Following this blog entry I wrote back in May, I figured I should actually get round to writing down some of my thoughts about my latest gear aquisitions, now that I’ve actually used them.
Firstly, we have the sleeping bag, an Alpkit Pipedream 400. What can I say? It does the job! I bought it as an ‘in between’ bag, mainly for use in the UK outside of winter (when it’s really cold I use a rather lovely Marmot Pinnacle), but also for use as a summer Alpine bivi item as it’s light and packs down remarkably small. I’ve not really used it for any standard UK camping yet, although a night spent in a bunk in the Ogwen MRO base seemed fine…
As a bivi sleeping bag it seemed to perform quite nicely – I used it inside my bivi bag when we slept out on the glacier on the Vallee Blanche a couple of weeks ago, and whilst I did get cold (despite also wearing my down duvet jacket inside the bag), this is probably a greater reflection on my pathetic temperature tolerance, and the fact that I was sleeping on a 3/4 length super crappy foam mat and with my feet on my rucksack, on snow.
The build quality is reasonable, although it is obvious that it’s a more ‘budget’ offering than many of the super expensive top end bags out there, but for the money the Pipedream is fantastic value and has all the features you would expect – hood and storm baffle, double ended zip etc. I did find myself having to even out the spread of the down within the baffles each time I laid it out, as downless spots seemed to present themselves quite regularly, but really, this isn’t a big deal.
Size-wise I find it is a perfect cut for me, which means that anyone with a larger build than myself (I’m about average height-wise for a woman, and slim) might find the bag a bit tight – Phil did complain about this when he tried it out.
Packed size is great, and Alpkit helpfully supply you with two stuff bags along with the big cotton storage bag (you shouldn’t store a down bag compressed as it compromises the lofting capability of the down – the feathers end up all intertwined and less able to separate and ‘loft’, meaning your bag isn’t as warm as it could be). One bag is a compression sack with pull tabs, and the other a straightforward lightweight tight stuff bag. I haven’t used the compression bag yet, as when I played with them at home initially, it seemed to me that because the ‘normal’ bag is such a tight fit, the compression bag didn’t actually provide any advantage, but simply made the whole package heavier. Admittedly, the compression bag is easier to pack as it is bigger to start with, reaching the same size as the smaller ‘normal’ bag only after you’ve used the compression straps.
All in all I’m pretty happy and would recommend one of these to anyone (who’s not really tall or bulkily built) after a decent quality down sleeping bag for use in the UK or the Alps where weight is a consideration, they are great value for money, built pretty well, lightweight and pack down tiny. If you’re not so concerned about the weight and pack size, Alpkit’s slightly cheaper SkyeHigh range are another good option, and also come in different lengths (I also hear they aren’t cut quite as tight as the Pipedreams, so if you’re broad of shoulder they may well be a better bet!).