A Tiny Sleeping Bag for Your Backpack

Wenger Visp three season sleeping bagI 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.

Gadling gear review: Brooks-Range Alpini 30 sleeping bag

A review of the Brooks-Range Alpini 30 sleeping bagSummer camping is one of the best ways to enjoy the warmer weather that comes along with that season. The days are long, allowing for plenty of time to take in your favorite outdoor activities, and the nights are cool, but comfortable, making it the perfect time to sleep outside. As usual with any camping trip however, the gear you use plays an important role in how much you enjoy the experience, with your tent and sleeping bag playing vital roles.

With this in mind, outdoor gear company Brooks-Range has recently introduced a new line of sleeping bags for warm weather camping. Their Alpini 30 is rated down to freezing (32ºF/0ºC), which is perfect for summer nights, offering versatility and comfort across a variety of climates and altitudes.

That versatility is important on warm weather trips, when you have the potential to experience a wide range of temperatures. The Alpini was designed with this thought in mind, as Brooks-Range has wisely included high-quality, bi-directional zippers that go a long way toward ensuring comfort on nights spent in the tent. Campers who need cooler air around their legs and feet will appreciate the ability to open the lower area of their sleeping bag, independent of the top, letting in fresh air as needed. On cooler nights however, they’ll still have the option of zipping this mummy-style bag snugly around themselves, keeping them as warm as possible.The Alpini 30 uses 850+ fill goose down wrapped inside a patented Pertex Quantum fabric, which gives it a durable exterior and a soft, comfortable interior. That means that the bag is tough and comfortable at the same time. Additionally, those same fabrics allow the bag to compress down quite nicely as well, which indicates that it doesn’t take up much room in your backpack if you’re looking to carry it with you into the backcountry. The fact that the Alpini weighs in at less than a pound and a half only adds to its appeal as a lightweight travel companion for those in need of a good sleeping bag while on the go.

Brooks-Range has included a few other nice touches with the Alpini as well. For instance, they’ve built in an internal storage pocket that comes in handy for keeping small gear items, such as a headlamp or iPod, close at hand. The Alpini also comes with a high quality stuff sack for when you’re traveling, as well as a large cotton storage sack for use back home. These may seem like simple things, but they are much appreciated over the life of the bag, which should last most people for years.

As you can probably tell from this review, I’m quite impressed with the Alpini 30 both in build quality and versatility, however this sleeping bag definitely isn’t for everyone. I say that, because it only comes in one size and if you’re over six feet in height, you’ll find that it is too small to be completely comfortable. Taller backpackers and campers will need to look elsewhere for their sleeping options.

If you’re using this bag, you’ll also want to pay close attention to the temperature rating. The Alpini is a great option for three-season camping, spring through fall. But if you get caught out in colder than expected weather, you’ll definitely have some uncomfortable nights. It is an excellent piece of gear when used for the temperatures it is designed for, but if you need something a bit warmer, you’ll want to try out the Alpini 15, which is rated down to 15ºF/-9ºC.

If you’re in the market for a good, high quality, well designed and built, sleeping bag for warm weather adventures, the Brooks-Range Alpini 30 should definitely be on your radar. It is perfect for camping trips from spring to fall and should serve well in that capacity for years to come.