Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Marmot Plasma 15: first look review

Yesterday morning the UPS guy arrived through the blizzard to deliver a big box of very little weight. Inside was a very lofty, but very light Marmot Plasma 15 sleeping bag, which I am now reviewing for UKClimbing. But I thought I'd do a very quick "first look" here, as these bags are very new and there is very little about them on the net as of this moment. Oddly, even though they are for sale in the US already, they don't appear to be on Marmot's own website yet - although if you can take very cheery and enthusiastic Americans-in-sleeping-bags, you can see Marmot's Curly here discussing the bag (I'm sure he's a lovely, normal guy when not hiding in sleeping bags for company videos).

The Plasma range is two new style bags, made of top of the range fabrics and filled with the best goose down. Unfortunately they also come with a top of the range price, RRP for the "15" (named for 15 degrees Fahrenheit - slightly confusingly for us Euros) appears to be 480 bucks in the US. So expect a price around 300 quid or 350 Euros. A lot of money to shell out, so I imagine the likely user is going to be someone who really does a lot of backpacking or camping in pretty cold conditions and wants a bag that is about as light as you can find for its temperature rating.

Anyway, taking my reviewing very seriously, I decided I better bite the bullet and give the bag a go. The heavy snow had stopped by evening but it was blustery and cold whilst I put the tent up in my back garden after packing the snow down by snow shoe. My little Hubba tent isn't really designed for camping on snow, the wind seems to get under the fly sheet quite easily and the all mesh inner means a bit more airflow through the tent than one might necessarily require in winter! Nevertheless this guarantees you are testing the insulation value of your sleeping bag, not of your tent.

The bag looks quite slim, but feels fine once inside. One immediate plus point is that the poppers and draw cords on the hood and draft collar are very easy to find and use in the dark. Really nice design. After doing them all up I immediately felt snug and warm, so couldn't be bothered undoing them again to read my book. So instead I just went to sleep (BTW, the book is "Wolf Hall" that won the Booker a couple of years ago and is well loved in literary circles - which makes me feel slightly embarrassed to ask, but has anyone else found reading it a bit of a trudge? Come on Henry VIII! Just shag her and behead her already!). I was still snug and warm at 6.45 when I had to get up. Getting out a nice warm sleeping bag into sub-zero temperatures is as nice as it always is - i.e. not nice at all.

The thermometer had said minus 4.5 when I had gone out, and it was minus 5.3 this morning when I came back into the house. The bags is rated to -9 but as anyone knows, sleeping bag ratings even with the best intentions of the manufacturers are a very inexact science. What I can say is that wearing my normal winter camping 'pyjamas' of a merino base layer, hat and down filled sleeping 'booties', I was very warm all night in the Plasma 15. I normally feel warm getting into sleeping bags but cool down a lot through the night, often feeling a bit chilly in the morning - but no such problem with the Plasma 15, at least at this temperature. So looking good so far. Much more on UKC at the end of March.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your review.
I was wondering how small is the Plasma 15 once in its stuff bag? Some reviews say that the provided stuff sack is too small for this bag? Is it true?
Also some reviewers complained about the zipper. What is your experience?
Thank you.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

Hope this post answers your questions:

Zip can catch a bit if you aren't careful, but no worse than on many other bags. Just learn to run your finger up next to the zip puller as you do it up or open it.

marmot said...

Great review! Thank you for sharing this. It was a big help. Keep it up!