Initial Report March 3, 2007
Field Report May 13, 2007
Long Term Report July 10, 2007
Photo Courtesy of the Valandre' Website
Name: Jason Boyle
Height: 5' 6"/ 1.68 m
Weight: 170 lb/ 77 kg
Chest: 42"/ 107 cm
Shoulder girth: 48”/122 cm
Hip girth: 43”/107 cm
Email address: c4jc "at" hotmail "dot" com
City, State, Country: Snoqualmie, Washington, U. S.
I have been camping and backpacking for about 18 years. My introduction to the outdoors started with the Boy Scouts of America and has continued as an adult. I have hiked mostly in the Southeastern and Northeastern United States. I am generally a lightweight hiker, but will carry extras to keep me comfortable. I currently reside in the Pacific Northwest and spend most of my time hiking and backpacking in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, but I can be found exploring the other wild areas of Washington!
Size: The bag says M for medium I believe.
Color: Grey outer shell, Black inner shell
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Fabric (outer/inner): Asahi KASEI Impact 66 Polyamid rip stop / Asahi KASEI Impact 66 Polyamid rip stop 37g/m2
||624 g (22 oz)/680 g (24 oz)**
||Total Weight (stuff sack and bag)
||700 g (25 oz)
||679 g (24 oz)
||21 g (0.75 oz)
||Mesh Storage Sack
||45 g (1.6 oz)
||3 offered 170/185/200 cm (67/73/79 in)
|| (shoulder/hip/foot): 158/135/97 cm (62/53/38 in)
Down quality: Goose 95/5 (95% down, 5% feathers); 800+ loft power
Down load: 350 g (12 oz)
Zipper Length 35 cm (14 in)
Extreme rating: -5°C/23 F
There is not any Extreme Rating information on the Valandré website that I could find. Ratings for all sleeping bags are subject to the user and the amount of exertion, food, humidity and so forth. I will keep track of these environmental conditions as part of my testing.
**The Mirage description says the first number and the product overview on the site says the second number.
The Valandré Mirage is a down fill, mummy style sleeping bag with minimalist features. It is not a standard style mummy where the circumference of the bag is generally the same over the length of the bag. The Mirage is cut wider in the torso region and narrow from the legs to the feet. The outer and inner fabric is soft to the touch and makes a soft swish sound as I rub against it. There is an orange Valandré logo at the center of the hood and a short YKK zipper with a long hook and loop pull tab on the left side, but basically I will have to slide into the bag from the top. There is no draft tube to cover the zipper or inside of the hood. At the very top of the zipper there are two cordlocks that allow the hood to be cinched down around the users face. One neat feature is that the cordlocks can be locked together via a male and female connector. The Mirage came with a mesh storage sack and a small stuff sack.
Initial Report – March 3, 2007
I have been anxiously awaiting this bag. It came stowed in the mesh storage bag and when I pulled the bag out of the storage sack my first thought was "Is this thing is going to keep me warm?" It obviously had been in that sack on the long trip from France, but after shaking it a bit the bag fluffed up quite nicely and looked more like the cold weather bag I expected it to be. The other thing that surprises me is how small I can stuff it without using a compression sack. The picture below shows the Mirage stuffed into the included stuff sack and it is not much bigger than a standard Nalgene Bottle. The overall construction of the bag is immaculate and I could see no problems upon my examination.
The hang tag had information both in French and English. The card included the following information:
Guarantee – “This “down” product of the highest quality is made with the greatest care and attention. It is designed for trekking, mountaineering, and expeditions. It is built to last and guaranteed against any manufacturing defects throughout the lifespan of the product.”
Compression – “Compress your “down” product only during transport. Store it loosely in a clear airy place.”
Care – “Wash your down product at 35 C/95 F by hand or machine using natural soap or special soap intended for “down” (or even regular shampoo). Do NOT dry clean! Rinse twice or three times to completely remove soap. Spin-dry delicately at low speed. Hang dry in a warm place out of direct sunlight or air-dry at lowest machine temperature. When dry, shake to distribute “down” evenly in the compartments.”
I have found washing and drying down products to be a chore and I was pleasantly surprised to see that Valandré will launder their products for the user for only a small charge. According to their website they charge $24 dollars to clean and inspect their products. They will also do product repair for a small charge. The owner of the product has to pay shipping to Valandré and any taxes that might occur.
One area that I am a bit concerned about is the lack of a draft tube in colder weather. Valandré says it placed the zipper in the shoulder area where there is less chance of getting cold and where extra layers could be placed if needed.
Field Report – May 13, 2007
So far the Mirage has performed like a champ. It is super comfortable and has done a pretty good job of keeping me warm even below the stated temperature rating. The short shoulder zipper makes it hard to get into the bag especially inside of a tight two person tent.
Since my Initial Report, I have used the Mirage on three overnight trips, and a 3 day mountaineering trip. Two of the overnight trips took place in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest. The third overnight took place in the Mt. St. Helens National Monument. The mountaineering trip took place in Sequoia National Park during an attempt to summit Mt. Whitney. Elevation varied from about 3,000’ to 11,700’ (914 m – 3566 m) on the flanks of Whitney. Temperatures ranged from 60 F to 10 F (15 C to -12 C) and precipitation included windy snow squalls and a bit of mixed precipitation at Mt. St. Helens. I slept in a tent on a Therm-A-Rest Toughskin for all of the nights and I slept on snow on every night except for the Mt. St. Helens trip where my tent was pitched on grass and lava rocks next to the Sno Park parking lot.
For this report I want to focus my thoughts on three characteristics of the bag; fit, durability, and warmth. I specifically ordered the 185 cm (73 in) length, even though I am only 168 cm (5’6”) tall so that I would have some more room in the bag for layering and storing clothing through the night without compressing the loft of the bag and I am happy to report that I have had plenty of room inside of the bag for all those things. I also had room to wear whatever layers I felt like I needed to be comfortable in the bag. My standard sleepwear consisted of the following: lightweight wool Icebreaker top, GoLite C-thru bottoms, clean dry socks, down booties and a skull cap. I also use a lightweight silk sleeping bag liner; more to keep the bag clean than for warmth. On the nights that the temperature fell below the bags rated temperature I used my Montbell Thermawrap and Integral Designs Denali pants in addition to my sleep clothes. Even with these additional layers I never felt claustrophobic inside the bag. I also feel like the bag is plenty roomy for me. When I sleep on my side, I normally pull my knees up some into a modified fetal position. I don’t feel constrained at all when I do this and have plenty of room to stretch out completely when I lie on my back.
My second concern with the bag is durability. I was concerned with the shell, lining and fill. I am happy to report that I have had no issues with the bag at all. All the seams on the bag remain tight and I have not noticed any down loss. I have had issues with zippers snagging on other bags, but I am happy to report that I have had no issues with the zipper on the Mirage. I have been able to zip and unzip the bag even while groggy in the middle of the night with no problems.
I have also been impressed with the bag’s ability to loft back up after being stuffed in the small stuff sack that was included. I am always amazed at how small the stuff sack is and that the bag actually fits in there. I am even more amazed at how well the bag lofts back up once I take it out of the sack. I just give it a few shakes to help it loft and toss it into the tent and by the time I am ready to go to bed it has lofted up completely.
Fit and Durability are nice but if the bag doesn’t keep me warm it isn’t useful. But before I discuss the warmth of the bag I want to talk about what I consider to be a key ingredient to keeping warm – FOOD! I have found that to stay warm I need to eat, usually more than I realize. A great example of this is my first two overnight trips. I went to the same place, under almost the same conditions, carried the same gear and it was almost the same temperature. The first night it was in the 30’s F (0 C) inside my tent, and the second night it was 40 F (4 C) in my tent, so it was a little warmer the second night. However what I ate was very different. The first night I only ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a few handfuls of chips, and a peanut butter Clif Bar. I slept moderately cold this night, which shouldn’t have happened in a bag rated to 23 F (-5 C). However the second night at the same spot a week later, I ate a heavily buttered turkey and cheese sandwich on a whole grain bagel, a couple handfuls of nuts, half a bag of trail mix, a small chocolate mint Clif Bar, a full sized Peanut Butter Mojo Bar, and a Corona. It seems like a lot of food, but some of it was eaten on the hike in. Though it was a little bit warmer, I slept very warm and comfy all night long. This was not a scientific experiment by any means; however, I found it to be very useful information for my mountaineering trip to Mt. Whitney.
I wanted to push the limits of this bag and Mt. Whitney provided me the opportunity to do that. My companions and guides thought I was crazy to bring a 23 F (-5 C) rated bag; they all had 0 F (-18 C) bags. My first night on Whitney was by far the coldest that I have used the bag in. It was 10 F (-12 C) inside of the tent. Dinner was several bowls of tortellini and sauce. Additionally during the day I had ate four Larabars, and two bagels with Nutella and a cup of hot chocolate. I started out the night in my normal sleep clothes described earlier and slept pretty well through most of the night. However, nature called and when I crawled back into the tent I was pretty cold. I remedied this by eating several Milano cookies and putting on my Montbell Thermawrap and Integral Designs Denali pants. This allowed me to sleep pretty well until right before dawn when my feet got cold, but overall I fared pretty well. My tent mate was cold all night in his 0 F (-17 C) bag so I didn’t fare too bad. There was some condensation this night but it was frozen and was easily wiped off of the bag when it fell.
My second night on Whitney was much different than the first, we had hiked in a snowstorm most of the day and I was pretty chilled once we got to camp and immediately used the bag to help me warm up. I put on my dry clothes and insulating layers and just placed the bag over me as I rested on my pad. This allowed me to warm up fairly quickly. I continued my eating habits and had several bowls of spicy Thai food in the evening, and a cup of double hot chocolate. I had also eaten well during the day similar to before with bars and bagels. We had an early dinner since the weather was so crappy, so I became a little hungry in the evening and again ate some Milano cookies. Since I was cold when I arrived in camp, I went ahead and started the night off with my insulation layers on inside of the Mirage.
It was much warmer that night only 30 F (-1 C) inside the tent. I was too warm with the extra layers on and eventually took off my Montbell Jacket. Since the weather was so bad the tent had to be closed up to keep the snow out and this resulted in a large amount of condensation and I do mean a lot of condensation. The shell of the Mirage was very damp when I woke up in the morning, but I was warm and dry inside of the bag. Unfortunately, that was the last night of our trip and I did not have the opportunity to see how the Mirage would perform with a damp shell.
Overall I am very happy with the Mirage and with how well it performs. It lofts up well, and has done a good job of keeping me warm. I have been able to take it below the rated temperature by using a couple of extra insulation pieces and making sure that I have had enough to eat. My only complaint is the small zipper. I know it saves weight to have a short zipper, but I am quickly tiring of having to crawl into my silk liner and then having to slip feet first to get into the bag. I would like to see the zipper extend at least half of the way down the side of the bag.
Long Term Report July 10, 2007
The Mirage has continued to perform admirably. I have continued to sleep warm and toasty inside of the bag, almost too warm at times. I have experienced no durability or fit issues over the entire four months. The bag is great!
I have been able to use the Mirage for three more nights over the last two months. Two of the nights came while car camping at a forest service campground in the Icicle Creek Valley. The third night came while backpacking along the Taylor River in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Night time temperatures were in the 45 F to 50 F (7 C to 10 C) range; there was no precipitation in sight except for some dew on the Taylor River trip. Elevation was around 1700 feet (500 meters).
Spring sprung here in the Northwest and I was interested to see how the bag would perform in warmer weather and multiple days of rain. My schedule worked out to allow me the warmer temperatures but not the rain. Having used the bag in cold temperatures I knew the warmer weather would force me to change my sleeping layers. For the last three nights, I did not use my silk liner and wore only shorts, a s/s t shirt and a beanie to bed. I tried to wear my down booties one of the nights and my feet became too warm so I took them off. I was comfortably warm in the bag with my new base layer configuration.
Armed with this new info, I believe that the Mirage is definitely a three season sleeping bag, those seasons for me would be fall, winter, and spring. In my opinion the shortie zipper and the lack of venting options make it too warm for summer. I tend to use a bag rated to 45 F (7 C) in the summer and have found that to be comfortable.
The only precipitation I experienced this time was a bit of dew on my Taylor River trip. This didn’t affect the bag just caused some condensation on my tent walls. The only comment with regard to precipitation I can offer comes from experience with other down bags and relates to how I would treat the Mirage in wet weather. Down needs to loft to provide warmth and wet down doesn’t loft. I make sure I keep my bag dry in my pack at all costs. I normally use a dry sack and if it is going to be a really wet trip I add a plastic bag. I also try to make sure I breathe outside of the bag instead of inside the sleeping bag and that I don’t over layer and sweat in the bag. I do everything possible to minimize water vapor from my body going into the down and affecting the loft. This is just good outdoor practice.
Overall I am very pleased with the Mirage. I have had no durability issues and because of the longer length I find that the bag is plenty roomy even while wearing winter insulating layers. I would like a longer zipper and I believe that Valandré has already addressed this with an updated version. The Mirage is a great bag and will definitely see many nights of use in the future.
This ends my Long Term Report. Thanks to Backpackgeartest.org and Valandré for allowing me to participate in this test.
Read more reviews of Valandre gear
Read more gear reviews by Jason Boyle