Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chinook Thermopalm vs Suisse Sport Adventurer - Summer Mummy Bag Review

Suisse Sport Adventurer vs Chinook Thermopalm
A tale of two summer sleeping bags - the Thermopalm 32F Mummy sleeping bag by Chinook Technical Outdoor vs the Adventurer Mummy Ultra-Compactable sleeping bag (30F) by Suisse Sport. I own both of these sleeping bags and have put both of them through a lot of use.  I purchased these bags because they were both bargain priced, synthetic sleeping bags that were under 3 lbs, and compressed to a small size for backpacking.  Rated for between 30-32 degrees F, I was hoping to get some 3-season use out of these bags (which I have tried); but what I found was that these made nice summer bags at temperatures above 40F (preferably 50+F).
The Chinook bag is palm-size

My first purchase of these two bags was the Thermopalm 32F Mummy from Chinook.  What first drew my attention to this sleeping bag was its weight and packed size, followed by its temperature rating.  The Thermopalm weighs in at 1.8 lbs, and when compressed in the included compression sack, it just about fits in your hand - 6.5" dia. x 8.5" long.  I can say that this bag packs easily into even small actually packs smaller than my sleeping pad.  Unfortunately, the 32 degree F rating is very optimistic - 32F is definitely a survival rating and not a comfort rating.  The Thermopalm is filled with only 6 oz of Insufil Thermo insulation fill, so when the temperatures drop below 50F, it starts to get chilly in this bag.  I have had it down to the lower 40s on several occasions, and down to 31 degrees once (due to an unexpected cold front).  Between 45-50F, this bag is chilly, but manageable with wearing some extra layers.  Between 40-45F it is cold, but you can manage to get some uncomfortable sleep.  But once you get into the 30s, it is nearly impossible to get any sleep; and while this bag will allow you to survive in those temperatures, you will shiver non-stop (I actually got up at 03:00 that one night, and started my hike out just to get warm).

Thermopalm - Low Frills Summer Bag
Above 50 degrees, however, this bag is nice.  Like I said, it packs down small, and it is made of nice material. The exterior fabric is a durable nylon taffeta, that is fairly water repellant.  The shiny fabric is a little slippery though, and will slide around on your sleeping pad. The lining material is a very soft nylon that feels good against your skin in summer weather.  Other than that, this is a low frills bag - no draft collar, very small hood, no valuables pocket.  But the fabric, zipper, and quality of construction are good.  I will mention, though, that this bag is pretty short (fits me perfectly in length at 5' 9"), and is narrow in cut which makes it difficult to toss-and-turn in - beware if you are greater than 6' tall or stocky.  I often use this sleeping bag for summer outings, particularly when I need to keep my pack size down on extended trips; but my latest go-to sleeping bag for warm weather is the Suisse Sport Adventurer.

Adventurer is much bigger bag
I originally purchased the Suisse Sport Adventurer as a spare sleeping bag, so that my kids could use it when one of them joins me on a backpacking trip.  Compared to the $50 spent on the Thermopalm Mummy, the Suisse Sport Adventurer was even more of a bargain at about $30 on Amazon.  It is a pound heavier than the Thermopalm, weighing in at 2.8 lbs; but that is still not too shabby.  It also comes with a nice compression sack, and when packed down, it is only a couple inches longer than the Chinook - at 6.5" dia. x 11" long it is still small.  The extra weight and size of the Suisse Sport comes from 1.5 lbs of MicroTekk Fill (4 times the fill of the Thermopalm).  The size is a bit longer than the Chinook bag, and the Adventurer is more roomy in the chest (I can turn easily in this bag).  The Suisse Sport Adventurer also has some additional features, such as a deep hood, draft collar  and draft tube that runs the entire zippered length, and zippered valuable pocket on the inside.  Pretty impressive for a $30 bag.

Deep hood, and a draft collar
The exterior fabric of the Suisse Sport is a rip-stop nylon; but it is thinner and less slippery than the Thermopalm, and it appears to be more breathable but less water repellant.  The inside lining material is also extremely soft.  The overall quality of construction seems very good, including the zipper.  The zipper sometimes catches on the draft tube, but is easy to back-off and un-jam, without damage.  I have found that this bag does not slide around on my sleeping pad as much as the Thermopalm, and is easier to toss-and-turn in (I turn a lot in my sleep).  This sleeping bag is definitely warmer than the Thermopalm, which is not as good in the hot summer months; but in the shoulder seasons the Suisse Sport can take you down to a little lower temperatures.  The material definitely breaths well in the summertime, and I haven't gotten sweaty or damp in this bag.  In colder weather, though, the breathability of this material seems to make it less water resistant; and in damp conditions this bag can get wet, which does make it colder.  My son and I have used this bag many times down to mid-40 degree temps comfortably.  Between 40-45F, you want to add some clothing layers over your base layer to remain comfortable.  In the upper 30s, this bag begins to get cold, even with extra clothes - with a good sleeping pad for insulation and to keep the bag dry, you can probably take this sleeping bag down to near 35F in a pinch.  My daughter took this bag on a University field trip in October, north of Chicago, when the temperature dropped into the upper 30s, along with wind and torrential downpours. Unfortunately, she didn't bring a sleeping pad, and the wet ground soaked through the school's cheap tent floor and made the sleeping bag damp.  With extra layers, and a thermolite bag liner, she was still cold and miserable that night.

A summer bag, and a summer + bag

All things considered, both of these bags make great summer sleeping systems.  The Suisse Sport is definitely the better deal in terms of price and features (with just a little additional weight and size); and the Suisse Sport Adventurer can also venture into the 3-season use range, getting down to the upper 30s/lower 40s.  For colder weather sleeping bags (20-40F comfort range) for backpacking, check out my review of the EMS Solstice vs Snugpak Sleeper Xtreme sleeping bags (here).

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