One of the things I like about Mountain Equipment is that they deliver, as the old advert goes, exactly what it says on the tin, i.e. equipment (and clothing) for use in the mountains. They have consistently done so ever since their inception in 1961, and I've been using their equipment since 1976. A current example of this is their new range of sleeping bags. Here at Outside we are stocking some of the Glacier and Helium sleeping bag ranges in both men’s a women’s versions.
I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to test a Glacier 700 during a series of climbs and treks, both leading groups for KE Adventure Travel as well as doing my own thing in the second half of 2016. Here’s how it all went.
The first trip in July was to the Karakoram Mountains in Northern Pakistan. Without doubt the greatest mountain range on earth. Our aim was to trek up the Baltoro Glacier, visit K2 Base Camp and then cross the technical 5900m pass (the Gondogoro La) before descending into the beautiful Hushe Valley. This trip involved camping every night except for the night before the pass, when I slept in the open under the stars. I awoke just before my alarm (at 11pm) by snow gently falling on my face, but the sleeping bag was warm and dry and the snow just brushed off the water-resistant Dri-Lite outer shell.
The second trip was to far western Mongolia, climbing the alpine height peaks in the Altai Tavan Bogh. We climbed all three main peaks. Our high camp on the Potanin Glacier was a cosy event, and I ended up sharing a small tent with an Australian and a Mongolian mountaineer friend whilst a blizzard from central Asia battered us. Others in the group fared less well, disturbed by the weather, tent mates snoring and inadequate sleeping bags. Back at base camp I gave up my tent to separate snorers from non-snorers so they could rest and slept in the base camp yurt or ger peacefully in my bag with a couple of furry friendly gerbil type rodents for company.
At the end of the summer I was in Sichuan Provence in China, an area we nicknamed the Tibetan Alps. The highest peak in the area being the mysterious Minya Konka at just over 7500m. On this trip we experienced several days of UK-style torrential rain, snow and freezing temperatures (plus a little sunshine). In the 1930's, Minya Konka was wrongly estimated to be higher than Mt Everest. It is certainly impressive though, as the surrounding peaks barely breach the 6000m mark. I was warm, dry and comfortable throughout thanks to the Mountain Equipment Glacier 700.
Finally, for Christmas and New Year my wife Janet and I visited friends in Nepal and trekked in the Everest Region. We encountered day time temperatures of -20°C as we trekked up several small peaks and crossed some high passes. At these temperatures it was necessary to wear dry socks and a woolly hat in bed, but it was fine, until you had to get up to go to the toilet in the night!
All of this begs the question - why is the Glacier 700 and indeed the whole new series of bags from Mountain Equipment so good? Well, there is no gimmick or magical extra about it, just that every design detail has been improved a bit and all the bits add up. Even more thought has been given to the quality and quantity of materials. What is amazing though is that when you compare the Glacier series, for example, with other approximate equivalents it is extremely competitively priced too. The fill is very high quality duck down that is comparable with a lot of goose down (700 fill-power is 700 fill-power, regardless of the beast whence it came) and of course it is covered by Mountain Equipment’s Down Codex scheme, the longest established and most rigorous traceability protocol for down in the industry (see article in the recent BMC Summit magazine on the subject).
If you want a sleeping bag that will cope with many years of adventures that is also at an excellent price, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Mountain Equipment Glacier Series.
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