replacing the buffalo bag

Thu, Jun 4, 2009

I don’t often blog about gear but it’s time to replace my old and trusty Buffalo Bag. The zip has been a problem for a while now, being replaced a few times. I’ll prolly send it off to Scottish Mountain Gear for a good repair but I think it’s time for a new bag and it’s come down to a few options (weight, down ratio, fill power, temp rating, price):

* with 900 down (+14), Drishell (+22) and full zip on left (+24). Thanks to John Hee for the Rab and ME info.

The Cumulus is rated to 0 while the PHD goes down to 5, although I’ve no idea what that means. The Buffalo is good from about mid April until about November, when I move into the huge Rab that is my winter quarters but I’d like a lightweight down summer residence. The Buffalo will be a hard act to follow though. The down bags might be a fraction of the size and weight but they don’t loft well in a bivvy bag and they’re terrified of the rain. Neither of which bothered the Buffalo. I once slept in a pool of water on the South Cluanie Ridge in a thunderstorm and was still warm and cozy. That’s not an option with a down bag! The more I think about it, the more down seems a faff. Very light and warm for the weight but cannot be wet in any way or it’s just a damp rag. If only the Buffalo was half the size. The face mask is superb for chilly nights that aren’t chilly enough for the Rab but the problem is, it takes up half the space in the OMM sac. So I dunno. I’ll do some more research.

The PHD design your own bag site seems like it might tip the scales in their favour as I really want a good hood that covers most of the face. A short zip is a good compromise between none (real risk of overheating) and a full one. It’s the first week in June and the forecast for the weekend is snow about 750m, with the temp at 900m 0C. That’s the kind of environment I need it to handle. I would think early May to end of October is the period I want to use it for. Then the Rab comes out.

There are a couple of reviews in the blogosphere about the Cumulus 350 and Alpkit 400 and Andy Howell is a fan of the Minimus. Reports suggest the Alpkit might have a less than ideal hood, while you can have a mummy hood with the PHD design your own site. Cumulus 200 looks a good bag though it has a neck warmer instead of a full baffle. Not sure what the hood is like. A zip is essntial for me as I sometimes overheat. I used the Rab in September in the Cairngorms and had to open the zip fully as I was hyperventilating in the night, it was that hot! I used the Buffalo at 1100m on Braeriach in August and I was fine.

The operating range should be from sea level to 1000m between May to October inclusive, with the higher heights late June to mid August.

Some links for Quantum 200:

Updated 050609

John Hee pointed me to the Rab Quantum 250 and looking at the spec it seemed very very long, about 6ft 10in! So I ran upstairs and measured my Rab Summit and it’s indeed 210cm, same as the Quantum. However, when I snuggle into the Summit, with the neck baffle round my neck and the hood wrapped cosily round my head, my feet almost touch the bottom of the bag, so the option of 15cm less wouldn’t be a good idea. 210cm seems an ideal length for the way I use the bag. I love Rab gear as it fits me perfectly. Vapourise top and trousers and the Summit bag. All perfect fits and warm too. The trousers are superb in winter. So I’m glad John pointed out the 250 as I would have missed it otherwise. I know where I stand with Rab gear, so the 250 is looking the front runner now. Thanks John!