What is the best sleeping bag for DofE expeditions?
There are hundreds of sleeping bags to choose from – and we all have our own preferences as to what works for us. This is a test to see what would work for a DofE participant, or for the regular DofE participant – lets call them Timmy.
Timmy usually finds himself in First Aid Training scenarios, but for now he simply needs to find himself a sleeping bag. We’ve given Timmy the 5 bags shown in the picture above as options for his Silver Expeditions next year – let’s look at them in more detail:
|Bag from left to right||Fill||Weight||Season||Comfort||Cost|
|Vango Nitestar 250||Synthetic||1520g||3-season||minus 1c||£30|
|Sprayway Challenger 350 Junior||Synthetic||1280g||2 – 3 Season||minus 1c||£27|
|Rab Summit Alpine 300||Down||920g||2-Season||0c||£130|
|Rab Atlas 750||Down||1740g||4-Season||minus 5c||£150|
Timmy immediately rules out the 4 Season Down Bag (Rab Atlas 750). It’s too big, too heavy (actual weight is 300g more than advertised) and it’s also too expensive.
Timmy wants the 2 season down sleeping bag! It’s light, packs incredibly small and the temperature rating is very close to the 3 season bags. Unfortunately, I’m going to step in here and tell Timmy that a down bag is not a good choice for his expedition, for the following reasons:
- Down is incredibly warm for its weight – when it is dry.
- When Down gets wet it loses a huge amount of performance.
- If the expedition is wet it will be extremely hard to keep the sleeping bag dry. Theoretically a good dry-bag will do the job, but it will be very difficult to ensure that tent-mates don’t drag a lot of moisture into the tent.
- It’s expensive.
Timmy moves on to the Ajungilak bag as it packs down fairly small, is warm and comfortable. As with the down bags the price tag is the issue here – £120 is too much.
Timmy is 5ft6 and can just about get in the children’s sleeping bag – but he can’t actually move and has to admit that it’s probably better for someone 5ft2 or less.
So, the winner is the Vango Nitestar!
Is this the best sleeping bag out there? Probably not, but it does tick all of the right boxes to make it a sensible choice for DofE expeditions.
Is it a 3-season bag with a comfort rating of -1c? According to the manufacturer it is. I would say that it is definitely warm enough for most of the expedition season and can be complimented with a fleece liner if the temperature is heading towards 0.
In conclusion, we all love our down bags – and I love my 20-year-old Ajungilak too! What we should remember is that £30 is probably most people’s budget for a sleeping bag, and you probably won’t gain much by increasing this budget to £70.
So, the Vango Nitestar 250 is the winner – or any other similar bag at this price point.
The Wild Card is the Sprayway Challenger 350 Junior. This feels like a warmer bag than the Vango and it is considerably lighter and smaller when packed. Participants under 5ft2 and of a slim build should definitely consider this – and with many licensed organisations now approving Bronze from age 13 it is definitely worth keeping in mind.