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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Quilts and Blankets > Therm-A-Rest Ventra Down Comforter > Test Report by Kathryn Doiron

Therm-A-Rest Ventra Down Comforter


Test series by Kathryn Doiron
Initial Report: July 6, 2009

Field Report: Sep 9, 2009

Long Term Report: Oct 30 2009


Image of Ventra Comforter
Image courtesy of Cascade Designs website



Personal Information:
Name: Kathryn Doiron
Age: 33
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 8" (1.7 m)
Weight: 150 lb (68 kg)
Email: kdoiron 'at' gmail 'dot' com
Location: Washington DC, USA

Brief Background: I started backpacking and hiking seriously almost four years ago. Most of my miles have been logged in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I have recently finished 1200+ miles (2000+ km) of the Appalachian Trail. My style is to be as light as possible while not spending a fortune. My pack weight tends to hover around 25 lbs (11 kg) with two days of food and 16 oz (0.5 L) of water. I have recently started getting into winter hiking, snowshoeing and kayaking.


Product Information:


Manufacturer: Cascade Designs/Therm-A-Rest
Website: http://www.cascadedesigns.com/
MSRP: $229.95 USD
Weight: (stated) 2 lb 8 oz (40 oz) (1180 g) (weight and conversion from manufacturer's hang tag)
Weight: (actual) 2 lb 5 oz (37 oz) (1056 g)
Rating: (stated) 40 F (4 C)
Size: (stated) 60 in. x 82 in. (152 cm x 208 cm)
Colors/sizes available: Limon and Chili Pepper/Regular and Large



Initial Report:
April 15th, 2009

I received the large chili pepper comforter. This is a large down comforter with 650-fill down in a box baffle system. The comforter is part of Therm-A-Rest's comfort sleep system and works either alone or in conjunction with either a fitted sheet or snap kit each sold separately. The comforter has an elasticized footbox that can hug the bottom of a sleeping mat or feet helping to keep it in place. There are two snaps at the bottom of the comforter along the footbox and three along each side. The sides of the comforter have a draft baffle that extends around the bottom creating the fitted footbox. The side snaps are along the outer edge of the comforter and not along the draft baffle whereas the snaps at the footbox are located along the baffle. The snaps alternate between male and female snaps and line up with the snaps on the fitted sheet. There is a small pocket at the top of the comforter with a snap closure. The comforter came with a generously sized stuff sack as well as a mesh topped storage cube.

Stuffed size   Pocket detail
The stuffed size of the comforter plus the detail of the pocket.

My initial impressions of the comforter was how large it is. I wasn't expecting the comforter to be quite so generous. It is almost the same size as my double bed. Once I got over the size, I pulled out my air mattress and attached the fitted sheet to the mat to see how the comforter would work. The comforter has a set of snaps that line up with the snaps on the sheet. I draped the comforter across my bed upside down and placed my mat on top of it making the snaps easy to line up. I did notice that the snaps were difficult to snap together and pull apart. I grasped the material surrounding the snap and had to use quite a bit of force to pull the snaps apart. The comforter covered my regular length mat from top to bottom. As I am not that tall, I will likely have to fold the top of the comforter over if I don't want my head covered.

Baffle detail   Detail of the top and pocket location
Detailing of the baffle cut plus detail of the top and pocket location.

I wasn't really sure what to expect when I looked at the website. I thought this was just a comforter to drape over myself with nothing to hold it in place. I was pleased to discover that there was a snap system to hold the comforter down as needed but I wasn't expecting the snaps to alternate male with female. Once I discovered this, it also lead to the realization that I could snap the two sides of the comforter together and securely wrap myself up in the comforter like a sleeping bag. From the information tag I also see that it is possible to snap two comforters together to create a larger comforter creating a sleep system for two.

Detail of the footbox shaping
Detail of the shaping of the footbox.

The comforter is a little narrower at the feet and wider at the top. Once snapped onto the mat, the system works almost like a twin sized bed. I can snap along one edge and toss the comforter off to one side pulling it over myself as needed. While the cut of the large is extremely generous for my body size, it does still give me plenty of room when folded in half and snapped to itself. The comforter can be used in several ways and with several Therm-A-Rest items. A fitted sheet can be used to cover the mat and snap the comforter securely in place. There is also a snap kit that allows snaps to be stuck to any mat to secure the comforter. Plus the comforter can be used solo or snapped to another comforter for two person comfort. Finally, the comforter can be used as a lap quilt or wrap around camp to stay warm.

Baffle and snap detail
The baffle and snap location.

I am generally a stomach and side sleeper, but since I have difficulties sleeping, I tend to toss around a lot. I will be interested in how close to bed-like comfort I can get with the comforter when snapped down, as well as how well it stays in place when not snapped down. I will be using this comforter with a Therm-A-Rest Neo Air, as well as a mummy shaped summer weight Insul-Mat. I will use the comforter both with the fitted sheet and without as well as to wrap myself up with around camp. I will also try to use the comforter in a hammock on a warm night to see if snapping myself inside will work well.

Sides snapped together
The opposite sides snapped together.

My test plan over the next couple of months will be to use the Ventra Comforter on all my outdoor overnight activities. This will include backpacking in the George Washington National Forest and the Shenandoah National Park, as well as occasionally car and kayak camping. I will be especially interested in looking into how well the comforter stays in place when not snapped to something.



Field Report:
Sep 9th 2009

I have used this comforter for a total of 5 nights at this point. I have outlined the trips below and how the comforter was used. On all these trips, I wore minimal base layers as it was warm enough to not require extra insulation under the comforter.

Trips:
The first trip out was a two night trip in West Virginia to the Roaring Plains. The temperatures were down to about 55 F (13 C) at night, both nights. The elevation was relatively constant at about 4000 ft (1220 m). The second night saw some strong winds. I set up in a location with few trees to block the wind. I hammock camped the first night and tarped the second night. When the winds proved too much without more shelter, I moved into the hammock on the second night . I used the comforter with an air mattress and the fitted sheet this trip. The snaps didn't seem nearly as difficult to unsnap this time. The wind did prove to be a problem mostly because my set up produced a wind tunnel effect. Even when the wind wasn't sneaking in around my neck, just the flattening effect of the wind on the comforter proved enough to leech heat away. Setting up in the hammock was relatively easy to do. I snapped up one side of the comforter and the foot box and left the other side open and folded back. Once inside the hammock, I pulled the comforter over me and got comfortable. I didn't feel the need to snap the other side in place.

Using the comforter around camp was quite nice. Due to the wind, I felt quite cool and I ended up wrapping myself up in the comforter for around camp use. This worked quite well and kept me warm in the place of my forgotten down jacket. I did have to be careful to not drag the edges or corners on the ground when sitting moving around or sitting on the hammock.

The next trip out was a one night trip out to the Brighton Lakes area in Utah. We hiked a total of 10 miles (16 km) both days with 5 mi (8 km) hiked each day and a total elevation gain of about 4500 ft (1370 m). Overnight temperatures were down to about 55 F (12 C) with little humidity. The rain really brought the temperature down. The comforter was quite toasty at that temperature and I was nice and warm. In fact the comforter was large enough to toss part of it over my hiking partner in order to help share warmth. Not quite a two person comforter but certain the large size is enough to share a little. The little pocket does come in handy for storing ear plugs and my inflatable pillow or stuff sack for the pillow.

The next trip was a three day, two night trip down at Bryce Canyon. This was a car camping trip and I actually had a chance to use the comforter as a two person setup. Since my hiking partner also had a comforter it was possible to snap two together to create a large comforter for two. Having the fitted sheets was also helpful to keep the two mattresses together. Temperatures were lower on this trip, dropping down to 50 F (10 C) and possibly even a little lower. Overnight, I used the comforter as an individual setup and I didn't get cold at the lower temperatures.

Two comforters for two people
Two comforters allow for shared warmth, comforters overlap in the middle for extra warmth.

The last trip out was a car camping trip. Temperatures dropped overnight to a low of about 65 F (18 C) but started closer to 80 F (27 F) when I first went to bed. I didn't immediately crawl under the comforter as it was still a little too hot and sticky out. I instead just pushed the comforter off to the side within easy reach. I used the comforter with the air mattress again, but this time I did not snap the comforter in place, I simply placed the air mattress in the foot box. Given all the tossing and turning I do over night, especially towards the morning hours, I was happy to see that the comforter remained in place around the air mattress and gave me ample coverage on the sides. Since I have the large sized comforter, I found that the comforter spreads out nicely on the sides creating a good seal with the bottom of the tent. I don't have to tuck the sides underneath although I did tuck one side under my arm so it wasn't directly against the ground.

Impressions and Comments:
I have been really enjoying using the comforter. This is a unique set up for me and I think it works quite well given my tendency to sleep on my stomach and to sprawl out. I have plenty of room to sprawl and I can easily flip the comforter off or pull it on as needed to stay comfortable. Other then setting up in a wind tunnel one night, I haven't experienced any other significant drafts. I do sometimes get a small little puff of air entering when I roll around under the comforter. This is more refreshing then annoying given the relatively warm temperatures I have used the comforter under. I look forward to the cooler weather to see how well this system remains draft free from colder air entering.

I haven't had any problems with durability yet, nor have I noticed any excess escaping of feathers from the comforter. Actually, I haven't noticed any feathers escaping. I have been warm down to 50 F (10 C) and will continue to push that rating lower to see at what point I am no longer comfortable. I have so far been using the comforter with a rectangular air mattress. I have either snapped the comforter in place or just placed the air mattress in the elasticated foot box both with great success.

Wrap-up
Pros so far: generous space allowing freedom of movement, warm at least down to 50 F (10 C), works well as a large comforter for two if necessary. Cons so far: in a tarp wind-tunnel, drafts are possible.



Long Term Report:
October 30th 2009

I have used this comforter for a total of 7 more nights at this point. I have outlined a few more trips below with how the comforter was used.

Trips:
I took the comforter with me on an extended car camping trip which saw 5 nights of use. The temperatures ranged from a low of 45 F (7 C) to a high of 60 F (15 C). On the first night with a low of 45 F (7 C) I had a very hard time getting warm and ended up using another bag underneath the comforter to get warm and stay warm. The high humidity with the low temperature just caused me to get a chill that would not go away. The comforter worked great as an over bag, helping keep out drafts and give me the extra warmth I needed. The other nights were not nearly as chilly, and I either used the comforter alone or in combination with an inner bag.

Another trip out over 2 nights saw relatively warm temperatures with high humidity. I was staying on Assateague Island in Maryland with a light rain the first night and 60 F (15 F). The second night the tent was covered in condensation and temperatures were down to 55 F (12 F) at night. The comforter wasn't too warm the first night, I felt is was just on the edge of too warm so I didn't pull it all the way up until late in the night. The second night I definitely pulled it up over my shoulders. The comforter saw a little condensation rain down on it from the tent but was otherwise away from the tent walls. I did find that the comforter seemed to feel damp and likely had picked up some of the moisture in the air. I aired the comforter out when I got back home.

Wrap-up
This is a great addition to my sleep system. As a light summer bag I had the versatility of covering only part of myself to stay warm. As the weather moved into fall I used the comforter as a full cover, only occasionally peaking a toe or arm out. With colder winter temperatures moving in at night I find that this comforter makes a great camp wrap as well as an overbag. I also enjoyed using the comforter in my hammock finding it was easier to get wrapped up without worrying about zippers.

I really have not had any issues with this comforter. I have enjoyed using it from the beginning and can definitely see myself using it in warmer seasons. I did find that I was cold below 50 F (10 C) and wasn't sure if the high humidity might have played a detrimental role in my staying chilled. The comforter worked as a great overbag with plenty of extra room for another puffy bag underneath. Given the right combination of comforter and underbag, I could see this being a good early spring and late fall addition on trips where weight is starting to increase due to weather and warmer clothing. While not necessary, the sheet made the system great and I didn't have to worry about sticking to my pad. My fear that the comforter might tangle up around me never happened, I never tossed around so much in my sleep that the comforter came untucked from under the sleeping pad.

Pros

    - generous space allowing freedom of movement
    - warm at least down to 50 F (10 C)
    - works well as a large comforter for two if necessary

Cons:

    - in a tarp wind-tunnel, drafts are possible
    - little on the heavy side


This concludes my long term report on the Therm-A-Rest Ventra Down Comforter. Thank you for following this test series, I hope you have found the information contained within useful. I wish to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Therm-A-Rest for allowing me to test this sleep system.


Read more reviews of Therm-A-Rest gear
Read more gear reviews by Kathryn Doiron

Reviews > Sleep Gear > Quilts and Blankets > Therm-A-Rest Ventra Down Comforter > Test Report by Kathryn Doiron



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