Synthetic-filled three season sleeping bags

Sleep tight tonight

There's nothing like a good night's sleep to set you up for a day on the hills. But if your sleeping bag's not up to scratch you could end up spending a chilly, sleepless night under the stars. Here we test a trio or synthetic filled three-season sleeping bags guaranteed to make life more comfortable...

Snugpak Softie 9 Hawk

The Softie 9 Hawk is a three season, lightweight sleeping bag featuring a luxuriously textured finish and incorporating the special Infin8T weave, designed specifically for Snugpak by long term fabric partners, Perseverance Mills, manufacturers of Pertex.

Softie, or superfine high-thermal, is a combination of fibres with different crimp systems and surface finishes. Some are crimped, some are curled and some just left as they are. The random nature of the process results in a product that closely resembles the structure of natural down and the way it performs. The yarns used are staple yarns as in natural insulations (as opposed to continuously extruded as in most synthetic fills). The fibres have now been updated with special binders and treatments for an excellent combination of softness and durability. Softie is extremely lightweight, and has excellent re-loft abilities, when unpacked.

This bag is a 'profiled' (unquilted) bag which uses the 'no stitch through' method of construction. Most traditionally constructed sleeping bags have quilted stitches to hold the bag and fibres in place. Whilst developing new resins to enhance the softness of their bags Softpak discovered a blend which gives a remarkable degree of strength and structure, with self supporting fibres, allowing us to remove all the stitch lines and cold spots that can occur with quilted bags. It also helps with re-loft as the 'Softie' filling is not held back by stitches. The firm estimate that by 'profiling' they have increased the loft of their bags by up to 30%, without adding anything to the weight or packsize.

Additional features include compression stuffsack, layering capability, Snugfit hood, zip baffle, circle foot, hanging dry tabs and anti-snag two-way side zip.

The Softie 9 Hawk is extremely comfortable and warm and we'd highly recommend it, particularly given the very reasonable price.

Temperature -5£C (comfort), -10£C (low).
Weight 1400g
Length 220cm
Chest 165cm
Pack size 42 x 22cm
Colours sapphire outer, charcoal lining, olive, black.
Price £85

Mountain Hardwear 2nd Dimension

Mountain Hardwear's 2nd Dimension is part of the company's Quantum Expander Synthetic bags range. It's a mummy shaped bag filled with Polarguard 3D insulation and lined polyester taffeta. The shell fabric is ripstop nylon and the bag is available in three sizes, short, regular and long.

Slant baffle construction ensures consistent thickness of insulation. Layering sheets of Polarguard insulation in an overlapping pattern eliminates cold spots and the bag is designed with thicker insulation around the vital torso area and also the feet to ensure warmth and comfort.

Excellent design features include a contoured hood cut from five separate prices of material to create a three-dimensional fit around the head that pulls in around the face without compressing the insulation while the draft collar holds body heat in the bag and prevent cold air entering around the shoulders.

We also liked the handy 'snag guard' which prevents the fabric from catching in the two-way YKK zipper, an often irritating feature of sleeping bags.

One of the special features of the Quantum Expander range is the expandable draft tube which provides additional room for warm temps and layering space for colder temps and this extends to the bottom of bag and is not sewn through, eliminating cold spots. Keep the Expander closed for a warmer bag in cold temperatures or open it up for an airier, roomier bag.

The 2nd Dimension comes with a compression sack and a large cotton storage bag so it can be stored uncompressed, increasing the longevity of a synthetic bag.

Temperature -9C
Weight 1390g
Length 198cm
Shoulder girth 152cm
Foot girth 91cm
Pack size 43 x 23cm
Price £130 (£140 for long model)

Wynnster Microlite 1200

Temperature -10 C

The Microlite 1200's first outings were during late April and early May when we had a few hot days, followed by some pretty cold nights. I took it to Glencoe, the island of Rum and Arrochar and it didn't let me down once, even with temperatures dipping below zero on occasion.

The 1200 is the top of the Microlite range and promises to perform down to minus 10, although temperature rating figures are not an exact science, as Wynnster themselves point out. These things are subject to other factors, such as your own metabolism and what clothing you may be wearing to bed. It's a guideline, rather than a guarantee.

The first thing you notice about the 1200 is it comes off the shelf in a nice compact bundle, about half the size of my winter sleeping bag, which is good for a synthetic fill. It's not the smallest and lightest sleeping bag in the world but, for the price, it's very good. The bag comes with its own compression stuff sack although, as with all sleeping bags, it's a bugger to get it back in neatly!

The 1200, like three out of the four Microlite bags in the range, is filled with DuPont Thermolite Micro, sealed within a soft, lightweight ripstop nylon shell with ripstop nylon lining. The insulation is as soft as down and the fibres are finer than silk, trapping large quantities of air to provide maximum insulation.

Once you pull it out of its stuff sack, you find it's a good, roomy bag. The outer and inner fabric is very comfortable and warm, the nylon offering a smooth, almost silky feel. A two-way zip runs the length of the bag, good for ventilation. There's a thermal zip-baffle and a tape running the length of the zip, designed to stop it snagging.

The bag has a shaped drawcord hood, which pulls in nice and tight, and a feature I particularly liked is the padded drawcord chest tunnel within the bag, which leaves you feeling very snug. The bag is thicker on top than bottom. It has two 150g layers of fibre on the top and one layer on the underside, which works well.

For someone of average height and slim build I found the 1200 a spacious sack, which would comfortably accommodate even fairly bulky/tall people.

So how did it perform? In short, very well indeed. I slept soundly through some cold spring nights, wearing just underwear inside the bag. Not once did I feel even a tiny bit cold, even when I was woken at 4am by a sheep scuffling round outside the tent. Overall, the Microlite 1200 is comfortable and roomy, performed superbly and, for a synthetic bag, was very light and compact to carry. It's excellent value for money and proved to be a very good buy.

Weight 1350g
Length 215cm
Shoulder girth 80cm
Foot girth 50cm
Pack size 43 x 23cm
Colours black (outer) and yellow (inner).
Price £60