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One of the toughest pieces of kit to get just right for a bike camping trip is the sleeping bag. It's the thing that will make one of the biggest differences to a good night's sleep and it's also potentially one of the heaviest to carry. Getting the balance between warmth and weight/packsize is crucial. The Mountain Hardwear Ratio 15 straddles the line nicely and could be a good investment for frequent campers.
The best balance between weight, packsize and warmth is, without fail, achieved through use of a down sleeping bag. However, down has historically been at risk from the not-so-unusual occurrence of rain. Get a down sleeping bag wet and its ability to loft and therefore trap warmth diminishes. It also takes a long time to dry out again afterwards. UK campers have often turned instead to more weatherproof bags using synthetic insulation, which are heavier and bulkier for the amount of warmth they provide.
Mountain Hardwear has developed a rather clever approach to address this problem, giving the company's Q.Shield Down a hydrophobic treatment to maintain its ability to loft, even in damp conditions. The result is a lightweight and compact sleeping bag, rated to be comfortable down to -4°C, that can cope with the vagaries of the British weather.
Aside from being made using hydrophobic down, the Ratio 15 is structured to maintain as even a distribution of down as possible, to prevent cold spots forming. The mummy shape is designed to maximise warmth for its size and weight, while allowing good sleeping comfort and room to move. The hood area is also insulated, as is the baffle at the chin, and both adjust with a drawstring to minimise heat loss from the body and head. The main zip also has an insulated baffle all the way down, again to minimise heat loss, and a Velcro patch that can be used to stop the zip migrating accidentally during the night.
At just 1.15kg, the Ratio 15 is a very respectable weight for its warmth rating. It comes with a mesh bag for storage and also a smaller stuff sack for transportation. The packsize in the stuff sack as supplied isn't bad, and the whole thing fitted easily into a pannier, but it also packed down far smaller if a smaller stuff sack with compression straps was used. These are easily available from camping shops and, provided the sleeping bag is stored in the roomier storage bag, it doesn't cause any problems to compress it further on a short term basis.
The quality of the fabric and down made for good levels of comfort and it certainly delivered on warmth. I have to confess I didn't take it down to its -4°C comfort rating, but it coped admirably with less than balmy conditions, keeping me warm and cosy. I'd be confident taking it on pretty much any spring, summer or autumn adventure in the UK, and the hydrophobic down treatment will appeal to those who prefer to bivi rather than use a tent too.
Down sleeping bags are always more expensive than their synthetic counterparts, but that's to do with the cost of materials and something to be considered in the question of balance between warmth/packsize and weight. Relative to other sleeping bags of a similar quality, warmth and size, the Ratio 15 does stand out as good value for money, being a good bit cheaper than many. When combined with the hydrophobic down treatment, this makes it extra good value for the committed low-weight camper.
For those only interested in warm weather bike packing, Mountain Hardwear offers a variety of other down sleeping bags, rated to milder temperatures, with lower weights and smaller packsizes. But the Ratio 15 offers a versatile balance of three-season useability and relatively low weight and bulk.
Warm for its weight and versatile. Good value for money for a sleeping bag for three-season adventures
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Make and model: Mountain Hardwear Ratio 15 Sleeping Bag
Size tested: Blue, reg
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Aimed at campers looking for a sleeping bag for three season use, with a good balance of warmth and weight/packsize
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Q Shield® DOWN 650-fill has an advanced treatment applied that resists heat robbing moisture and retains maximum loft in damp conditions
Unique Thermo Trap Baffle™ locks down into smaller chambers for less down migration, even loft height and more consistent warmth
Comfort mummy cut efficiently maximizes warmth and minimizes weight without constriction
Down-filled face gasket comfortably blocks drafts at the hood opening
Insulated draft tube with anti-snag panel prevents cold spots along zipper
Single-handed drawcords easily adjust hood closure
Nicely finished and made from good quality materials and components.
Spot on for three-season use and provided great levels of warmth. Packsize is slightly larger than desirable but easily improved by use of an after-market stuff sack with compression straps.
The hydrophobic treatment of the down means it will have a much longer life than traditional down sleeping bags, particularly if stored appropriately in its drawstring mesh loft bag.
Very good warmth to weight ratio.
Snuggly and warm.
Good value for money when compared with similar quality sleeping bags of an equivalent warmth level.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well indeed.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Levels of warmth for the size and weight, comfort.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Slightly generous packsize but this was improved by use of an after-market stuff sack with compression straps.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely. Particularly for frequent camping trips, on or off the bike, spring, summer or autumn.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Well designed, compact and incredibly warm for its weight. A versatile choice for bike campers and hikers.
Age: 42 Height: 1.65m Weight: 73kg
I usually ride: Boardman Hybrid Fi My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.