A Great Down Sleeping Bag For Sheep And Mountain Hunting
My old 3 season bag (Sierra Designs “shackleton”) was rated for -7c and weighed 4lbs 10oz, that is a ridiculously heavy sleeping bag for backpack hunting, and while it was comfy for any early hunts, it was definitely not warm on some of those nights when the temps would drop below freezing. My requirements for a new down sleeping bag were as follows.
#1. Must weigh around 2lbs (cutting my sleeping bag weight in HALF)
#2. Must have some type of water repellent shell fabric.
#3. Must be warm enough for all 3 seasons (in the BC mountains).
There are several bags on the market that meet these criteria, but it was through one of the hunting forums I belong to, that I was introduced to a little known, but innovative company, in Belcaire, France that was manufacturing a versatile, lightweight down sleeping bag called the “Bloody Mary”. What makes the bloody mary so versatile? It’s a uniquely designed removable collar system within the sleeping bag, that allows the user to attach 2 different collars depending on the type of conditions you are expecting. Most sleeping bags have the collar already stitched into the bag, and it maybe a full collar, 1/2 collar, or just a little flap to slow the heat from escaping the inside of your bag, the point is, that’s not versatile… The Bloody Mary can be altered, (easily in the field) to help keep you warmer and more comfortable. Honestly, if you’d like to all know all the features of this bag, ANY retailer that sells it, provides a thorough description as well as on the Valandre website. You came here, because you want to know what I think of the bag, so let’s get on with it…
After some more research (Hunting Forums, Backpacker Reviews etc..) I decided to go ahead and purchase a Bloody Mary for my upcoming backpack sheep hunt. I ordered the sleeping bag online from High Calibre Gear (A hunter friendly retailer) in a size Medium, Left Zip ($478.95 + Shipping), “Carl” was the person I spoke with when ordering and he’s an Elk hunter in Montana and loves to talk huntin’, tell him the BCHuntingBlog sent you.
The sleeping bag arrived about 6 business days later and I pulled it out for inspection.
Here Are My Initial Thoughts:
The outer shell fabric felt quite thin, and I was initially worried about it’s durability, “was I going to have to baby this thing…?” went through my mind.
Crawling into the bag on my living room floor, I initially wondered if maybe I should have went with the large sized bag, but I fit into the medium with my legs stretched out and a little room to move (what do you expect with a lightweight mummy bag?) I am 5’10” and about 200lbs, so if you were any bigger than me, it’s the large you’d want for sure.
So How Did The Bag Perform?
Just like all my gear, I threw the sleeping bag in my pack and headed out on a journey 18+ miles off the Alaska highway, and up into a little drainage in the Rocky Mountain Trench my family has hunted for decades. In total I spent 9 nights in the Bloody Mary this year at varrying altitudes and weather conditions, from driving wind/rain (and I mean HARD) to freezing temperatures, and in the extreme heat, as usual it was August in the BC mountains, you get all 4 seasons, sometimes in just one day!
The first few nights, the temperatures were above freezing, but still pretty damn cold when you’re 6500′ feet up in the Rockies hidden away, on a wind blown ridge and I stayed comfortable and warm in the Bloody Mary, there were no cold spots in the bag at all and no problems with sweating, or poor ventilation (I had the foot vent zipper open about 6″). Sleeping on the Exped Downmat 7, in combination with this bag, was actually quite comfortable, the Exped is really the cat’s a$$ but that’s for another review. There were a few occasions in the middle of the night, where I had been tossing and turning (forgot my earplugs and the wind was CRAZY) and woke up in a bit of a panic, because the bag was tight around me, I’d left my pants inside the bag to keep warm, and in my tossing/turning state I had wrapped myself up in those, and twisted the sleeping bag and it was a shit show to say the least.
The bag is definitely tight fitting (I possibly should have went with the large size), but that’s a price you pay for such a lightweight and efficient piece of gear. It’s designed to keep you warm and alive in some pretty gnarly conditions, accept that and you’ll be okay.
The water repellency of the shell was tested several nights in a row, when we were camped down low beside a slow moving river, that humidity in the tent became a problem, (we had a siltarp overtop which prevented the tent from breathing) every morning, the Bloody Mary was drenched from the condensation dripping off the tent poles, we went through a routine of drying out the bag everyday with the sunshine (and it was hot during the day) and the bag still continued doing what it was supposed to do, keep me warm.
The coldest it got was likely around 0c as all of the dew on our tent was frozen in the morning, and a slight icy crust on my water bottle, indicated it was a cooler August night, I was still warm and cozy in the bag.
The warmest it got, was hot, I actually slept in the bag with the entire zipper open, for ventilation that night. For this trip I had the 1/2 collar in place, and left the other collar behind, to reduce weight.
What Are My Final Thoughts?
Once I got to using the Bloody Mary in the field, I was quite happy with the way the bag performed. It’s what it is advertised as, a very lightweight, and warm 3 season down sleeping bag.
What Are The Pros?
- The water repellency of the outer shell fabric really impressed me.
- The sleeping bag packs down incredibly small.
- The sleeping bag only weighs 2lbs 6oz.
- The sleeping bag is really warm to the advertised temps.
- Made with Fat French Grey Goose Down (850 Fill)
- Removable Collars make the bag more versatile.
What Are The Cons?
- It’s a very expensive sleeping bag.
- There is no protective flap over the zipper to prevent water from entering in that way. (many high-end bags have this feature)
- There are no Canadian retailers who currently stock this sleeping bag, so it’s not easy to find.
The bottom line:
If you’re looking for a lightweight sleeping bag that will keep you warm and comfortable through the 3 seasons in the BC mountains then the Valandre, Bloody Mary is a sleeping bag worth looking into. It’s expensive, but performs really well in the field, compresses down small and weighs less than two pounds. What else do you want from your 3 season sleeping bag?
You should not have any issues with the « cord/stitch » issue. Designing the system, we knew very well, that this could be a weak point, so the point is completely reinforced, and I have never seen a stitch rip up. If you take into account the logical “drawing direction” when you tighten the hood, the cord slides out of the hole, and is not in friction up against the thread and stitch.
To the observation that some down leakage appeared on the draft collar, it can be some down left in the cleaning process, but rarely in the stitching process in it self. The stitching process is key in the manufacturing, and is the balancing point between number of stitches pr. Cm and thread tension. Further, if you look at the video from the sewing operation in Tunisia, you will notis, that we over lock the stitches, that can be over locked.
One point that surprised me was, your note on the inside volume, judged to be small…..you are the first to say this, as the BM is a BIG bag.
Thank you for your comments, and addressing the minor issues I had with the sleeping bag. I also understand the point about the down leakage, and it just appears to be down that may have been caught in the actual stitching process as opposed to leaking.
Yes, I did find the bag a little small, but I was also sleeping with my clothes inside the bag with me, and as a tosser and turner I kept getting really twisted up in the bag and in my clothes.
Even with those minor issues aside, the bag performed excellent and I am glad I made the purchase decision.
Hello, thanks for your review, I am considering investing (!) in one of these for alpine style ascents of 4000+ mt summits.
I was wondering how did it perform following your review. Did you had any leak? What about the zipper? Is it still warm after several compressions?
Many thanks for your help.
Thanks for your comment. I still use the bag for my backpacking trips. This passed August I stayed at about 5500′ with the bag for several nights under a tarp. It is a warm bag for summer but perfect for the early winter here in BC. The bag has been damp on several occasions and while it didn’t seem to affect the performance it did soak the outer shell. I’ve had problems with the zipper catching on the bag interior which led to me ripping a tiny hole in the bag. I fixed it using a piece of moleskin.
I own both the Bloody Mary and the Odin Theo (-30C) and have found them to be the highest quality and most durable bags I’ve owned in over 35 yrs of backpacking and climbing. I own the large size in both so I can comfortably wear a down parka inside if temperatures dictate. The cut of these bags are the most sophisticated of any bag on the market. The down is durable and lofts better and quicker than any others I’ve owned.. I’ve owned and hiked/climbed with those who own WM, FF, MH etc and find these to be better than the “best. And though they can run a couple ounces more than some ultralite bags, they are far superior in durability and so a better long term value by far.
Thank you for your feedback! I am sure others appreciate it as do I.