Archive for April 7th, 2013

April 7, 2013

Nant y Moch update

by backpackingbongos

Regular readers may have read the words ‘Nant y Moch’ a lot on this blog.  I feel that this area contains the finest scenery in Wales outside of the national parks.  I have also written several times about the proposed wind farm for the area.  One that I am very strongly against.

Therefore I was pleased to read some good news for a change.  SSE (the company that enjoys a bit of energy mis-selling) have decided to postpone the project due to the renewable energy investment climate in Wales.

It will be interesting to see what the final outcome will be.

SSE’s Nant y Moch project site is here.

A copy of the letter sent to the Cambrian Mountains society is here.

April 7, 2013

A two bag winter sleeping system

by backpackingbongos

When planning my trip to the Highlands at the Easter weekend I knew that it would be cold.  My current sleeping bag which I pretty much use all year except for the warmest months is a PHD Hispar 500.  Although a great bag and very light I personally find that I am cold using it in temperatures much below freezing.  It is meant to be rated to -15C, however I think that my frozen corpse would have to be retrieved from my tent if I used it in those conditions.  For my personal comfort I think that I need a 800 gramme fill bag for winter temperatures.  Also I find that after each night in winter conditions my sleeping bag gets less and less efficient.  This is because all that lovely warm air that I create in the night condenses on the outside of the bag.  Have you wondered why the end of your sleeping bag is damp, even though it has not come into contact with your tent?  If you don’t have a chance to air it, all that moisture builds up reducing the efficiency of the expensive down.

With the threat of temperatures falling below -10C I had to think about how I would keep myself warm.  Also I would be out for four nights, possibly without the chance of airing my bag.  Andy Kirkpatrick has written a great piece called ‘Double up‘ in which he discussed the benefits of using a down inner with a synthetic outer.  The general idea is for your body moisture to condense on the outside of the synthetic bag, leaving the inner down bag dry and fluffy.  I though that I would give it a go for this trip.  My summer bag is a Mountain Equipment Helium 400, weighing in at 780 grammes.  Digging around my kit cupboard I discovered my ancient synthetic Mountain Equipment Skywalker U/L, weighing in at 740 grammes.  Okay, I’m sure that 1520 grammes is enough to make many of you out there weep.   However I was happy enough to carry that weight as a bit of an experiment.

One thing that is essential is that the outer bag is wider than the inner bag.  If this is not the case the down will not have the chance to loft, rendering the whole system useless.  Happily synthetic bags are often cut more generously than down ones and this was the case with my bags.

The extra bulk was noticeable when packing but I easily managed to get them with my bulky down mat and five days food into my ULA Catalyst pack.  In camp it was good to be able to have a synthetic bag that I could crawl into fully clothed without worrying about my dirty clothing.  This was great for general camp duties such as cooking and eating as I did not have to worry about soiling the bag.  I carry a set of ‘bed clothes’ to change into when finally turning in for the night (nicely warmed inside my down jacket before putting on!).

I have to say that the two bag system worked really well in what was probably my coldest nights out wild camping.  The first night as I was pitching, my tent was covered in frost before I had even finished.  Even at 7.00pm is was already -4C.  I have no idea how far the temperature plunged during the night because I had a great warm nights sleep.  Admittedly it was a bit of a faff getting into both bags, especially as the Helium is narrow and restrictive.  For the first three nights I slept in until past 9.00am so the tent was like a sauna with everything dry when I got up.  However on the final morning I was up at 6.45am and woke to find that the outer bag was frozen solid.  The foot and chest areas were crunchy with ice.


To add insult to injury when I sat up I received a substantial frosty shower, my tent resembling a freezer that is in urgent need of a defrosting.  I measured -7.5C inside as I was getting up and dressed.  Yet my inner down bag was perfectly warm and dry, not even a hint of condensation.  When I got home later that evening the synthetic outer (which had defrosted) was saturated.  In my eyes the system had worked.

The problem with bulk and weight remains however.  In time for next winter I am going to order the lightest synthetic quilt that I can find.  The MLD 48 degree spirit quilt weighs in at 375 grammes for the extra-large.  It should marry up perfectly with my Hispar 500 for trips of more than two nights in the coldest weather.