Recommended Price: £330 (but check prices online)
Weight: 595g including stuffsack
An ultralight sleeping bag or quilt has been on my gear test wish list for longer than I can remember. Lifting of lockdown restrictions mean I’ve finally a proper chance to get out and try the Alpstein 200, a summer sleeping bag / quilt from Vaude.
The Alpstein design is interesting, quite different from any sleeping kit I’ve used previously. The foot end is fully enclosed, like a sleeping bag, up as far as the backs of my knees. The rest of the design is then open, though there’s a bit of a curve to the construction so it wraps round your sides – it’s not flat like a normal quilt. The theory is that the insulation – and the Alpstein uses 200g of top quality 850 fill power down (produced to the responsible down standard) isn’t wasted on the section crushed beneath your back.
In use, it’s very flexible. Firstly, you can just use it like a quilt – but with your feet snugly enclosed – when conditions are reasonably warm.
As it gets colder, you can utilise various features to keep things snug. A short distance above where the bag opens up is a clip you can fasten to effectively extend the enclosed foot box.
Further up the bag are two more sets of hooks on the sides – one set positioned right on the edge, and one slightly further in. These can be used in combination with plastic clips that fasten to the edges of an inflatable sleeping mat. If you use the outermost hooks for this, it helps eliminate gaps and keeps you warmer than if you just use it as an open quilt. If you use the inner hooks, then the edges of the bag will enclose you more completely on your mat, and further increase your warmth. The plastic clips can be kept on your inflatable mat, or they can stored in a small velcro pouch in the sleeping bag. A set of straps are also supplied, which can be used as an alternative to the clips, passing under your body; these would be useful if you don’t use an inflating mat.
Finally, there’s a press stud at the neck end that means you can avoid any drafts.
If this all sounds pretty fiddly, it’s really not. Once you’ve understood it, it couldn’t be simpler to use. What you have here is a bag / quilt whose warmth can be readily adapted to the conditions.
One possible disadvantage of a quilt is that you might not fancy sleeping directly on the surface of your mat. I haven’t found this to be a problem at all, but I don’t think it would be ideal with some cheaper closed cell foam mats. A simple solution is to either wear a base layer, or use a silk liner.
Vaude rate the Alpstein as 7C for comfort, 2C limit, and -12C extreme. I’ve actually found the Alpstein to be much warmer than I expected, and would be happy to use on high level mountain camps in summer, or for 2 or perhaps even 3 seasons at lower levels. It packs down incredibly small and is properly lightweight.
The only real downside is the price, but then 850 fill power down – and the great warmth to weight ratio it gives – doesn’t come cheap. It’s a great piece of kit for backpacking and should give years of service.