N.B. I Apologise for the colour on some of the images, I’d put the camera in the wrong mode. I hadn’t noticed until I’d packed everything away and reviewed the images on the PC…
There are many sleeping bags on the market. Some cheap, some expensive. You can get one on offer for a Tenner, or spend five or six hundred pounds on one. There is a big difference between a cheap bag and an expensive one, and there is also a big difference between brands as well. A good sleeping bag will allow you to camp later into the season, or all year round.
There’s advantages and disadvantages to the different types (a proper argument of which would take up an entire post). So to put it in a nutshell, Down is lighter and warmer for weight than synthetic, but more expensive and trickier to clean. You’ll often hear that synthetic stuffing will retain more warmth when wet, but if either was sodden, you’d be cold that night, whatever it was filled with.
I’m a proponent of Alpkit and they have long been respected for their sleeping bag range, which offered a good bag at a reasonable price.
They have two lines, the SkyHigh (I’ll shorten to SH from now on) and PipeDream (PD). The ranges are then categorised with the fill weights (hence names like SH600, SH800, SH1000 or PD600, PD800 etc. (the bigger the number, the warmer the bag)).
The PD range pack smaller, lighter, are made from more exotic materials and have a higher fill power (warmer for weight) down filling. Of course having a PD comes at a price (about 40% more when I bought my bag).
I chose the SH800 because it was within my price range (an important consideration), it’s rated to –10’c and I’d fit in it. You see, I’m quite a big lad. I’m 6’2” and there’s a vicious rumour that I have a fairly impressive beer gut . The SH bags thankfully come in small, regular and large (and now a kids size too). They come with a well made compression sack that’s been treated to help keep water out and a storage sack to help keep the loft when it’s in the cupboard. There’s a storage pocket inside the bag and it has an excellent draft tube and collar to keep the heat in.
I have camped in temps around –8 and slept well, so it does what it’s supposed to. It’s roughly comparable to a North Face Blue Kazoo (£180) or a Rab Ascent 700 (£200). When I bought mine It was £110 (+£5 for long size), meaning it was exceptional value. (Alpkit have made a comparison chart HERE)
Now however, they are £140 (£145 for long).. So there isn’t that much difference between this and the Blue Kazoo, especially when you consider that you might get an offer on a North Face bag (or one from another major manufacturer).
Buy from Alpkit and the price is what you pay – no shopping around for bargains. This didn’t used to be a problem as their stuff was priced so competitively.1
The bag I have does have shortcomings as well. The two main issues I had are: The cord to cinch the hood had been stitched into the bag (as I couldn’t wait for the next batch, I just cut the cord and knotted it). It’s not a major problem in itself, but does possibly indicate slipshod workmanship or poor quality control. The other thing is that they don’t vary the amount of filling in the sizes, So the small is warmer than it should be and the large has a couple of panels that could really do with a bit more filling as it’s stretched that bit further. I didn’t mind paying a bit more for a long, but I was a bit annoyed when I found this out – I expected that they would be standardised across the range.
I like my SH800 and it has served me really well. It’s much lighter and packs far, far smaller than a synthetic bag. It lofts to a ridiculous amount. It’s kept me warm in the snow, toasty in the autumn and I’ve used it in the height of summer too. I’d love to say I’d buy another and would have, but with the price hike it puts the SkyHigh range uncomfortably close to the big brands..
There is nothing inside this bag, It really does loft to this thickness!
1 (sometimes they have clearance on some items. when it comes to sleeping bags however, It only applies to seconds, or ones with minor defects.. They’ve had such a good name and offered such great value that they often sell out within a few days of getting stock).