. The beauty of it is, though, that when deflated it can be rolled up to an incredibly compact size, so there will always be room for it in your rucksack. It also carries the message “Warning: may cause drowsiness” which is a nice touch.
Getting back to the Montana, there are other sleeping bags out there that will offer more warmth, for less weight, and at a smaller size. But to get that you’re looking at down sleeping bags, and the costs shoot up. So while the Montana 3 may not be able to match more expensive bags in terms of performance and convenience, this shouldn’t detract from what a well-rounded general purpose bag it is. It offers a good combination of size, weight and performance at a price that makes it accessible to far more potential purchasers than a down bag. And it’s important not to overlook the genuine advantages of a synthetic filling over down: it’s more robust, still insulates when wet, and is much easier to was and care for should it get grubby.
The Montana 3 is a great choice for campers looking for a decent quality year-round sleeping bag that offers comfort when you want it, but is also tough enough to survive the tougher aspects of sleeping in the wild.
Reviewed by Ben Weeks for Trail magazine, May 2013
The Montana collection comprises three bags suitably rated for two, three and four season use. The Montana 2 is a high performance, lightweight summer bag whilst Montana 3 is great for year-round use. The 4-season model is a winter bag combining low weight with a high performance filling. All bags in the Montana family share the following features:
OTI™ Element synthetic filling offers great warmth to weight ratio
Balance™ outer fabric
SoftTX™ inner fabric
Seamless construction avoids cold spots and improves insulation
Ergonomic foot for added comfort
Machine washable at 60°
Montana 2: comfort +4°C, extreme -11°C; weight 950g, length 195cm; volume 5 litres
Montana 3: comfort -2°C, extreme -18°C; weight 1400g, length 195cm; volume 7.2 litres
Montana 4: comfort -10°C, extreme -25°C; weight 2250g, length 195cm; volume 14.5 litres
The Mammut Montana sleeping bags and Inflatable Air Pillow are available exclusively at GO Outdoors, where the Montana 3 is available for just £75 with a GO Outdoors card (£90 without).
For product information and stockist information visit the GO Outdoors website: www.gooutdoors.co.uk or call 0845 002 0888.