My thoughts precisely. I thought the PhD bag was expensive enough but it justified itself by the quality of build, being made in the UK and the unbeatable performance (mine's comfortable up to 0c and weighs under 450g!).
In reply to J_Trottet: Which model do you have? And do PHD use the EN ratings? I guess PHD are a bit like Alpkit and by being direct to consumer, should be very competitive on price.
Obviously I'm just reviewing the bag I received, but cost is such a big factor for most of us in what we buy, I thought it had to be mentioned. For comparisons, I looked at https://www.ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk They are shop I've used a few times and have been very happy with, but mainly their website is super useful in that it shows everything in weight order! So I could get an idea of other bags that weigh about the same, then see how warm they are plus cost in comparison. But I admit I didn't look at the PHD website as well.
That's true perhaps, although I guess all the components for the bags are imported? Most down seems to be Polish or far eastern and there are some fabric manufacturers in the UK but precious few these days.
It seems PHD don't use the EN ratings so it makes it hard to compare their temp ratings to the rest of the market. They might be more conservative with their temp guides than the EN test gives but we can't really tell.
There is information about their ratings and why they don't use a single rating system. Anecdotally I've never, ever been cold in a PHD bag at a given rating. Their use as the bag of choice by some very esteemed explorers speaks volumes.
In reply to Stuart (aka brt): I am in the market for this sort of bag, and agree with everyone above that I'd buy from PHD a world class British firm with decades of experience and in the process support the sewing gods/ goddesses in Staylbridge.
Plus you can if need choose different widths or lengths at only marginal extra cost.
Having brought two of thier bags for my partner and one for myself over tens years of use not one stitch has come un-done, and the bags have performed as advertised at thier respective temperature ratings.
In reply to Stuart (aka brt): People oddly defensive about this! I'm not doubting they are great bags, lots of happy customers and all that. I'm just saying that in his original post Lummox said "sounds interesting Toby but over £150 more expensive than the PHD equivalent - that's a lot of cash for a zip."
EN13537 is _used_ to give a usage guide to real breathing people, but it isn't actually that - it is a thermal efficiency test done using some kind of mannequin connected up to sensors (in the pictures here on Kansas State University's website, the sensors come very disturbingly out of the mannequin's eyes! https://www.k-state.edu/ier/testing/2017%20Sleeping%20Bag%20Insulation%20and%20Temp%20Ratings.html ). I'm lucky in that I've found in testing 4 or 5 different bags for UKC over the years, all which had an EN13537 rating, that the comfort limit rating produced by that test is almost spot on for me. Alternatively I guess that could be I'm just an extremely average man! Some people will find they are happy consistently 1 or 2 degrees below that limit, colder sleepers a bit above it etc. But it sets a consistent baseline between manufacturers. I _suspect_ the PHD rating would be rather similar but I don't actually know, they also don't give a rating relevant to the "average woman" in the way the EN rating does.
The EN rating is said not to work well for bags designed for very low temperatures - something I discussed a little in this review https://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=5328 (BTW the other bag in the 'talisker photo' there is my friend's PHD bag that he slept very comfortably in that night!), so it is by no means perfect, but I think it is really useful when comparing different firms' offerings. Good sleeping bags are bloody expensive no matter where you get them from, so people want that info.
> The EN rating is said not to work well for bags designed for very low temperatures - something I discussed a little in this review https://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=5328 (BTW the other bag in the 'talisker photo' there is my friend's PHD bag that he slept very comfortably in that night!), so it is by no means perfect, but I think it is really useful when comparing different firms' offerings. Good sleeping bags are bloody expensive no matter where you get them from, so people want that info.
'Some' people want that info. I'm happy enough trusting PHD, given the experience of Peter Hutchinson and the great feedback their bags consistently get. I'm too poor at the mo for a PHD bag, but I'd be happy enough to trust their ratings - given their reputation. .
It's not a question of trusting the ratings Tim, it's a question of knowing how they reach them and how your physiology and camping experience match up. If you are a woman you almost certainly should 'trust' their rating, or indeed the comfort limit rating on the EN system. If you buy one of their bags and find that the limit rating is fine for you (or indeed you are consistently happy at temps 5 degrees cold or warmer than that rating) then fantastic - if you buy another one then you know how to use their rating.
Having one industry wide rating just makes it much easier for those of us using different brands of sleeping bag to know what we are getting.
> It's not a question of trusting the ratings Tim, it's a question of knowing how they reach them and how your physiology and camping experience match up. If you are a woman you almost certainly should 'trust' their rating, or indeed the comfort limit rating on the EN system. If you buy one of their bags and find that the limit rating is fine for you (or indeed you are consistently happy at temps 5 degrees cold or warmer than that rating) then fantastic - if you buy another one then you know how to use their rating.
> Having one industry wide rating just makes it much easier for those of us using different brands of sleeping bag to know what we are getting.
That's all understood. I'm not arguing 'against' all manufacturers using EN ratings, it's more that I've only ever seen any ratings as a vague guide, so any lack of standardisation doesn't bother me particularly.
It might be interesting to compare their ratings with the EN ratings.
I had the Firelight 250 with me last night when I hiked up and camped on the Kinder Plateau at the top of Fairbrook. If I had checked the forecast more carefully I would have taken a warmer bag as it was 2 degrees when I left the car at 11 pm and below freezing with all the ground hard at 600 odd mtrs where I camped at midnight. It snowed through the night and was quite breezy too - I have a rubbish tent for winter as it has an all mesh inner so let's say ventilation is never a problem. I slept fine considering the it must have been 3 or 4 degrees colder than the bag's suggested limit, although I woke up a few times and had to change how I lay. For a half kilo bag it was pretty impressive, although I think I've sufficiently tested its lower limits now, and I hope the UKC massive won't mind me using a warmer bag for any more sub-zero this winter! https://twitter.com/TobyinHelsinki/status/825740298244481024 https://twitter.com/TobyinHelsinki/status/825740672950992898
The review was great and although I'm a PHD user, it's always good to see what else is out there. The EN ratings do standardise things making it easy to pick your product. Fortunately in the web age we can use sites like this for reviews such as yours but also communities like UKC to get great feedback. Stellar Equipment are another interesting company doing high end, direct to customer down products.
Competition in this market is great, it's keeps the whole circus developing new products to get us lighter, further and quicker. I almost sound like a bloody Montane ad.
In reply to TobyA: I totally get that it's hard to do a comparison when the bags aren't tested to the same norms. The bag I was talking about was the minimus ( http://www.phdesigns.co.uk/minimus-down-sleeping-bag ) which I have been happy in at down to 0c with minimal clothing (empirical testing rather than manufacturer recommendations). I am however quite a warm sleeper.
Not withstanding the above discussion, its good to have some reviews from companies I know little about as I wasn't aware lightwave made sleeping bags. Have you looked at anything from Cumulus for comparison? They make some interesting lightweight models, it's just a shame there's a bit of a mess with the distribution in the UK (you can't buy from Poland due to some exclusive rights issues).
> I guess PHD are a bit like Alpkit and by being direct to consumer, should be very competitive on price.
Toby, I'd say this does PHD a bit of a disservice, they are very different. PHD have a very specific business philosophy. All their kit is handmade in Stalybridge, they don't advertise and there is no corporate drive to grow the business (I believe they aim for minimal growth), they concentrate solely on quality providing predominantly made to order items. PHD's pricing may benefit from the direct sales model and their business ethos but the handmade in the UK aspect probably wipes out much of that gained margin.
Alpkit have provided a more "cheap and cheerful" offering (I have multiple Alpkit items, this is not a slur) to the market, cutting costs with a direct sale model but also by selling lots of "rebranded" products from the far east (again, I have some of these and have no problem with that). They seem to make very little themselves, within the UK so seem to be focused on growing the brand.
This is not a criticism of Alpkit, just my thoughts on an inaccurate comparison.
I'm impressed you were ok out in that bag on Saturday, you are either a lot hardier than me or the bag is a lot better than I had thought. I have a PHD Minim 300 (from their bargain box/sales thing, not a standard model) and whilst weighing more than the Lightwave, I doubt it would have kept me warm enough*.
On the subject of PHD quality, I got out my Mountain Equipment MM bag last night (also from a bargain box though it was from the OSC Sales this time) and having looked at all the seams , lofting, fabrics etc, I don't think there is much i it, the ME bag certainly looks a lot more "professional" and seem to loft a lot better**.
*Having thought about this a bit more, the worst conditions I've used the PHD bag bag in has been on the Highlander MM when I've been totally wasted from the day's exertions and probably dehydrated so was probably feeling the cold/not producing much heat/was not in a good way/etc....
**the ME bag is a lot newer and is used exclusively for Mountain Marathons (as it is a Top Bag designed to be used in conjunction with balloons so not the most practical for everyday use) so is in a lot better nick than the PHD.
Hi - this is Carol McDermott and I am the owner of Lightwave (and by default, designer).
I notice a lot of discussions about temperature ratings. On this I have a number points:
1. The purpose of the EN rating is to provide a standardized basis of comparison, and is not the ultimate judgement of how warm a sleeping bag is. In my experience, I feel the EN ratings are quite fairly accurate.
2. There are criticisms of the EN test method. This is irrelevant - there is no perfect test method and each one has strengths and weaknesses. The important thing is to have a standardised basis of comparison.
3. Most brands issue their own assessment of how warm a bag is, mostly to complement an EN rating, but not always. Pre EN-ratings, this was how it was always done. The problem was, and why it lead to the call for a standardised method, that slowly these performance claims did start to creep into the realms of slight exaggeration and, on occasion, straight fiction. Basically, brand X's was always 1 or 2 degrees warmer, etc etc. What do you do when you're trying to sell sleeping bags?
4. The difficulty with "self or brand-assessment" is that what is right for one (usually experienced user or group of users) is not the same for another (and frequently inexperienced user who is dependant upon other's guidelines). The idea of the EN rating is to provide some objectivity, and also, some safety. The ratings are quite conservative. It is better for the customer to be too warm than cold, especially if it is a first purchase.
5. The reality is there is very little difference in the performance of sleeping bags with comparable amount of down fill and nominal difference in fill-power. One or two degrees max, and that is probably due more to how snug the fit/cut is than anything else (because everything else is more or less the same - no one has a monopoly in a "superior" baffle technology or ultra-high grade down).
6. In fact, one of the most useful things any brand can do is actually give the consumer some visibility of what they're buying - for example, just how much down fill is in a bag. It's a bit like saying how many cc your car engine has. Some companies don't state this seemingly straight forward piece of information, so the consumer is left to go by a temperature guide, and if there is no EN rating (complementary or otherwise), then well.....where does one go? I'm not saying brands are intentionally misleading consumers because I feel that this industry has an outstanding level of integrity. However, all brands are under sales pressure, margin pressure and marketing pressure and consequently are terrified of being seen as not being as good as the competition. Truth is - 95% of products are good, if not very good.
As for the Firelight 250 - I can tell you it's marginal at zero, especially when not in a tent. No bag with 250 grams of down at whatever fill-power rating will keep me warm at that temperature. But that's for me. There are also a number of very good competitor products, and that is important for consumers and brands alike. We have no claim to making a product better than anyone else, but this actually applies to all. My philosophy is that, as far as I'm concerned, the paramount factor is that the consumer gets the right product for them (and it most definitely is not always a crux or Lightwave one).
It's ultimately a question of confidence in your brand and product, and how transparent you want to be, or your product to be, in the eyes of your potential customer.
> Toby, I'd say this does PHD a bit of a disservice, they are very different. PHD have a very specific business philosophy. All their kit is handmade in Stalybridge, they don't advertise and there is no corporate drive to grow the business (I believe they aim for minimal growth), they concentrate solely on quality providing predominantly made to order items. PHD's pricing may benefit from the direct sales model and their business ethos but the handmade in the UK aspect probably wipes out much of that gained margin.
I wholly agree. Their approach is quite different to Alpkit's.
As far as I know, you can't buy PHD in any shop, so they are a direct to consumer manufacturer - that's all I meant.
A shop markup is part of the price consumers pay, so in that sense you would expect a firm that bypasses the middlemen to be competitively priced. Interestingly, Alpkit are now also doing their own specialist manufacturing in the UK also - I have a custom made frame pack and a non-custom seat pack from them, sewn in their workshop in Nottinghamshire. There aren't too many outdoor equipment firms making stuff in the UK, so kudos to both PHD and Alpkit for showing it can still done.
Anyway, this all goes back to Lummox's point that you could get a PHD equivalent bag to the Firelight 250 for 150 quid less. You may well be able to, I just said that without the EN rating it's hard to say what is the equivalent so I don't know if that's a fair claim. As I said, I don't own a PHD bag and have never used one so I've got no valid opinion on them, but other people in thread kept bringing them up.
Thanks Carol for your contribution - I think you make the point more clearly than I had managed that the useful thing about the EN rating is the standardisation. My experience reviewing bags from different brands is that the EN comfort limit is about where I'll be comfortable down to. Hence whether it's a Lightwave bag, or a Marmot one, a Mountain Equipment one or Sea to Summit one - I know I should be comfortable in that bag down to the stated comfort limit. People need to find out how they relate to the EN standard, then it makes picking any future sleeping bag much easier.
Just one question in reference to your comment about the weight of down being a good, simple guide to how warm a bag will be: do you think a box wall design as opposed to a stitched-through design is also significant for bags with the same weight of down in them? I'm sure in duvet jackets that this makes a big difference and I presumed it would in lightweight sleeping bags too.
I should add on Saturday in the the Firelight 250 I was wearing merino t-shirt and boxers, long johns and micro fleece over them, a hat, and dry thick socks. I also put my light duvet jacket over my thighs which I often find is the first bit of me to get cold in a sleeping bag. I also ate a little before sleeping. I guess that puts me in the "experienced user" category, but still it wasn't the warmest night ever - so would echo your words that below freezing in a 250 bag is "marginal".
Yes, there will be a difference between stitch through and box-wall. Once you have more than a couple hundred grams of down in a sleeping bag, it is almost criminal to have a stitch-through construction as heat loss will become significant (and unless it is intended for use as a liner bag) and this is reflected that virtually all bags with more than 300 g of fill will have box-wall baffles at the very least. It was an unwritten assumption on my part - maybe I should've been clear about that. The same applies to down jackets, as you have noticed.