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


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


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


Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 (2012)

The Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 is a light bag that compresses down very well for packing, but it still manages to be warm. Its low bulk comes from a mix of good-quality down fill and a shell made of incredibly light fabric, which at just 15 denier is the finest in our test. The bag has a two-way full-length zip with quite a small internal baffle and an effective anti-snag webbing channel. The top of the zip has a Velcro security flap and a large webbing zip pull, which is easy to find in the dark. There’s no shoulder baffle but the hood is very well-shaped and insulative with a down-filled baffle, which cinches in around your face to seal in the heat. Comfort in the Phantom is very good, the lightweight fabric making for a very soft bag, and there’s also enough room to move your arms freely. It does taper in towards your feet but the foot box itself is roomy and well-shaped. The Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 is also the only sleeping bag in our test that comes in both a men’s and women’s specific fit, so it’s worth trying if you’re female and the others don’t offer the fit you want. There are no hanging loops but the bag is supplied with compression stuffsack and a storage sack.

Weight (bag only) 662g
Size (length x shoulder width x foot width) 193x42x75cm
Packed size 14x26cm
Outer fabric Superlight 15D ripstop
Inner fabric 20D nylon taffeta Insulation 800 European goose down Construction box baffles
Comfort temperature rating +3 deg C
Lower comfort limit -2 deg C
Extreme temperature rating -18 deg C
Website www.mountainhardwear.eu

Verdict
The durability of the very light fabric might be a concern, but the Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 is the second lightest bag in the test at 662g, with a temperature rating of -2 deg C, making it ideal if weight and comfort are a priority.

Review by Peter Macfarlane
First published in Trail magazine June 2012


Marmot Hydrogen (2012)

The Marmot Hydrogen has had a lot of work put into its design, and it shows in the detail. Hidden inside the high-lofting (fluffable) body, the baffles have stretch, allowing the inner and outer to move independently. This maximises down loft and minimises strain and therefore wear and tear on the shell fabric and stitching. The double-ended zip is full-length with an internal baffle and anti-snag strip. The zip ends in a curved section at the hood to stop accidental opening, and with a down flap protecting your face there’s no need for a Velcro tab or zip ‘garage’. The hood itself is protective and warm, and it cinches in well with an external drawcord, which is useful for keeping out the cold as there is no shoulder baffle. It has a down-filled baffle around its edge for user comfort. The Marmot Hydrogen is a comfortable bag as the fit is quite roomy with enough space to move your arm and knees freely. The foot box is shaped to allow a natural foot position. The bag has hanging loops and comes with a stuffsack and a storage sack.

Weight (bag only) 720g
Size (length x shoulder width x foot width) 220x45x76cm
Packed size 26x17cm
Outer fabric 20D nylon mini ripstop
I
nner fabric 20D nylon mini ripstop
Insulation 850 goose down
Construction stretch tricot baffle
Comfort temperature rating +4 deg C
L
ower comfort limit -1.2 deg C
Extreme temperature rating -17.2 deg C
Website www.marmot.de

 

Verdict
The Marmot Hydrogen is a very well-thought-out product that is very comfortable to use but the added roominess does push the weight up to 720g for a -1.2 deg C bag.

Review by Peter Macfarlane
First published in Trail magazine June 2012


Mountain Equipment Xero 550 (2012)

The Mountain Equipment Xero 550 is a very popular bag for backpackers thanks to its good weight and packed size, coupled with a good temperature rating. There is an EXL elasticated lining, which provides a closer fit than most bags without restricting movement – and this system makes the bag feel a little warmer than others. The bag does not come with a compression stuffsack, though, so you either have to squash it down into your rucksack or buy an additional compression sack for easier packing. The end of the bag is profiled to prevent the feet from compressing the insulation, and the side zip gets a nice wide anti-snag strip and a draught baffle, while the shoulder baffle is particularly wide and well-filled to help trap warm air inside the bag. The hood is also well-designed. To ensure the highest environmental, ethical and animal welfare standards, the sourcing of the down used in the Mountain Equipment Xero 550 is audited through Mountain Equipment’s Down Codex project.

Outer fabric He30

Inner fabric Supersoft

Insulation 93/7 750+ fill power goose down

Compression packed size 19x24cm

Weight 1000g

Lower comfort temp. rating -6 deg C

Website www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

 

Verdict

The Mountain Equipment Xero 550 is the best lightweight sleeping bag in our buyer’s guide.

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine Spring 2012


Mountain Equipment Snowline (2012)

Down is a more efficient insulator than synthetic materials, which is why it is used to create the lightest sleeping bags. But down becomes less efficient than synthetic insulation when wet. To overcome this drawback, a water-resistant outer fabric called Drilite Loft is used by Mountain Equipment on the Snowline. This means you don’t have to be so concerned about tent condensation or snow coming into contact with the bag as it won’t reduce its ability to keep you warm. The bag also features an EXL elasticated lining that causes the bag to hug the body to trap air next to the skin and thereby increase efficiency. The down is held in a combination of V-baffles, box wall and slant wall baffles to make sure the down remains in place to reduce cold spots. The Mountain Equipment Snowline may not be the lightest option, but it provides supreme performance over a wider range of conditions due to its extra features.

 

Outer fabric Drilite Loft

Inner fabric Ultrasoft

Insulation 93/7 down, 750 fill power

Compressed packed size 30x23cm

Weight 1510g

Lower comfort temperature rating -17 deg C

Website www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

Verdict

The Mountain Equipment Snowline is the best all-round down bag in our review.

 

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine March 2012


Crux Torpedo 70 2009

The perfect winter sleeping bag would have down insulation for its efficiency and a waterproof shell to ensure the down stays dry. And that’s exactly what you get with the Crux Torpedo 70. The shell is made of eVent waterproof and breathable material, and the seams are taped – which means your down stays dry no matter how damp your tent gets.

 

Design
The Torpedo is unique among the bags we tested as while most claim to have a waterproof material to keep the down dry, none of them has taped seams. Normal stitched seams are as watertight as a teabag, so if you want to keep your down dry, you need to seal the seams – and that is what makes the Crux bag different. The material used on the shell is eVent waterproof and breathable fabric, which has been used in waterproof jackets for a number of years. To keep the weight down the bag uses the latest bonding technology, which means that seams do not have bulky tape to seal them. There is a three-quarter length side zip to vent the bag as well as draught collars along the zip and around the shoulders. The use of 850+ fill power down, compared to the  800 or 750 fill power used in other bags, adds even more efficiency to the product. This is a top-quality bag for the toughest of conditions.

 

On the hill
Crux recommends this bag for summer mountaineering up to 6000m, so it should be more than capable of handling a few days’ winter camping in the Lakes. I used this in a single-skin tipi where the inside of the tent was damp with condensation. The waterproof shell was perfect for this situation as I simply did not have to worry about the down getting damp. I was however concerned that the waterproof fabric would not be breathable enough, but on this and other trips there was no sign of condensation developing inside the bag, meaning the fabric is in fact breathable enough. This bag is only given a -11 deg C temperature rating by the manufacturer, so it is the least warm bag we looked at by some way; however for me it was warm enough. Others may want to choose the Torpedo 900 with a comfort limit of -18 deg C, which still only weighs 1500g. Both of these are still very light, especially as you get that waterproof shell.

 

Size 200x80x50cm medium (small and large also available)
Fill weight 700g
Fill power 850+ (EU)
Comfort temperature rating -11 deg C
Packed size 26x25 cm compressed
Weight of bag 1464g
Made in China
Stores in the UK 25
Stockist details tel. (0113) 250 8833; www.crux.uk.com 

Verdict: The Crux Torpedo 70 is great if you need a waterproof shell for winter camping when a wet sleeping bag is likely, but you do pay for that performance with a lower temp rating and a high price tag. It won ‘Best in Test’.





Haglöfs Goga Pro 12 2009

The Haglöfs Goga 12 sleeping  bag comes in three sizes to suit people of different sizes. The version tested was the 190, which is the medium-sized bag. But there is a 205 version that is longer and wider, plus a 175 version that is shorter and narrower at the shoulders but still wide at the hips, meaning it should be ideal for women. All these versions have waterproof material at the head and foot.

 

Design
This is the warmest sleeping bag in our test, according to the manufacturer’s temperature rating of -24 deg C. This is achieved with 1400g of top-quality down, which is far more insulation than the other bags here. There is also extra insulation in the foot to make sure your toes are really warm. The bag is also a good size with a well-stuffed shoulder baffle and zip baffle. While many bags here have a completely water-resistant or waterproof shell, the Goga Pro 12 has water-resistant areas at the toe and head to keep the bag dry in the areas that are most likely to get damp when used in a small backpacking tent. The result of all this extra insulation is the heaviest packed weight of all the bags we looked at. However when you consider you get all that for a price that sits in the middle of the competition this must be seen as good value.

 

On the hill
This bag felt really luxurious compared to others. It is packed with insulation as the highest temperature rating suggests, and as soon as you get inside you feel far cosier than in the other bags we looked at. I used this in November in the Lake District and it did feel a little too warm for the conditions, but I was simply able to open the side zip a little to allow some venting. This means that for those of us who tend to be claustrophobic, this Haglöfs bag has a real advantage. It has waterproof material at the toe and head, which did help keep the down dry when these areas got pressed against the inside of the tent, but I felt I would still need to take care to protect the down. And the seams aren’t sealed anyway, so potentially the down can still get damp even at the head and foot. A nice, comfy bag though, which I enjoyed using. 

 

Size 220x80x54cm medium (long and short version also available)
Fill weight 1400g
Fill power 700+ (EU)
Comfort temperature rating -24 deg C
Packed size 35x25cm compressed
Weight of bag 1980g
Made in China
Stores in the UK 10
Stockist details tel. 0845 602 7343; www.haglofs.se

Verdict: The Haglöfs Goga Pro 12 is a relatively warm sleeping bag but it’s also relatively heavy; ideal if you want maximum comfort, can tolerate the extra weight and don’t need a higher level of waterproofness.





Rab Quantum 800 Endurance 2009

Quantum sleeping bags are designed to be the lightest available for today’s weight-conscious adventurers. Rab’s Quantum 800 Endurance is packed with top-quality down that provides a comfort rating of -18 deg C while the Pertex Endurance shell provides lightweight and water-resistant protection for the insulation. The bag is cut slightly narrow to optimise efficiency while minimising weight and bulk.

 

Design
Compared to the other sleeping bags featured here the Quantum 800 is the lightest, yet it still gets a manufacturer’s temperature rating of -18 deg C. To maintain warmth without cold spots there is a classic box wall construction, and the 800g of down is well distributed around the bag. The trick to the weight difference comes from a number of areas. Firstly the bag uses top-quality down, so you need less of it to stay as warm. The shell fabric is also very thin, and that too saves a little weight. However perhaps the biggest contributor to the weight saving is the keener sizing, for this bag is narrower and slightly shorter than the others featured here. The bag also benefits from a very light stuffsack, which again shaves a few more grams off the overall weight when packing this in a rucksack. However the stuffsack is not the compression type, which means that this bag is not quite so easy to squash down as others.

 

On the hill
The bag feels very light as soon as it is removed from its stuffsack, while the soft lining feels particularly nice against the skin. I used this in the Lakes in the mixed weather of November and found that it did not feel as warm as other bags with similar temperature ratings. You get a shoulder baffle and a zip baffle, but there is less insulation in these than in other bags. The narrow profile across the shoulders also meant that insulation in this area was a bit more squashed, and I certainly felt a little restricted in this bag. I’m not particular big, being somewhere between medium and large in clothing, but I definitely would prefer a little more elbow room! Down tended to be escaping in a few places through the stitching, which was unique to this bag. Like a lot of the alternatives the material is water-resistant but not waterproof, so I ended up with some damp down on nights out in this bag. Great for smaller people than me if you don’t need the warmest bag. 

 

Size 215x75x50cm
Fill weight 800g
Fill power 700+ (EU)/850+ (US)
Comfort temperature rating -18 deg C
Packed size 25x22cm compressed
Weight of bag 1336g
Made in shell: Far East, filled in UK
Stores in the UK 40
Stockist details tel. (01773) 601870; www.rab.uk.com

Verdict: The Rab Quantum 800 Endurance is ideal if you don’t need the warmest sleeping bag, and rate weight and packed size as priorities, but it’s smaller than others so better suited to smaller people.