Are you like me? And have owned a few cheap sleeping bags over the years. Purchasing them for occasional usage; crashing at someone's house, back garden camping, festivals, etc.. You stand in your local camping shop with a couple of thoughts in mind. It has to be cheap (preferably in a sale) and the right colour. Little thought goes into the quality and if it will keep you warm and comfortable. I don’t think anyone can be criticised for this approach. Lets face it, many vendors market us with these cheap, quite often low quality items for those very same reasons. People quite often don't care. If it is only for a night or two, why did I need spend a fortune? This methodology is okay at the time, but maybe not so great when trying to stuff your bulky sleeping bag into your panniers for your first cycle tours!
What changes for many of us is when the old sleeping bag comes down from the loft/attic. After a quick smell check to make sure it hasn't gone completely mouldy, it comes along on a longer camping trip, cycle tour, or similar. This is when you may start to find it's faults. You may find it bulky, heavy and generally not giving you a great night sleep. And if these experiences don't leave you emotionally scarred and are up for more camping, you may start looking for a little more luxury at night.
As you can probably guess, this is what happened to me. The old unbranded sleeping bag went with me on a few initial cycle touring trips. This bulky, sweaty and somewhat smelly piece of kit soon drove me mad. It took up a good chunk of a pannier and meant I couldn't load up on food for one of favourite pastimes of eating! Time for change.
So, what was I looking for in a sleeping bag?
My main use is cycling touring and second would be family camping trips. I was after a sleeping bag for under £250, lightweight, with the ability to compact right down and filled with down to keep me warm and be breathable. Overheating and sweating during the summer months isn't very pleasant! Lightweight is important to me when cycling and the compressing down to stop bulking out my panniers. As for temperature rating, I never really sleep in temperatures less than zero, so a rating possible to cope with that.
My searching on the internet brought up so many options. I soon realised that there is almost too much choice in this market. But if you are like me, all this choice feeds a love of reading equipment reviews :-) A few weeks passed...
What did I decide on?
I looked at many makes (Vango, Rab, Montane, Haglofs, Terra Nova, etc…) and finally narrowed my choice to the Terra Nova Voyager 800. It ticked all the boxes and the deciding factor was being able to get a good discount on the price from the UK retailer www.uttings.co.uk
Taken from the Terra Nova website
- Packed Weight: 0.843Kg (1lb 14oz)
- 3 -4 Season Rating
- Temperature Rating: 0oC (Comfort limit) / -15oC (Extreme)
- Filling: 800 Fill Power down. Fill weight: 375g
- Construction: Box Wall
- Length: 215 cms
- Packed Size: 29 x 16cm (11.4" x 6.4")
- Zip: Full zip / Zip baffle
- Hood: Mummy
Opening up the parcel, it came with a stuff bag and drawstring storage bag. My first thought was of surprise at how light it was and the overall quality of the stitching and materials used. You really can see the difference between a £20.00 and £200.00+ sleeping bag.
My first idea for testing was to get it stuffed into the stuff bag. It didn't go very well! I tend to get all scientific about things and over complicated it by folding it in a special way to make it fit. Big mistake! It never quite worked and was stressing me out! What I should have done is literally stuff it in the sack (guess the name gives it away really!). That worked every time and I can now put it away in less than 30 seconds in the pitch black at 5am!
My first nights sleep?
Really good. Comfortable and most importantly, very warm. It was during early spring in northern France, so not exactly that warm (5-6 degrees during the night). As always I used a silk liner to protect the bag, which added a little more warmth and slept on my usual Thermarest mat. Over the next few nights of my trip, the experience was the same - always a great night's sleep and never cold. WIth the mummy hood and zips all the way to the top, it really kept me cocooned inside. And the zips are out of the way of your face too.
So far, I have only used this bag for cycle touring and a couple of weekend trips with my family. It would also tick the box for trekking, trail running and any other hobby/sport that needs kit to be compact, lightweight and high performance.
Some tips with this sleeping bag (and others).
- Use a silk or similar liner. Really prolongs the life and adds a little extra warmth
- Avoid getting it wet. It has down filling. Could smell and take ages to dry.
- Practice stuffing it into the stuff/compression bag :-)
- Give it a good airing when returning from a trip, especially if it got wet
- Store at home (preferably not in the loft/attic) in the draw string bag
This is a great sleeping bag for people needing lightweight kit that performs well under varying conditions. It is very well made and looks like it will be durable over time. Take care of it and it will take care of you. It is fairly expensive, but I think you will recoup this over time by not buying lots of cheaper alternatives. I'm can honestly say I'm pleased with my choice and would recommend it. Shop around and you may find a great deal.
When camping when cycle touring, for me it is all about being comfortable, enjoying your down time after a day in the saddle and travelling as light as possible with best equipment you can afford. Much of this does come down to how often you go away and for how long. Only a couple of times a year during summer months for a few days. Then you can probably cope with cheaper kit that has a few niggles. On the other end of the scale; you are away for months in winter, then poor equipment can sometimes affect your morale. Don't suffer if you can help it. If you can afford it then purchase the right equipment for you. Better still borrow off friends or family. Only you can decide what works for you. If you can, try to test any new equipment in the back garden/yard or not too far away from home. You can then adjust before your big trip, which will always ensure a happy cycle tour :-)
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