THERM-A-REST VENTRA DOWN COMFORTER
TEST SERIES BY MIKE CURRY
INITIAL REPORT - July 04, 2009
FIELD REPORT - September 28, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - November 14, 2009
5' 11" (1.80 m)
220 lb (99.80 kg)
I've been backpacking, climbing, ski-packing, bushwhacking, and snowshoeing throughout the mountains of Oregon and Washington for the last 25 years. I'm an all-season, all terrain, off-trail kind of guy, but these days (having small kids) most of my trips run on the shorter side of things, and tend to be in the temperate rainforest. While I've carried packs (with winter climbing gear) in excess of 70 pounds (32 kilos), the older I get the more minimalist I become.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Cascade Designs
|Photo courtesy of manufacturer|
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: www.cascadedesigns.com/
MSRP: None Listed
Listed Weight: Regular - 2 lb (940 g), Large - 2 lb, 5 oz (1180 g)
Measured Weight: Large - 2 lb, 5.8 oz (1.07 kg), including 1 oz (28 g) stuff sack.
Size Tested - Large
Color Tested - Chili
From the Manufacturer:
The Ventra comforter provides all the technical benefits of a down sleeping bag—lightweight compressibility and warmth —without making you feel…like a mummy. It snaps directly to your mattress with our Fitted Sheets or Mattress Snap Kit, eliminating the wasted down and fabric underneath you that provides little additional warmth. Instead, you get the added benefits of space, ventilation and foot-loose freedom that you only ever felt at home. Used as a part of a sleep system, or on its own around camp, the Ventra Down Comforter is creating a brand new genre of technical, outdoor luxury.
*Create Your Comfort: Use it alone for on-the-spot comfort, or mate it directly with your Therm-a-Rest® mattress to create a complete sleep system.
*Technical Warmth: Comfort rated to 40°F (°C) featuring box-baffled, 650-fill down to eliminate cold spots.
*New Freedom: Enjoy the added ventilation with unrestricted space to move and sleep—just like you do at home.
The Therm-a-Rest Ventra down comforter arrived in a square-ish nylon storage sack with haul handle and ventilated mesh top, surrounded by a paper strap containing basic consumer information and instructions.
|As received (sheet set and snap kit available separately)|
The Ventra impressed me right off. The Chili color is nice, being what I would call a "ruddy-brown" that is very subdued and easy on my eyes. The underside of the quilt is grey, and the colors are very complimentary. The overall shape is a trapezoid, narrower near the feet than at the top.
The fabric feels like nylon, and is soft and smooth against the skin. Close inspection of every seam and snap revealed a few loose thread ends, but nothing of concern. The workmanship is clearly high quality.
Two features jumped out at me right away. The first was the elasticized foot box, designed to wrap over my mattress, that is at the bottom of the full-length draft tubes. The second was the small storage pocket sewn into the upper edge. The stuff sack was inside this pocket, with the single snap closure closed in its drawcord, preventing it from being lost even if it somehow worked its way out of the pocket (which seems unlikely with the pocket snapped shut).
Overall, my first impressions were very favorable.
|Ventra in stuff sack|
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The instructions provided on the paper band illustrate attaching the Ventra to a mattress with the Fitted Sheet or Mattress Snap Kit, snapping two Ventra Comforters together, and how the elasticized foot box wraps over a mattress. The instructions also state that the Ventra is machine-washable in front-load washers.
In addition, the following sewn-in care instructions are found near the foot of the Ventra:
Down Care Instructions:
Wash: Hand wash or machine wash in a large capacity, front loading washing machines using a mild, powdered soap or special down soap. Cold water, gentle cycle with two rinses. Do not dry clean. Do not bleach. Do not iron.
Dry: Tumble dry in large commercial dryer with low heat, checking comforter often to redistribute down and to check for over heating. As the bag dries, shake gently to redistribute down. Do not hang dry.
Do not store your comforter compressed.
TRYING IT OUT
I tried the Ventra out first in my living room, laying down to see how it felt. While obviously it was too warm for indoors, the fabrics felt good against my skin, and the elasticized foot box didn't bother me when used without any mattress. In fact, the foot box wrapped nicely around my feet, keeping the Ventra in place. One thing I did notice is that after spreading it out the down regained its loft relatively quickly after being compressed, more so than down sleeping bags I have owned in the past.
|Underside of quilt|
Next, I decided to try it out with some sleeping pads and the fitted sheet set the manufacturer included (available separately). Using the Ventra with the fitted sheet set very much gave me the feeling of being in a sleeping bag, and though I did find it a little tricky at first to snap the snaps to close it up, no major problems were encountered.
As I am a side-sleeper that likes to move around a lot, I also tried the Ventra without the sheet set, both with the pad in the elasticized foot box and with without. I liked it both ways, and am anxious to discover which I prefer in the field.
Finally, I was pleased to discover that I am able to snap the two sides together at the bottom to make a wrap-around foot box. I'm not certain I will like this configuration in the end, but I'm excited to have another option to explore.
Overall, the Therm-a-Rest Ventra down comforter seems to be a very well-designed and attractive piece of gear. I'm very impressed with its design features, workmanship, and materials.
|My kids love testing gear, too|
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I have used the Therm-A-Rest Ventra down comforter on 8 nights of backpacking use and 4 nights of car camping, during the test period to date. Overnight temperatures have ranged from 38 F (3 C) to 56 F (13 C). The Ventra has been used in tents, under tarps, and under nothing but the stars. It has been used in conjunction with the Therm-A-Rest fitted sheet set and a variety of different pads. All use has been on the Olympic Penninsula of Washington State, both in the mountains and along the coastal strip.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Therm-A-Rest Ventra down comforter has become one of my favorite pieces of gear.
The Ventra is more than large enough for me to tuck the sides in under me if I want to (and I'm not a small guy by any means). It's length is enough that I can pull it up over my head and curl up leaving only my face poking out. That said, there isn't a lot of "wasted" size. While I originally thought the foot area could be narrower, I've found that it is just right for keeping my feet covered when I toss and turn, which I do a lot. The elasticized foot box and "draft collar" that extends up the sides does a fantastic job of eliminating drafts, even when not snapped to a mattress.
I've taken good care of the Ventra (as I would any down product) but I haven't exactly babied it. It shows no signs of wear or damage. Despite the fabric feeling very thin, I've snagged it on things and the fabric seems none the worse for wear. No concerns so far in terms of durability.
First off, I really appreciate that Therm-A-Rest provides both a stuff sack for field use and a storage sack to prevent long-term compression. Both these items work great. I also appreciate the small snap-closure pocket near my face . . . not only do I use that to keep from losing the stuff sack, but I've also found it to be a great place to keep my glasses handy yet safe while I sleep. While I have used the Ventra snapped down to a sleeping pad twice now (using the fitted sheet set), I much prefer the freedom of movement provided when it isn't snapped down. Also, while putting the elasticized foot box around the bottom of my pad does keep it all in place, I prefer to just stick my feet in it. I will say that the snaps are easy to snap and unsnap, yet stay snapped to the sheets even when I roll against them. All in all, the design appears very well thought out.
As subjective as this is, I will offer my own observations regarding the temperature range of the Ventra. First, I used the Ventra on one night that dipped just below the comfort range of the comforter. While I am a warm sleeper, I think the 40 degree limit is probably my "sleeping comfortably warm" limit when wearing only underwear and a shirt. With a good sleeping pad, dry socks, polypropylene bottoms, a fleece top, and a wool hat, I am quite convinced I could use the Ventra in temperatures well below freezing, and intend to do so during long-term testing. One of the best aspects of the Ventra, however, is seen in warmer temperatures. It is easy to stick an arm, a leg, half my body, or just a foot out from under the comforter when I start getting too warm. In fact, with the Ventra, I find this easier than other quilt-type sleeping systems I've used (as others I have used had enclosed foot pockets. Overall, I find the Ventra just about perfect in terms of temperature range, though I would love to see a model with some additional down/loft designed for use below freezing just to have more flexibility.
Living in the very wet Pacific Northwest, down is something I generally avoid. I have limited my use of the Ventra to short trips in good weather and trips with easy bailouts. That said, even in nice weather things can happen. On one trip, a water bottle in my pack leaked, soaking the "head" end of the Ventra. When I got to camp and noticed, I was more than a little concerned about how the night would go. With only an hour of sunlight left, I hung the Ventra over a limb after squeezing out all the water I could.
I'm happy to report that the Ventra dried fairly rapidly, and though the down remained damp overnight, the fabric stayed dry against my skin, allowing me to remain very comfortable by simply wearing my fleece top to bed.
The Ventra is a well-designed, durable, comfortable piece of gear that has earned a spot on the list of gear I reach for first when backpacking. While not my first choice for foul weather use (due to the down) or extremely cold weather (the 40 F/4 C temperature rating feels about right for me), when the conditions are right, it's what I reach for first. While I prefer to use it without attaching it to my sleeping pad, I have used it in conjunction with the Therm-A-Rest fitted sheet set and it works as described.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I have used the Therm-A-Rest Ventra Down Comforter on three additional nights during long-term testing. Overnight temperatures have continued to range in the 40 F (4.5 C) to 55 F (13 C) range. Two nights were in the mountains of Olympic National Park in Washington State, with the third night in the southern foothills of the Olympic mountains within the National forest. The first two nights I used the Ventra in conjunction with a 3/8 in. (9 mm) closed cell foam pad. The third night was the warmest (around 55 F/13 C) and I used the Ventra in conjunction with my new Therm-A-Rest NeoAir pad (size large).
In addition, I have used the Ventra on a number of day hikes as a wrap for use during breaks, and have used it as a lap blanket around the house, so it has seen a great deal of use.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I don't have a lot to add from my field report experiences. The Ventra has continued to perform very well, and has proven to be a lightweight, comfortable, and durable addition to my sleep gear arsenal. I found it most comfortable when used with my new Therm-A-Rest NeoAir sleeping pad, which is a size large. The NeoAir is the only inflatable pad I own that is 25 in (64 cm) wide, and the large Ventra works great for me in conjunction with this wider-width inflatable pad, providing good coverage even when I toss around at night.
The Ventra has also proven to be remarkably durable. When I first started using it I think I babied it somewhat because the fabrics seem so thin and light and have a remarkably soft hand. During long-term testing, I have to say that caution was thrown to the wind. While I didn't abuse the Ventra, I certainly didn't baby it, and it shows no signs of wear or damage, and I have yet to see a single piece of down escape. I also haven't noticed any bunching of the down . . . the distribution seems to be as even when I received it.
In addition to using it for backpacking, I've used the Ventra as a lap blanket around the house, and a wrap around camp (and even on day hikes). It's seen a great deal of use, and had held up admirably.
I continue to feel that the temperature rating is about right for me for normal use. Under the right conditions and with the right sleeping clothes, I feel I could probably push the Ventra's range down to around freezing, but I am usually a very warm sleeper.
The Therm-A-Rest Ventra down comforter is a very high-quality, durable, and reasonably light weight quilt-style component for my sleeping system. I have found it comfortable and adequate for all the temperatures I have encountered during testing. When combined with a sheet or snap set it can be attached to a sleeping pad, but I have decided I prefer the freedom of using it like a quilt. Having both options, however, makes it a remarkably versatile system.
The Ventra will definitely stay active in my bag of tricks, and I'll probably buy another if I ever wear it out. While I'm reluctant to use down on longer trips or during our fall, winter, and spring due to our very high rainfall, I think the Ventra will be my first choice for short trips of 2-3 days where I can be reasonably certain there won't be torrential rainfall, and longer trips during the summer. I consider it one the best options I have for warmer fair-weather conditions.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
I would like to thank Cascade Designs and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Ventra down comforter. This concludes my report.
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Read more gear reviews by Mike Curry