Gear Review: Mountain Equipment Snowline -17C
Mountain Equipment Snowline -17C:
Not to be confused with the new, super light version, (Snowline SL), this bag is pretty awesome. The bag’s water resistant outer is made from ME’s proprietary sleeping bag fabric, Drilite Loft. This is capable of keeping spills and mild leaks away from the vetted, 750g, 93% Hungarian goose down which has a fill power of 750 cubic inches. The inner lining is super soft against the skin, double baffles on either side of the zip serve to prevent heat loss, and a drawcord pulls everything tight around your head, neck & shoulders, making the Snowline a very comfortable place to be!
n.b. Fill power is a measure of the down’s ‘loft’. It relates to it’s ability to trap air within its 3D structure, thus the higher the value, the more air is trappable in the down, and the more air is trapped the more it can be warmed by your body heat, thus contributing to the bags overall warmth.
There isn’t bags of room in there, (excuse the pun!), the more snug-fitting the better with insulation products. However, it’s not claustrophobic and the golden colour is quite nice and uplifting. This ‘closeness’ is afforded by the inclusion of Mountain Equipment’s ‘EXL’ system, elastic inclusions in the internal stitching which serve to pull the insulation in around you. This reduces the amount of ‘dead’ air space into which your body heat might diffuse leaving you colder as you sleep.
How warm is the bag then, and when might I use it? Well, this is where things get a tad confusing! Mountain Equipment kindly suggest a recommended ‘sleep zone’, which relates to the temperatures between which the bag might be used comfortably. For this particular bag it is +10 to -20 Celsius, though bear in mind, these figures relate to estimates based upon ‘an average man’. Should you therefore, not fit the bill as an average man, then these values may not strictly relate to you. Though to clarify further, in my case I sleep cold and have used this bag from +10C to -10C and been comfortable at both ends of the scale however, at higher temperatures you need to open up the zip and use it as you would a quilt. I’m sure that it would cope easily at -20C, though perhaps you would have to eat before bed, zip up, wear a full base layer and use a liner.
It stuffs down to around 20L size in the original, waterproof ME stuff sack it comes with, filling slightly more than the sleeping bag compartment in an average 40L pack, though it weighs just over 1.5kg, so it’s not a lightweight.
The sacrifice of weight for comfort is a common trade-off in gear selection and is a theme in mine. I prefer a degree of comfort over lightness and therefore, pay the inevitable weight penalties accordingly. This latter point I realise, is a potential sticking point for some as, if you’re lucky, it is sometimes possible to get a lighter bag with the same/similar temperature ratings, and then also for the same price in certain sale events, though the one’s I’m thinking of don’t come around all that often. However, if you can get the Snowline itself in a sale or second hand, then this point is somewhat muted.
The ME Snowline is an awesome down bag in terms of ethical standards, warmth and comfort, if not necessarily weight and price.
n.b. The ground on which you will be sleeping is the biggest point of contact for your body, (unless in a hammock!), and therefore it acts as a sink for ‘most’ of the heat given off by your body whilst you sleep, actively drawing it out of you by conduction. As such, if needing a sleep system capable of coping with these -20C air temperatures, a good insulating mat is also of great importance. Down mats, or synthetic alternatives use the body heat that seeps down through the mat to warm air trapped in the down/synthetic filaments, thus providing you with a semi-passive, self-sustained bed of warm air to sleep on. Pretty clever, and actually useful!