Sleeping Bags for Cycle Touring | Terra Nova Voyager 800
Are you like me and have owned a few cheap sleeping bags over the years? Purchasing them for occasional usage; crashing at someone's house, back garden camping, festivals, etc... You stand in your local camping shop with a couple of thoughts in mind. It has to be cheap (preferably in a sale) and maybe in the right colour. Little thought goes into the quality and if it will keep you warm and comfortable. I don’t think anyone can be criticised for this approach. Let's face it, many vendors market us with these cheap, quite often low-quality items for those very same reasons. People quite often don't care. If it is only for a night or two, why do I need to spend a fortune? This methodology is okay at the time, but maybe not so great when trying to stuff your bulky sleeping bag into your panniers for your first cycle tours!
What changes for many of us is when the old sleeping bag comes down from the loft/attic. After a quick smell check to make sure it hasn't gone completely mouldy, it comes along on a longer camping trip, cycle tour, or similar. This is when you may start to find its faults. You may find it bulky, heavy and generally not giving you a great night's sleep. And if these experiences don't leave you emotionally scarred, and are up for more camping, you may start looking for a little more luxury.
This is what happened to me. The old unbranded sleeping bag went with me on a few initial cycle touring trips. This bulky, sweaty and somewhat smelly piece of kit soon drove me mad. It took up a good chunk of a pannier and meant I couldn't load up on other essentials, especially when shopping for food!
what was I looking for in a sleeping bag?
My main use is cycling touring and my second would be family camping trips. I was after a sleeping bag for under £150, lightweight, with the ability to compact right down, and filled with down to keep me warm and breathable. Overheating and sweating during the summer months aren't very pleasant! The size and compactness of the kit are important to me when cycle touring. As for temperature rating, I never really sleep in temperatures less than zero, so a rating to cope with that.
Searching on the internet brought up so many options. Too much choice in this market. All this choice feeds a love of reading equipment reviews!
What did I decide on?
I looked at many makes (Vango, Rab, Montane, Haglofs, Terra Nova, etc…) and finally narrowed my choice to the Terra Nova Voyager 800. It ticked all the boxes and the deciding factor was being able to get a good discount on the price.
Taken from the Terra Nova website
- Packed Weight: 0.843Kg (1lb 14oz)
- 3 -4 Season Rating
- Temperature Rating: 0oC (Comfort limit) / -15oC (Extreme)
- Filling: 800 Fill Power down. Fill weight: 375g
- Construction: Box Wall
- Length: 215 cms
- Packed Size: 29 x 16cm (11.4" x 6.4")
- Zip: Full zip / Zip baffle
- Hood: Mummy
Opening up the parcel, it came with a stuff bag and drawstring storage bag to keep it aired at home. My first thought was of surprise at how light it was and the overall quality of the stitching and materials used. You really can see the difference between a £20.00 and £200.00+ sleeping bag.
My first test was to get it stuffed into the stuff bag. For anyone who has been there fighting to get something into one of these bags early in the morning, knows you need to get the hang of this fast!
My first nights sleep?
Really good. Comfortable, and most importantly, very warm. It was during early spring in northern France, so not exactly that warm (5-6 degrees at night). As always, I used a silk liner to protect the bag, which added a little more warmth and slept on my usual Thermarest mat. Over the next few nights of my trip, the experience was consistent - always a great night's sleep. With the mummy hood and zips all the way to the top, it really kept me cocooned inside.
I have only used this bag for cycle touring and a couple of weekend trips with my family. It would also tick the box for trekking, trail running and any other hobby/sport that needs the kit to be compact, lightweight and high performance.
Some tips with this sleeping bag (and others).
- Use a silk (or similar) liner. Really prolongs the life and adds a little extra warmth
- Avoid getting it wet. It has down filling. Could smell and take ages to dry. Chose your filling carefully.
- Practice stuffing it into the stuff/compression bag :-)
- Give it a good airing when returning from a trip, especially if it got wet
- Store at home (preferably not in the loft/attic) in the drawstring bag
This is a great sleeping bag for people needing lightweight kit that performs well under most conditions. It is well made and feels like it will be durable over time. Take care of it, and it will take care of you. It is expensive, but I think over time it will pay for itself by not buying lots of cheaper alternatives. I can honestly say I'm pleased with my choice and would recommend it. Shop around and you may find a great deal.
When camping when cycle touring, for me it is all about being comfortable, enjoying your downtime after a day in the saddle and travelling as light as possible with the best equipment you can afford. Much of this does come down to how often you go away and for how long. Don't suffer if you can help it - if you can afford it, then purchase the right equipment for you. Better still borrow off friends or family. Only you can decide what works for you. Do test new equipment in the back garden/yard, or not too far away from home. You can then adjust before your big trip, which will always ensure a happy cycle tour :-)
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