The Big Test: Three season sleeping bags reviewed (2019)

During spring, summer and autumn, the right 3-season sleeping bag can help make camping in the mountains an idyllic experience. Here’s our pick of the six best down and synthetic sleeping bags for 2019.

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The runners up


Mammut Kompakt MTI 3-Season (Women) £159 

Tester: Anna Humphries

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  • Lower comfort limit -10°C

  • Insulation Ajungilak MTI Pro polyester 

  • Size 205x80cm (Regular and Short available)

  • Men’s equivalent Kompakt MTI 3-Season (Regular, Large and Wide available) 

  • Packed size 21 x 30cmn 

  • Weight 1851g (inc 100g stuffsack)

This well-priced bag is warmer than other 3-season bags, with a temperature rating of -10°C, while others are -4°C, -6°C or -8.5°C. So not surprisingly, it’s also a little heavier and more bulky when in its stuffsack.

Synthetic insulation means it is less compact but does feel warm instantly, which was a welcome benefit over the down bag I tried, which took more time to become cosy.

The hood, shoulder baffle and zip are all well designed, and there are two sizes each for the women and men’s versions. The women’s option has the extra benefit of a fleece-lined foot area and a bigger hood.

So, what’s not to like? For me this bag’s pink colour with a green zip is a real turn-off. It also lacks the stretchy seams of other higher-priced bags, and is heavy, but of course it is warmer too. Oddly the stuffsack colour is a nice red and black, which doesn’t match the bag but at least the pinkness is hidden when the bag is packed inside!

PROS 

Price, warmth, fleecy foot in women’s option, two sizes each for men and for women

CONS 

Weight and packed size, no stretch baffles, pink colour for women’s version 

  • OVERALL SCORE 80%


Vaude Santis 800 SYN £250

Tester: Graham Thompson

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  • Lower comfort limit -4°C

  • Insulation Pinnero Mantle 100% recycled polyester

  • Size 220x80cm (one size)

  • Women’s equivalent n/a

  • Packed size 22x28cm

  • Weight 1292g (inc 75g stuffsack)

Like many Vaude products it’s the environmental benefits that shine through with this bag, as it’s made with 100% recycled polyester insulation and its water- repellent finish doesn’t use harmful fluorocarbons (PFC).

Stretch fibres are used in the knee area to allow more comfort, and the shoulder width and length are bigger than some. There’s also a unique additional side zipped arm hole, so you can be inside the bag with both arms out (one arm out via normal side zip, the other through the arm hole).

The weight and packed size are good although, of course, a down bag is even lighter. But also note this is rated as -4°C comfort limit, while other bags here are rated as -6°C comfort limit, so this isn’t quite as warm as the others. There are no extra size or women’s options here either, and the price tag is less friendly than this bag’s impressive environmental benefits.

PROS 

Environmental benefits, zipped arm opening, stretch panels in knee area, reasonable weight and packed size for a synthetic bag

CONS 

Price is relatively high compared to other synthetic bags, slightly lower temperature rating, no extra size options or women’s option

  • OVERALL SCORE 76%


Thermarest Hyperion 20F/-6C £400-£420 

Tester: Tim Butcher

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  • Lower comfort limit -6°C

  • Insulation Nikwax Hydrophobic 900 fill power goose down

  • Size 216x74cm (Long, Small and Regular available)

  • Women’s equivalent n/a

  • Packed size 16x20cm

  • Weight 688g (inc 50g stuffsack)

New for 2019, this bag is exceptionally lightweight and compact when compressed into its stuffsack. It still carries a temperature rating of -6°C and the weight-saving comes from a numbers of areas. Firstly it uses top quality 900 fill down, so you just need less of it to stay warm, and the shell fabric is very thin 10 denier ripstop nylon.

The side zip only extends to the hip, rather than the foot or calf area, and the zip itself is a lighter-weight design that seems to snag a little easier than others, and tends to open on its own if I didn’t secure the press stud at the top of the zip. There is no shoulder baffle either.

Finally you don’t get the stretch baffles of other sleeping bags. It comes with a pair of thin webbing straps that can be wrapped around a Thermarest sleeping mat for ‘optimal efficiency’, but I didn’t find this of much benefit and felt if I turned over too roughly I may have ripped out the straps.

PROS 

Weight and packed size. Attachment webbing to sleeping mat may be of benefit to some, but I wasn’t convinced as I tend to sleep on my side and move around too much

CONS 

Price, short side zip, no shoulder baffle, no stretch in bag size, no women’s specific design

  • OVERALL SCORE 72%


 
 

The top three


Deuter Exosphere -6° £170 

Tester: Graham Thompson

Is this synthetic insulated bag so good, there’s no need to spend extra on down insulation?

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  • Lower comfort limit -6°C

  • Insulation Thermo Proloft synthetic 

  • Size (Length x shoulder width) 205x68cm (Regular and Large available) 

  • Women’s equivalentDeuter Exosphere -6° SL (one size)

  • Packed size 20x23cm

  • Weight 1319g (inc 88g stuffsack)

It’s good

This sleeping bag uses synthetic insulation, so is available at a much lower price than an equivalent down insulated bag. But the weight, packed size and temperature rating are exceptionally impressive, even compared to down-filled bags.

Elasticated construction allows the whole bag to expand in width by 25%. The elastication also holds the insulation closer to the body, resulting in increased efficiency as there are less cold air pockets, so the bag warms up faster and needs less insulation.

In addition the foot and head have been treated to keep moisture at bay, such as when condensation gathers in a tent. You also get a shoulder baffle, a great hood and a side zip with a good anti-snag design.

I found this bag outstandingly comfortable and warm, and perfect for camping without the cost of a down bag. What’s even better is it comes in both regular and large sizes, as well as a women’s option, and as it is stretchy this bag should fit a wider range of people than most bags.

The compression sack has four webbing buckles to crush the contents, making it easy to create a good packed size.

However

This bag is rated as -6°C comfort, but a similar weight down bag is rated as -8.5°C. And if you have the cash, a top quality -6°C rated down bag is just 866g, so down is going to be lighter if you compare temperature ratings carefully.

If you’re really picky then this bag could be lighter, with a skimpier stuffsack that vacuum- packs the bag more efficiently. Some grams could also be shaved off by using thinner shell materials, while you could strip out the shoulder baffle and dryzones to save cash too.

There is a chance you may not like the stretchy, body-hugging design. I love it, but some people may want the more spacious feel of a wider bag that doesn’t hug you as closely as this. Finally, some other synthetic bags use more recycled content.

Verdict

An excellent synthetic-insulated bag that would suit the needs of most backpackers and mountain campers. But pay more and you can have a lighter bag, and if you can live with less features you can pay less or reduce weight.

  • Features 4/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 5/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 5/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 92%

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Rab Ascent 700 (Women’s) £260 

Tester: Anna Humphries

This mid-priced down bag offers lots of benefits over synthetic, but is it worth the cash?

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  • Lower comfort limit -8.5°C

  • Insulation Nikwax Hydrophobic 650 fill power European duck down

  • Size 205x70cm (one size, women’s)n 

  • Men’s equivalent Rab Ascent 700 (Regular and Extra Long available)

  • Packed size 24x18cm

  • Weight 1325g (inc 66g stuffsack)

It’s good

This is relatively well-priced for a down insulated bag. It uses 650 fill power down (rather than 800 fill power down) to reduce costs, but still has a very reasonable packed size and weight. It also gives you a few extra degrees of warmth compared to some bags, which makes it more suitable for women, who on average feel the cold more than men.

This spacious bag had plenty of room for my hips and legs without feeling tight when I turned over. The side zip extends a good way down to the foot for venting, and there’s also a shoulder baffle to trap air inside.

Hydrophobic down (certified by the Responsible Down Standard to safeguard bird welfare) is used to improve the performance a little more, and is treated with Nikwax to resist moisture. I found the bag did take a little longer to warm up than the synthetic option, but once warm I was extremely cosy and comfortable.

The stuffsack is particularly good, as it allowed me to very easily vacuum-pack the bag down to a very small size.

However

It is heavier than a bag using down insulation with higher fill power, but of course that is why its price is more competitive. This bag is only available in one size for women too, so if you’re a tall woman you may find you need to look at the longer men’s version.

Some bags have stretch linings to make them even more comfortable and efficient, but that isn’t on offer here. As with any down insulated bag, if it does get damp then its performance drops off rapidly compared to a synthetic bag, although at least here we do have Nikwax-treated down, so this is less of an issue. Of course, while the price is good for a down-insulated bag, if you find the performance of a synthetic bag acceptable you can save a lot of cash by choosing synthetic insulation instead of opting for feathers.

Verdict 

Mid-priced down insulated bag that compares well to costlier down bags. It has most of the key features many mountain campers will need, but pay more and you get a lighter bag, while synthetic options save money.

  • Features 4/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 5/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 88%


Mountain Equipment Firelite £440

Tester: Tim Butcher

A top-quality down insulated bag with all the features you need, but does it justify the outlay?

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  • Lower comfort limit -6°C

  • Insulation 800 fill power Russian goose down 

  • Size 215x65cm (Regular and Long available)

  • Women’s equivalent n/a

  • Packed size 21 x 21cm (size Long)

  • Weight 866g (Long, inc 59g stuffsack)

It's Good 

Designed for ultra- light backpacking and high mountain use, this bag certainly meets its brief. At just 866g and a tiny packed size, this was a doddle to pack into my rucksack and it left plenty of space for other camping equipment.

The bag comes in two sizes, and I tested the Long version given my 198cm height. The width is closer fitting than other bags, but this bag features stretch baffles, so it can expand with your body, but also more loft space is created for the insulation when the lining hugs your body, thereby keeping you warmer.

The insulation is a top-quality down, and the shell material is extremely thin and lightweight. You also get an easy-to-adjust hood and the side zip has a good design that didn’t snag easily. A neck baffle helps prevent warm air from escaping if the hood is not fully tightened. Together this all adds up to a very comfortable bag that was slightly tight across the thigh area but otherwise unrestrictive and warm.

Insulation comes from an audited supply chain called the Down Codex, to ensure welfare standards and quality are high.

However

To make the bag match my height, sections have been added at the foot, which did mean the side zip doesn’t extend as close to the foot as other bags. So you might get overly warm feet. The bag is narrower than others too, and while it isn’t generally restrictive, a little more thigh space would have been beneficial.

Any bag with down insulation needs to be kept dry, as the insulation will not trap warm air very effectively if it gets damp, so more care is needed here to keep the bag dry compared to a synthetic insulation bag.

This is pretty much a no- compromises bag, and the result is a hefty price-tag that may cause you to, ahem, lose sleep. But for regular backpacking when all- round performance is your need then this is an acceptable price when compared to other options.

Verdict 

Top-quality backpacking bag if you want optimum performance and are prepared to stretch your budget. But the price is quite eye-watering, and synthetic bags perform better if damp.

  • Features 5/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 5/5

  • In use 5/5

  • Value for money 3/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 92%

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Test of the best: 3-season down sleeping bags reviewed

PACKED SIZE AND WEIGHT
A small packed size and low weight is essential when backpacking, so you can easily store the bag into a rucksack. Sizes stated are the minimum achieved when the bag is stuffed into its stuffsack and this is compressed as small as possible. Weights stated include the stuffsack.

CONSTRUCTION
Most of the bags here use a box wall construction, where the down is trapped inside box-shaped baffles within the bag, rather like bricks in a wall. To reduce cold spots, some bags use trapezoid and slanted wall-shaped boxes. 

SHELL AND LINING
To protect the insulation, the shell and lining benefit from some water-resistance, and in some cases this may be enhanced on the base, foot and hood areas. Nylon is often used for the shell and lining, but polyester could be used to reduce prices.

INSULATION
The bags featured here all use down insulation. Down has the advantage over synthetic insulation of being more efficient at trapping air, and therefore it can be used to produce lighter and less bulky sleeping bags. It doesn’t maintain its performance when damp very well though, so some manufacturers treat the down (or shell) to help it resist water and dry quicker when damp.

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SIZE
If a bag is too big you’ll have more air inside to heat up, and this will tend to move around and escape from the bag. If the bag is too small you’ll be uncomfortable, as you’ll be restricted in movement and the insulation will become compressed so it won’t trap air to keep you warm. Some bags are available in a choice of lengths and there are also women’s models. It is always worth checking with the manufacturer if you need a slightly different size, as there may be size differences available. Sizes stated are for the standard bags.

ZIP
Zip designs vary from half-length to full-length side zips – the former offering a weight saving, the latter making a more versatile bag for hot nights. Zips may come with an anti-snag strip behind them to prevent jamming, or a wide insulation-filled baffle to prevent cold spots along the length of the zip. 

HOOD
The fit and degree of insulation in the hood is important in cold conditions. A drawcord will be provided to cinch it in, but some hoods are easier to adjust, making their fit and comfort level better than others.

SHOULDER BAFFLE
A good shoulder baffle keeps the air down in the bag, which increases its insulating ability. The best can be adjusted to fit closely, while lighter or lower-priced bags may have non-adjustable shoulder baffles, or no shoulder baffle at all.


Alpkit PipeDream 400 £215

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  • Lowest comfort temperature rating -6°C
  • Packed size 18x22cm
  • Weight 877g (including 29g stuffsack)

IT'S GOOD What is not to like here? The price is great compared to other down bags, and the weight and packed size are very impressive and more than acceptable for backpacking. The insulation is 750 fill power down and it has even been treated with a Nikwax process so it maintains better performance if it gets slightly damp. The down is held in a box wall construction, and the shell is made from polyester rather than more pricey nylon to help keep costs down. You get a full-length side zip and there is a drawcord around the hood. All of this is great for anyone on a budget wanting a great backpacking bag.

HOWEVER The drawbacks are that you are not getting a full shoulder baffle, although it does at least have a front chest baffle that is well padded – so this is only a small negative point. Also the size is slightly smaller than some other bags at 78cm width and 215cm length, so again this depends on your body size. The hood fit is not quite as neat as the best here and the drawcords are not as well baffled for comfort against the head either. If you pay more you get nylon shell materials and even higher performance down for an even lighter bag. So this may not be absolute best performance available, but at this price, does that matter?

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VERDICT Outstanding value when you compare it to other options, but if you do pay more, you’ll get more benefits.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 5/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%

Exped Versa 600 £240

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  • Lowest comfort temperature rating -5°C
  • Packed size 20x23cm
  • Weight 1181g (including 63g stuffsack)

IT'S GOOD What sets this bag apart from every other bag here is its spaciousness. This bag is massive and benefits from a square rather than heavily-tapered footbox area, so you have plenty of room. Also the shoulder width is 89cm and the length is 225cm. The side zip extends around the base of the foot, so you can open this up fully on hot nights. Importantly you also get a good temperature rating and the hood area is well padded. There is also a comfy drawcord around the hood and top of the bag. The shell is polyester and the down is a 700 fill-power. For the price tag, this bag offers a lot of comfort.

HOWEVER It is not the lightest option available and it is quite bulky when packed too, so it’s not the best for lighter-weight backpacking. There is no shoulder baffle to lock in the warm air around your body, and as this is a wider and longer bag it will naturally feel cooler than a closer-fitting design, so you tend to need it fully battened down in cooler weather to stay warm. You don’t get the water-resistant down of higher-priced designs, and the outer is made of polyester rather than the more expensive but more durable nylon. The anti-snag zip design is better on some bags. You won’t get this level of space elsewhere but others are lighter.

VERDICT A spacious bag for maximum comfort, but the drawbacks are the increased weight and packed size.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 80%

Terra Nova Elite 550 £260

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  • Lowest comfort temperature rating -5°C
  • Packed size 22x21cm
  • Weight 1256g (including 95g stuffsack)

IT'S GOOD The price is creeping up now but is still far more appealing than the higher-priced options. The insulation is 600 fill power down which is housed in a very robust and tightly-woven polyester, rather than nylon, to reduce costs. You also get an internal shoulder baffle with a drawcord and the hood is well packed with insulation. There is also a drawcord around the top of the bag and around the hood. The side zip extends halfway down the side of the bag, rather than being full length, to save weight, and some reflective piping makes it easier to find the zip at night. The stuffsack contains compression straps.

HOWEVER To keep costs down there are drawbacks. This bag is relatively heavy, in part due to the use of 600 fill power down rather than more efficient 700 or 800 fill power down. Also the polyester outer shell is quite heavy compared to the lighter nylons used on the higher-priced bags. The side zip is only half length, so if you use this on hotter nights your feet may get overly warm and you won’t be able to vent them. The bag is slightly smaller than others too, at 210cm long and 73cm at the shoulder. Higher priced bags also use down that has
a water-repelling treatment to maintain performance better when it gets damp.

VERDICT The price is attractive but the bag is heavier when packed and it has only a half-length side zip, as well as being slightly smaller than some.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 3/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%

Vango F10 Vulcan -7°£280

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  • Lowest comfort temperature rating -7°C
  • Packed size 25x18cm
  • Weight 962g (including 44g stuffsack)

IT'S GOOD The packed size and weight of this bag are slightly less than some others, and the comfort limit is also a lower offering than normal at -7°C. So what’s going on? Well, the Vulcan uses a V-baffle construction with Hydro-barrier 700 fill power down, which is treated to help maintain performance if damp. There’s also an internal Thermal Reverb aluminised reflective liner within the bag to reflect heat back to the user, while the elastic seams appear to hug the bag closer to the body. These features help give a good temperature rating for the low weight. The bag has a good size, of 220cm long by 80cm wide, and I found all this came together well for a comfy sleep. 

HOWEVER The hood and foot construction aren’t quite as elaborate as some others, so while these areas work well enough others have more complex designs to better ensure that the insulation is well placed. The hood in particular doesn’t fit as neatly as others. The outer shell is made from ripstop nylon, which is thinner and lighter than other options. This saves weight but does mean you need to treat it with more care. Some bags have added benefits, such as volume adjustment on the hood or a fleecy chin area. The price tag is quite high too, so you need to decide if that low weight is worth it to you.

VERDICT  Ideal for backpackers wanting to save a few grams, but some details aren’t as good as those on heavier bags.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 5/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 80%

Marmot Hydrogen £300

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  • Lowest comfort temperature rating -4.8°C
  • Packed size 22x15cm
  • Weight 672g (including 20g stuffsack)

IT'S GOOD The Marmot Hydrogen has an excellent weight for a sleeping bag of this temperature range and at this price tag. But what is really important is that the details are great too. You get 800 fill power down, which carries a Down Defender treatment to reduce the impacts of moisture on its performance. The bag has a Pertex Quantum shell with a side zip that is specially designed to be less likely to snag, and does appear very effective. The hood design fits closer than others and is very comfortable around the face, while the foot box is also well-shaped thanks to some extra panels. It is hard to justify paying more as any improvements gained are small. 

HOWEVER The bag is slightly narrower than others, being 76cm at the shoulder. It also tends to taper a little more than others toward the feet, but at 220cm the length is good. Also while the hood and top of bag is nicely packed with insulation there is no additional shoulder baffle, so it is necessary to fully tighten down the top of the bag to lock in warmth. To do this there is just one drawcord which goes around the brim of the hood, rather than a cord that extends across the top of the shoulders at the top of the bag. This does work, but others are more adjustable. 

VERDICT Superb weight for the temperature and price, but personal preferences will dictate if the hood and shoulder design is right for you.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 5/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 80%

Montane Direct Ascent £320

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  • Lowest comfort temperature rating -5°C
  • Packed size 23x21cm
  • Weight 1181g (including 63g stuffsack)

IT'S GOOD A well-established bag that has proven itself over a number of years. It has the key features a 3-season camper needs, with a good temperature rating, a good weight and a good packed size. The insulation is 800 fill power down and this is held in place with trapezoidal baffles to limit cold spots at the seams. The shell and lining are made of Pertex Quantum nylon. There is a unique volume adjustment on the back of the hood, so you get a jacket-style hood fit. The baffle is well filled and can be adjusted, while extra panels in the foot allow more space without compressing the insulation. 

HOWEVER There is not a lot wrong here, but bags with hydrophobic down will maintain a better performance when damp. The bag’s size is 205cm long by 78cm wide, which is slightly shorter and more narrow than some sleeping bags, so some people may feel other bags are more appropriately-sized for them. Some bags are also a degree warmer but for 3-season use this bag is still fine of course. This is not the lowest priced bag available, but if you compare the details it does have a few extra benefits that others lack, such as a microfleece panel around the chin and that great hood and shoulder baffle.

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VERDICT A great backpacking bag, with the drawbacks being others have more water-resistant down, some are slightly lighter and others are lower in price.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 5/5
  • In use 5/5
  • Value for money 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%

Criterion Quantom 350 £345

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  • Lowest comfort temperature rating -6°C
  • Packed size 18x16cm
  • Weight 710g (including 19g stuffsack)

IT'S GOOD Check out the weight, check out the pack size and then check out the temperature rating. This bag has it all for anyone wanting to travel light and stay warm. So how is it done? Well, firstly you are getting 870 fill power down, which is more efficient than, say, 700 fill power down, meaning you need less of it to stay warm. You also get a very thin Pertex Quantum nylon outer, which all helps to save weight. Trapezoidal and box wall construction keeps cold spots at bay along the seams. Other features are kept to
a minimum to save on weight and size, but fundamentally this sleeping bag provides a comfy night’s sleep. 

HOWEVER  With some other bags you get a more water-resistant down and also a more elaborate anti-snag baffle on the zip, so some more care is needed here.
I also noticed that some bags have more insulation in the hood, and the drawcord around the hood is less well protected too – so others are more comfortable in the head area in general. There is a shoulder baffle, but some other bags have a more extensive design. Some also have a more elaborate foot box design. At 217cm long and 75cm at the shoulders it is slightly smaller than some. These details may not be important if weight is your main priority, but the price tag may still be a concern.

VERDICT An ideal bag for lightweight backpacking, but heavier bags have benefits including a lower price tag.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%

Thermarest Parsec 20 £350

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  • Lowest comfort temperature rating -6°C
  • Packed size 24x22cm
  • Weight 1043g (including 88g stuffsack)

IT'S GOOD The Parsec 20 is new for 2018 and has been designed to be attached to a Thermarest mattress via two removable connectors, which means you are not having to carry a full bag of insulation as the base of the sleeping bag is insulated by being attached to a sleeping mat. It also means you cannot slide off the mat when inside the bag. The bag is insulated with Nikwax-treated 800 fill power down to resist dampness, and a Thermacapture lining traps radiant heat. The half-length side zip has a very good baffle inside, there is a huge shoulder baffle and the hood is very well insulated. The shell is polyester, with a very good water-repellent treatment.

HOWEVER This is not quite the lightest and most compact bag, and this is due to not having the thinnest and lightest nylon shell - as well as appearing to have a little more insulation in the hood, the side zip baffle and the shoulder baffle than some other bags. The removable connectors for attaching the bag to the mattress are quite bulky and weigh 40g too, so you could ditch these. Some bags have a shoulder baffle drawcord and also a hood that fits a little neater, with a down-filled baffle under the hood drawcord, so this area isn’t the absolute best. Also that side zip is not full length, so you cannot vent your feet.

VERDICT A warm bag with a good weight and attaches to a mattress, but the short side zip may not be ideal.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%

Lightwave Firelight 450 £549

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  • Lowest comfort temperature rating -5°C
  • Packed size 20x18cm
  • Weight 756g (including 15g stuffsack)

IT'S GOOD 

This bag uses 900 fill power down, and appears to have more insulation and be slightly warmer than some other bags at this weight and temperature rating. Importantly you also get an exceptionally good weight and small packed size and yet you still get a well-stuffed hood area and a full shoulder baffle, which is better than slightly lighter bags. Slant wall construction is used to reduce cold spots and the shell is made of Pertex Quantum nylon. A nice benefit with this bag is that the side zip is placed on the top edge to reduce cold spots. So with its good warmth and minimal packed size this is a winner for backpacking when weight is important.

HOWEVER The huge price tag is an obvious issue with this bag, so you need to be keen to warrant the cash. Also this bag’s dimensions are 210cm long by 76cm wide at the shoulder, so it is slightly smaller than some other bags, which taller walkers may need to consider. Yes, you do get a shoulder baffle that is well-filled – but you don’t get a drawcord adjustment, as is standard on heavier bags. Like other lightweight bags the hood drawcord is not as well insulated as others, so it can dig in a little. Also the side zip doesn’t benefit from the elaborate anti-snag strips found elsewhere, so a little more care is needed. 

VERDICT Exceptionally good weight and warmth for lightweight backpacking, but the price could scupper it.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 5/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 2/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%

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