The reports have just come in of five skiers dying in an avalanche in Austria. This is just the latest news on this front from what looks like another bad season. The incident took place in the Wattental valley, Tirol, and reports indicate that those involved had ignored warnings. The Guardian paper reported that: The experienced […]
Weight: 2 kg
Down fill: 1.2 kg
Temp rating: -25C
Price: 249 pounds (2,895 Rand, excluding shipping)
Strong points: Very warm, lots of bag for your money
Weak points: A tad heavier than some higher-priced competitors and it’s a hassle buying from South Africa.
I hate sleeping cold, those shivers that start in the wee hours of the morning and keep you huddled and miserable in your not-warm-enough bag till dawn. So when I went shopping for an expedition sleeping bag to take with me to Mt Mera in Nepal, I knew I wasn’t going to skimp. And what I found was one big daddy of a kipsack.
Everything about the Blue Wolf from South Africa’s First Ascent is big. The bag, which is mummy-shaped, has a huge plug of down in an oversized foot section that guarantees your feet won’t compress the bottom of the bag and let all the toasty warmth out. Overall it has a differential cut, meaning the inside of the bag is smaller than the outside. This gives the down more space to loft up and reduces compression from you pressing the inside of the bag against the outside.
The Blue Wolf also has a huge cowl and fluffed up chest section. Two collar baffles, one around the chest and the other around the head, let you snug things down and stop cold air sneaking in. It also has some neat little pockets on the inside chest, useful for putting your watch or keeping your headlight batteries warm.
The inside foot section is reinforced with a heavier material so, if needed, you can sleep with your boots on. I couldn’t bring myself to doing that. My only gripe with the design in that that zip didn’t seem as well protected from the cold as on other bags I’ve used. That said, the zipper is positioned towards the bottom of the bag so that it almost lies flush with your sleeping pad, and gets protected and compressed by the weight of the bag itself.
The bag is filled with 1.2 kilograms of Goose down and takes the bag itself to 2 kilograms. It is rated by the company down to -25C.
Now this bag is way too warm for anything but the coldest conditions. On the walk into Mera I could barely sleep comfortably in it. It was only when I started sleeping above 4000 meters that I could even get into it, leaving the zips wide open. At 5,900 meters, my highest snooze, I finally zipped it all the way up. We measured the temperature that night at a balmy -18C and I slept right through. I can’t say for sure that I’d still be warm had the weather dropped another 10 degrees.
How it stacks against the competition:
On paper the Blue Wolf, which is made by a company most people have never heard of outside of South Africa, is a little heavier than the Rab Summit 1000 is pretty much one of the most common bags found on trekking peaks such as Mera or Aconcagua.
The Rab summit, is filled with 1 kg of down, weighs a total of 1.8 kg and is also rated down to -25C. Given that the two companies are using similar grades of down, I’d say that the Blue Wolf has a fairly conservative temperature rating. I’d love to see some proper tests before drawing any firm conclusions.
It’s also a lot cheaper than the Rab, which retails online for about 360 pounds. Still, the extra money you pay for the Rab (assuming you’re in the U.K.) takes some bother out of shipping, dealing with import tax and worrying about after-sales service. Speaking of which, about half way on the walk into Mera, my Blue Wolf started spewing down from the inside of one panel. I repaired it as best as I could on the mountain and then returned it to the factory. They did an excellent repair and sent it back to me good as new at no charge. So full marks there.
A real contender for similar value for money is the Alpkit
An especially well priced kipsack at 120 pounds, the AD900 weighs 1.6 kilograms, is rated to -20C and has (I think) 0.9 kg of down fill. The Alpkit bags are making waves and getting some good reviews including this one on it’s little brother from
If you’re in the market for an all-singing, all-dancing wind-, water- and soup-proof, ultra-lightweight bag then you probably won’t be considering the AlpineDream 500 or its 700 or 900 big brothers anyway. If on the other hand, you’re after a reliable basic bag at an excellent price then you won’t go far wrong.
We like the way Alpikit has concentrated on speccing decent fill instead of showy gimmicks and the construction, shape and features are all well proven designs. Seeing box-wall construction in a bag at this price level is a pleasant surprise too.