Showing posts with label Domex Packlite. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Domex Packlite. Show all posts

Friday, 31 July 2020

My Tramping Gear: Sleeping Bags/Quilts: Domex Packlite, Marmot Trestles 15, Macpac Escapade 700 XL, Exped Lite 500, Macpac NZAT Down Quilt

Different sleeping bags for different conditions...

I currently have 4 sleeping bags and a quilt for tramping, usage depends on the conditions I expect to strike and if I am staying in huts or camping out. Generally I am looking for enough warmth, light weight and small packed size as my criterion for purchases.

My Exped pit or sleeping bag set up and ready for use at Carrington Hut, 2018

Considerations regarding weight and down vs synthetic

Usually I find I am far too hot in a closed sleeping bag so I usually use mine unzipped as a quilt.

There are two types of bags: down and synthetic. Down is lighter but losses all of its insulation potential if wet. Synthetic will lose some of its warmth if wet but the water can be squeezed out more effectively and is much easier to dry.

Goose down sleeping bag fill

Synthetic polyester sleeping bag fill

New Zealand is wet, so I generally favour synthetic bags but it is impossible to overlook the weight savings using a down bag. The Packlite is about as lite as you can go in synthetic and still have a decent bag, but there are down bags with the same or better insulation qualities that weigh in at 600gms!

Down is the way to just need to take care to keep it dry.

Domex Packlite XL (2013- )

My summer bag is a synthetic Domex Packlite, 1.2kg, and compresses to a very small size. It is, as the name implies light, so only for warm weather and hut stays. With a thermal bag liner it is good down to 0-5 degrees.

The Domex Packlite synthetic sleeping bag

Domex are the original kiwi sleeping bag manufacturers they have been around for nearly 60 years now and make quality products. When I was in the Army back in the late 1980's we used Domex sleeping bags and I believe they still do today. 

Using the Domex in Lakehead Hut, Nelson Lakes NP in 2017

 I have replaced this bag with a NZAT down quilt which weighs nearly half the weight and is warmer. This bag still gets an occasional outing, generally on the Great Walks or as a car camping bag.

The Packlite in use, Wharfedale Hut, 2014
Laying in my Packlite, Queen Charlotte Track in 2016
 Retail these go for around $150 NZD, I currently own two Packlite' is a standard size (red, 6'1") and the other is an XL (grey, 6'4") long.

Update 2016: This bag is awesome but too heavy for my evolving style of tramping so has been relegated to Great Walk use and as a summer base camp bag.

Marmot Trestles 15 (2012- )

My first multi-season bag was a Marmot Trestles 15, rated to -9 degrees C. It is significantly heavier at 1.8 kg, but it is beautifully warm, and long at 6'6". I would use this in very cold conditions and if I expected to be tenting in snow, it is overkill as I will never be in -9 degree conditions, but man is it comfortable.

The Marmot Trestles 15 sleeping bag

These normally sell for $300 NZD, there is also a Marmot Trestles 30 which weighs 1.4 kg and is good down to about -2 degrees.

Magdalen Hut, Marmot Trestles waiting for Jon in 2013

I only ever took this bag on half a dozen tramping trips as I realised it was overly heavy and far too warm for general use.  At the time this was all I could afford and I was still tramping heavy as I thought I needed super durable gear.

This is the bag I haul out if I am going base camping in the shoulder seasons as it has plenty of space so is super comfortable to sleep in. 

The Marmot bag being used at the campsite near Ryde Falls, 2013

Update 2016: This bag is awesome but too heavy for my evolving style of tramping so has been relegated to a base camp role, at which it excels.

Macpac Escapade 700 XL (2015- )

My cold weather bag is a Macpac Escapade 700 which I brought in 2014, it is an XL size, rated to -5 degrees and weighs in at 1.25 kg. Normally these retail for $485 NZD but I got this in an Autumn sale for $275.

This is my winter bag and was used a lot between 2015-2017, it also gets some use if I am tramping with my daughter as this is the bag she would carry. I use this bag in the shoulder season so August-November and April-June. 

Macpac Escapade 700 XL

This bag is very nice; it is warm, light, roomy and comfortable to use, my only concern is the weight which at 1.25 kgs is moderate....too heavy for the Te Araroa Trail. In place of this I have a 1 kg Exped sleeping bag and a 750gms NZAT tramping quilt also from Macpac.

The Escapade at Mid Robinson Hut, Victoria FP in 2015

My Macpac pit laid out in Nina Hut, Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve, 2016

Macpac still make some quality gear in my opinion, you just have to pick and choose the best items. Their gear tends to be heavier than overseas offerings but it wears really well, some people only ever buy one Macpac pack and it lasts them for 30 years of tramping.

With care this bag will still be rocking in 10-15 years time.

Exped Lite 500 down bag (2018- )

My newest bag is another down filled one the Exped Lite 500. I brought this bag as a lighter option when section hiking the Te Araroa trail and for more moderate spring and autumn weather. Exped are a European brand they make really good tents, sleeping mats, sleeping bags, climbing gear and packs.

My new Exped Lite 500 down sleeping bag

This bag weighs 1.02 kgs, packs down very small and is rated to -2 degrees. I often find my Macpac bag too hot unless it is very cold and wet. This gives me a lighter option while still providing some warmth for those times when I will be up in the mountains in Spring and Autumn. This is my default tramping bag for when I will be camping rather than staying in a hut.

Exped bags come with a sil-nylon stuff sack and a large storage bag

I managed to snare mine for $330 dollars in a sale at Bivouac Outdoor, these normally retail for $460 NZD.  Always, always buy new gear when there is a sale on as the normal prices are usually 20-30% higher than the they need to be.

My Exped sleeping bag laid out in Anchorage Hut, Abel Tasman NP, 2018

 My Exped is my new 'go to bag' and has been my constant companion these last two years.

Macpac NZAT Down Quilt

I have been looking for a down quilt for tramping for a while now, there are many available but most are from the US or Europe. Obviously they are heinously expensive especially if you have to import it into New Zealand. I like the idea of a quilt as I am a hot sleeper in a bag and usually open up my pit and drape it over me anyway so it is a quasi quilt.

Group of hikers using a quilt instead of a sleeping bag

I was therefore pleasantly surprised to See Macpac were selling lite weight quilts in their 2018/2019 end of summer sale...the RRP is normally $500 NZ dollars but on sale they were only $250. I  brought one immediately and I am very happy with my purchase.

Macpac NZAT Down Quilt: 850 loft fill, Pertex shield shell material

 It is rated to around -2 degrees Celsius which means it will be good for hut stays and summer camping, if I am expecting colder conditions I will still need the Exped bag. Weight is 850 gms, it is 2.2 meters long by 1.6 meters wide. Fill is 350 gms of high quality 850 loft down with a Pertex outer shell.

It has various domes and straps so it can be made into a quasi sleeping bag. You can use the straps to attach your sleeping mat to the quilt or you can enclose your feet to stop it slipping off you.

Macpac NZAT Down Quilt:the foot end closed off

I used the quilt on my Routeburn and Rakuira Great Walks in 2019 and 2020 and it will be on call for whenever I am looking at a Te Araroa section walk. Ultimately it will probably become my go to summer hut cover.

Check out this informative article from the New Zealand Alpine Team website about how they utilise these quilts. There is also an instructional video showing you how to use a quilt.

Macpac NZAT Down Quilt: the strap system

Here are some photos of the quilt in use on tramping trips...

My NZAT quilt in use at Lakehead Hut, Nelson Lakes NP

NZAT quilt at Woolshed Creek Hut, Mt Somers

NZAT quilt in use at Fenella Hut, Cobb Valley, Kahurangi NP

In use it is warm, easy to pack small and light...great for summer and the shoulder seasons but I still need to use my Exped Lite 500 over the winter. It is just a bit cool for a icy winter night unless I wear most of my clothes to bed. 

Note 2020: There is a new version of this quilt on sale by Macpac...they have beefed up the fill to 700 gms so it is a true four season quilt BUT they are now weigh 1.3 kgs and cost nearly $800.

The newer NZAT Down Quilt with 700 gms of down....

 I would probably go for a new quilt with this rating if they cost less than $500 but the retail price is just outrageous...far too much.

Care and storage of sleeping bags

I have my sleeping bags hanging in a dry, dark closet which is the recommended way to store them. It is also OK to store them in a large mesh bag if one has been provided when you buy your bag. If you store them rolled into their stuff sacks you are compressing the fibres which degrades the insulation very, very quickly. 

Acceptable ways to store your sleeping bag

When you are out tramping you should use every opportunity to air your sleeping bag. If it is sunny haul it out of your bag and hang it in the sun to dry. If you are in a hut try to hang it off the side of the bunks to let the air circulate around it. You want to keep the down dry so it gives you the maximum insulation at night.

My Macpac bag airing in Magdalen Hut in 2017

Here is a very informative article from Outdoor Gear Labs about choosing the right sleeping bag for your needs.

So there you have it, four different sleeping bags and a quilt for use in very different conditions.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Tramping Equipment: My summer and winter sleeping bags

New winter weight sleeping bags for Jon

I've been saving my shekels so I could buy myself a 3-4 season sleeping bag. I have Summer and Base Camp bags but needed one for winter and the shoulder tramping periods from May-September.

My summer sleeping bag: Domex Packlite (large size)

I wanted a down bag as I will be mostly in huts over these periods and they are so much warmer and lighter than comparable synthetic bags. Alas, they are very expensive, with prices ranging from $400-$1200 depending on brand and what type you buy.

The Macpac Escapade 700 XL

Recently Macpac had a 60% clearance sale so went down for a look at their wares. Macpac is one of the better New Zealand outdoor clothing and equipment firms. I brought one of their Escapade 700 series sleeping bags for a very reasonable price. Normal retail is $540 but on sale I managed to buy it for only $275.

Macpac Escapade 700 XL

XL sized for comfort and fit...

 The bag is an extra long, dimensions are 242x86x56, weight is 1.3kg. The outer cover is Pertex with a 80/20 blend of duck down as the filler. The loft rating is 600, which means it should be good for temperatures down to -2 degrees Celsius. 

Big Blue Escapade at Nina Hut, Summer 2016

With my silk bag liner and the addition of thermals as sleep wear it should be good to -6 or-7 degrees at least. One good feature is the ability to unzip this and use it as a quilt, which is what I often do over the Summer. 

Escapade 700 XL
Being realistic, buying a $1000 ultra light sleeping bag just isn't on my books, that's more than I spent on gear, food and trip cost for ALL of last year. This is not the cheapest, lightest, smallest or warmest down bag but I think it has a fair mixture of all those attributes. 

Update 2017: I have been using this bag for a couple of years now and have few complaints about it.  This is a high quality bag which fills its role well, it is now my 'go to' bag. It packs down to reasonable size, it is roomy and for around the same weight as my Packlite is immeasurably warmer.

My Escapade in Mid Robinson Hut, 2015

The Escapade on a trip to Magdalen Hut, Winter 2017

The Escapade is good but I'm currently researching sub 1 kg down bags as I transition to ultralight tramping gear.

My Te Araroa Trail sleeping bag

I'm section walking the Te Araroa Trail so I wanted a much lighter sleeping bag to fill the niche for those kind of trips.  Late last year I took advantage of a sale at Bivouac Outdoor to buy a lighter weight down bag.

My new sleeping bag is an Exped Lite 500, weight is 970 grams, temperature rating down to -4 degrees and packs down to a smaller volume than my Macpac bag.

My new Exped Lite 500 at Speargrass Hut, March 2018

Here is a blog post about my Exped Lite 500.

The Exped Lite 500 down sleeping bag

This has now become my defacto go anywhere bag.