PHD Custom Sizing

Some people are size Medium, some are Large. But many are neither, and many are both! We’ve made custom size gear for years, by request, but now it’s started to make its way onto our main website.

A very nice lady called Tanya, who lives up in Alaska, wanted a suit of winter gear for Arctic conditions, which was outside the standard spec. So that’s what we made, and this is what she said. It seems to have done the trick, but we think maybe her exclamation-mark key was sticking a bit…

I received my super custom order yesterday! I LOVE IT ALL!! It fits Perfectly! All so beautiful, lightweight, silky, so elegant! It exceeded my expectations and I am incredibly happy! This is the nicest parka / snow suit I’ve ever had in my life! The zippers work so easy! What an incredible change from what I’ve had in the past! The stitching and lines are pure perfection! I am so Impressed!!

If you can never get long enough sleeves without buying a size too big, or if a broad enough jacket drags around your knees, take a look at our custom-fit jackets. We’ll keep adding more of our styles to the range but, in the meantime, if there’s something that you can’t see – or if you just want to chat about what you need – drop us a line or give us a call.

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Lightweight warmth where it really matters

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Carl Alvey on expedition at the South Pole

When Carl Alvey came back from guiding a 57-day ski expedition to the South Pole, he very kindly got in touch to tell us about the Hispar 600K and Hispar Overbag he took with him:

The system of having 2 bags that give you 3 sleeping options is great, most of the time on the big ski trips with 24 sunlight the tent gets really warm and I am spending most nights in just the overbag, when you get up high and it get colder I am using the main bag, and then on very few nights when it’s cloudy I have to use both bags. The weight is also really important as I am going to be pulling these bags for at least 50 days so having the lightest possible system really helps.

You needn’t be heading for the South Pole to take advantage though! We can help you put a system together, wherever you’re going.

Explore Sleep Systems

Alex Pancoe on Vinson

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Alex Pancoe

Although he’d spent a lot of time in the mountains skiing, it never occurred to Alex Pancoe to actually climb one until a trip to Africa inspired him to try Kilimanjaro. Thinking he’d bitten off more than he could chew, he trained as hard as he could and surprised himself by taking it in his stride…and so decided to climb more.

Kili is one of the Seven Summits – the high point of each continent – and pretty soon Alex decided to try to do them all.

Now, back in his late teens, Alex had started to have headaches. Bad headaches. They grew gradually worse until eventually, at his Mum’s bidding, he went for an MRI and discovered he had a brain tumour. Fortunately, it was benign and was successfully removed, but he knew how much worse it could have been and how a great many people were not so lucky. So, he decided his Seven Summits would not just be climbed for his own sense of achievement: he set out to raise $1,000,000 for the Paediatric Neurosurgery division at Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital, where his tumour had been removed.

Now there was real pressure to keep going! So, next after Kili came Aconcagua, then Elbrus and, just before Christmas 2017, Vinson. He was wearing one of our Expedition Double Suits, so of course we were keen to find out how he got on. It wasn’t plain sailing, it seems, and he was glad of the suit: a sudden storm high on the mountain meant

We were stuck at high camp in some gnarly weather for 4 nights with temps approaching negative 50 with windchill! The whole suit came in handy then.

He’d left his iPad lower down the mountain so had nothing to keep him occupied, but the rather more pressing problem was the food: expecting to reach the summit, the team hadn’t brought enough for their unexpected stay. As supplies dwindled, they were very fortunate to be able to keep themselves going with a decades-old stash of salami and smoked salmon they’d happened across.

The weather lifted though, and their wait was rewarded with great conditions for the summit – so much so that he was fine in just the -10°C rated inner suit: something you couldn’t do with a single layer of insulation.

I just went with the first layer. Worked well. One thing I loved is the suits are designed in a way with pockets etc. that you can get creative with your systems. So I actually put a hot Nalgene in my front pocket and could use it to warm my hands if they got a bit chilled. Key word is versatility.

Versatility: that was always the idea! It’s good to hear how our developments are put to use out in the field though. We designed the suit for the big peaks of the Himalayas – where you get hot lower down and cold higher up – but of course, that ability to play with your layering is useful anywhere there’s a wide range of conditions, as Alex found when he became the first person to wear a Double Suit on the highest point of Antarctica.

Indonesia’s Carstensz Pyramid is next in his sights, then skiing to the North Pole in the spring, and…well, if you want to keep track of what Alex is up to next – or make a donation to his cause – you can check out his blog at peaksofmind.com, or follow @AlexanderPancoe on Twitter.

A tale of two Wafers

PHD in the Lake District

Wafer down socks, trousers, and jacket

We’ve heard from a couple of folks who’ve been off on very different trips, but both using our Wafer clothing, so we thought we’d let you know what they had to say about it.

As far as we’re concerned, Wafer clothing makes it easy to enjoy yourself: being too cold or carrying too hefty a pack are easy shortcuts to feeling miserable, whatever it is you’re up to. If it’s light enough, you can carry a sort of thermal insurance policy with you, then you needn’t be cold or weighed down.

Jason Cook took a trip to Aconcagua – the highest peak in South America – and as well as his other gear, he took a Wafer Jacket and Trousers:

The wafer jacket and trousers gave an incredible amount of flexibility to the layering approach. For any part of the expedition (sleeping, climbing, general camp use) these were a go-to item for me. The warmth for the size is quite remarkable, and at close to negligible weight. Definitely something I’ll have in my pack for any winter trips.

The UK’s Lake District Fells may not boast quite such lofty elevation, but if you’re camped out in winter, you can still expect the temperatures to be comfortably below zero. Well, perhaps ‘comfortably’ is the wrong word, thinking about it! Mal Stubbs headed there with one of our bags, and like Jason, he also added Wafer gear into the mix. Of the trousers, he says:

They’re great. I used them inside a K Series Minim 400 sleeping bag and they made a significant difference. It was minus 7°C and it felt like a summer’s day. I also noticed that they improved the warmth of my feet in my Wafer Socks as well—warmer blood flow down the legs? Well worth the money and light enough not to even notice the weight. I’m walking the West Highland Way in March so they will be in my pack.

So maybe he was “comfortably below zero” after all…

You’ll notice Mal Was wearing the Wafer Socks too. At only 45g, they’re never going to be a problem to carry, and you’d be surprised when you might want to take advantage. He goes on:

I’ve spent many years in northern Norway in winter teaching arctic survival and discovered booties there but they were heavy so when I became a PHD convert I had to have a pair. I even carry them in summer because some of the coldest most miserable nights I’ve ever had have been in the UK in June.

A whole suit – head to toe – of Wafer clothing only weighs about as much as a can of pop. You might very well enjoy your can of pop – or maybe even a can of something more interesting – but can it make -7°C feel like a summer’s day?!

PHD in the Lake District

Wafer down jacket and trousers

So light it’s just not fair!

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Rebecca Ferry

160km – 100 miles, if you prefer – in under a week is quite an undertaking. Even more so when you do it at altitude. Even more so when you consider that the height gain is upwards of 28,000m.

To put it in terms of the mountain which serves as your backdrop, that’s going from sea level to the summit of Everest more than three times over, in just six days.

So, it’s not really surprising that competitors in the Everest Trail Race like to keep the weight in their bags to a minimum! That’s why Rebecca Ferry came to us for her gear, but as it turned out, we managed to make the kit lighter than anyone really expected

Your kit is AMAZING !! Wow – very impressed. I’m a really cold person but even on my own in a tent at -8°C I was comfortably warm. It’s also incredibly light. So light, the organisers made me take extra items to MAKE UP weight in my bag! The race itself was rather hard but fantastic. 4th lady and 17th overall so pleased with my first mountainous multi stage event attempt. I think I’ll go back next year.

As well as the Ultra Jacket she’s wearing in the picture, she took a Minim 400 K sleeping bag, Minimus Trousers, and Wafer Socks.

4th place on her first attempt: a very impressive achievement, we’re sure you’ll agree. Congratulations Rebecca, and best of luck next year!

First ascents in Kyrgyzstan’s Djenghi-Djer

dundurWe were approached, a little while ago, by a chap called Will Rowland, who wanted to talk about sleeping bags. Nothing too unusual in that: as you might imagine, people ask us about sleeping bags pretty much every day! This stuck in our minds though, thanks to an old family connection.

Decades ago, when Pete Hutchinson Designs was still simply Pete Hutchinson and his designs, Pete made a sleeping bag for Clive Rowland, an accomplished mountaineer who’s known for (among many other things) saving the lives of the seriously injured Doug Scott and Chris Bonington on the Ogre in 1977. Will, as it turns out, is Clive’s son, and figured that if it was good enough for his Dad, it was good enough for him.

The apple, as it turns out, has not fallen far from the tree: Will appears to be a pretty adventurous climber too…

He wanted to chat about sleeping bags as he was one of a team who were heading to Kyrgyzstan, looking for unclimbed peaks. It may seem that there is nowhere new left to explore: everywhere’s been visited and every mountain climbed, surely? Well, not quite. There are still a few regions hidden away, where climbers’ eyes light up at the prospect of being the first to set foot on a new summit.

In August 2016, the remote Kyrgyz range of the Djenghi-Djer was visited for the first time by a climbing expedition; they put up a number of first-ascents, and noted that there were many more for future teams to explore. And that’s exactly what Will and his friends had decided to do.

After few conversations about what they’d need (and what they may be likely to need for future trips), the team decided on Hispar 500 and 600 bags. One of the 500s was shelled in waterproof HS2 fabric, to put up with the sort of cold, wet conditions normally more associated with arctic exploration, so we’ll hopefully have another expedition to keep an eye on in future!

For now though, the team look to be having a great time out in the Djenghi-Djer. If you’d like to see what they’re up to, you can check out their blog, and see the latest updates on Facebook.

Fire & Ice: Back to the Icelandic Wilderness

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Whitney Titheridge

There are many things people choose to do in order to push themselves: running marathons, running ultra-marathons…and then there’s the Fire & Ice.

Said to be one of the toughest races in the world (even the five-times winner of the Marathon des Sables reckons it’s tough), it takes in 250km of volcanic ash, glacial river crossings, barren rock, grassy meadows, and everything else the Icelandic terrain can possibly throw at you.

Last year, it was won by Canada’s Charles Miron, who took a Wafer Jacketand a Minim Ultra Sleeping Bag with him. He’s had the bag for a few years – it’s accompanied him to numerous race victories and course records – and now it seems he’s pretty fond of the jacket too.

My Jacket which was purchased for the Fire and Ice…is with me almost daily, I am amazed how well it’s kept up. On my cross county expeditions to my trail runs…to the coffee shop. I love it. I run a few trail camps here in the Rockies and the nights can be chilly…I had that jacket on the whole time.”

So, when he began coaching Greg Soltys and Whitney Titheridge for this year’s Fire & Ice, Charles pointed them in our direction for their kit too.

Whitney took our Ultra-K Jacket and used our Design-Your-Own tool to create a Lightweight Bag, customised to her own specifications. Greg chose a Wafer JacketTrousers and SocksMera Mitts, a Sigma Vest and a K-Series Minim 400 Sleeping Bag.

Now, this race is exceptionally challenging, and requires huge amounts of preparation – both physical and mental. So, we were delighted to hear that Greg placed 3rd male/3rd overall and Whitney placed 3rd female/8th overall. We were also delighted to hear that not only were they “absolutely thrilled” with their PHD gear, but that it seemed to turn a few heads among the other competitors too! Whitney told us “People loved my jacket in particular and I refused to take it off for fear someone would steal it.”

Huge congratulations from all of us here at PHD to Charles, Whitney and Greg for their very impressive achievements.

Bivouacs, a personal view

Nowadays, PHD gear is used all over the world, from weekend camping and lightweight backpacking to Himalayan peaks and polar expeditions, but the story really begins with a young man, sleeping under the stars in the north of England. So, we thought it would be interesting to hear what Peter Hutchinson – our founder, and now not quite such a young man – has to say about the freedom and the sense of adventure which comes from the bivouac.

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Peter Hutchinson

The good old days

These are random recollections of bivvies which made a lasting impression on me. No advice is intended, except maybe what not to do.

Minimalism

My first memories of bivvying belong to the start of the 1950s, when I spent school holidays running all over the hills and dales from Yorkshire to Northumberland by myself. It was a real pleasure to travel light, which meant a couple of sandwiches and a bar of chocolate in my pocket, nothing else: no rucksack, no extra gear. When the weather was good, I was often temped into staying out. Even in mid summer the results were predictable, familiar I guess to anyone who has done the same.

Find as sheltered a spot as possible, lie down, look at the night sky and fall asleep. Wake up cold a bit later, then spend unbelievably long hours shivering and dozing until the first faint light appeared in the sky. I got up each time convinced what a bad idea it was, but I loved the freedom and I was young and daft enough to go through the chilly experience again and again. The worst one was when I woke up stretched out on top of a dry stone wall: warmer than the ground, but not something I ever wanted to repeat.

Warmth and ambience

Starting to climb brought some sense. The warmth of a sleeping bag meant a night’s sleep, or should have done. A few nights in the cave on Stanage were enough to teach me that ambience was just as important. The racket of drunken climbers trying to climb back in after the Hathersage pub had closed warned me it was worth staying awake to avoid being stepped on. After that I preferred Lawrencefield or Stanage North End for a quiet night. The only time I tried to repeat my previous habit of sleeping without gear I couldn’t stand it, so I got up and walked home twenty miles over the hills by moonlight instead.

A couple of other UK bivvies had both warmth and ambience. One was among the huge boulders on the summit of Glyder Fach. In the early 1950’s sleeping and cooking gear were incredibly heavy to hump around by modern standards, but we were rewarded with a superb slow dawn that unfolded in utter silence before we stashed the gear and trotted off to do the Snowdon horseshoe.

The other was also in Wales, but quite different. It taught me the meaning of schadenfreude. Given a few days army leave, I hitched down to Wales with a sleeping bag, a little stove and no plans. The weather was mixed, so I looked around the slopes below Llyn Bochlwyd and was lucky enough to chance on a big boulder with a slot underneath just big enough for me and my gear. Next day a party pitched their tents on the inviting turf by the stream below just as the rain began. On the second night the stream became a raging torrent which swept right through their tents and sent them away bedraggled at first light, adding to my smug pleasure safe in my little private lair.

Alpine bivvies

My limited experience of alpine bivvies belongs to the days when lightweight down gear was well developed on the continent, but was extremely expensive in UK. State of the art for most Brits was an extension flap on the rucksack to put your legs in and an extra sweater, guaranteeing a long cold night much like my minimalist days. Huts or tents were a better proposition. But not all bivouacs are planned, and cold and ambience are not the only problems, as I found out.

Chamonix

In 1959 I was camping with Colin by a tiny pool we had found high under the Blaitiere above Chamonix. It made a great base for climbs on the Aiguilles, but a bivvy was inevitable when we set off on the long walk round the end of the Aiguilles, then up the full length of the Mer de Glace and the Geant Glacier to our climb, the Bonatti on the Grand Capucin.

We had a normal chilly bivouac on the first ledge above the bergschrund, while we decided about the next day. Bonatti had used well over a hundred pegs on the first ascent, so as well as the bivvy gear we had brought a lot of ironmongery with us. No chocks or nuts in those days, not even any lightweight krabs, just a deadweight of steel. Hauling that lot up the route would mean another bivvy for certain, while going light might get us up and down in the day. We had heard that the route had a lot of pegs in situ, so we set off with six pegs and fingers crossed.

Things started well. Then the pegs gradually thinned out the higher we got, until we reached  the crux, the 40metre wall, which had been completely cleaned. That took me a very long time to lead and blew away any hope of getting down again the same day.

The unavoidable bivvy was on a nice big ledge with all the ambience we could wish for. A superb night sky with the lights of the Helbronner Ski Station twinkling at us across the glacier. It was cold, but that was insignificant compared to the real problem caused by our own inexperience. We had completely run out of water and after a long hot day in the sun raging thirst kept us awake all night. Next day we climbed the rest of the route (which had also been cleaned) to the summit and descended, as slow as old men, until we were revived by a huge bottle of sparkling water in the Ski Station.

Dolomites

Not many Dolomite routes need a bivvy in summer. This time it was a different element that changed the game. The weather.

We were camping beside the Lavaredo Hut (probably forbidden now), so the north faces of the Tre Cime were just round the corner. Four us strolled around  and tossed for which pair would go first on the Comici on the Cima Grande. Al and I lost, so Pete and Bas went off first and gradually pulled away from us. We were enjoying the route so much  that we paid no particular attention to the growing heaviness of the day until a crack of thunder warned us that the weather was changing. We had no view of the sky to the south, but the first little tendrils of cloud were already twisting around the summit above us.

Time to speed up. Pete and Bas disappeared into the mist and we found out next day that they had made it back to camp. Al and I finished the route  and blundered around trying to find the way down in  thick cloud as the thunder came closer and the hail and lightning started. So we settled down under an overhang to wait. And wait. The storm went on for hours and we had no head torches anyway, so it ended up as another unplanned bivouac. Even without gear it wasn’t really cold, but we didn’t realise till later that we had made a dangerous choice. Apparently lightning likes overhangs, just another little bit of useful info for the future.

Norway

Not the Alps, but the mountain walls are even bigger. I was in Romsdal with Colin in 1961, having a look-see at what we could do in this dreamscape of vertical rock. It was a light-hearted trip and it didn’t take long to dismiss the unclimbed Trolltind Wall, but Mongeura in the sun across the valley looked tempting. It was a big wall with no routes as far as we knew, which made it irresistible. It turned out to be a strange and very relaxed experience, both the climbing and the bivvy.

This was a fun outing, so we took no hardware and no bivvy gear. The wandering route we found was unique in our experience: every pitch or two seemed to land us on another comfortable ledge with bushes and flowers and bees buzzing. Higher up the climbing became more and more continuous until a nasty little pitch of rotten rock turned us back, but there was none of the anxiety we might have felt in the Alps. We had no bivvy gear, but it was easy to rope down to a nice ledge to sit out the very short northern night.

De Luxe Bivvies

This little section has nothing to do with cold and everything to do with ambience. Nothing technical about it, just the pleasure that can sometimes be found by hobos who can’t afford a bed for the night or simply prefer to spend their nights outside.

One year four of us were trying to do the Cassin on the Badile, but each time we walked up to the Sciora hut there was another storm that left the face completely white from top to bottom. To give it time to melt we drove down to Lake Como and chanced on some little caves tucked away on the shore line. Besides the lovely outlook we had a bonus in the endless oranges which came floating past every day: they must have been discards from somewhere, but they tasted perfectly fine to us. In the end only Bas and I went up the third time to snatch the route before the afternoon storm, while the other two lotus-eaters couldn’t bear to tear themselves away from the idyllic Como bivvy to risk another disappointment.

Another special place was the Calanques, where a bivvy was sheer pleasure as long as one kept out of sight of the gendarmes who patrolled by helicopter because of the fire danger. At different times with different companions I spent several nights sleeping in the open at D’en Vau before hiding the sleeping gear under the thickets of large bushes by day. Fantastic skies at night and delightful white limestone rising from blue blue water in the morning sun. No luxury hotel could do it better.

Modern Times

From the early sixties other commitments cut out most of my climbing, but ignited my interest in the software involved. The interest has never waned, an expression I guess of the closest I can come now to some of the most vivid experiences of my active years.

Developing Bivvy gear

In 1960 when Pete and I were twiddling our thumbs waiting for customers in our Manchester shop, we pulled apart one or two of the best examples of lightweight continental down gear, one of them a pied d’elephant. The use of down bivvy gear was new to us, but the potential was obvious if we could make it. We could. A bit crude to start with, but in my slow solo apprenticeship over the next decade I learned to improve on the originals.

As I climbed less and less most of my bivvies were to try out new gear. The idea was to push the sleeping gear beyond its rating and see how it felt. On one early occasion I got all I could have wished on the modest hill of Holme Moss. Snow had blocked the road, so I trudged up with the test bag and a bivvy sac and bedded down hurriedly in a mounting storm on the summit. The bag worked a treat and I woke in the morning to find to my amazement that I was almost buried in a drift and there were foot long icicles standing out horizontally all along the wire fence a few yards away. A low hill, but I’m not sure I would have survived that night in the open without the gear. A long way from my free-wandering early days, but I had a lot to find out about what was possible with the right kit.

Bivvies with lightweight gear were no problem, but to try out warmer stuff it’s often been hard to find  really cold conditions in this country just when you want them. So I had to ‘bivvy’ in cold chambers a few times when it was necessary to make sure of the low temperatures required for the test. The most recent occasion just a few years ago was perhaps the nearest to a real bivvy, where the temperature was kept down to -21°C by the air blown out of huge fans. An artificial situation and not a bundle of fun, but it helped us to confirm some of our ideas about PHD’s Sleep Systems.

State of the Day

It’s interesting how things change. In the alps huts and lifts kept improving to the point where they were the natural choice for access to the mountains and bivvies became rare, for emergencies only. There are signs now that the intrinsic values of a bivvy, the freedom, the flexibility and the experience, are being rediscovered. Add in the long trails that have been developed all over the world and it’s possible to see why there has been a revival of interest in the simplest possible way of sleeping out.

For me the personal process of refining bivvy gear began in the little shack where I was living and working nearly sixty years ago. Since then it’s been a long slow upward curve, until recent improvements in fabrics, down and design have made PHD’s current bivvy gear unbelievably light and efficient by comparison with the old days. Now the comfort and safety it offers will add minimal weight and bulk to any pack. Of course it’s an unending process of improvement and it will surely be lighter than ever in the future.

Other bivvy items, cookers, headtorches, etc, have also advanced. The possibilities have increased these days, excitingly so, and it’s up to the individual to decide. You can still be as close to a minimalist as you wish or opt for almost any level of safety and comfort you like.

I always found bivvies rewarding, the comfortable, the bearable, even the grim (in retrospect). With the new kit available they offer a wonderful alternative way of spending nights outdoors. You can have the magic without the misery. Except of course when things don’t go quite as you expect …..!

If you are into bivvying, you probably already know more about it than I do. If it’s new to you, I can’t recommend it enough. The experience, the freedom, and the mistakes. Whether you’re just roaming, travelling the world, sitting on a mountain ledge, or tied to a hanging belay, I wish you good nights under the open sky. I hope you get as much from them as I did, even from the ones that went wrong. I’ll let Gaston Rebuffat have the last word “Some mountaineers are proud of having done all their climbs without bivouac. How much they have missed !

Peter Hutchinson 2017

Any Good? Not Half

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Xero Half Bag

We’ve had pieds d’elephant* (otherwise known as half bags) in the range for a while now. To those who don’t know, they might seem a bit quirky…but to those who do, they’re a real godsend. The idea’s pretty simple: use your jacket for the top half and the half bag for your legs, and you won’t have to carry as much.

The idea is born of bivvying: if you’re carrying a “just in case” bag, it’s a lot easier if it’s smaller. And, as you get colder when properly asleep than when dozing in a bivouac, you can use an even lighter bag/jacket combo than you’d need for camping.

This bag has seen quite a bit of use in the Lake District over the Winter and Spring seasons. It forms part of my go-to sleep system when I know I will be carrying an insulated jacket with me. I recently went to Chamonix for 3 weeks, where it was used every day in all conditions, from damp valley camping to high mountain huts. Despite the efforts of the weather, the bag remained perfectly lofted at all times and kept me warm at 3700m in an icy wooden shed—Thomas Dimaline, Alpine Ultra Half Bag.

So, that’s the idea behind them…but here are a few other things to think about from some of the other folks who are out there using them:

I use it with a PHD Minimus Down Jacket, it’s great to be able to keep the jacket on until I move off. I suppose the best feature is that I always find a full sleeping bag restrictive and end up with my arms out of it and cold, but they stay warm now!—Chris Gould, Hispar Half Bag

I’ve rather enjoyed the Hispar Half Bag’s lack of a zip. When it’s time to sleep, I just slip into the bag and pull the drawcord tight. There’s no problems with the bag being twisted or sitting the wrong way. While the others attend to breakfast in their cold, clammy hard-shells after a good night’s sleep, I can comfortably sit up in my bivvy and take care of my morning meal.—Edward Benton, Hispar Half Bag

hispar-half-bag-t-12-7-14-lg_medActually, Edward’s now sold all his full-length sleeping bags and is a full convert to half bags. You can read the rest of his review here.

As well as classic mountain bivvies and new ways to stay comfortable when out camping, we’ve received a few slightly more off-piste suggestions for how they come in handy too.

Half bag is performing well for me. I just keep it in my paragliding harness and use it for vol biv missions or unexpected nights out. It’s good because it packs up small and I’m always wearing a down jacket when I’m flying in the mountains anyway.—Glen Stevens, Hispar Half Bag

“Vol Biv”, in case you were wondering, means “flight camping”.

I now tend to use it in situations where I would have taken a full bag before, and inside an overbag when it’s cold, Greenland and Norway in winter. It’s been a really useful addition. I often take my kids on trips to the mountains, even to quite remote places in winter, and use the Hispar half bag for them – perfect size and light when I’m carrying kit for two. I camped on the Folgefonna glacier in December with my 5 year old in the Hispar Half Bag and a Minim Overbag and he slept soundly every night and stayed warm in the half bag around camp in the evenings.—Damon Hoad, Hispar Half Bag

I live in Australia and have used the bag on all my overnight trips, the temperature has dropped down to -5 C and I’m still warm enough, but am wearing quite a bit of clothing. But that is OK, that’s the idea in bikepacking, you try to use all that you carry.—Hugh Spear, Wafer Half Bag

Do you use half bags? Are you now feeling inspired to try them out? Let us know what you think!

*It means “elephant’s feet”. We didn’t come up with the name…but we wish we had.

A Suit Less Ordinary

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Anja Blacha

Many, many moons ago, a certain Mr. Don Whillans approached a certain Mr. Peter Hutchinson, and asked him if he could make something to keep him warm on his high altitude exploits. Peter duly did, and the down suit was born. Peter – the PH in PHD – kept making them, and now of course, they’re de rigeur for anyone heading way up high.

Rather more recently, we received a call from a young lady who was heading for Everest and needed a down suit. Well, normally of course, that’s fine. The problem was that Anja – like Don – is about 5’5” (which puts her in a size Small) but – unlike Don – she’s rather slimmer than the fit of an Extra Small, and that’s the smallest size we do. Nevertheless, we were able to make her a Xero Suit which was effectively an S/XXS hybrid, and that’s what accompanied her to the summit of Everest.

Another of Peter’s innovations has been working out just how much warmth you get from layering different sleeping bags, or sleeping bags and clothing: the Sleep Systems concept. This too proved very useful in Anja’s case: when she asked us if we could make an Overbag to boost the warmth of her Hispar 800K for the Himalayan trip, we checked the figures and actually, her Xero Suit would be able to boost it by pretty much the same amount. And as she’d obviously have that with her anyway, she could save weight.

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Anja Blacha

So that’s what she did. At Base Camp she had the Hispar 800K, then at ABC and Camp 1 she teamed it with an Ultra Quilt “…which was really soft and warm and still lighter than everybody else’s single sleeping bag! I was warm enough just wearing tights and a long-sleeve T-Shirt.” As she got higher, she was able to combine the Xero Suit with the Hispar “which again was very warm and comfy, and I still had enough room to move.”

So, what’s next? Well, inevitably, the tinkering with new ideas continues unabated. Earlier this year we released our ingenious Expedition Double Down Suit: if you get too hot, now you can easily shed a layer. The really clever part is that you can shed a layer even if you’re roped up. Now, stir that into the Sleep Systems mix and you’ve got an exceptionally lightweight, versatile setup to take you from the foothills to the summit and back down again.

You don’t have to be going to upper reaches of the Himalayas to take advantage though. We all approach our adventures differently, so even if your trip doesn’t seem that out of the ordinary, that doesn’t mean your kit shouldn’t be…