The best value, highest quality down sleeping bag?
I spent a long time researching what sleeping bag to take when cycling through Africa. I wanted small and lightweight because it seemed important at the time. I researched which sleeping bags offer the best warmth to weight (and packed size) ratio. Inevitably, this meant choosing a down-filled sleeping bag over a synthetic one. And while warmth wasn’t going to be a major problem in most of Africa, the Sahara and Namib deserts and the Cameroonian highlands could still get rather nippy at night.
The most important factor in maximising the warmth to weight ratio, is the quality of the down.
The next important factor was the cost. Of the sleeping bags offering the highest down fill (850+cuin), the cheapest ones I found are Cumulus (if you know of another cheaper brand offering the same top quality, please let me know). And that is why I bought one. Not having heard of the brand, I felt the price was worth the risk; I was not disappointed. Seven years later, I now also have a Cumumlus polar-rated sleeping bag (Excuistic 1200), which I used through the Siberian winter. And for my latest return journey to Africa, Jimmy needed no convincing to take his own lightweight, compact Cumulus sleeping bag – the Lite Line 200.
The Lite Line 200 is made with 200g of 850 cuin polish goose down, weighs just 535g and is rated at +9C comfort, +4C limit and -10C extreme. I would say, as with the Excuistic 1200, that the ratings are slight conservative. My old Cumulus sleeping bag, of the same specification as the Lite Line 200, was originally rated to 0oC. Of course, what people consider comfortable is subjective, and dependent upon many other factors, such as whether the camper sleeps hot or cold etc.
The best thing about this specific bag is it’s scope for use in a wide range of temperatures. Above +9C or so, simply unzip as required. Below 0C, add a silk liner, put on a thicker pair of socks and an extra layer of clothes over your base layer, don a hat, puff up the bag, jump in, zip up, pull tight the hood, do a few sit-ups to generate some heat, and it’s possible to sleep (albeit somewhat fitfully) in temperatures down to -13C (as I did, one chilly November night in Utah). For a bag that weighs 535g, that’s remarkable. When on a long journey, as I frequently am, subject to all manner of environments, a sleeping bag that will fit almost any occasion, is essential. And that is what the Lite Line 200 is – incredibly versatile and adaptable.
Don’t just take my word for it – Jimmy agrees with me.
Better than that, my bag is now 7 years old, it has been used constantly on my travels in that time. It is wearing very well. Sure, the down is not quite so lofty as Jimmy’s newer one, and a few feathers have escaped through the seams over the years, but it’s still functioning perfectly adequately at the temperatures it’s designed for.
I haven’t mentioned the packed size yet – it’s small… see the photo. That leaves plenty of space in you rucksack or panniers for other things!
The only criticism (and Jimmy’s being picky here, he says), is that the internal pocket is on the small side, and could do with some velcro or similar to close it, as a mobile phone tends to slip out. Personally, I’ve never found a need to use it at all, so hadn’t realised.
I’ve also just discovered that (if you want) you can zip two of these bags together, and snuggle up closely with your tent buddy… If you know you’re going to do this, it’s better to buy on with a left-sided zip and the other with a right-sided zip, so that the hoods will both lay on the same side when joined.
And that’s another great thing about Cumulus – being a small company, with good customer service, if you need some customization (i.e. a longer or shorter bag), just drop them an email and for a modest cost they can probably help. You won’t get that option with the big brand names.
So what’s the cost? The retail price is 189.00 (+7.00p&p to Europe/UK) Euros. That’s about £155 including postage at current exchange rates. The bags have always arrived within a few days (they state 4-5days), as tracked packages. So don’t be put off purchasing because they’re based in Poland.
Personally, if I ever need another sleeping bag, I’ll go straight back to Cumulus.