I haven’t been a backpacker in the traditional sense in more years than I care to mention. I travel with a rolling bag and a day pack choked with electronics. But I recently found myself needing to pack a sleeping bag for an adventure that also required me to travel light. I tried stuffing my older REI down bag into a compression sack. It was small, but I figured I could do better. I settled on the Visp from Wenger.
You may be familiar with Wenger as one of the two Swiss Army Knife companies. There’s some political history there involving French speaking Swiss and German speaking Swiss, if you’re really keen, you can read up here. Over time, Wenger has expanded to make shoes and camping gear and watches and yes, sleeping bags.
I selected the Visp bag primarily because it compresses down so very small. Stowed in the included compression sack, it’s a little bigger than a football. (An American one, not a soccer ball.) I was traveling near the equator, I didn’t need loads of extra insulation, so a three season bag would do the trick. The bag weighs just short of two pounds, only a few ounces more than some of the most expensive bags on the market. It costs a bit more than my REI bag did — it retails for $224, my REI bag was $187. That’s not a huge price jump for the weight and space obsessed, considering you can spend over $300 if you’re so inclined.
I used this bag almost every night for two weeks at a variety of altitudes. Rated to 45F, I was a little cold on the nights when temps dropped into the 40s, but nothing that pulling a cap on didn’t resolve. The bags are cut unisex, it would have been nice to have a bit more room in the hips. The zip is baffled, so there are no air leaks, and the hood cinches down tight enough. There’s a pocket at the chin, nice for your phone or iPod and, as I mentioned, it comes in a compression sack so it packs away quite small.
The one features I wasn’t satisfied with was the partial zip. I wasn’t able to open the bag out flat on hot nights. This also means you can’t zip the bag in to a mate if you’re camping with the kind of person you’d want to do that with. Even though it comes in a right or a left, it’s a solo bag, which is a little sad. And, because you can’t vent it from the bottom, it’s really a fall or spring bag, a two season bag, rather than a spring, fall and summer sleeping bag.
The partial zip is the only thing that keeps me from recommending this whole-heartedly as the perfect bag for stowing in your round the world or adventure travel backpack. The insulation worked exactly as rated and the bag packed down to a remarkably small size. But I’ll consider range of use over space next time I pack for a trip that requires I carry a sleeping bag.