The coldest hours of our days in the Himalayas were the nights. It could be nice and warm during the day – even up to the point where we could walk in t-shirt, but temperatures consistently fell below freezing during the night. This regularly included double-digit negatives: it was not uncommon experiencing -15ºC after dark, and in the coldest of nights that even became -20ºC and below.
To tackle those temperatures for months on end, we needed a proper 4-season sleeping bag with a good warmth to weight ratio. After a lot of research I decided to go for the Helsport Kvitbreen series, and bought the lady model.
- Weight: 1.6 kg
- Fill: 970g of 90/10 goose down, fill power 700 cuin/oz
- EN rating: Tcomf -13ºC, Tlim -21ºC, Text -44ºC
- Person length/width: 180/75 cm
- Volume: 19 x 34 cm
Weight was not the primary issue for me when choosing my sleeping bag: I place high value on a good night of sleep. Warmth to weight, this sleeping bag is a good compromise between comfort and shaving grams. Kvitbreen Lady is not the ultimate lightest in its range: Western Mountaineering and Mountain Equipment for example produce bags that are a couple of 100 grams lighter than the Helsport Kvitbreen. Much of the added weight is due to the heavy Airtex® 100% Polyamide inner and outer fabrics, and the wide cut to allow for extra hip space in the women’s model.
There are a few noticeable differences between these fast-and-light bags and Kvitbreen, though: the Helsport bag has a higher rating than these lighter competitors. It is one of the lightest sleeping bags that will keep you warm on the coldest of midwinter nights. Second, it still includes a range of features to add to such as an internal pocket, a fluffy hood and a collar to trap the heat inside.
Much of the added weight is due to the heavy Airtex® 100% Polyamide Ripstop 30D outer fabric, and the wide cut to allow for extra hip space in the women’s model.
At 1,6kg it was the single heaviest item in my backpack, though I personally gladly carried it for the advantage of a comfortable, warm night.
970g of the total weight of the bag go into its down filling: 90% down, 10% feathers with a 700 fill power. The bag is extremely lofty and very insulative. Extra warmth comes from the down-filled baffle that runs along the zipper, the Stay warm collar™ and a lofty hood with quick closure system to prevent heat loss.
I was really a fan of the Lady model. I do feel that unisex sleeping bags can be tight around the hips, and I often have cold feet when I go to sleep. Women get cold differently from men: we lose heat easier at the extremities (hands, feet), and in addition we need more insulation to maintain the same temperature. Helsport addresses this with the Huldreheimen technology, creating sleeping bags customized to fit women’s body shape including extra insulation around the feet. My sleeping bag was always a bubble of warmth in the night.
Ratings are only informative and very personal, yet I found the rating very accurate. The comfort zone for me lies below the stated -13ºC: even around -15ºC/-16ºC I was nice and warm inside the bag. Around -20ºC I started sleeping with extra thick socks and a down jacket on. There was only one night on the entire trail where I was just not warm enough to sleep comfortably, and during that night temperature fell a good way below -20ºC.
Comfort & Features
Thanks to the wide cut there is a lot of room to move around in, and even to store things such as water bottles, extra clothes or electronics. Room for storage inside the sleeping bag is essential in winter to keep batteries up and prevent bottles from freezing. Sometimes we’d spend 12-13 hours inside our bags and there a roomy fit was very enjoyable. The inner Airtex® 100% Polyamide 30D fabric has a nice feel to it, which is great since I slept in this sleeping bag every night for 4 consecutive months. It’s pretty soft to the skin.
The bag has a handy inner pocket where I usually kept my phone and spare batteries for my headlight in the night. The pocket is quite big and fits a few items, which I found highly convenient. The two way zipper is good and never gave problems in the cold, though it does snag in the outer fabric from time to time. There are two zippers, so it is possible to air out the bottom of the bag while keeping the top closed. The heat collar and down baffle along the zipper are very effective in keeping cold out. The heat collar is very comfortable too, giving you the feeling of having a giant down pillow all around your neck. I really liked the fluffy hood. Even with the collar and the hood completely closed there is still space between your nose and the bag, so you can keep your nose inside and prevent it from freezing off.
The lower slopes of the Himalayas are damp and wet places, while cold nights on higher ground create condensation inside the tent. The down was exposed to nearly three weeks of consecutive wet days and nights, and many more nights where it was so cold that condensation froze inside the tent to thaw in the morning when the sun hit and everything started melting. It doesn’t have hydrophobic down treatment yet this did not matter. The outer fabric kept the humidity well at bay and I never had the impression that the down inside of the bag was wet. The Airtex fabric also dried really fast: even when it was really wet it only took 20-30 minutes of leaving it out in the sun to have the dampness of the night erased. Thanks to the water resistant outer fabric this sleeping bag is durable as well: even after 4 months of hard use in conditions that are not ideal for down, it has kept its loft and warmth.
With Kvitbreen, Helsport made a sleeping bag in the top range of products combining warmth with low weight. This is a wonderful bag for long trips where a lot of time is spent inside the sleeping bag and where you need space to store gear sensitive to the cold. The bag is durable, comfortable and weather-resistant, and well adapted to cater for female-specific needs in cold environments.