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Valandré Shocking, Preliminary review.
This is a preliminary review of the Valandré shocking blue. With more to follow of course. I guess I'll add a short term and a long term report.
I'll not spend much time on the technical specs of the bag. You can find it elsewhere. You can find the infos on Valandré's website as well as here :
expected weather conditions and settings (sleeping system etc) :
The weather forcast announce a temperature of -4F the other night so I thought it was a good idea to test the shocking blue. The night was dry, the sky was clear and there was almost no wind. An ideal night for sleeping "à la belle étoile". I put my exped DM 7 on top of a space blanket laying itself on snow and the my sleeping bag.
Physical state :
I love those night with a bitter cold but no humidity and no wind. It feels great. I was really well fed and hydrated. I drunk a divine hot chocolate just before entering my SB, and felt super warm.
I was dressed with thick thermals and a fleece + a beanie and a wool socks. The temp was around 7F at the beginning of the night. I entered the bag and tightened the draw cord. I felt immidiately too hot. I removed my fleece my socks, my beanie and my pants. I vent the back by opening the zippers and the marie antoinette collar (I closed them later because of a slight wind). I suspect I was too hot because of the hot chocolate. It is very rich and takes a lot of energy to digest, so that should have produce a lot of heat. In any case the bag was almost fully unzipped and the hood and collar open. I felt better but my legs were still too hot, reason why I removed my long johns.
The night :
Around 4 pm I had to take a leak and went out of the bag. The temp was 0F with a slight breeze (around 5-10 mph). I felt cold and but when I entered the bag. I warmed up almost immediately but had a cold feeling to my arms so I wrap the bag around myself (I was wearing my pants and socks again but not my beanie nor my fleece). I felt a slight wind on my face.
I finished the night soundly and felt pretty comfortable.
In the morning the temp was still around 0, there was some condensation where I breath but i dries really quickly in the sun, I didn't check exactly but it was much less than an hour, maybe 40 minutes.
Striking features :
I was really surprised by the warmth of the bag cause this year I lost a lot of weight (around 15 pounds), I'm really skinny and my tolerance to cold weather is much less than it used to be. I would say that I used to be a warm sleeper, not much above average though, but I'm now an average sleeper (neither warm nor cold).
I was really comfortable at 0F and i have no doubt that I can be comfy at -5, With a shelter -15 doesn't seem unrealistic. Of course I was well fed, well hydrated and not tired. I'm really curious to see how the bag behaves in a more realistic situation.
What strikes me the most is the foot box, the hood and the marie antoinette collar. The feet are really well insulated, the head too. I think the head is the most insulated part. It is really well protected. The torso is well protected too.
You have to wrap the bag around you to reduce radiative heat loss though cause the bag is roomy ; at least for me. Let me explain that. I like the fact that you have room to store stuff and to be able to layer just in case. It doesn't cause any problem to me as i sleep on the back and stay quite still during the night. So I just have to wrap the bag underneath my back. Doing that the bag is tight and the radiative heat loss is limited. If you don't do that it's not a big deal the temp inside the bag will be a little bit less, but it's more psychological think IMO. If you don't wrap the bag, you will feel your arms are colder than the rest of your body. I wasn't wearing gloves though. By wrapping the bag you eliminate this feeling.
Some people can't sleep well when they feel a little cold and some can. I definitely can but feel better when I wrap the bag.
The leg are less insulated. It's nice for me cause I always feel too warm there, moreover you have big muscle there and if you're well fed after a day of walk you're body anabolized (recover) and the temp will increase due to chemical reactions ect. I experienced this again and again over the years. This night was no exception, my leg were too warm all night long.
My back is my weak spot. In general I feel really cold there. I have to say that I don't think I can sleep on the side with with this sleeping. I will feel really cold. But again, my lower back is really cold. It's definitely better to sleep on the back with this sb. With the exped downmat I felt warmer than in my bed (no kidding), it's really really efficient.
The collar is mega efficient. the warm air is trapped inside the bag. It's a little bit complicated but it's worth the complication. After some use you get use to it. It's also difficult to vent the bag with this collar. You better open the side zipper.
Preliminary conclusions :
The bag is incredibly warm superbly design, everything is well designed practical and well thought out. The down is well distributed and key areas are more insulated. Down -5F you'll definitely be on the safe side (with a proper shelter if you're a cold sleeper). In general winter backpacker are experienced and really cold resistant. For them I would say -15F is a more realistic comfort limit.
1) why then is the bag rated only 10F. Cause the EN norm sucks. Believe me at that temp you'll have to vent the bag and wear thin termals, otherwise you'll be too hot (unless you're a really cold sleeper or on the verge of exhaustion or severe hypothermia). It seems to me you can substract at LEAST 15F to the EN temp rating of Valandré's sleeping bag.
2) The roominess of the bag allows you to wear your down gear without compression the insulation of the bag. In that configuration and depending on your persipration I have no doubt you can spend 1-3 nights at very low temp if unexpected weather conditions occur.
For extended winter backpacking at really cold temp (below -20), I think it's definitely safer too take a warmer bag. Layering can work for some nights but not for an extended trip due to condensation. Except if you are sure you have an almost daily heat source to dry your clothes and sleeping bag.
Comments and feedback :
If you have any comment, feedback or recommendations, you're most welcome
There maybe some update very soon
I hope this helps.