Brindabella - 20 years plus and still warm
I recently started my research to buy a sleeping bag for our 15 year old son, with a couple of years of school outdoor ed camping coming up we wanted to buy quality. I was amazed to find the Mont Brindabella is still being made and still rates highly. My wife and I bought two Brindabella's about 20 years ago and they have done some travels. They are still in great in all conditions and keep us cosy warm, albeit now in the camper trailer having upgraded from the tent. ( BTW the tent was also a 20 y.o Mont and is still going strong, now in service with our sons ). They have proven to be a great investment, and quiet reasonable when you amortise the cost over the years of service.
Brindabella - Great Bag. 3 &1/2 yrs of Outdoor Ed & Still Going Strong
Bought this bag at mid-point of Cert IV in Outdoor Rec. It has seen the inside of a few snow caves, nights on the Murray, Franklin by Raft, Arap's, dragged all over Vic & Aus and mainly used only under a tarp.
Best purchase I made in my early stages of buying quality gear - one I don't regret.
light, 'shower'-proof (treat it!), versatile, hardy
took a while to get used to RH zip
Mont Helium Bags - Excellent
Was looking for a bag that was lighter than my vintage One Planet Bushlite. Superb bag but at 1.4Kg for a -5ºC bag looking to shave some weight. These J&H bags (bought out by One Planet) had the best loft of any bag around – including ones that were better on paper. “Guaranteed 550 loft” it was probably much better. That bag is still going strong, and having always been stored well still lofts a treat. IMHO the key to a great bag is the loft in the down. Warmth, weight, bulk all come down to quality of the down. Well the down in these Mont Helium bags is superb. 800 loft Goosedown gives superb loft and insulation and featherlight weight. The cover material feels more like silk than nylon and is not unpleasant against the skin, and again, super light, yet feels strong and supple. The lightness assists additional loft.
Only problem I’m a big guy, 187cm and 110Kg and don’t like feeling claustrophobic in a bag – so like a bit of space at the foot end as well as around the shoulders. The Helium bags suggest a maximum height of 185, I’m a couple of centimetres over that and found the bag comfortably long enough – and longer than others on the market. I also found the space around the shoulders to be adequate, and again better than others on the market. For additional comfort I’m going to purchase the Mont Wedgie for trips where weight is not an issue, as this zips into the bags zipper and adds additional circumference.
The bag doesn’t have a Velcro tab on the top of the zip to prevent it opening unintentionally, and I thought that this might be a problem. It isn’t. Something to do with the d esign or quality of the zip, which is quite fine toothed, means that it doesn’t seem to come undone. Similarly I was concerned that he bag didn't have the rigid tape along the inside of the zip that my old bags have, to stop the zipper catching the fabric and jamming. Doesn't seem to be a problem, again perhaps because ofthe fine toothed zip? The bag also does not have a chest baffle, and again I thought that this might prove a problem, but again, it doesn’t. While the chest baffle seems a good idea on paper it rarely seems to work as well in practice – perhaps partly because it’s one more layer of “locking yourself into a bag” that I don’t like, and consequently don’t do it up tightly. Instead of a chest baffle, the Helium has a baffle around the opening, beyond the draw cord, which settles down around your body regardless of how tightly you have the opening draw cord cinched up. In practice this seems to work better than a chest baffle. The foot opening (“oven door”) is great and works well. I really like the way that the foot of this bag is shaped – you get the benefits of a box foot in a semi-rectangular bag.
The hood also has a baffle around it, and is also really well shaped. It is the best and most effective hood I have ever used. Many hoods seem to have inadequate volume for one’s head, or the draw cord tightens uncomfortably across your forehead. This one just works. A minor gripe is that as with just about all bags the draw cord winds up being up above your ear somewhere, where you can’t get your hands and certainly can’t see once you’re tucked up in the bag. Not so much a problem with the hood, but when you want to get your hands out to more easily undo the zip, it’s a pain. Same goes for the zip end. High time bag designers solved this one! One thing they could try is separating the toggles for hood and chest and placing the chest one front and centre? On this bag they are on one toggle on the opposite side from the zip, so you can open the zip without disturbing your settings.
I started by buying the Helium 450 as I thought it was rated for lower temperatures than it actually is, and went back and bought the Helium 600 which is comfort rated to -7ºC. The first use was camping out in -3 ºC and it was plenty warm enough, with some in reserve so I think this is an accurate (T Limit male comfort) rating. This still saves around 25-30% or 0.4Kg over my Bushlite and is rated for lower temperatures. The Helium 450 covers places I go in the mountains that can get down to -2 ºC for a couple of nights even in mid summer. Rationalising that it’s only equivalent to a few nights in a hotel, I’ve since been back to buy the Helium 300. At only 695g and a +3ºC T limit temperature rating it is exceptionally light and covers many 3 season bushwalking situations. So call me crazy, I now own all three Helium bags. The steps in temperature rating are achieved at half the weight of carrying a sleeping liner.
Quality of down; hood and opening baffles; foot shape and zip; hood shape and size; weight; feel of material
Very little! Placement of zips and toggles similar to all other bags!
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