Nicely stored in cold nights
Nicely stored in cold nights
Testing the Mountain Equipment Iceline Sleepingbag and the Aerostat Down Mat in the best of places
- Conditionsstormy, snowy, icy, sunny, packed,
- TeamTeam Iceland5 Outdoor and Photography lovers headed out on a dream adventure
- Equipmentheavy dutyBackpacks, Sleeping Bags, Sleeping Mats, Tents, warm Clothing, Ice Gear, Climbing gear, Cooking Gear, Camera gear
On the road in Iceland with the Mountain Equipment Iceline and the new Aerostat Down 7.0 Mat. Sometimes he most beautiful places in the world are the most inhospitable. At least in winter. At night. Iceland is one of those places. Apart from a few mountains and icebergs, there is nothing to stop the wind. No trees, no bushes, and few, very few bulwarks built by man against nature. If you want to spend the nights in the open, you have to be equipped accordingly. We were on the road for 3 weeks, packed with our cameras, ice equipment, tent, backpack, the Mountain Equipment Iceline and the Mountain Equipment Aerostat Down Mat.
Northern Lights and Glacial Lakes
If you are backpacking and carrying everything you need for the night, you are already well packed in summer. If you do the same in Iceland in winter, where the temperatures in the higher regions often drop to -20° at night, the packing size of your equipment increases exponentially. Then there is the camera equipment, which alone weighs between 12 kg and 18 kg. I happen to be neither particularly high nor particularly wide. A small packing size for mat and sleeping bag combined with high insulation and, ideally, good comfort are therefore unavoidable. If the weather was dry, we liked to go out without a tent. We have tested the sleeping bags and mats under all conceivable and unthinkable aspects: At -25° on the plateau without a single rise, tree or rock far and wide (admittedly in the tent, otherwise we would have had to tie sleepingbags and mats down), near hot springs where the wind turned overnight and we woke up to a 2mm thick layer of ice on the sleeping bags created by the steam. We were on ice floes on the shore of a glacial lake under the northern lights, on over-frozen cliffs and on green meadows under sprouting trees on a warm day in the south of the island.
The new Aerostat Down 7.0 Mat
The new downmat from Mountain Equipment has the same insulation value and the same comfort as comparable mats from other manufacturers, but significantly smaller packing size and weight. The patented Exped® construction has been complemented by Mountain Equipment’s Helix™ baffle technology. This keeps the down where it belongs and significantly less filling is needed to achieve the same heat output as with a conventional baffle technology. At the beginning we were a bit picky about the surface of our sleeping spot, but we soon realized that the robust outer material is not impressed by sharp-edged ice or rough, pointed lava stone. In our case the weight was actually a big issue, so to achieve the desired comfort we had two mats in regular and one in large tied together when bivouacking with straps at the top and bottom and thus had a comfortable, extensive and huge lying surface. The personal borders shift massively anyway if you spent 3 weeks cramped in such a tight space at temperatures significantly below freezing point.
Unlike other mats of comparable weight and pack size, there is a comfortable way to inflate the mat: With a mat whose operating range is below 0°C, you have to prevent moisture from getting inside the mat through the breathing air. The stuff sack of the Aerostat therefore also serves as a pumping bag which is connected to the valve of the mat.
Unlike the classic 2 way valves, the ‘Gasmask Valve’ can be opened in 2 steps. In the first stage, air can enter the mat but is prevented from escaping by a flexible rubber covering. When the second ring is opened, the air can escape unhindered from the mat. This means that the mat can be rolled up quickly and with very little resistance when you strike camp in the morning.
The pump bag from Mountain Equipment is called Windsock™ and is part of the stuff sack. A minimum of movement in the air is enough to fill it almost completely with air. The narrow fit makes it possible to completely enclose the pumping bag with one hand. The time consuming rolling up of the pump bag is no longer necessary. This allows the mat to be inflated in a few easy steps.
Is there anything to complain about?
Despite everything, we found two small weaknesses: If the mat is placed directly on snow or ice without a base, it creaks a little due to the resulting moisture when sleepers are a bit restless. In addition, the valve is equipped with 2 sealing rings, one smaller around the cover and one larger around the inner ring element. Both sealing rings are not firmly connected to the valve and they may slip off when opened. Without the seals, the mat loses air overnight. But as long as you transport the mat with the valve closed and watch out a little when releasing air, I don’t consider it as a serious problem.
In combination with a matching sleeping bag the Aerostat is companion that is up to the most adventures. In our case a ‘matching sleeping bag’ was the Glacier Expedition for Johanna (with 184 cm the biggest in our team), a Snowline in Regular for Daniel (176cm) and an Iceline in Regular for me (with 166 cm the smallest in the team). Conventionally the temperature range the Snowline would have been enough for me, but since I am clearly under the ideal hight, it feels like a big pot of water on a small hotplate: with a small person it takes time and energy to warm up the air inside. In addition, the sleeping bags of the Extreme Expedition series from Mountain Equipment come with the Expedition Fit, i.e. they are longer and wider to allow shoes, clothing, drinks and to fit in, if necessary. If you ever dipped your shoes into a permafrost-mud-hole, rinsed them of in a icy river and did NOT put them into your sleepingbag overnight you learned: it is in deed impossible to get into deep-frozen shoes with thick socks. In such a case it is advantageous to have a team with feet of different sizes. The ones with the smallest feet are the ones who are able to leave the tent first, but they are also the ones that have to defrost 3 pairs of shoes every morning. You learn from your mistakes…
For I had a lot of space in the Iceline, we stuffed it with various things in the evening. At the bottomend water supplies, wet clothes, trousers, socks and so on, hoping that they will dry up a bit overnight in a warm sleeping bag, and above that all the fluffy fleece clothes and down jackets available. And yes, it’s a little irritating when your jacket smells like your travel companions feet in the morning. Thanks to the team for their tolerance at this point.
With such a ‘filling’ of the sleeping bag, it pays to have the hood and foot end lined with GORE® THERMIUM™ material on the inside, so we didn’t have to worry about the down collapsing and losing insulation.
The Iceline is equipped with vertical V-chambers in the chest and foot area, which have a particularly high insulation performance but are slightly heavier. The main part consists of trapezoidal chambers. The anatomically cut hood, which can be almost completely tightened with the help of drawstrings, consists of 7 chambers. The elastic seams of EXL® technology ensure that the lining material and the warm collar fit snugly against the body.
The Iceline is warm, has a small pack size thanks to the elaborate construction and the goose down and can cope with any form of moisture, even milk (don’t ask).
If Mountain Equipment happens to launches the expedition series for women under 175, I would be perfectly happy.
The Aerostat and the down sleeping bags have enabled us to explore Iceland and spend the nights where we like it best: far away from civilization under the open sky. Once we found a place that was interesting, we stayed until the light was right for our photos. Often until the next morning. Or the one after that. For what could be better than the northern lights and the sunrise over Iceland’s endless expanse?