Monday 19 November 2012

Snugpak Softie 6 Kestrel sleeping bag review

I've been using the Snugpak Softie 6 Kestrel bag, or the Softie 6 as it's commonly known, for a couple of year now so it's fair to say I quite literally know it inside out.

It's made from a material called Paratex which to all extents and purposes is pretty similar in feel to most pertex bags.  It's certainly tough and I've been pretty rough with this bag for quite a while and it still looks like new.  Inside it has Snugpaks Softie Premier insulation.  The key selling points are its weight to warmth ratio which from experience I can say rates as some of the best synthetic insulation available.  The Softie 6 weighs 1200g including stuff sack and packs down deceiving small.  Compared to many synthetic bags, this crushes down to virtually nothing, almost encroaching on down compressibility territory!  It isn't a super narrow bag either; it's a generous cut so suitable for the bigger fellow or for sleepers who hate feeling restricted like myself. The tapered mummy shape is a fair size towards to bottom and I've never felt restricted in the bag, plus the reinforced foot liner means you can sleep with your boots on!  Granted for the general public this feature isn't needed but for military users it's invaluable, especially on exercises when you know your going to be jumping out of this thing in a hurry.  Speaking of which, the zip is a big, chunky, solid thing.  Easy to use with gloves on and I've never had it snag on me.

We've covered that it's a great shape and easy to carry but can it do the business?  Snugpak rate this as a 2 season bag, with a lower comfort rating of 0C and an extreme rating of -5C.  Pretty generous for a 2 season bag but I can certainly vouch for it.  In my experience it's warmer than your average 2 season bag and I'd personally use it as a 3 season.  It's been my automatic 'go to' bag for anything from sleeping indoors, right up to borderline freezing temperatures.  Undo the zip and it's comfortable indoors throughout the year, plus the fast wicking paratex inner leaves you feeling dry when it is warmer.  At the other end of the spectrum I've slept around freezing with this bag in nothing more than a bivvy bag and wearing midweight upper and lower baselayers, even feeling a little warm, but with a freezing face!  If your going to be using this bag at the colder end of the spectrum there's no reason a down jacket wont keep you snug well into negative numbers but I'd only recommend this option for experienced users.

The bag is a little short on fancy features but what it does, it does spot on.  For example, there is no neck baffle (but Snugpaks Elite range has) and the only adjustability other than the zip is the hood drawstring, but what more do you need for day to day use? There are hanging tags at the bottom to air the bag between uses and a really tough stuffsack that crushes the bag down to the point where you look at it thinking "is this thing going to be warm enough?".  To prevent cold spots the zip has a full length baffle to keep in precious warmth and prevent snagging.

For the money I think this bag offers superb value for money selling for just under the £80 mark and available in olive green, desert colour or black for less tactical use.  Usually they can be found a little cheaper too from many suppliers and I think I paid around £60 for mine.  Would I buy it again? Absolutely.  It offers a huge useable temperature range and I'd highly recommend it for just over freezing, up to just under heatwave levels of heat depending how you sleep.  If your a very cold sleeper you may want to move up a notch to the Softie 9 but for true UK damp 3 season use the 6 is a real workhorse.

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