Some of you may have noticed that I have a thing about lightweight sleeping bags and that I am also pretty weight conscious packing wise. This of course makes me yearn for things like the Sea to Summit Traveller 1 or the Montbell UL Spiral Down Hugger, but they are very expensive for the weight I would be saving and I have never taken the plunge (read: invested heavily – EDIT: I did, in 2019, a S2S TR1!). Both convert into quilts which is one of the reasons they can get so light and also suits me better than being restricted inside a sleeping bag.
The Alpkit Cloud Cover, on the other hand … It is a lot cheaper, no heavier than the other two, a fair bit lighter than my synthetic bag – OK, 300g lighter, but every little helps! – and it is down, so a lot more warmth for the weight. I have had my eye on it for a while now but it has always been out of stock, which in itself is a good sign. And then one day it wasn’t – they had stock! And … they had them in purple! Look at that yummy fluffiness!
It arrived the next day. And it is beautifully soft and fluffy and warm, and I really like it. In fact after using it as a quilt over myself on the sofa a fair few times already, I have to say it is surprisingly warm for the weight! I can see this little gem coming with me on my travels even when I have a nice bed, to top up the sheet-and-blanket bedding, to use as a blanket in a good chair, to pull around me on chilly evenings home or away, a very useful piece of kit.
Never one to just buy and use as is, I have changed the drawcord, which was very long (and red, which I disliked against the nice purple), and the cord locks, which were very big and noticeable in the foot end when I pulled it together. Instead I put in a thin bungee which is just long enough to cover the width of the bottom end when in quilt mode, but it leaves a lot less excess cord when pulled tight. I have put two smaller cord locks on the ends but I might just take them off again and tie the cord when needed. I will probably use it with the bottom cinched up to create a snug space for my feet and keep the rest open as a duvet.
One drawback: Due to my size the quilt is not very roomy if I button it up, and there are naturally gaps between buttons where the cold or draught comes in. I tried lying on the join but the buttons are quite thick and noticeable and I’m not sure I would enjoy having one of them under my hip or in my back.
I imagine it would work really well inside a silk or cotton liner, which would let you keep it open, so no hard buttons, and still snugly kept in place for warmth. A lot of people bring a liner anyway for reasons of hygiene, versatility or because it is compulsory (in places that offer no bedlinen). You don’t really need down coverage underneath yourself anyway. You can of course also leave it on top of a liner, it is big enough that it won’t just slide off completely. Or if you are not as … substantial as I am, you might not have the same problem of gaps between buttons if you keep them on the side, but there will be openings letting cold air in or you will have to sleep on top of the buttons. I suppose a soft mattress under them will make it less noticeable but I am taking a Thermarest Z which has limited cushioning.
I will be taking my Cloud Cover on my long St Olav walk and have already tried it out in combination with the Alpkit Hunka bivvy bag, which I am taking to keep myself and my stuff dry even if there is no shelter – think trying to eat or take a break in the driving rain: put pack and legs into the bivvy, cover the rest with the Altus and I should stay dry while I rest or have a snack. I can also sleep out under the stars if I need or want to without getting wet from the ground, morning dew or drizzle.
Inside the bivvy bag the Cloud Cover is great when it is fully open and the buttons out of the way, the bivvy keeps it in shape. Together they make for a pretty warm bag – and waterproof too. I might even stuff the Cloud Cover into the bivvy and roll that up instead of keeping it in its own drybag, saving another couple of grams in my pack.
Did I need it? Well, no. I do have a lightweight down bag with a half zip that does more or less the same apart from open up, and I have a synthetic bag that opens more and can be machine washed and doesn’t get ruined if wet. But is it worth it? I definitely think it is, and I am glad I treated myself to it. I will no doubt get lots of use out of it, and it also means I have a spare bag for my Scouse Spouse if he decides to come with me to Norway to walk, or if we decide to stay in albergues on the Camino. Besides – I’m worth it.