James's guide to Sleeping Bags for Duke of Edinburgh Awards, Ten Tors and the Exmoor Challenge.
Activities like DofE, Ten Tors and the Exmoor Challenge are great for young people in the South West as they teach them important skills like team building, leadership and navigation. It gets them outside and lets them enjoy the beauty of the British countryside. As well as this, it looks great on their CV and is an exciting adventure for them to experience with their friends. It is unsurprising that these activities get more traction every year with more young explorers signing up to take part.
I have completed all of these events and have a good insight into what kit is on the market; so I have compiled a list of the core pieces of kit, which I believe are at a good price point and will keep the young explorer comfortable and dry.
This is part of a series of kit lists for outdoor expedition challenges. The other blog posts in this series are:
- Guide to Footwear
- Guide to Waterproofs
- Guide to Rucksacks
For your sleeping bag to be accepted for Ten Tors or DofE it will need to be stored in a waterproof bag, have a lower comfort limit of –2 or lower and have a hood. In the last couple of years they have started to ask for bags which have been tested under the EN standard EN23537 or EN13537. These EN standards ensure all bags produced or sold in the EU are tested in the same way and the temperature ratings are equal and true. You will be able to purchase sleeping bags with either a down or synthetic filling. Down filled sleeping bags are very warm, light and will have a small pack size but will be more expensive and not as warm when it is wet. A synthetic filled sleeping bag will have a lower cost and will work when wet but will be heavier and have a larger pack size.
Rab Ascent 500
The Rab Ascent is a good entry level Down filled sleeping bag, it has a water resistant outer fabric and its down has a hydrophobic coating. It has a good weight at just over 1kg and is warm with a comfort limit of -4.5, because of this it has a reassemble small pack size. It has a wide mummy shape which will keep the heat trapped in the right place to keep you nice and warm without feeling claustrophobic. The hood is very adjustable so that you can bring it in close to your face to stop excess heat escaping.
Mountain Equipment Helium 400
The Mountain Equipment Helium 400 is a Down filled sleeping bag, it has a water-resistant outer fabric and its down has a hydrophobic coating. It has a comfortable soft outer and inner fabric, it also features a magnetic fastening for the hood gaiter making it easy to open and close. It has an adjustable hood to help keep heat from escaping, it has a slimmer fit which allows it to trap as much heat as possible to keep you nice and warm at night. It has a smaller pack size when compared to the Rab Ascent 500 and has a lighter weight, as a result of this it has a warmer comfort limit of –3.
Mountain Equipment Lunar 2
The Mountain Equipment Lunar 2 is a great entry level Synthetic bag as it has a very competitive price point for its warmth. It has a small pack size and low weight for this style of bag and continues with the high Quality Mountain Equipment fit. It has a soft yet durable and water-resistant outer fabric, which is great for people taking part in these activities for the first time.
Snugpak Softie Expansion 3
The Softie Expansion 3 is a bag that Taunton Leisure have been selling for these activities for a very long time due to their high warmth rating and small pack size. It comes with an attachable light, which can be attached to the hood to help you find things in the middle of the night. It has two different zips on the side, which will let you adjust the internal volume of the bag. It is worth noting that this bag is not currently tested to the EN23537 or EN13537 standards.
Liners, dry bags and sleeping mats
If there is a lot of space under your feet inside the bag, it is a good idea to put a dry bag full of air below your feet. This will continue the insulation and keep you warmer than without it. It is also important to use a roll matt or inflatable sleeping mat while using your sleeping bag as it will add a layer of insulation and stop the ground from taking your heat away from you.
If you purchase a down sleeping bag you may find it worth while to add a liner in the bag like the Lifeventure Cotton bag liner as it will add extra heat and will be easier to clean than the whole bag itself. It is also worth noting that to get the maximum warmth from your bag you need to be wearing your base layer and have eaten and drank something warm before going to bed.
James from our Taunton store has completed the Ten Tors Event multiple times, as well as the National Three Peaks Challenge and the Gold level in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. He is a keen walker, skier and runner and gets out as much as he can.