In case you were wondering, Colleen and I put far more money and time into this blog and The Taste Place (our food blog) than we get back from our nearly non-existent advertising or our Amazon Affiliate link. But aside from the personal enjoyment we get out of writing about our adventures (or our recipes) for family, friends, and now a much wider reader base, we have gotten some pretty nifty solicitations to try out various gear and review it on our site (such as this fire-starting knife, this pair of headlamps, and these padded backpacks). We’ve actually turned down far more offers than we’ve accepted, because we don’t want to write about items we wouldn’t actually use or that we wouldn’t have a chance to legitimately test before writing a review.
Most recently, I was asked if I was willing to test and review a LifeVenture Dristore Sleeplight Sleeping Bag by a representative of NIGHTGEAR, a purveyor of a variety of cool outdoors, survival, and military surplus equipment online. I’d been planning a February camping trip to Red Rock Canyon State Park (complete write-up here) with my son, and I’d recently thrown out his old sleeping bag after it got blood stains all over it from some sort of church camp incident I fortunately had absolutely no responsibility for causing, so I was already in the market for a sleeping bag and was happy to try out this particular bag.
I tend to sleep very warm, even when camping, and I find the true mummy-style bags to be too constricting for the way I like to sleep, so the shape of the bag online appeared to fit my needs, and I thought the “lightweight” nature of the bag might be comfortable for me. It also advertised three pockets, in which I could keep my phone (I have a compulsive need to see what time it is nearly every time I wake up), keys, wallet, or headlamp, for those late night trips to the restroom or tree, depending on where and how you are camping.
I’ve generally only ever camped in campgrounds I drove into, so my sleeping bags historically have been chosen based on a comfortable flannel lining, a durable exterior, or the ability to zip together with another bag (for those rare occasions my wife agrees to camp with me). Those sorts of bags tend to be big and bulky, and can also generally be purchased quite inexpensively, which is also a way I choose my gear far more than I care to admit.
So when I got the new bag in the mail, and saw how amazingly small and lightweight it was, I began to worry that it wasn’t going to be warm enough for me or my son–a fear that only increased when I took it out of the unique stuff sack and saw that it was even lighter than it felt in the bag! It seriously seemed to have no weight or heft to it at all, which is a great feature when backpacking (which I wasn’t), but not so important to me as keeping warm on a desert winter night that was supposed to dip into the 30’s.
Not wanting a repeat occurrence of the night when my son nearly went hypothermic sleeping in a cheap lightweight bag on a cot on a previous camping trip, I did the dad-ly thing and decided I’d use the new bag, and kept an extra blanket nearby–just in case!
Though I’ve always liked the flannel-lined bags for comfort, this lining wasn’t cold or plastic-feeling, as I had feared. In fact, it was quite soft and comfortable from the moment I began to “slip inside my sleeping bag” (the ZZ Top song that’s been stuck in my head since I got the new bag, and which is responsible for the blog post title and opening lyrics above). And though it had been quite cold outside in the desert wind, even when standing directly next to the campfire, I was immediately so warm in the bag that I had to unzip it almost entirely! But as the temperature dropped through the night, I zipped the bag up a little bit further almost every time I woke up. Fortunately, the zipper was easy to find and smooth to operate (a fabric liner along the zipper seems to prevent the likelihood of it getting snagged), even in the pitch black of the tent in the desert night. It also has a zipper at the bottom of the bag, so if your feet get hot while you sleep, you can vent just the bottom of the bag. Contrarily, if you get cold, it also has a draw string around the hood, which you can tighten to make it nearly a true mummy bag.
I didn’t end up using the pockets, as I had pockets built into my cot to use instead and I thought something as heavy as my phone or light might be distracting while I was trying to sleep, but if I’d been sleeping on the ground or in open space and wanted to keep items like that or my wallet secure, I definitely would have done so. I confess that when I first looked at home and again at camp, I couldn’t even find the second secure internal pocket. Only when I got home and re-read the literature did I realize the second pocket is inside down near the bottom of the bag, making it an extremely secure place to hide something.
Some of the features of the bag I didn’t get to test at camp were the “triple layer protection” against mosquitos, bed bugs, and bacteria (and resulting smells), the waterproof-ness of the stuff sack, which doubles as a pillow when filled with air or clothes (I did blow it up with air just for fun, and it really does seems to have a good seal!), or the glow in the dark zippers, which I didn’t realize it had and didn’t happen to notice in the dark, but which I did see after reading those directions later and realizing it was a feature.
According to the literature that came with it, the “comfort” level is listed at 54 degrees Farenheit, the “lower limit” is 46 degrees, and the “extreme” limit is 36 degrees. I admittedly have always slept very warm, but inside a tent where the outside temperature dipped below 40 degrees, I wasn’t the least bit cold all night long, at least when I zipped it up to the proper height for the conditions in the tent. But if you are concerned, and not as warm-blooded for me, on the LifeVenture page of NIGHTGEAR, they have sleeping bags that have a comfort level of about freezing, and go significantly lower than that!
I really enjoyed the sleeping bag’s comfort and portability, and now that I have such a lightweight bag, I am considering actually trying to go backpacking now.
Price-wise, on the NIGHTGEAR site you can buy it for 57.78 English pounds (apparently $96.65 American today), and I found it other places, including Amazon.com for between $80 and $100. This definitely makes it the most expensive sleeping bag I own by about three-fold, but I can definitely say it is my new favorite bag, and I look forward to taking it to my annual “Hoot in the Hills” wilderness camp-out in the High Sierras with my buddies this Summer, and finally having a piece of gear as lightweight and cool as my hard core backpacking friend Shockley always brings to camp.