|The 300SF is part of the Epic range of sleeping bags from the New Zealand manufacturer, Macpac. The Epic range is designed for those that are looking for a lightweight, warm sleeping bag that will excel in damp conditions. This then should appeal to adventure racers as well as light hikers, sea kayakers, cycle tourists; the sort of people who may have traditionally opted for a synthetic sleeping bag to keep them warm when the bag inevitably gets wet.
The Epic range consists of three bags, with different fill weights of down insulation, but all featuring a waterproof outer shell. The 300SF is the middle bag in the range, featuring, rather obviously, 300grams of down filling (the others are 150 and 450 grams).
The down is very high quality Eastern European Goose Down, with a high 90/10, down/feathers ratio and a fill power of 750. This creates a bag with an amazing ability to plump up after unpacking from the supplied waterproof dry bag. (It also means it packs down pretty small). The down is held in a box wall construction to reduce cold spots where the inner and outer may be stitched together on simpler bags and it works very effectively.
The outer shell is Reflex™ LoftPro™ which combines a lightweight 30 denier nylon face fabric with a highly water resistant, windproof and breathable membrane to create a protective outer that means the bag can be used in those damp conditions we so often encounter (well here in Scotland we do anyway). The 30 denier fabric is as fine a fabric as we’d want to see; any thinner a construction would have questionably durability, for marginally less weight.
The attention to detail on this sleeping bag is very impressive. All logos are heat transferred on to save weight and discomfort. The care instructions are printed on the inside of the bag, so you’ll never lose that vital info and it won’t scratch and irritate like a stitched in care label would. The hood section has two drawcords, one to tighten under the chin and one above the head. It also has a slightly stiffened peak to keep snow out, but I can’t comment on its effectiveness. There is a 35cm water resistant zip on the left hand side, to aid access, although this does restrict ventilation options, it does add to the waterproofness, warmth and low weight of the bag. It has a popper closing at the top too, so you can close the bag around your face and still have the zip lowered.
I used this bag a good bit over the last few months (Polaris, ARWC, Bergson) and already own the lighter 150 model, so it has been useful to compare the two. My previous experiences with down bags in adventure racing and multiday events like the LAMM and Polaris Challenge, have been pretty poor to be honest. Generally the battle is to keep the bag dry against the inevitable rain on the hill and condensation in the tent. 9 times out of 10 damp gets the better of the down and in several situations I’ve spent some very cold nights because the down has become saturated and loses most of its insulation properties. The Epic 300 is slightly heavier than other bags with a 300gram down filling, because of the waterproof outer, but for me, this is its best selling point. The fabric does a fantastic job of keeping moisture out and this was most evident when sharing a small tent during transitions in the AR World Champs. My teammate had my regular down bag (which is supposedly a warmer bag), while I used the Epic 300 and on waking I found the incredible condensation and rain that had found its way through in the night had beaded up and rolled off my bag, while his bag was saturated. Needless to say, he barely slept as he shivered while I had a very comfortable time.
This for me is the great thing about this bag; when compared side by side with bags of the same temperature rating in the laboratory, then it will come out as a slightly heavier bag, for the same warmth rating as a truly minimalist bag with the same level of down filling. However, in real world conditions, when conditions are typically damp from condensation, then the Epic will continue to keep you warm while the others will collect moisture and lose their thermal insulation.
The ability to use this sleeping bag out under the stars without a bivvy bag is a big bonus and great for an expedition race, where you can pretty much sleep where you like.
For info, Macpac have had their bags tested to European Standards and the temperature ratings come out as such:
The standard size bag supposedly fits up to 185 cm tall folks, but I’m 186cm and didn’t feel cramped. It is available in an Extra Large size which fits users up to 200cm tall and is marginally wider too.
For more details please visit: http://www.macpac.co.nz