Written by Alice Grant
In my younger years, I went through a time of dating Rick, Vic, Nick and Mick (anyone noticing a pattern?). Anyway, I was discovering outdoor adventure at the time and Mick had all the gear; however, after a period of time, he showed up one day, demanded I return his gear and disappeared. Since then I have alternated between feelings of guilt and gratitude that he left behind my beloved purple Macpac neve sleeping bag. Rated to -10 it's been well travelled between Africa, Nepal, South America and Australia. The unique design is both a curse and a blessing requiring one to have marshall art skills to unite bag and mat but providing ultimate comfort once assembled.
Now almost 20 years later (and the last few freezing nights) with my Western Arthur's trip looming, I have finally come to terms with the fact that it's time to upgrade my bag. My criteria was strict - lighter and smaller than the Macpac with wriggle room (no mummy-shaped bag for me) and a nice bright colour. My first choice was the Sea to Summit Base Camp III as it had all the features I was after and bright red too; but it was too heavy. Features cost weight and if you strip them back you end up with a quilt style sleep scenario. There are some great options out there (tassie's tier quilts and z-packs) but I didn't think they would be warm enough for me and my rolling sleep movements.
After much deliberation I put my hard-earned cash down on a Sea to Summit Flame IV, it’s a tough decision when you can't try before you buy!
It arrived in a small stuff sack slightly smaller and 200g lighter than the Macpac (winning so far) but I soon discovered this was an illusion as I attempted to pack it in my usual ‘sleep’ drysack. After wrestling around the loungeroom for an extended period of time, I gave up and found a bigger drysack; problem solved.
Hiking always sends us to bed early but on NSW’s Great North Walk I was particularly eager to retire early and test out the new Sea to Summit Flame IV! Once again it exploded out of the drysack as there is definitely plenty of snuggly down contained within the aptly named flame (more of a burnt orange rather than fire engine red) and it weirds me out that the fabric is transparent so you can see the warm fuzzies! The bag is surprisingly roomy and I like that the zip goes from both ends so you can hang your feet out if needed or let in some extra ventilation for temperature control. I found that the well-padded hood also serves to hold your pillow in place all night!
My sleep system consists of Exped UL down mat, homemade silk fitted sheet, Exped air pillow with case and sleeping bag all carried together in a Sea to Summit Evac Drybag (13L/20) total weight 1880g, although I think I may have to include the compression stuff sack to control the new sleeping bag. Overall I think the -10 rated Flame IV may be slight overkill for most of my NSW adventures (might have to check out a Flame II) but for Tassie and Mont Blanc next year I feel it will prove to be a worthy investment and I’m excited to know that I’ll be toasty warm from now on.