I have a little secret to share: I know a thing or two about sleeping bags and keeping warm. Might come as a shock I know, and it’s not to toot my own horn, but simply a statement of fact. Here is the secret to finding the perfect sleeping bag that will keep you as warm as the promised comfort temp rating: it’s the sleeping mat. (This article is mainly for 3 season hiking, same rules apply for winter camping, but there it’s also a question of certain techniques)
In my own experience and in my years of being in the outdoor industry with my own gear shop, 9 times out of 10 (I would say 10 of 10, but I always leave a little margin of error) when you are cold despite your bag being warmer (comfort temp) than the outside temp, it’s your sleeping pad. Yes I know you don’t feel cold from underneath, no doubt your sleeping mat has a high R-value, yes I understand you have all kinds of clothing and extra layers on. It’s still more than likely your sleeping mat, or it could be you bought a bag advertising it’s Limit temp (the temp you will freeze your ass off at) as it’s bag name. Example is the Haglöfs down LIM +1. A +10 bag marketed at a +1 temp. Just an example, though most companies market their bags this way. Limit temp, is simply put, where you will be so cold your teeth will clatter. Buy your bag at the comfort temp, not the limit.
With that said, if you buy your bag at the stated comfort temp, and you freeze despite the outside weather being warmer than the comfort rating of the bag, it’s your sleeping mat. There are many reasons for this, but the simple truth is that rating a sleeping mat is considerably more difficult than the more standardized rating of sleeping bags. Most comfort temps on most sleeping bags are fairly well measured, while sleeping mats can and do vary wildly. In my experience most thicker sleeping mats (air filled not cell plast) all get cold around +3 celsius. Once the temperature starts to drop, these pads start to get cold: regardless of r-rating. I think this might have something to do with how different companies measure their r-value. I’m not sure how it’s done, but it rarely matches up to reality. The exception being the Thermarest mats that all hold up quite well in colder temperatures. (Thermarest xTherm and xLite hold up to stated r-values).
I’m sure someone out there is going to tell me I have no idea what I’m talking about, and that sleeping mats are 100% accurate in their ratings. But alas, I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to everyone else that is freezing in their sleeping bags despite buying the thickest, most expensive bag on the planet. I know, because I’ve been there. Daily I have customers who call or write describing the exact same issue. Most of them have barely a thought on what they have for sleeping mats. My first response and question is always “what sleeping mat do you have?”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than happy to sell great, ultralight sleeping bags, but I don’t care for returns because of freezing customers.
So what is my standard advice? Try putting a cheap cell foam pad on top of your current sleeping mat first – on top not underneath your sleeping pad. If you are still freezing, try a different sleeping mat, perhaps an xtherm. If you have tried different sleeping mats, then start looking at the bag. Check the comfort temp of your bag, actual temperature where you are at (temps on apps are often taken in cities or towns where temps are higher). There can of course be other issues with your bag such as down clumping – make sure your sleeping bag is properly “fluffed” and that the down hasn’t shifted into clumps. Another issue is a sleeping bag that is too small, which means you squeeze too hard against the sides, not leaving any room for the insulation to leave insulate.
But at the end of the day, 9 out of 10 instances of people freezing outdoors in their “warm” sleeping bag, is due to a cold sleeping mat.
First, if there’s one thing I love, it is testing equipment, especially tents. Over the past year, the company has grown and taken up more space and more time. Both Backpacking Light and our own brand Sarek Gear are on strong growth. We now have 6 employees and I think there will be twice as many in a year, which is incredibly fun but at the same time it takes a lot of time. I will continue to do Reviews but to get more credible reviews I will invite more guest bloggers to UL comfort, know that there are many Gearnerds out there. Also let my partner Marcus and employees test gear. Thinking that it might be interesting even for you to get more inspiration from several who love hiking and ultra-light hiking in particular to get maybe more perspectives on the subject. Below is Rasmus review and comparison between the Nordisk Halland 2 LW and Big agnes Copper spur.
First som start with some thoughts about the Nordisk Halland 2 LW. Some details as the small bungy bands that you can coil up the guy lines with when you do not use them is great features. The tent we used had the Burnt Red-color, blended in nicely in the pine forest and had a warm light inside. Easy to set up but quite small for two persons, one of them 187 cm, the feet touched the inner tent with a warmer sleeping bag and inflatable sleeping pad. The width of the tent is 135 cm wide which is perfectly ok for a two-man tent in this class. But if it’s two big people, it can feel a little too tight. But, with a weight of 1500 grams, this is a very smooth and lightweight two-man tent. The many guylines make the tent also robust, even for strong mountain winds.
If you want a safe, light and pleasant tent that you can trust, Nordiska Halland is the tent for you. But don’t invite your biggest friend to sleep with you, unless you’re going to spoon.
I would probably feel safer in the Halland than in the BigAgnesCopper Spur on a windy mountain, it has more guy lines and is not as high as the Copper Spur. The Copper Spur has steep walls and is very spacious on the other hand. In the mountains you maybe want the outer tent to go further down to the ground as on the Nordisk Halland. Maybe it felt a little bit humid inside the tent in the morning, likely because there was no wind. With some wind the ventilation would have been great! I Also liked the big door and roof pockets on the Copper Spur.
But I know, both from my own experiences and from others, that Copper Sour works very well when the wind blows. But the feeling is less robust. Another feeling is that copper spur feels more spacious than its competitor Nordisk Halland. But the fact is that both have about 100 cm in height and copper spurs maximum width is actually 3 cm smaller, i.e. 132 cm against Halland’s 135 cm. The fact that the tent is perceived as spacious is largely thanks to the tent arches that run over the long sides of the tent. Weight-wise, these two tents are very close. If you were to take tables Nordisk Halland’s upper ropes and cable brackets, they would end up at the same weight. Copper Spurs’ total weight is 1.42 kg. You can buy and read more about both tents at Backpackinglight.dk
A friend and I recently took a 7 day, 165 kilometer walk in Northern Sweden. Starting at Ritsem and walking along the Padjelantaleden then moving off to Nordkalottleden and finishing in Kvikkjokk. This isnt going to be a post about the hike itself, but rather about my choice to bring the Mamiya 7ii +43mm lens and a ton of film. The film I used for this trip was varied but mainly Fuji Velvia 100 and Portra 160, 400. All film processed myself at home.
As some of you might know from previous post I have been an avid analog photographer (hobby) forever. I never went total digital as I always preferred the look of analog. On this particular trip I wanted to bring my analog camera as it had been years since I actually went hiking with an analog camera. Though, because I am a lightweight backpacking nerd, its hard to justify 2 kilos of extra gear that can only take still photos. While my total backpacking gear weight with food for the entire trip came in at 11kg, with the camera that pushed everything to just shy of 14kg.
It really was an internal debate for weeks whether or not I would bring the camera and what camera for that matter. In fact, just before boarding the train to northern sweden, I was still changing out my different pre-packed cameras and camera cubes in my backpack. My biggest issue was mainly with volume. While 14kg would not kill me, and I knew after a few days of eating the food weight in my backpack, my kit would be under 10 kg in no time. It was the volume of my pack that bothered me. I normally dont need more than a 40 liter backpack, however, with the mamiya and a packing cube I would need a 70 liter pack. This sucked.
However, while debating whether to bring my Ricoh GR21, Nikon F5, Canon f-1 or Mamiya 7ii, I ended on the only choice that would make any sense: the Mamiya 7ii. WIth its built in meter, super sharp lenses and lightweight, it was a no brainer. Though, I do regret not bringing my 150mm lens for the Mamiya, as 43mm is arguably to wide for most landscape applications. (for the kind of photos I take). This choice was mainly due to weight, one lens was enough.
To protect my camera I kept it in a Wandrd camera cube, in a plastic ziploc bag, the bag filled with these gel packs that keep moisture out. This seemed to work really well as I didnt have fog or moisture in my camera at all despite several days of hard rain. I did have a tripod, which I used both for video and for photography, my tripod weighed about 400grams and gives about 150cm of height.
In the end I think the extra weight and effort was worth it. Though I think had I brough my 150mm lens I would have gotten a lot more quality shots – as it was, I think its hard to capture the “vastness” of an area with such a wide lens that I brought. Wide lenses have a tendency to “squish” and area into a small frame, so even large alpine like mountains, look like little hills. Live and learn.
Anyway, here are a few more shots from the Mamiya 7ii + 43mm lens (I didnt bring viewfinder for 43mm lens as I find its not really necessary). Scanned with Silverfast and no additional editing
I follow a lot of different groups on facebook, and one comment I am always surprised to read is when someone of say 180cm or less is saying a tent that I personally use and think works just fine is “Too small”. An example of this is a comment I recently received on my article “My favorite solo tents” about the Hilleberg Enan. I was a bit surprised when the comment was basically “I’m 170cm and i think the Enan is too small”. So this led me to start thinking about the concept of tent comfort.
How can someone like myself at 190cm think the Enan is just fine and actually rather comfortable, while somebody at 170cm think it’s too small. I have a lot of theories on this, but I have kind of landed on one in particular: Tall people in general have to learn to like smaller tents. A tall person knows and in some cases actually likes their body squeezing against the inner tent. I know for example on the Enan I really like that I can mush my pillow into one side and kind of squeeze my head in there between the inner and pillow. I like it because it holds my pillow in place allowing me to fold the pillow a few times, to create height for my head for when I sleep. This means that I don’t get back pain while I sleep on my side as my head is elevated.
I also know that having your bag mush on an inner tent is no issue at all, it doesn’t cause you to get wet from condensation, or your bag to get wet, or from some kind of chain reaction that will result in death. The bigger issue is if you are mushing against the outer tent – that should be avoided. In the Enan my head, squeezed against the inner tent, does of course touch the inner tent, but not the outer. No part of my body is even close to the outer. Which means I don’t have any issues with condensation showers. However in some single walled tents, like most zpacks tents, my feet or head, or both are mushed against the outer, leading always to a very uncomfortable and wet night.
Shorter people on the other hand never have to deal with issues of touching inner and outer tents. So the idea that a strand of hair is touching the inner tent will lead to one feeling that a tent is “too small”. We can make arguments that a tent is not as big as another tent, or that you feel a tent is small. But just because one can’t set up a lawn chair and do jumping jacks in a tent doesn’t mean a tent is “too small”. It just means you prefer a larger tent.
I think this is an important factor to take into consideration when buying a tent. At no time should you be terrified if some part of your body is touching the inner (there are exceptions to this – such as with the Nordisk tents where the inner is literally touching the outer). More important factors to take into consideration are: is my body touching the outer, is the tent big enough for what I want, is the tent too big where I can’t find anywhere to pitch, is the tent easy or hard to pitch, Trekking poles or not and so on.
Anyway, just a quick thought on tent sizing and how to think about it!
Choosing a tent is always difficult. There is no such thing as the “Perfect” solo tent for all uses. My uses for the most part are rather specific. I want a tent that I can use both in the forest and above tree-line. Can stay comfortably in them for at-least two weeks in a go, fast and easy to setup, maximum weight of 1kg, fits nicely inside my backpack, has full bug protection and is built for somebody like myself that is 190cm tall. There are of course a lot of tents I have left out here, but not necessarily because I think they are terrible, but often because I just don’t like them as much as I like these tents that I mention.
With that said, I test dozens of tents every year, so I never really get a chance to fall in love with a specific tent. I have to use them, abuse them, then move on to the next one. SO the tents I do mention here are ones I have used a lot and are the tents that I myself reach for when I am going on hikes for myself.
1. Tarptent Stratospire – at 990 grams the Stratospire takes the proverbial cake for me. It’s massive inner space and vestibules, excellent above tree line performance, total cool factor. To me the Strotospire is as near a perfect solo tent as one can get.
– Big , there is no solo tent even close to the shear size of this tent.
– Stable above tree-line
– Double walled
– Dual entry, exit
– Two big vestibules
– it’s big. Almost too big for a solo tent. Finding camp spots in forest or campgrounds can be a real problem because of how big it is. In my guestimation it’s the size of two Hilleberg enans side by side.
– It can be tricky to setup. Even after having set mine up hundreds of times over the years, I still find it a pain to setup. at-least 8 tent pegs are needed, a good internal understanding of geometry, and patience.
2. Lightheart gear Solong 6 – As far as most liveable space, the Solong 6 is in a league of its own. This tent is designed with tall people in mind. it’s big, its light and it’s a fun tent to use. I have several tents I use and love but don’t have listed here for different reason. But one feature on any tent that I love is a big awning – the MLD Trailstar has the biggest, an open tarp is quite nice and the Tramplite shelter are all excellent tents with an awning. But the Solong 6 is the only “proper” tent with a nice big awning built in. With dual entries, a big liveable area and a massive awning, I just love this tent. This is a tent that you don’t really mind having to hunker down in for a long rain spell.
The solong 6 is also a relatively easy tent to pitch, but does require some practice as the trekking poles are setup on the inside of the inner-tent which is somewhat unusual.
– Big and light
– Excellent awning function
– Double entry & exit
– Packs down small
– requires 6 tent pegs, two trekking poles, an awning pole and between the two trekking poles a PVC pipe..
– I don’t really like the concept of having to buy a “basic tent” and then to purchase all the add ons. I wish companies, even small cottage companies would just sell a complete tent with everything I need to pitch and enjoy. Lightheart gear take this to a new level with basically everything being extra.
– Not sure I love the tent setup procedure. Would like to see a more optimised guy-line solution for the four corners. Not sure how much that PVC pipe is actually needed or if it could be scrapped in leu of a different solution. Like two poles and no PVC, or two poles and a simple strut that is sewn in place.
3. Hilleberg Enan – I don’t always want to bring trekking poles, in fact I find more and more that I am moving away from trekking poles and opting to instead have my hands free for camera gear and so forth. If I’m not bringing my trekking poles, than a trekking pole tent is a rather pointless venture for me. So with this, I bring the Hilleberg enan. Mine weighs in at 960 grams (Kerlon 600). That is complete with tent pole and add an extra 50 grams for 6 TI pegs. That is a lightweight, small packsize tent that is actually quite comfortable for someone of my height.
It also saves me weight by allowing me to leave my trekking poles at home – which together weigh around 350 grams. There is not a lot I don’t like about the Enan – it’s light, roomy, comfortable, double walled, easy to setup and fits in tight spots. I even love the fact that I can push my sleeping mat all the way to the top of one end and mush my pillow into place inside the inner tent. This is great for when I want to situp and read a bit, or at-least have my head raised. It’s the tightness of the tent that creates supreme comfort.
– Top quality
– I love the yellow inner-tent – the comfort it gives is indescribable
– No trekking poles needed
– Can withstand just about anything the mountains throw at it
So what don’t I like:
– It takes 6 tent pegs for a good setup. I would have like to see this cut down to 2 like the Tarptent Moment DW.
– While I love the tightness of the tent, I don’t really like getting caught in bad weather with it. Because of the tightness – in bad weather every tent shrinks (psychologically speaking), and the Enan just because a hassle with the size and condensation in bad weather.
4. Tarptent Notch – Everything I like with the enan I can copy and paste for the Notch, with the added bonus of it being lighter and easier to setup. With the notch you just need 4 pegs and two trekking poles and your done. The Notch has also great ventilation, double vestibules and entry/exits. The Notch is simply a superb solo tent. They even make this beast in an even lighter DCF version weighing just around 550 grams. That’s a double walled tent. The standard notch has a total weight with solid inner at around 770 grams. Perhaps the main drawback of the Notch is that the actual sleeping area of the inner tent is a rather tight fit. Cozy as some people might describe it. Where the Enan makes use of a little bigger inner-tent and one vestibule, the Notch cuts back on the inner-tent and instead makes room with two vestibules. I’m not sure which of the two I prefer.
– Fast and easy setup
– Great weight at just 770 g for standard, 550 g for DCF
5. Sierra designs High route FL – I get the question, often, If I could only choose one tent what would it be. This is such a difficult question for me because I am not limited to just one, so I can choose the one tent that best matches the situation I am likely to find myself in. With that said, one tent that usually passes everything I want or need to do is the High route FL. I love this tent, as easy to pitch as a pyramid tent, can be pitched with both inner and outer tent together, can easily remove the inner, comes complete seam sealed with tent pegs, big enough for me, and can withstand just about anything nature can throw at it. Granted the 2020 model is a little smaller and doesn’t have the dual entry & exits, it is considerably lighter than the previous model.
There is a lot of talk about the x-mid by Durston, for me the High route is a more useable tent. The x-mid is just too small for my needs, the high route is just right. I also find it an easier tent to pitch and more flexible. (Though still testing the x-mid, and I can say it might be just right for your own needs) What I liked most on the Lightheart gear Solong6 is the big awning, the High route has two of them. It is also the cheapest of all the tents that I rank as my favourite solo tents.
– Fast and easy setup
– Big, roomy tent – even the updated version
– Lightweight at under 800 grams
– Two vestibules that easily convert to Awnings
– I think it sucks they got rid of the two entry and exits.. Ok, admittedly I rarely used both at the sametime, but the flexibility of it was nice.
– Not sure I dig the color scheme so much. It works, but I kind of miss the red they had on the earlier model
– The actual vestibule space is tight – I usually try to pitch with awning for more room
In leu of finding someone to work with here in my studio in Umeå (northern Sweden) – basically a partner to design and develop outdoor gear. I have taken it upon myself to at least learn the trade and what is needed. I am certainly no expert and my sewing skills are absolutely minimal. But I am enjoying the process and certainly learning a lot along the way. This is my philosophy in life to be honest: Do something new – try something you will suck at. That’s me, at this moment and I’m happy as a clam!
So, like I always do, it’s just my own method of working, I buy minimal gear. Or rather what I think I might need, use it, and add more. Now my economy means I can’t buy the best, but I certainly don’t have to use garbage. I started by borrowing a simple Durkopp 211-5 straight seam sewing machine that I oiled up and repaired. Total cost about 30USD.
Then I bought a Pfaff 142 two needle sewing machine. Which I knew I would need for studier stitching, fell seams and so on. (Can be done on a single needle machine, but I love the look of the double needle stitch). Total cost 650usd. Borrowed a Bernina 1008 home sewing machine from my wife. Total cost 0usd. And built a proper cutting table that is about 250cm long by 160cm wide – supported by 3 Ikea Kallax bookcases – Total cost: 140USD.
Then I started to use everything and realized real quick that cutting lightweight material is a bitch. I started with a high quality roller cutter. Works nice until it doesn’t – it’s easy to cut the material wrong. Or the roller to kind of do it’s own thing if not fully focused. Then I tried scissors and an electric knife. All of these sucked. I read a post online from a guy who suggested a hot knife. I don’t have a hot knife and was too eager to get started to wait a month to get one from China. So I bought a soldering gun instead – works amazing! I don’t have to use pressure on the material which means my cuts are nearly perfect every time! Cost of soldering iron: 15USD.
Of course I need other materials and so on, rulers, scissors, oil, etc.. all in all about 120usd for this. All in all my little sewing studio here minus sewing textiles and materials is around 955usd. Which considering that is three sewing machines, all cutting tools, a nice sized cutting table and all in all a very comfortable working environment: I can deal with the outlay.
I like having a working environment where I can go from one task to another without having to stop because I am missing something, or I have to rearrange one thing or another. I like getting into the flow of a process and this studio allows that for me. And within a few days I am starting to produce gear that I find useful and is fun to make. Along the way I am changing how the room is organized, I am moving furniture around and re-thinking certain areas. But that is the whole point: A rough draft studio that I can work in and change depending on efficiencies and knowledge. I won’t know everything I need from the very beginning without ever sewing so much as a ditty bag. So I keep things to a minimum and improve or upgrade as my skill and knowledge increases.
My guess is that when I find someone that wants to come here and sew stuff, they will want to change the room around completely. Which is what I expect. Anyway, this was just a little intro into my MYOG studio here in Umeå, my next posts will be regarding the stuff I am actually sewing!
The Vesper quilt is a new line of quilts released in 2019 by Thermarest. They are Ultralight by all means using some of the lightest materials on the market to achieve an excellent weight to warmth ratio. using high quality down 900 hydrophobic treated to help protect against moisture and using small lightweight straps to tie down to your sleeping pad.
Full video review:
The larger wide version of the Vesper quilt 32 comes in at just 489grams and has a warmth rating of around 32 degrees. Now like all companies do, they market the limit ratio instead of comfort. Comfort on this bag is around 37-38 degree F or 5 degrees Celsius. The medium or standard length of the Vesper quilt weighs under 450grams.
In my opinion any bag that markets itself as a 32 F bag and you freeze at the temp, just isn’t worth the money. Luckily, the Vesper quilt does a good job at keeping to it’s comfort temp and limit. I would say the comfort temp is around 37-38 F or 5 degrees Celsius. Limit is 32. Though I would say there are warmer 32 degree bags, but certainly not as light or packable.
The Vesper quilt is designed for being light over everything else. This is a simple quilt. Period. Two straps and, a clip around your neck and a foot box. That’s it. I find the large big enough for me who comes in at 190cm and 92 kilos, or 6’3″ and 210lbs. I can move around nicely and it keeps me warm down to about 5 Celsius.
It can be used as a summer and three season quilt. That’s about it. I wouldn’t use it as an extra quilt for warmth in the winter as it might be too tight for that function.
I find that since I started using the Vesper quilt it has become one of my go to quilts as it does what it’s suppose to do. It keeps me warm, it packs down really small and is one of the lightest 32 degree quilts on the market. What more could I ask for?
Sidelong baffles means it keeps the down in place and minimizes weight
The disadvantages of being tall…. Let me paint a picture.. granted with my limited grasp of vocabulary, it might not be a very clear picture.. but a picture nonetheless.. I am by most rights, rather tall – 190cm (6´3”) to be exact. Most tent designers are about 160cm (3’4”) and think a tight fit is just fine for them. (For somebody 160cm short). There are countless examples of this, so I don’t feel I need to list all the guilty tent producers here, I will instead highlight the few tents where the designers actually remembered there are tall people roaming this earth as well. Short people have many advantages within the outdoor world – Tents are smaller and lighter, backpacks that might fit a big persons shoe, can fit all their miniature gear.
Hence in most cases it’s rather impossible for a tall person to have an UL standard that small people would have. Which is also why I think harddrawn lines on what UL is just doesn’t work. I.e 2kg for UL baseweight – utterly ridiculous and simply not possible for anybody that is taller than 160cm and hikes further than their backyard. I still think the best overall measurement for lightweight is 3 for 3. Which simply means your biggest three items at a maximum weight of 3kg. Your sleep system – sleeping bag and pad. Tent/shelter system and backpack and all under 3kg.
This simple measurement will probably work wonders for most people. Now, back onto my headline here – tents for tall people. I am somebody who has grown accustomed to having my feet and head smush against the innertent on most double walled tents, I don’t mind it much, and in some cases it’s rather nice. The problem of course is when I mush so much that I mush the innertent into the outer tent and everything gets drenched in condensation. This on the other hand, is not very nice. So I will list a few of the tents designed for and by tall people.
Keep in mind this is just tents I can think of off the top of my head that I have tested. There are probably other tents that should make the list – but this is a good start
I hope this helps all of my taller friends out there!
Ok, I don’t feel like writing a whole bunch as I just sat 3 hours editing this video. In anycase, just in time for TGO Challenge 2019, I finally got around to editing the last part of my 2018 crossing. In this video Niels and I wander into Braemar, up through the Caingorms, down into Tarfside and finish up in Stonehaven.
My final thoughts on the TGO Challenge 2018
From start to finish the TGO challenge was probably one of my favorite trips. Maybe it was the nature, maybe it was the company, maybe it was the social hiking aspect of it all.. It’s hard to say, but there is something special about walking in the wilds, scrambling on mountain tops, and trudging through deep rivers during the day and finishing up at a pub with a burger and a beer at night.
I liked the journey so much that I had entered the 2019 crossing as well, unfortunately I had to cancel my crossing as I am currently in Zambia adopting a child. However, 2020 is definitely on the cards for me.
Some of you may not know, but since about mid February the family and I moved down to Zambia to adopt a beautiful little boy named Richard. Life here is certainly different, and having two son’s instead of one is also a big change. We live in Lusaka on the southern part of town in an area called Chalala. It’s a nice, quiet area of town that is rather close to the orphanage where Richard was living.
This hasn’t been a trip of wondering safaris and adventure. For the first month we only had permission to come by and visit Richard. So, everyday for a month we drove back and forth to visit Richard. Now, after two months we have full custody of Richard and he seems to really like being with us. We are now finally starting to be able to explore, unfortunately I am a bit out of action at the moment with a broken rib after falling hard on a slippery floor.
However we have made a few outings, with the most spectacular being Livingstone and Victoria falls. Livingstone is the town that hosts Victoria falls on the Zambian side of the border.