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Thread: Synthetic modular sleep system - any suggestions as to which to go for?

  1. #1
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    Question Synthetic modular sleep system - any suggestions as to which to go for?

    I've been thinking about getting a synthetic modular sleep system so that I can get out a bit more and in a wider range of weathers. I quite like the older USGI MSS in woodland camouflage - the one with the bivi bag, patrol bag and intermediate bag. The downsides of that one seems to be it is very bulky and possibly quite expensive to get here in the UK. So I've been looking at two other alternatives which are a bit easier to get hold of and seem likely to be a bit less bulky:

    * Snugpak Special Forces 1 + 2 + expansion panel,

    * Carinthia Tropen + Defense 4.

    I don't have a goretex bivi bag at the moment but was thinking of just getting the UK army one to begin with.

    Does anybody have any thoughts, comments or suggestions to offer?

    Cheers,

    Windscale.

  2. #2
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    Why a modular system, why military type, and why synthetic? Down is much less pricey than it used to be, much less bulky and weighs less. A good 3-4 season down bag and a cheap synthetic bag for the summer might not be much different in price, but will pack down smaller.

    I know I'm not going to buy another synthetic bag, and its unlikely to be another Snugpak, even if I was. And the Snugpak combo is about 300 plus the panel (and not much less for the other set) - thats a decent 4 season Alpkit bag, and a 1-2 season synthetic one. The Rab 700 is going for about 180.

    Write out what you want to do, and see what you can do thats best for you - for what you want to spend, and dont just look at 'mil spec' stuff - it tends to be bulky, you might get cheaper buying the same manufacturers bag but without the military stuff, and down is a lot less bulky.

  3. #3
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    I use a Carinthia Defence 4 and Tropen, both in 200 size, with a USGI MSS Gore-Tex bivi. More than anything the reason I use these bags is comfort, at 6'5'' these are the best fitting and warmest bags I've ever had, particularly across the chest and shoulder.
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  4. #4
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    What are you sleeping in on or under, that can make a big difference as well.

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  5. #5

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    The quickest way to reduce bulk and weight on a synthetic system would be to use a quilt rather than an enclosed sleeping bag as the Goretex bivy will keep drafts out anyway.

    I do like a modular system though as it saves having loads of different sleeping bags/quilts ready for every possible situation. And that's from someone who makes quilts for a living.

  6. #6
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    I have the US one. I have owned it for a year, it was brand new when I got it and it's still brand new.

    The quality feels really very good, it's a great size, I know it's been tested to low temperatures without issue and the Thermarest Trail Pro mat I got, goes in it perfectly and rolls up all as one.

    My thinking is that I can throw it in the car and just flop it out and get a good nights sleep. Sound theory but it's just never come up.

    The down side is that it's a bit bulky I guess. Oh well.
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  7. #7

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    I wouldn't bother spending a lot on a modular system for the UK. Get a decent 3 season bag from a good manufacturer. This, pared with a bivvy and decent mat will see you right for the vast majority of UK weather. If it gets seriously cold go to decathlon and spend 20 ish on a 2 season bag, then stuff in into your 3 season. If you do go for the new issued set up then i really recommend getting the 200 length, i was originally issued the 180, which was okay with just the main bag, but if you plan to use the 2 bags together it really does get uncomfortable.

    The older 90 pattern bags can be found on ebay for about 20, I've never been cold in mine. And with the 2 new bags together the weight and bulk is pretty much the same.

    Tonyuk
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Bones View Post
    Why a modular system, why military type, and why synthetic? [SNIP]

    And the Snugpak combo is about 300 plus the panel (and not much less for the other set)

    Write out what you want to do, and see what you can do thats best for you - for what you want to spend, and dont just look at 'mil spec' stuff - it tends to be bulky, you might get cheaper buying the same manufacturers bag but without the military stuff, and down is a lot less bulky.
    Good questions all to add into the thinking process thanks.

    * Why a modular system?

    I can potentially buy it in parts thus spreading out the cost - summer bag now, intermediate bag later, joining bit (if necessary) last. I expect I'll mostly use the "summer bag" or the "intermediate bag" but if I do decide to go somewhere "chilly" I can put the two bags together if need be so I have that flexibility.

    * Why military type?

    These days I prefer the muted colours to all the bright and shiney "more recreational targeted ones" :-).

    * Why synthetic?

    For regular use easier to wash. I can stick a small bag in our washing machine at home. For something a bit more bulky it'll go in the machines in the laundrette 5 mins walk from home. Also, I'm not sure quite what "level" of bag I need for various conditions yet and I'd rather "experiment" with cheaper bags than a more expensive down bags if that makes any sense?

  9. #9
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    Thanks for the comment Brambles. My partner is 6' so she might need the 200! I'm only 5'7 so I'm guessing the 185 would be OK for me?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by bopdude View Post
    What are you sleeping in on or under, that can make a big difference as well.
    I want to try a tarp (probably a UK surplus basha to start with) to give that a go and see how I get on with that compared to my Macpac Microlight tent. I have one of the old Thermarest lightweight self-inflating mats from before they did the bright orange "pro-light" range so sleeping on that on the ground.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tonyuk View Post
    I wouldn't bother spending a lot on a modular system for the UK. Get a decent 3 season bag from a good manufacturer. This, pared with a bivvy and decent mat will see you right for the vast majority of UK weather. If it gets seriously cold go to decathlon and spend 20 ish on a 2 season bag, then stuff in into your 3 season. If you do go for the new issued set up then i really recommend getting the 200 length, i was originally issued the 180, which was okay with just the main bag, but if you plan to use the 2 bags together it really does get uncomfortable.

    [SNIP]

    Tonyuk
    Thanks for your thoughts Tony. I think I probably sleep quite hot so I'm wondering if a three-seasons bag might be a bit much. I think the only way to know is to try the lighter bag and see how far it will go. As I said earlier I'm only 5'7" so would your comment about 180 vs 200 still hold then?

  12. #12
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    I'd suggest if your just starting out... buying a couple of the British Army Arctic bags.. they come in different sizes Large and medium.

    Great bags... they'll take any thing the british weather can chuck at you.

    Big and bulky but dammmmmm warm

  13. #13
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    It's funny how we keep saying synthetic bags are big and bulky - try and fit a duvet in your rucksack and then you'll realise how much smaller a sleeping bag is. Using a compression sack (the Brit army one is superb!) seriously reduces the size or just do what the army does - ram your sleeping bag in first and press it to the bottom with a foot then shove all your over stuff on top. Surprising how they disappear
    It's the same with weight - the Arctic bag is about 2kg. That's not a lot of weight for something nice and warm - most down bags rated to similar temps weigh not that much less.

    I have the US MSS modular bags and also the Carinthia modular bags - both are great setups but in the UK I mostly never use the complete systems, the warmer bag of both is plenty for me.

    Hope this helps,
    Phil

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Philster View Post
    It's funny how we keep saying synthetic bags are big and bulky - try and fit a duvet in your rucksack and then you'll realise how much smaller a sleeping bag is. Using a compression sack (the Brit army one is superb!) seriously reduces the size or just do what the army does - ram your sleeping bag in first and press it to the bottom with a foot then shove all your over stuff on top. Surprising how they disappear
    It's the same with weight - the Arctic bag is about 2kg. That's not a lot of weight for something nice and warm - most down bags rated to similar temps weigh not that much less.

    I have the US MSS modular bags and also the Carinthia modular bags - both are great setups but in the UK I mostly never use the complete systems, the warmer bag of both is plenty for me.

    Hope this helps,
    Phil
    All points are completely true. The last point (about rarely using the entire system) is actually what makes a component system so good; you only carry the bits you'll need for the intended trek. No need to carry the entire bulk if you're going to be camping in warm summer weather. The lightweight patro; bag (of the US syatem) is more than enough for anything warmer than 55f (12.8c) or thereabouts.

  15. #15
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    * Why a modular system?

    I can potentially buy it in parts thus spreading out the cost - summer bag now, intermediate bag later, joining bit (if necessary) last. I expect I'll mostly use the "summer bag" or the "intermediate bag" but if I do decide to go somewhere "chilly" I can put the two bags together if need be so I have that flexibility.
    fair enough, but why a 'modular system'? Buy a summer bag (1-2 season, or perhaps a decent 3ish season), and then buy a warmer bag for winter - just use which one is appropriate. If your buying the Carpathian system, your spending almost 300 on two synthetic bags, which could get you down to minus 40. Are you ever going to need that?

    However, a decent synthetic (if you have to go that way) bag at the same temp rating as the Tropic (which is a 1-2 season bag, no matter how you slice it) can be had for 80 from Alpkit, which weighs 1150g https://www.alpkit.com/products/mountain-ghost-200 . So its 30 cheaper than the Tropen, comes in a 'subdued' grey, and is 150g lighter than the Tropen as well.

    I'd work out how you sleep (hot, by the sound of it) and using the Thermarest (mines that old as well), to come up with the sort temp rating your after for a particular situation, and then look at the market. Sleeping bags are something you want to get right the first time, if possible, and your not really getting a 'cheaper' (synthetic) bag, rather than an 'expensive down bag' - your potentially just buying a quite pricey synthetic bag. Cheap is not cheap, expensive is not expensive.

    Down, thanks to the net, is a lot cheaper than it used to be, lasts longer, and packs much smaller. Yes, there is a reason we refer to synthetic bags as bulky - they are! Try packing a synthetic and down sleeping bag with the same temp rating - the down will be much smaller.

    True, you can't really wash a down bag at home, but you dont really need to do that all that often, especially if you use a liner. And I wouldn't want to wash a big synthetic bag much either - they are devil to dry.

    Alpkit will do a decent 4 season down bag (the Skyehigh 900 https://www.alpkit.com/products/skyehigh-900) which gets you down to minus 13 (so almost the same as the Carinthia Defence 4, and warmer than the issue Arctic bag) for 200 (so about 50 more than the Carinthia 4, which is the same price as the MH Lamina Z Torch, which is lighter), but its 1.45kg, whereas the Carinthia 4 is 2kg. Tundra's synthetic bag which is rated at minus 15 is 1.8kg and is 160 (and it comes in green!). And you can get a decent 3 season bag for about 175 in the likes of Cotswolds. And there are deals, sales and of course classifieds, which might turn up a bargain.

    You've already got a decent mat, and a suplus bivvy bag is always a highly thought of, as Tonyuk said, so its getting the right bag to complete the system, and I totally agree that a decent 3-4 season bag might cover most of what you want.

    I have to admit to being too old to want to carry any more weight than I have to, or be uncomfortable. Since the differential between synthetic and down is so much less, there is little reason not look at both, since your just buying a sleeping bag, nothing else. And if I can get a bag which keeps me warmer, and packs down lighter and smaller, for about the same amount of cash or only a bit more, over the long term, thats a better deal for me. I can't really spend a lot of money on kit, but there are good deals to be had, if you narrow down what you want, and get it at the right time.

  16. #16
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    I have had the new MOD medium weight system for about a year now and used it regularly. I added a light summer bag inside for winter but didn't really need it provided I kept my hat on. I bought the medium bag for c.35.00. I usually bivvy in an MOD bivvy bag under a DD tarp (or similar). I like the "system" although have mainly used it on its own, at least twice below -5 C. I'd recommend it as a cheap but effective piece of kit that I don't worry about using round a fire (though I do have a surplus US cotton cover for sleeping round a fire to ward off sparks).
    All the best.

  17. #17
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    Thanks all. Much to go ponder!

  18. #18
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    A heads up that Alpkit are having a sale - https://www.alpkit.com/sale . The Mountain Ghost 200 is down to 65, and the Skyhigh 500 (2-3 season) is down to 130 (their Pipedream 200 is 120, which is a really good deal).

    Lots of nice things in the sale generally, but thanks to having to pay lawyers, etc for a house move that might be about to happen, I can't afford to buy what I'd really like! The Pipedream I'd like is sold out, but the Skyehigh 900 is very tempting.

  19. #19
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    This thread has gone a little stale but I've been using the current British issue medium bag (with issued poly cotton liner) through last winter both in tents and in a hammock in conjunction with the Snugpak underblanket. One of the warmest bags I've ever used but with the aforementioned drawbacks of weight and bulk. Both my son (now 15) and I have one each. Coldest we've been down to so far is 0 (the dew froze on the tent) on the top of Carl Wark in January.
    I got mine new and my son's Grade 1 for around 40 each with liners. Mine was part of a combo with the liner and a new issue MTP bivvi bag.
    I've just ordered one of the issue lightweight bags to complete the set for my son. I already have the Snugpak Jungle bag for summer tent use, and in the hammock.

    Hope this helps

  20. #20
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    Maybe he's got something sorted out by now, but Jerven bag ? pricey but good - I've an exclusive with both weight of liners to cover every weather I've had in the uk so far. Works good in a hammock too.
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  21. #21
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    I use a cheap Aldi summer lightweight bag inside a British army bivi bag in warm to cool weather and my arctic bag plus bivi in winter temperatures. I'm going to put a zip in the bivy bag though

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