After a long day on the bike I love the last few miles of pedalling. I have committed to the decision that I am going to stop soon and now I’m looking for a cosy secluded spot to set up camp. If I can’t be tucked away somewhere then I want a nice view as a minimum. As I am unpacking my bags (check out what bags I use here) the first thing on my mind is food! However, after that thought of what I will be devouring shortly is the cosy thought of getting some well deserved rest so I am ready for whatever the next day might have in store for me.
Now I don’t do well in the cold. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a manly man so to speak. I’m not tall, dark, and handsome with a well built frame and chiselled jaw. I’m more tall, blonde, and scrawny (although I prefer ‘athletic’) with a stubborn determined side. The point I am meandering my way towards is this – I like to be warm and cosy! There’s no bonus points for braving it through a cold night because I didn’t pack the right gear. I want all the layers!
In this post I’m going to give you short reviews on the 4 main parts of my sleeping set up. This will exclude the tent because that deserves a review all of its own. These 4 products, and links to them, are below:
- Alpkit Ultra 120 Sleeping Bag
- Alpkit Hunka XL Bivvy Bag
- Alpkit Cloud Base Sleeping Mat
- Alpkit Drift Pillow
So it’s no secret that I’m a fan of the camping / bikepacking gear from Alpkit. There’s a good reason for this though – it’s high quality and reasonably priced. Simple.
Alpkit Ultra 120 Sleeping Bag
At the time of writing this the Ultra 120 is sold out on the Alpkit website. Being lucky enough to get one of these when it was first released, and having used it, the fact it is sold out is no surprise at all.
This sleeping bag is the real deal when it comes to 3 season camping. Winter bike packers are going to need something a little warmer for those minus numbers! This sleeping bag has a comfort rating down to 1 degree celcius, it weighs almost nothing at 640 grams (long version), and it is filled with synthetic Primaloft Gold for its insulation. The perks of the synthetic Primaloft Gold filling is that it is water repellant so no matter the overnight conditions you should get a cosy sleep!
Marketed at those super fit people who do ultra races on either foot or bike, mainly due to its size and weight, it’s also a great sleeping bag for those on more leisurely adventures. I can squash this down super tight into my handlebar bag which means I have plenty of room left for the rest of my sleeping kit. Having it all in one place makes it super easy when it comes time to setting up camp. Just empty the handlebar bag into my tent and I’m pretty much sorted.
As for sleeping in the bag – it is silky smooth, warmer than it should be considering how thin and light it is, and a great length. I purchased the long version of this sleeping bag. The regular size is rated for heights between 160cm to 175cm with an internal length of 190cm and the long size between 175cm to 190cm with an internal length of 210cm. Now I’m 188cm so I was a little worried that the regular might be a little snug when I wanted to curl up under the integrated mummy shaped hood. I made the right call.
There’s nothing worse than wanting to pull your sleeping bag up around your head to keep warm just to find it isn’t long enough and then having to bend yourself into a weird shape just to keep your head toasty. With this long version there is plenty of bag spare so you can hunker deep down inside.
It has a half length zip to save a little bit of weight and the hood and collar can be adjusted to keep you wrapped up tight all night with the drawstrings attached.
There’s not much more to say about this sleeping bag. It’s a solid piece of kit that will serve you well no matter what activity leads you to sleeping in it. It is very light, very warm, and something you can look forward to climbing into after a hard day on the bike. The ability to pack it away into the smallest of spaces is a bonus but don’t forget to air it out and allow it to take shape every now and again. Nothing likes to be squashed up all the time!
Alpkit Hunka XL Bivvy Bag
Versatility. That’s the best word to describe this bivvy bag. When the sun goes down late and the temperature stays fairly high you can throw your sleeping bag, sleeping mat etc into this bag and sleep out underneath the stars. When the weather is cold and the sun goes to bed early, again – launch all of your sleeping gear inside, and this provides an extra layer to keep the heat in.
Again, with me being 188cm, I went with the larger version of the Hunka. By the time you get all of your sleeping gear inside it fills it up nicely. I didn’t want my long sleeping bag bunching up at the bottom. Plus, if the weather turns, or you are security conscious, you can put your valuables down at the bottom whilst you sleep. It would be a brave person to try and steal my phone whilst it was by my feet!
Packing it up is one of the easiest tasks you will have in the mornings. The integrated bag allows you to squash it inside as snug as you can, pull the drawstring tight, and pop it back in your bag. Job done. However, if you have slept under the stars and it’s a little damp, try and air it out whilst you eat breakfast / drink coffee. Packing away dry gear will save you a job later on.
Weighing in at just 500 grams (that’s for this XL version) and made of extremely waterproof ripstop nylon with a drawstring closure, this bivvy bag is a must have piece of kit. No matter what the weather does, hot or cold, this has you covered.
Alpkit Cloud Base Sleeping Mat
Now these last two items might get me mocked by the bikepacking purists out there. However, remember that bit earlier in the post when I admitted to not being a very manly man… I’m here for the warmth and the comfort!
My argument here is simple – this mat takes up such little room, and weighs relatively little, so why not add an extra layer of comfort after a hard day in the saddle?
It takes about 8 breaths to inflate and you’re ready to go. The air lock is cleverly designed so that any air wishing to escape is actually pushing against what is locking it in. Therefore, it holds its shape and structure all night. You won’t wake up on a deflated mat!
The shape and structure is different from many mats in the fact that it is not flat. Having used the mat I found that this feature makes it more comfortable, especially if you’re like me and toss and turn from side to side all night. If you sleep flat on your back, and that is a certainty, I think any sleeping mat would do the job just fine. For those of us who wiggle around a little more this mat will make a noticeable difference to your nights sleep.
It weighs just 420 grams and the air pockets inflate to a 5cm thickness. The pack it comes in also contains some emergency spares so should you tear it you can fix it ready for the next nights sleep. A nice little touch.
A necessity on your bikepacking trip? No. A luxury that will improve your quality sleep at little cost to weight and packing room? Yes.
Alpkit Drift Pillow
Now speaking of luxuries this is the one some may laugh at! A pillow?! On a bikepacking trip?! It weighs 100 grams and folds up to the size of my fist. I can definitely find room for that in one of my bags.
With the same airlock as the Cloud Base Sleeping Mat you don’t have to worry about the air disappearing from it whilst you sleep. The material is soft and comfortable and is washable also. There might be people reading this who are hardened bikepackers / campers. Those people who fold a fleece up to rest their weary head on in the evenings. If that is you that is absolutely fine, but go on… treat yourself to this little gem. Better to have a cheeky luxury pillow rather than an armpit smelling, makeshift fleece, pillow!
The final say on this pillow is a tip from yours truly – don’t over inflate it. You don’t want it to be a bouncy castle for your head. Have it a bit softer, let your tired little head sink into it.
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