Saturday, 1 February 2014

Venom on the Pentlands, January'14

Vango Venom 400
On our back-packing trips, we can hire out gear to folk - tent, rucksack, cooking equipment and sleeping mat and lend just about anything else. The gear we've got has been chosen as a finely balanced compromise between weight and durability. So we've ended up with some good quality gear that should last a while even in the most demanding conditions.

Cosy in bag and tent on the hillside
One of the things we don't hire out are sleeping bags. Why, you may well ask ? Well for hygienic reasons - a tent can be wiped down, cooking equipment can be put through the dishwasher, but a sleeping bag needs to be professionally cleaned and that would just not be practical after every hire. We could hand out a liner, but from personal experience, I just don't like using these and wouldn't expect others to either. So when someone books onto our backpacking trips and asks to hire gear, we'll happily get the kit together for them, but make recommendations for purchasing a sleeping bag.

We were contacted by the Sleeping Bag Outlet and asked to test some of the new Vango range. I jumped at the chance to test the new Venom 400. On paper this seemed exactly the type of sleeping bag we'd recommend for our wilderness trips. The bag arrived, packed neatly and much smaller that I'd expected. With its compression-sack, it tips the scales at a shade under 1kg. It's 'mummy' shaped with a short side zip, so heat loss is a minimum.

Vango Venom in its stuff-sack
Frosty morning in the Pentlands
Up into the Pentlands for a proper overnight test ! This is the end of January and the forecast for the night was for a temperature of 0°C. The Venom 400 is classed as a 3 season bag, with a suggested temperature range of -3°C to 20°C (and an extreme of -20°C). When choosing a sleeping bag, probably the most important consideration to make is the ratio of down to feathers, the higher the down, the better -  70/30 is fairly common and 90/10 is good. This bag has a ratio of 95/5, excellent ! I pitched one of the Vango Tempest tents that we hire out and got the Venom out of its stuff-sack. The bag fluffed up quickly and I snuggled into it and cossied down. The hood has a couple of drawstrings, there's another for the shoulder baffle, very snug ! A two-way zip goes about halfway down the left side and there's an internal pocket on the chest area. All in all, a very comfortable night's sleep.

Surprisingly, unlike my old 4-season Rab bag, this sleeping bag is machine washable (though with various provisos), so we may well buy a couple more of these sleeping bags to hire out after all !

Details of this sleeping bag are here.

You can find out more on the Sleeping Bag Outlet and all the bags they stock on their website.