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Product Use

Getting the most from your products

Sizing advice - slim-fitting

The Griffon is designed to be a slim fit, but is coming a bit slimmer than normal. If you prefer a looser fit, it's worth going for a size above what you normally would.

Bike Luggage Size Charts

Click the link download the PDF size chart for our UK made bike luggage.

If it's the Rando weatherproof bike luggage that you've got your eye on, then click this link instead...

Fitting the Exo-Rail system

This PDF includes instructions for:

  • fitting the Exo-Rail system to your seat
  • attaching Exo-Rail compatible seat packs
  • attaching non Exo-Rail compatible seat packs using the Lumpa harness.

Download the PDF instructions

How to attach your handlebar luggage to your bike

Handlebar luggage is quick to attach and much more accessible than seatpack luggage. In this short video Fran runs through a couple of options for loading up your bars ready for a bikepacking adventure.

How to pack a Double Dozer

So you have gotten yourself a Double Dozer, a lovely 2-person sleeping mat for comfy nights of camping with a friend. As can so often happen though, when it comes to packing up everyone else suddenly becomes very busy and has to run off somewhere to do something "super important". Here you sit, with a mamoth of a mattress wandering how on earth you can possibly get it back into its bag...

The Double Dozer is quite the beast but it can be packed single-handedly with a little practice. This is a little step-by-step for how you can get your mattress back into the bag on your own, just make sure you have the elastic straps close to hand before you start!

1 - With both valves open, fold the mat in half lengthways and start rolling it up. Kneel on the roll as you go to squeeze more air out.
2 - Once you have rolled it up do up both valves and then unroll the mat
3 - Roll it again, this time with the valves closed.
4 - Once rolled, keeping as much weight on it as you can open one valve at a time to let the air out then close the valve again
5 - If needed, repeat step 4 to get a bit more air out
6 - Keep the mat tightly rolled (I find hugging or a good thigh-grip works best) and get the elastic straps around it

And that's how to roll up the Double Dozer on your own.

My shell doesn’t feel breathable/ waterproof

So you bought a waterproof jacket, now here's how to get the most out of it.
A layering system only works as well as the poorest layer in the system (the weakest link in the chain, if you like). It doesn't matter if you are wearing the most breathable waterproof in the world, if you are wearing a cotton t-shirt underneath it, you will get cold and damp. Likewise, if you are wearing a non-breathable insulation piece underneath your shell, then that will limit the breathability of your clothing system – not the waterproof shell.
Your baselayer needs to wick moisture away from your skin, and your mid-layers need to provide insulation but allow moisture to pass out easily. Fleece is great at doing this in most environments, and for colder conditions, breathable insulation (like the Katabatic) works really well.

Wear the appropriate amount of clothing for your activity level. Start off cool (especially if you are going to be walking uphill) as you will soon warm up once you start moving. Add layers when you stop, rather than having to stop to take off layers when you are moving. Adding a waterproof layer will make you feel warmer, as it cuts out the effects of the wind. So when you put your shell on, you might want to consider removing a layer underneath to compensate.

If you are wearing too much, you will sweat more and that means your clothing system must work harder to get rid of this moisture build up to stop you from feeling damp inside your shell. Insulation layers for static use i.e. down jackets, traditional synthetic insulation, are great if it is extremely cold or you are moving slowly, but often if you layer a waterproof shell over the top you will wind up overheating and accumulating moisture inside your shell. Keep those items for use when you are static, or if it's cold and dry use them as your outer layer instead of your waterproof shell.
A few top tips:

  • You don't have to wear your waterproof if it's not raining (shocker!). Yes it works as a windproof layer, but sometimes this is overkill and you'd be better off and more comfortable not wearing it.
  • Keep it clean! Your waterproof will work better if you keep it clean and re-proof it when necessary.
  • If you are running in a light weight shell, try to adjust your rucksack so it doesn't bounce around, as this can cause excess abrasion on lightweight fabrics.
  • If you carry your ice axe down the back of your rucksack (between the shoulder straps), be careful where the adze sits: most fabrics aren't ice axe proof!

What type of gas canister do I need?

All our stoves use a threaded gas cylinder, although they can run with a camping-gaz cylinder with an adapter. There are more blends of camping gas than there are blended whiskeys, and in the case of gas, a single malt isn't always better. Most gas is a mixture of propane, butane and isobutane, in varying quantities which generally you don't need to pay much attention to.


In cold weather below 10C (so pretty relevant in the UK year round), the blend of gas can actually be quite important. First time for an AlpChemistry lesson from an old GCSE Revision book. The boiling points of the main components are as follows:

Propane -42C
Isobutane -12C
Butane 0.5C

These are the temperatures at which the gas will vapourise, the higher the ambient temperature is above these temperatures the more the pressurised gas wants to be free and so exerts a higher pressure on the cylinder. Hence for camping we don't use pure propane despite its cold weather suitability; the cylinder would need to be super thick and weigh a tonne! On the other hand, butane at 5C is very close to its boiling point so isn't so fussed about being contained in a canister. But, this means that the vapourisation rate isn't enough to power your general stove. A combination of these properties is needed, so we combine the gases! We can also add some isobutane to the mix, it's basically butane with a facelift, same number of carbons and hydrogens just rearranged more efficiently so the boiling point is lower (I didn't pass A level chemistry so can't say why).

In short, for regular use a blend of butane and propane will be absolutely fine, but when the going gets cold, get a isobutane/propane mix (generally advertised as a winter blend) you will notice the difference, especially with our Kraku, Landar and Brukits. The Kraku is a little different as it has a preheating tube which acts a turbocharger for stoves in cold weather. The cold gas from the cylinder is heated well above its boiling point before burning so it burns more efficiently. This doesn't change the overall pressure in the canister so isobutane is still an advantage, but you can also invert the cylinder to help boost performance.

Gas at altitude

This shouldn't make a difference for stove use, in fact, the higher you are the greater the pressure differential will be which makes the gas work better. However, it also tends to get colder the higher you climb (about 0.5C for every 300m gain) which makes the gas not work as effectively. Ultimately this means that the gains and losses balance out so that altitude makes little difference! Though for an isobutane mix you are still limited to around -7C.

Make your stove work better in the cold

No-one wants to have to wait longer for their pasta to cook after a long day winter climbing, let alone when you're camping in a freezing Scottish layby. So here's a few tips for getting your Alpkit stove working better in the cold:

Start with a warm canister - stuff it under your jacket, or keep it in your sleeping bag between uses.
Keep it warm by insulating the canister from the snowy ground - a simple wooden chopping board works well if you're car camping, or a bit of foam mat.
Get a windshield - if it's cold, it's probably windy, a Concertina will keep the precious heated air close to your pan and keep the flame from blowing out.

How fast do BruKits boil?

Support Hero, Dave, tested how many cups of tea he could make with the BruKit Jackal and Wolf - the results were fascinating!

First, Dave tested the boil times. The best times were acheived with an (almost) full 230 g gas canister with a propane/ isobutane mix:

Next, we tested how much gas the BruKits use and how the amount of gas in the canisiter affects the time taken to boil. Dave found the following using a 100g canister:

  • Each 500 ml of water boiled uses 5% of the gas in the canister

  • With a full gas canister, BruKit can boil 500 ml of water in 3 mins 10 sec

  • With an almost empty canister, this boil time increases to 4 mins 40 sec

  • 8 l of water can be boiled with 80 g of gas - that is 32 cups of tea!

  • The average boil time is 3 mins 24 sec across a whole gas canister.

How do I change the lenses on my Krugers?

Interchangable lenses on sunglasses can be a bit fiddly but it is easy once you get the hang of it. Simply, hold them upside down with arms facing away, holding lens gently. Then bend the frame so that the nose piece moves away and then lens will pop out. Then simply wiggle the new lens in.

Do the Jackal and Wolf pot supports fit the original BruKit?

The pot supports supplied with the BruKit Jackal and the BruKit Wolf do not fit on the original BruKit as the size of the burner has changed. There are currently no plans to provide a pot support for the original BruKit.

Mountain Tent Dimensions

Is this bag waterproof?

strong>We are very cautious how we use the word waterproof. It means different things to different people, and with specialist equipment it is worth qualifying what we mean by it. Most people get it, but the reality is that it would only take one person to read waterproof with a capital W, pop their expensive Nikon camera in one of our bags and go for a swim. . we know how that might end.

All our drybags use fabrics that are waterproof and constructed with seams that are either welded or taped. The construction is waterproof but these products are not rated as immersion proof, i.e. not designed to go underwater.

Roll top closures

A drybag closure is a roll top which is a reliable and proven mechanism for creating a seal against water ingress from splashing and spray - however it is not pressure tested and its effectiveness is dependent on you to get a good seal. We do not make any claims these bags are immersion proof but they will do a great job of keeping your kit dry in a down pour.

Zipped closures

Water resistant zips such as those used on our DryDocks also protect against rain and spray, but they are still not immersion proof.

There are other considerations to take into account, such as the duration the bag is exposed to water, rubbing, pressure and condition. To take the ambiguity out of a term such as waterproof Boffins have invented a system for rating the effective waterproofness of things and have called it the IP Code. Generally dry bags will fall under IP 64 - dustproof and protect against water splashing from all directions.

Our advice as always is double bag your valuable items, water has a habit of getting anywhere.

Self-Inflating Sleeping Mats: First use and care guide

When you get a new self-inflating sleeping mat, the first thing you'll probably do is celebrate - hooray!

But there are a few other vital things that you need to do as well. In this video, Hero Fran runs though the first use instructions for your new mat. He also shares few tips for making your sleeping mat last as long as possible and perform at its best, handy!

The dog ate your headphones and you don't want to wake up your pet spider? Read on for written instructions...

What's included with my mat?

Your mat comes with a repair kit including fabric patch, glue, and instructions. Hang onto it, you never know when you'll need it!

When it arrives

Inflate your mat as soon as it arrives, (and preferably not on its first trip) as it takes a while for the foam to decompress the first time. We recommend leaving it for a minimum of 30 minutes, but the longer the better.

Inflating your mat
  • Unroll and open out your mat.

  • Open the valve and breathe into it a few times.

  • Once the mat is firm, close the valve.

Packing your mat
  • Open the valve and roll up the mat, kneeling on it as you do so to squeeze the air out.

  • Once rolled, close the valve and unroll the mat.

  • Open the valve and roll up again, squeezing all the air out.

Storing your mat

It is best to store your mat uncompressed, unrolled, and with the valve open. Find a cool, dry spot that's out of direct sunlight for your mat to live in, like down the side of a wardrobe or under the bed.

How to attach a Koala seat pack to your bike

In this video I cover how to attach a Koala to your bike. It's essential that you take time to pack your Koala well and that you tighten the straps as much as you can to get the best performance from it.

Compact Ultra trekking poles

In this video I give an overview of the Compact Ultra trekking poles including how to set them up, adjusting them and how to use them.

Storing Gas in your BruKit

In this video I cover how to store a 230g gas canister inside your BruKit with the burner to make a realy neat little cooking bundle. You can fit 100g canisters in too as they're much smaller, but if you want more gas then the BruKit can handle it.

Packing your sleeping bag in an Airlok

In this video I show how to pack your sleeping bag into a much more managable shape for getting in your backpack or duffel - in an Airlok drybag.

Can I use 18650 batteries with Prism 550?

The size of 2 CR123 is slightly smaller than 18650 and the voltage is different. 2 CR123 is 6V while 18650 is 3.7V , to use the 18650 battery we would need to redesign the product circuit and the size of the head light. So the answer is no.

Alpkit’s ethical down policy [pre-winter 2016]

UPDATE: As of winter 2016, we will only be using down that is certified by the Responsible Down Standard. For more information, please see the Product Team's spotlight article.

The information below is applicable to all down products made by Alpkit before winter 2016.

At Alpkit we do all we can to make sure the goose down and duck down that we use in all our products is ethically sourced. We only source non-live plucked and non-force fed goose and duck down. We work very closely and visit our factories regularly to see for ourselves that the ethical standards are upheld. From 2016 we have started to introduce down that has been certified by the Responsible Down Standard. The first product to use this don is our Cloud Cover quilt. This mark is an added reasurance that the down in these products does not come from birds that have been live-plucked or force-fed, and that their welfare has been protected from the time they were hatchlings to when they are slaughtered.

Here's a longer article that Nick wrote in 2014 about how we get our down and where it comes from.

How do I get my wetsuit on?!

Unless you are in to 70's glam rock (or even the 80's climbing scene) then a wetsuit will probably be the most close fitting item you will ever wear. But do not despair! We have all tried one on and it is possible! Just trust us.

Download our Fitting Instructions PDF

Top tips:

  • It is worth bearing in mind that the glideskin neoprene is incredibly delicate. This may seem like a bit of a conundrum for something that is so difficult to get on.
  • Fingernails are hazardous to neoprene. It is imperative that you do your upmost not to impair the material with your nails; you may need to exchange it for a different size! Also, make sure to wear swimwear under your wetsuit for the same reason.
  • It is advisable to trim and file your nails before attempting to try on your wetsuit. If you are still concerned, you can use gloves to help protect your wetsuit.
  • When pulling the wetsuit up, try to pull from inside the suit- if this is not possible, ensure to use the pads of your finger tips- not the ends.
  • The girls in Customer Service have found that working the wetsuit over your hips can be a bit of mission. Be prepared for this when you put your suit on and just stick with it! You will be rewarded with glorious open water swimming.
  • Try your wetsuit on when you are cool and remain calm! If you get hot and sweaty, it will be much harder to put on!

Step by step:

  1. Get the wetsuit as high up your legs as possible before attempting to pull it up your torso. The ankle cuffs should be a couple of inches up your leg before you pull the suit up the length of your legs./li>
  2. With one leg in, pull up from the bottom of the suit leg, gradually moving the neoprene up the leg using the inside of the suit to pull the suit up (similar to putting on a pair of tights). Do the same with the other leg. Get the suit as high into the crotch as possible.
  3. Pull the wetsuit up over the torso and fit the arms in the same way that you just fit the legs: pull the wrist cuff to a couple of inches up from the wrist bone and then work the neoprene up into the arm pit as much as possible.
  4. Flex your shoulders backwards as you pull the zip up.
  5. If necessary, bend forwards and gently pull the neoprene up from your stomach. Use the pads of your fingers!
  6. The wetsuit should feel 'comfortably compressing' when dry and may feel tight around the collar. In the water you want the wetsuit to fit as closely as possible to prevent water from collecting in the crotch and waist.
  7. The wetsuit needs to fit along the torso length and at the waist. If you can grab a few inches of neoprene from the zip when you are wearing it, then it may be too big.
  8. Getting a wetsuit off is easier when it is wet. When trying to get your wetsuit off whilst dry, we found it far easier to pull the wetsuit inside out.

Further reading/ watching:

Outdoor Swimming Society Top Tips

Head to the Hills wetsuit fitting guidelines

Huub Design wetsuit fitting video

Is it okay to cook in my BruKit or BruPot with the neoprene cover on?

The neoprene cover can be used whilst cooking with the BruKit since the stove is at a set distance from the pot. However, the BruPot is a little more complicated as it can be used with all sorts of different stoves so we recommend to only use the neoprene cover to retain heat after cooking, not whilst cooking. Potentially, a stove could have large flames that go round the BruPot which could melt the neoprene.

Which gas canisters are compatible with your stoves?

Our gas stoves are designed to be compatible with EN417 compliant gas canister manufacturers, however variation in tolerances do occur across both manufacturers and batches so you should always check your canister works before relying on it in the wilderness. When testing in house, we have not experienced any issues with any canisters, however our customers have reported that Coleman canisters may need a little extra tightening to the stove.

Brukit - 100 g and 230 g canisters should fit nicely inside the BruKit along with the stove for storage. Some canisters have a slightly more protruding lip at the base; this can make a 230 g canister stick when packing away into the BruKit pot.

Landar - 450 g Coleman canisters are not compatible due to the profile of the canister

Most gas canisters available on the market will be suitable for summer use with very similar performance. Once you get to temperatures below 10 C, it is important to check to composition of the gas as certain mixes will perform better in cold weather than others. Compositions comprising of isobutane and propane perform well in colder temperatures.

Is it possible to over-tighten stoves to gas canisters?

The short answer is yes. It is possible to over-tighten stoves which can damage the valve on the canister. This will stop gas coming out or could possibly make it leak. Different stoves will need a different amount of tightening but generally screwing it up until it feels secure is all that is needed. For example, with BruKits we advise screwing the burner onto a canister by four full rotations. In general though, if you're straining then its too tight.

Can I use a different pan on my BruKit burner?

Brukits are not compatible with any other pot or pan unless using the accompanying pan support. Using a non-compatible pot directly on to the burner element of your BruKit will not allow the heat and flames to dissipate correctly and can lead to significant damage to the plastic components of your BruKit. This will make your BruKit completely unusable.

With the pan support attached to the BruKit burner, you can use any suitably-fitting pan with your BruKit.

Where do we measure arm length from?

To work out how you measure up against our clothing, grab our sizing chart and a tape measure. The arm length of our jackets are measured in centimetres from the seam joining the collar to the top of the shoulder down to the wrist cuff.

How to attach an Airlok XTra to your handlebars

A flexible and popular technique for increasing the load carrying capacity on your bike is to strap a dry bag to your handlebars. This can be either strapped directly to the bar or for extra security strapped to a harness system such as our Kanga.

Our Airlok Xtra is an ideal dry bag to use thanks to 4 hypalon tabs through which you can thread the securing straps. Common sizes are 13l and 20l dry bags, although in winter some people go even larger so that they do not have to compress their sleeping bag or down jacket so much. The largest Airlok that will fit onto drop bars is 13l.

To create this simple system all you need is a Airlok Xtra dry bag and a set of Dual straps.

Bear Bones guide to the Rig tarp

A lightweight tarp is a remarkably flexible shelter solution. It can be strung between two trees, propped up with a trekking pole, pulled out from a stone wall or even stretched over a bike. As a product things do not get much simpler, however the skills required to master this rectangular sheet of nylon are higher than you would need with a tent. Sometimes a little inginuity is called for but once mastered you will be rewarded with some amazing nights in the outdoors.

In this 2 part guide Stuart Wright of Bear Bones Bikepacking takes us through some classic tarp set ups.

Help me pick the right size

Don't choose a Medium jacket just because the last t-shirt you purchased from the high-street was a medium. Some people prefer a tight jacket, some go baggy, some like to wear it over another jacket, some like to expose their hairy chest and wear it next to their skin.

The Alpkit Fit. Please remember that these are technical garments; they are designed to function with the rest of your clothing system.


For a Filo or Phantac, we are assuming you will be wearing a baselayer and a fleece. So if you are a sized 40 chest we recommend you choose a Alpkit Medium for a snug fit over a baselayer and fleece. If you know you are going to be slinging it over your shell as a belay jacket you should take a size up. Please refer to the individual size charts on the pages below.

The Filoment, Heiko and Katabatic jackets are designed to be a little more slim fitting than Filo and Phantac jackets. We expect them to be used as a mid-layer or light insulation layer. If you choose your normal size, we would expect them to fit over a base layer or t-shirt and a light fleece.


Our Definition jacket is designed to have enough room for several layers underneath (although a Filo may be a bit of a squeeze!)

Arro, Balance and Pulsar are designed to be worn with a baselayer and fleece or very light insulation layer. If you plan to wear it over a larger down jacket, you will need to go up a size.

Gravitas designed to fit over light layers only; a baselayer and perhaps a very thin fleece. More than that and you will want to go up a size.


We expect our mid-layers to fit perfectly in the middle! So we presume that they will be worn over a baselayer or t-shirt and, at times, under an insulation layer. They are a slim fit so if you plan to wear an extra fleece between the baselayer and mid-layer, then you will want to go up a size.


All our baselayers have a slim, next to skin fit. This said, they are not 'skin-tight' so you can wear them casually without anyone knowing that you have stepped straight off the mountain and into the nearest cafe.

Always have a read of the product information for hints on intended use and fit guidance.

(Hint: scroll down! Our size chart is at the bottom of each garment page)

How do I prevent condensation in my tent?

Ventilation / Moisture Control

The key to stopping moisture and condensation in your tent is good airflow. Ventilating the tent during use and while it is pitched will allow moisture to leave and stop it settling on the inner tent. Due to the flexibility of the tent door zips you can create good circulation through the breathable inner allowing the Vestibule Ventilation Hood (VVH) to keep the weather out whilst encouraging airflow around the tent. A footprint can be used to reduce the moisture accumulation on the groundsheet, especially in inclement weather or when pitching on snow.

Winter camping tips

Even though the weather is colder it is still important to ventilate the tent to avoid condensation, which in severe cold weather may freeze during the day and drip on you at night when you warm the tent up. Keeping as much moisture out of the tent as possible will also stop it increasing in weight when you have to carry it back home. To stop moisture transferring from the ground using a footprint under the inner will also add some insulation.

Building a small trench in an unused tent porch will cause some cold air to sink before reaching the tent, keeping you slightly warmer, but don't forget it is there in the middle of the night. Using snow around the base of the tent will keep it anchored down and add some insulation. The snow valances on the Heksa are specifically designed for this.

SLEEP - optimising your sleeping bag’s warmth

A good night's sleep in the outdoors can make the world of difference to the experience. We are often asked "How warm are our sleeping bags?" and this is an impossibly hard question to answer because there are so many factors that can influence a goods night sleep. S.L.E.E.P is an acronym we have developed to help you understand about these factors.

Surface- what are you going to sleep on?

It is easy to underestimate how much heat can be lost through the ground, in fact in some tests researchers have found heat loss through the ground to be 3 times that of heat lost to the air. A poor mat can make an expensive sleeping bag feel more or less useless wheras a good sleeping mat could have the effect of boosting your sleeping bag's rating. A good sleeping mat will keep you comfortable from the lumps and bumps of even the worse campsite whilst also providing a crucial barrier against heat loss. Any insulation in any sleeping bag will be compressed to almost nothing when you lie on it so the sleeping mat is crucial to stop heat conducting into the ground. Obviously the colder it gets the more heat you could end up loosing through the ground. An airbed maybe extremely comfortablebut the large uninsulated air chambers will increase the heat loss from beneath. A close cell mat commonly referred to as a "Karrimat" is extremely hard to compress making it an excellent insulator, a similar foam type is used to insulate pipes in lofts and unheated areas of the home. However a Karrimat isn't the softest of surfaces unless you sleep still on your back. Self inflating mats offer comfort and insulation. However they can be compressed especially at the hips and the shoulders which can result in cold spots. In cold conditions pairing a self inflating mat with a closed cell mat will help to prevent these cold spots whilst maintaining the comfort.

Layers - What are you going to wear inside your sleeping bag?

Layering clothing is second nature to most outdoor enthusiasts but most campers still use their sleeping bag like a bed at home. They crawl into it and then trust it is going to keep them warm for the next 8 hours or so. The colder it gets the more critical it becomes to ensure you reduce any heat loss from your body. Equally overheating in a sleeping bag will cause a build up of moisture inside the filling of the sleeping bag. To help regulate your body temperature in a broader range of temperatures think about using clothing and sleeping bag liners. You could even combine thinner sleeping bags together. Try never to sleep in the same clothes that you have worn during day. They will probably be damp and will cause you to cool faster. Heat loss from damp clothing can be upto 25 times faster than dry. Keeping a set of dry gloves, socks and thermals for sleeping in will boost your morale when it's time for bed. Wearing thermals will also lessen the blow when you have to crawl out of the tent for a call of nature. Thinking about what other items you may have with on your trip that could provide more insulation can help you save weight. If you have a down jacket or a fleece, using it like a mini blanket inside your sleeping bag will help insulated your core and may allow you to use a lighter weight bag. Ensure you use the hood and neck baffles to stop any "bellows action". Creating a good seal around the sleeping bag openings prevents your natural movements during sleep pumping warm air out of the bag and sucking in cold air.

Eat & Drink - Have you got enough fuel to keep you warm all night?

Think of food as a fire. To get it started you need quick burning kindling. These are your quick hit sugary foods like chocolate bars and carbonated drinks. You'll get a quick hit but it won't last very long. If you eat a Mars Bar for tea you'll probably feel warm as you climb into your bag but very soon you be feeling the cold and it is unlikely you'll want to get up and prepare anything extra. Complex Carbohydrates like pasta, rice dried fruit release their energy a little slower and like good dry sticks will keep your fire burning bright. These are fine if your keeping active and replenishing your fuel but to keep your fire buring all night you'll need some big logs on top of those sticks. These are the proteins like meats, fish, cheese & nuts and fats like margarine and those contained in your protein foods like cheese and processed meats. The body needs water to convert these food into energy. Failure to properly feed yourself or keep yourself hydrated when camping can result in a cold night sleep. Dehydration can be a big problem in the cold as it numbs our thirst mechanism making us feel less thirsty. This problem is further increased because your body needs to warm and humidify any cold air you breathe. As you exhale you can lose a significant amount of water.
Most people wake up between 3 and 4am feeling cold and lie there shivering until the morning. This is because you body didn't have enough fuel for the night or you didn't drink enough to keep those logs giving off energy.
Many of us like a little tippling especially around the campfire but alcohol dilates the blood vessels increases heat loss. This fine whilst we are sitting by the warm glow of a pub fire but will have a negative to our bodies when we go to bed in our sleeping bags.

Extremities - Can you sleep when you have cold feet?

Your head, hands and feet need to be kept warm to keep them working, this means they are packed full of blood vessels. Because they are packed full of blood they are also the first parts of the body to feel the cold. If your head, hands or feet are cold you will find it hard to get to sleep and it could have the effect of making the rest of your body feel cold. Wearing a hat in a sleeping bag and greatly effect how warm you will feel. Pulling on a nice warm dry pair of socks and wearing a pair of gloves will help keep your hands and feet toasty. Just like the layers of your sleeping system you add more or take them off depending on the conditions.

Protection - How are you going to stay dry?

What protection have you got to keep you and your sleeping bag dry and out of the wind? Where are you sleeping, a bothy, a tent, a snowhole or an Alpine hut. All of these will have an effect on your sleep. Staying dry is not just protecting yourself from precipitation but also dealing with your condensation is equally important. If your sleeping bag gets damp, can you dry it during the day. Can you minimise the draughts in the area you are sleeping, not doing so will increase your heat lose, especially when using thinner sleeping bags. Many people think using a bivi bag or sleeping bag cover like our Hunka will increase a bags warmth as well as keeping it dry. This isn't strictly true and it depends a lot on the temperatures you will be sleeping at. In warmer conditions sleeping inside a bivi bag can cause pools of moisture to collect, where as in colder conditions it will act like a vapour barrier system reducing the moisture intake into the sleeping system.

You Warm the Bag

A comfort or season rating on a sleeping bag is there as a guide only and should be used in conjunction with other key factors to ensure you balance price, weight and bulk with a good night's sleep. Unless you can find a sleeping bag that has an inbuilt heating system a sleeping bag by itself cannot heat you up. The only heat source within a sleeping bag is you. A sleeping bag only provides insulation to ensure any heat you generate only heats the air around you.

So let's break it down, first we need to look at ourselves and ask some simple questions.

Do you sleep warm or cold?

If you are the sort of person that needs an extra blanket when your partner is sweating under a summer duvet you are going to need more insulation from your sleeping bag and will probably need a bag with a lower comfort rating.

Are you going to be doing a lot more exercise than you would normally do before using the sleeping bag?

If you crawl into a sleeping bag tired and hungry after a hard physical day you body isn't going to have the energy it would normally have to continue keeping you warm through the night. Again if you're not used to physical exertion, especially at altitude you might need to look at sleeping bags with lower comfort ratings.

Do you wriggle or move about during sleep?

A sleeping bag retains your bodies heat by trapping warm air around you. If you wriggle and move about a lot during sleep your sleeping bag may act like a set of giant bellows, pushing warm air out and sucking cooler air in. Sleeping bag baffles helpreduce this but again you may need a sleeping bag with lower comfort rating. A few technical sleeping bags have less insulation on the base than the top. The theory being that insulation is crushed when you lie on it so why bother with putting as much there. If you move around during sleep the panels with less insulation could end up being on top of you and the fuller top sections crushed underneath you.

Are you used to living in the temperatures that you plan on using the sleeping bag in?

If you like the sun and can be found huddled up by the fire when the mercury starts to drop anywhere near zero, chances are you're not a fan of the cold. If you're heading off somewhere colder than you are used to your body will probably react more severley to this and again you may need to look at sleeping bags with lower comfort ratings. However if you can expose your body to lower temperatures, especially your extremities, and acclimatise them the more comfortable you'll feel when you eventually get there. Before our extreme bike rider Paul Errington set off on the Arrowhead Race in Alaska he sat in front of the telly with his feet and hands in buckets of iced water.

So now we know a little more about how we sleep we now need to look at the climatic conditions we'll be sleeping in.

How humid will it be?

In the UK our weather tends to be humid and this can make temperatures around zero feel much colder. In the Alps and other large mountain ranges the air tends be very dry and for some sleeping at very low temperatures can feel similar to temperatures in the UK of 10-15ºC warmer.

How high are you sleeping?

Sleeping on the top bunk probably won't have much effect butif you're sleeping at altitude even one night your body will be using a lot more energy to keep itself going. To compensate you are going to have to make sure you take on extra fuel (food and water) to keep it running warm.

How cold is the ground?

Conduction through the ground is the quickest way to lose heat whilst sleeping. If you are going to be sleeping on frozen ground or snow it is probably worth spending some money on your sleeping mat as well as your sleeping bag.

Now let's ask some questions about how you are going to use the sleeping bag.

Does the sleeping bag need to be compressed to transport it?

Most people think their sleeping bag needs to pack up as small as they can make it. For some this is an important factor but for most we do it because that's the bag it came with. Simply put though the more you compress a sleeping bag the longer it will take for the insulation to recover to its best. A great deal of lightweight backpackers are starting to opt for larger, lighter rucksacks and rather than filling them with more kit they simply leave key insulation items like sleeping bags and down jackets as uncompressed as they can.

Can I keep a sleeping bag dry?

A wet sleeping bag will always feel cold. A wet "down" sleeping bag will have almost no insulation to it at all. This scares a lot of people away from down sleeping bags but in reality most people are able to keep a sleeping bag dry enough to retain the majority of its insulation. If you have tried to clean a sleeping in the bath you will know it takes a surprisingly long time to completely wet one out. What a lot of people forget or do not realise is that a sleeping bag retains a lot of your bodies perspiration, especially if used in a bivi bag. In warmer weathers this isn't a problem because the sleeping bag stays warm and this perspiration simply evaporates. However in sub zero conditions as soon as you crawl out of the sleeping bag there is no longer a heat source to evaporate that sweat enabling it to freeze around the insulation. One or two nights of this won't have a dramatic effect, but continued use without intervention will have a negative effect on the sleeping bags performance.

Asking yourself all of the these questions will help to ensure you are prepared for the conditions you may face and hopefully you will have chosen a sleeping bag adequate for those conditions. If you're pushing your sleeping bag towards its limit or you push your body harder than expected you'll hopefully understand why you may feel colder than expected. Last of all we need to look at the engine heating the bag, you! Unlike a car you can run on all kinds of fuels and you need to think carefully about what fuels you run best on. A chocolate bar will give us a quick hit of energy but it won't last through the night. In colder conditions, especially when you're tired or at altitude your body won't feel like eating or drinking so it is extremely important you monitor this and fuel yourself adequately. Shivering is your bodies involuntary response to cold and by firing your muscles quickly it helps generate heat. Falling asleep while shivering is extremely hard so if you feel cold before going to bed do some simple exercises before climbing into your sleeping bag. We're not talking a full workout here but a quick jog on the spot, some frantic arm flapping will help you physiologically when going to sleep.

Remember it doesn't matter how thick and fluffy your sleeping bag is... YOU WARM THE BAG!

Left or right zip

A little question but so many people ask us that we think it is worthy of its own sticky. So just what do we mean by a left or right zip?

Basically it is the side the zip is on when you are laying face up in your sleeping bag. So most right handed people would go for a left zip since it is easier to reach across your body and operate the zip.

With some of our range you can connect two sleeping bags side by side with opposite zips - so this could help if you want to get cosy. Currently our SkyeHigh, AlpineDream and ArcticDream bags have compatible left and right zips but please check with our Customer Support Heros to make sure.

How to use trekking poles

Wrist loop, pole length and a relaxed attitude

It is important to put your hand in the strap correctly, you do this by putting your hand through the loop from underneath, enough so that loop goes to about the wrist, and then grab hold of the handle. When the strap is the correct length it should allow you to grip the handle comfortably. Too short and the strap will feel tight around the wrist too long and you will feel no support. The trick here is not to hold the handle too tightly, let the strap do the work.

Adjusting strap length

If you need to adjust the strap length you can do this by pulling the strap that has the small plastic wedge, this then releases the other strap so you can either make it bigger or smaller.

Adjusting the length of your trekking pole

The next thing to adjust is the pole length. The pole is made of three sections with each joint having a small plastic wedge that when you twist the smaller pole clockwise tightens and anti clockwise loosens it (see diagram). Set the lower section to the "Stop" mark and then adjust the length of the pole so that when you are holding pole you elbow is at 90° to the pole with pole hanging straight. You may find that on soft ground particularly snow the pole sinks in (even with the basket on) and you may need to adjust the length to maintain the correct angle.

It is also best to adjust the trekking pole length to suit the terrain. On accent you could shorten the pole and on descents lengthen it or just use the palm of you hand on the top of the pole. When traversing a slope or on a zig zag path it maybe be best to have one long and one short and swap them at each turn. But just remember you supposed to be walking not adjusting you poles, but when you need a rest on a uphill slog it is always best to have something technical to adjust rather than blame your fitness.

So your hands are in the strap correctly and you have set the pole length just how you like it, How do I actually use them. Good question.

Firstly don't grip the handle to hard, it is the strap that should be doing all the work. Have a relaxed grip that allows the trekking pole to have natural swinging action. You should use opposite pole to the leading leg, so right pole left leg and vice versa. The position of the pole plant should be roughly level with your foot but it's what ever suits you.

It is important to remember the limitations of your trekking poles, especially when the terrain gets tricky. Very often it is best to pack the poles away which allows you to use your hands to better advantage.

Trekking pole links

How to roll up a dry bag

AlpNick shows us how to roll up our Airlok XTra dry bags..

Can I use Lithium or rechargeable batteries?

Our Gamma, Trinity, Glowe and Manta lanterns have not been designed to work with lithium or rechargeable batteries. These batteries have a high output during discharge which means they can cause the lights to overheat and possibly damage electronics and LEDs. We recommend using a good quality alkaline battery such as Duracell. Cheap batteries are more likely to leak and leave a gooey mess on the contacts.

We sometimes hear of batteries not working in the Gamma due to their size - after extensive research, well forgetting to get new batteries on most trips and having to buy anything from a cheap co-op or a really expensive re-chargeable in a hurry and I've found that even batteries all labelled triple A are of varying size.

How breathable is the Hunka bivi bag?

Using a Hunka bivy bag as part of your sleeping system will protect it from rain, drips and snow. What the Hunka is not is a permanent waterproof cover for your bag. Even though it is breathable you are likely to get a build up of moisture inside the bag which over period of time will make you bag feel clammy and eventually go mouldy. At every oppurtunity you should let your bag air.

Current Goretex/Event air perm bivi fabric get 25,000mvtr, old Taslan Gortex around 15,000 and our fabric about 10,000mvtr which in real terms means that if your not breathing into it, then it is breathable enough. Some conditions you do get condensation on the inside of the fabric but for most people this seems to be managable.

How do I stuff my Hunka?

The Hunka includes an integral stuff bag at the footend of the bivvy bag. To store your Hunka in the intergral stuff bag, simply turn the pocket inside-out and stuff the Hunka inside. We have found that rather than rolling the Hunka into the pocket, just good old stuffing it in is the best method!

If you have used your Hunka in the rain, try to ensure that it is thoroughly dried out before storing. The optimum storage, especially for longer periods, is for the Hunka to be hung up in a wardrobe, or similar.

Which sleeping bag is suitable for my Kilimanjaro trip?

We have had quite a few customers choosing our down sleeping bags for their trip to Kilimanjaro. They have taken the SkyeHigh 900 on both camping and hutted Kili routes. It is recommend taking a sleeping bag suitable for temperatures ranging between -10oC and -20oC. If you are camping up on the crater and you are unlucky enough to get a cold night you are going to be at the end of that scale so be ready to boost it with a down jacket by stuffing it inside the sleeping bag as a floating blanket. SH900 is also more comfortable at lower altitudes where you will spend more of your time and have a more practical bag at the end of the trip.

Check out our spotlight on Kilimanjaro.

Down is escaping, is this normal?

All our fabric is technically down-proof but there are two situations in which your down may appear to be migrating. The first is that sharp quills may poke through the fabric or stitching. ‘But I thought this was down!' The quality of down we use is 90/10, this means 90% is the really fine down plumes you expect while the other 10% is less pure and may include small feathers. Slowly remove the jacket and attempt to pull the feather back into the jacket from behind. Scrunch up the fabric between your thumb and forefinger to close the pin sized hole left in the shell. This will happen more when the jacket is brand new. The second possible explanation is that you have big hole that needs immediate repair. Again remain calm and don't under any circumstances move. Ask one of your expedition buddies to find the gaffer tape.

Let's say the average down jacket has 300 grams of down in it. A gram of down is made up of about 500 filo plumes or bits of down. So that means in your jacket you have roughly 150,000 bits of down. If you are worried that your jacket is leaking a few feathers here and there, please don't. Even if you were to lose 10 bits a day, it would take about 41 years before you had none left. And thinking about it, as you lose down the pressure inside the baffle would reduce making it harder for individual bits to force their way out. So let's say the pressure reduced by 50% in 10 years reducing the loss to 5 bits per day you've now got 62 years left. I think I am rambling a little here. Suffice to say unless you have a stream of down pouring out of your jacket or sleeping bag don't worry about the odd feather or bit of down.

Can I zip together long and short sleeping bags?

It is possible to zip together a long and a short sleeping bag but the zips are different lengths. This means you may have a gap of 5cm or so at the top where the longer zip is exposed.

The zips are guaranteed to be compatible if bought from the same batch. If purchasing bags from different batches, it is still likely to be compatible but it is not guaranteed.

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