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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > Valandre Mirage > Jamie DeBenedetto > Test Report by Jamie DeBenedetto
The Valandre' Mirage is a lightweight down mummy style sleeping bag. It does have a hood but does not have a draft collar. Two simple drawcords are used to cinch up the neck area and the top of the hood. The cords tighten with spring loaded cord locks that snap together (shown in the pictures below). The two-way zipper is short, running only along the shoulder area. There isn't a draft tube or length of fabric behind the zipper. Both the outer and inner shells are made with an ultra-light shellfabric made in Japan called Impact 66 Ripstop Polyamide. According to the Valandre' website this type of nylon is "both downproof, windproof, water-repellent and has superior durability for abrasion…" over the more commonly used Nylon 6. The fabric has also been treated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish. At the foot end of the bag there are two hang tabs, one on each side of the foot box along the seam. The bag came with two storage sacks. One is a large mesh style and the other is the smaller stuff sack used to condense the bag while it's being carried.
The Valandre' Mirage arrived on March 2nd in, as far as I can tell, perfect condition. Aside from about four tuffs of down floating around in the mesh bag it was packed in I have not witnessed any down peaking through the fabric or noticed any additional escapees since. There aren't any loose strings, open seams, etc. The zipper works as it should as do the drawcords.
The informational material actually attached to the bag was pretty minimal but sufficient in addition to the information posted on the manufacturer's website. The bag itself had one garment tag sewn into the inner lining near the zipper and one hang tag. The garment tag gave the standard details about fabric material and down count and the hang tag included, in both French and English, Valandre's contact information, their product guarantee and insight on how to store and care for the bag.
I felt pretty educated about the Mirage after viewing the Valandre' website but honestly when I took it out of the box it was a bit different than what I had in mind. The first thing I noticed was the color. I like it. I didn't think I would because silver is just not what I think of when I think outdoor equipment but it really is a pretty sharp looking bag. The material, despite having a ton of static, felt great. It's very smooth and billowy. I couldn't wait to climb into it. For such a light bag I was expecting less loft. After I had a chance to sit down and look the bag over I was really surprised not to find a single loose thread. I get the very distinct impression this sleeping bag was constructed with great care.
I couldn't help myself so I spread the bag out on my bed and climbed in. The temperature in my house was 74 F (23 C), which is of course way over the bag's rating but I stripped a few items of clothing off and hoped for at least ten or fifteen minutes of evaluation time before I had to bail out. Entering through the shortened zipper was a little tricky but in the roomy environment of my bedroom it was not too much of a hassle. I do have serious doubts about how that procedure will work in a hammock, however. Once in, the bag felt great. It did not feel overly restrictive even in the leg area where it really tapers in. I had a little extra space in the foot box, which I like and I think will be enough to accommodate booties. The zipper was easy to work from the inside and so were the drawcords along the hood and neck region.
Before writing this report I wanted to put the Mirage in its stuff sack to so I could measure the size of the condensed bag and take a picture of it. The stuff sack appeared rather small but I started shoving the Mirage in without too much initial struggle. With about a foot (30 cm) of the bag left it looked as if it was not all going to fit. I was really having to work for every bit of progress at this point and it took several minutes to get it far enough down so I could cinch the outer drawcord. I wasn't able to do much with the inner drawcord and in fact when I pulled on it I heard a noise that sounded a bit like fabric ripping. I did not notice anything upon inspection of the stuff sack later but I didn't continue to try to compress the bag with the inner drawcord any further. I tried this process a second time several hours later but instead of trying to load it fully lofted I laid on the Mirage and rolled it up as I squeezed air out, kind of like rolling up an air mattress. This helped by making the bag a little less bulky and manageable but it was not a huge improvement.
This is the second of three reports; all opinions and observations in this section have been gathered after two months of using this piece of gear.
Night #1 / March 2007 - Sonoran Desert in Phoenix, AZ; elevation around 1,500 ft (460 m). The weather was clear with a light wind and an overnight temperature in the upper 40's (8 C). I was wearing a short-sleeve t-shirt, 100 weight fleece pullover, thin sweat pants and a light pair of socks.
Night #2 / April 2007 - Coconino National Forest near Camp Verde, AZ; elevation 3,500 ft (1,070 m). Weather was cloudy with an intermittent breeze; the overnight temperature was in the low 40's (5 to 6 C). Expecting slightly cooler temperatures I wore a long-sleeve t-shirt, 200 weight fleece jacket, thin sweat pants and a pair of wool blend socks.
On both nights I used the Mirage as my main source of insulation while sleeping in a top entry hammock. I slept fully inside the bag and used the hood both times. A closed cell foam pad placed under me inside the hammock and a homemade underquilt positioned under me but on the outside of the hammock served as my bottom insulation. Since the weather was very mild and dry I did not use a tarp or bug net on either night.
I tend to sleep a little cold but I was toasty warm on both nights inside the Mirage. Granted the overnight temperatures on both trips were not nearly as cold as the sleeping bag's extreme rating of 23 F (-5 C) but as these were my initial nights using it I didn't know what to expect. The bag is so light I have a hard time believing it will be able to insulate to that low of a temperature. Of course only more field testing will tell. Summer is fast approaching but I will try to get another night or two in temperatures closer to the listed extreme rating if possible.
Since I was sleeping for the most part out in the open with plenty of ventilation I did not have any problems with moisture build-up inside the bag nor did I have any condensation issues to deal with on the outside. As a result I cannot report on how the Mirage's DWR coating performed at this time. I plan to use the bag inside a tarptent on a couple of future outings in hopes of getting the opportunity to test this aspect of the bag's fabric. My findings will be noted in the Long Term Report.
Entering and exiting the bag via the shortened zipper was definitely more challenging compared to quilts or longer zippered bags I have used. Although it took longer to get situated it wasn't so inconvenient that I was annoyed. The zipper worked fine, no problems with sticking or snagging on the fabric. Honestly I liked having such a short distance to go when zipping up or unzipping, it was quick and I could get right to the task of wiggling my way in or out depending on my need.
The hood cinched down nicely around my head without giving me a claustrophobic feeling. The drawcords were very simple and easy to use in the dark. I did have one problem with one of them but it was minor. On my first night out the plastic end cover on the neck drawcord popped off at some point in the night. I found it on the ground in the morning and reattached it. It looks like there was a knot on the end of the cord that held the cover in place and obviously it had come undone. No biggy to fix, I'm just glad I noticed it while breaking camp. I'll make a note of it in my Long Term Report if this becomes a regular occurrence.
At this point into the testing phase I have mixed feelings about the comfort of the Mirage. I noticed because of the trim fit of the bag, especially along the lower half, it's very easy for me to move into a position that crushes the insulation and as a result I get a cold spot or two. I believe the fit is correct for my size which seems apparent when I'm lying on my back with my legs fully extended. Although I am quite comfortable this way I don't generally sleep in one position the entire night, in fact I'm more of a side sleeper. The cold spots were noticeable mostly around the knee, hip or behind areas as I tend to sleep with my knees bent or pulled up closer to my body. The slim fit of the bag will not allow me to pull my knees up inside the bag but I can pull my knees up if I bring the bag up with me and conform it to my shape. While in this position my shoulders and head weren't a problem, I'm assuming because the bag is cut more generously in these areas. I will probably only have one more night in the Mirage while sleeping in a hammock, after that I will be in a tent so I will be watching to see if sleeping on a more conventional surface makes a difference with this issue.
This is the third and final report in this test series; all opinions and observations in this section have been gathered after five nights using the Mirage in backpacking and car camping situations. Sadly, I ran out of cold nights here in the desert Southwest without hitting the Valandre' Mirage's "real" rating. I wanted to try it down to at least freezing or near freezing temperatures but that was not to be this season. On the upside, fall will be around soon enough so I will make a point to get in a couple more outings with the Mirage and update my report with my findings at that time.
Night #3 / May 2007 - Two day backpacking trip in Coconino National Forest east of Flagstaff, AZ; elevation 7,500 ft (2,300 m). The weather was cloudy with slight humidity, no breeze to speak of and an overnight low in the mid 40's F (7 C). I wore lightweight fleece pants, a moisture wicking t-shirt and wool blend socks.
Nights #4 and #5 / June 2007 - Three day camping trip in the Apache-Sitgreves National Forest near Springerville, AZ; elevation 8,300 ft (2,500 m). The week before we arrived in the White Mountains the temps were still around freezing. I was hopeful I'd get a good chance to test the Mirage's temperature range but unfortunately the area had a warm snap roll in a few days before our trip and our overnight lows on both nights were in the low to mid 50's F (10 to 12 C) instead. We did have some light sprinkles on day two; otherwise the weather was perfectly clear and breezy each night. I slept in a t-shirt and underwear.
Comfort and Fit
On these final outings I wanted to go to the ground instead of my hammock so I could see how the Valandre' Mirage faired in a more traditional sleeping arrangement. It did not feel as restrictive while sleeping on the ground, however, it was still a little tight in the hip and knee area, even with only one layer of clothing on. The torso section of the bag easily accommodated two thin layers but temperatures didn't allow for testing beyond this so I have no idea whether or not a loftier garment would fit.
The foot box worked fine for my foot size and was very warm. I often get cold feet when I sleep and I did not experience this on any of the nights in the Mirage even when I slept with bare feet.
I love the fabric. It's one of my favorite things about the Mirage. It's so silky and snuggly I feel really soothed when I lie in this bag. It is wonderfully slippery, which as I have mentioned, aids in entering and exiting. I did not find its slick surface to be problematic with regard to staying on my air mattress either. My only nitpick, and it's something I can live with, is the large amount of static the fabric builds up. Because I have long hair this is an annoyance but it isn't unique to the Mirage so I have learned ways to just deal with it.
While evaluating the Mirage's functionality I was watching for the following aspects, which I consider most important in a sleeping bag.
A fairly accurate temperature rating - I realize how warm or cold I sleep on the trail will be affected by many factors but all things being equal I expect my results with a sleeping bag to be at least close to the temperature rating given by the manufacturer. Valandre' only gives their extreme rating on this bag, which is 23 F (-5 C). The extreme rating is often used by European manufacturers as the lowest temperature the bag could be used without the user becoming hypothermic. Although it is not clear from the information provided on the Mirage whether or not this is what Valandre' means by "extreme" I went into the test assuming comfortable for me would be a bit higher, somewhere closer to freezing. As previously noted, I didn't even come close to experiencing either of these temperatures. What I can say, based on the conditions I did experience, is for the most part I was warm down to the low 40's (5 to 6 C) with a minimal amount of clothing on. The only disconcerting issue was the presence of cold spots I experienced in the areas where the bag is more slender. Given the more mild conditions this wasn't really a sleep deterring problem but it could be in a more wintry setting.
Entering, exiting, and venting - No doubt the Mirage sports a very short zipper that initially I thought would be problematic regarding all three of these areas but ultimately it was not. I found entering and exiting slightly more time consuming in comparison to longer zippered bags, especially in my hammock, but certainly manageable. Venting heat while in the bag did require a little more creativity than simply unzipping but I was able to use the Mirage comfortably in temperatures as hot as the mid 50's F (10 to 12 C). I wore only a t-shirt and underwear and for some of the night slept with the zipper open and the bag pulled down to just below my chest. I of course was not sleeping using the hood during the warmer nights so moving the bag down my body was a simple fix. The weather conditions where I was camping were dry so I don't know if sleeping this way would have been possible in higher humidity. Nor can I speak to how well this bag deals with interior moisture build up since as far as I can tell I did not experience any.
Condensation and drying in the field - No noticeable condensation was present on any of my outings so I cannot address how well or how poorly the Mirage's fabric and DWR coating repels exterior moisture. I had considered spraying the bag lightly with my backyard hose to get some estimate of how quickly the bag dried. I decided against it because that wouldn't be a true "field test" and since the temperatures in my yard have been way hotter than anything I would really backpack in I didn't think this data would be very accurate or helpful.
Packability with a compression sack - The Mirage is quite small when compressed with the provided stuff sack and that is certainly a bonus. On the other hand, I felt the effort needed to crunch the bag into the sack was too much.
Re-lofting after compression in a reasonable amount of time - I expect my sleeping bag to get back to a fully re-lofted state in the amount of time it takes for me to setup camp and eat. The Mirage met my expectations. On my backpacking trip I laid the Mirage out in my tent after having it compressed in the stuff sack inside my pack for about 24 hrs. I took it out, shook it a little in my tent and then left it out on my pad. I came back just under a half an hour later and it appeared as billowy as usual. Even though I only backpacked once during the testing phase I packed the sleeping bag in its stuff sack and transported it in the same way I would if I were backpacking on the other trips. My results were very similar on all trips, apparent re-loft within about a half an hour.
Quality of Construction and Durability
I have been able to use the Mirage a total of five nights and although this is not enough to give a proper evaluation of its overall durability it is holding up nicely to this point. The construction quality is clearly very high and beyond the initial few feathers I found in the mesh storage bag when the Mirage arrived I have not seen any stray down escaping since. The Asahi-Kasei Impact 66 Ripstop Nylon apparently is doing a good job of holding it all in. All seams & zippers function as they should and I haven't had any problems with the hood adjustment cords. They work flawlessly. The only issue I had with craftsmanship was the little cover that fell off on one of the hood cords during my second night out. Once I retied the knot and reattached the cover it has not fallen off again.
Care and Cleaning
I have been taking care of and storing the Mirage just as the manufacturer suggested and the bag is in prefect condition. It doesn't have any detectable odors or dirt marks so I have not washed it yet.
The snuggly warm feeling of the fabric
The slim fit through the lower half of the bag
Thank you Valandre' and Backpackgeartest.org
for the opportunity to be involved
in this test.
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