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Modular Sleeping Bag 2: Best 1 Season and 3 Season Outer

Nordisk's Abel +10 Sleeping Bag. Will 10 + 10 = 0?

Nordisk's Abel +10 Sleeping Bag

Preface

The following assumes the use of a tent / hooped bivvy or a tarp and bivvy in warmer conditions (hammock users will need to decide whether such a system may benefit them).

A great deal of testing in varied conditions has brought us to recommending this "modular system". However, more than perhaps any other item, sleeping bags and their worth seems a very personal matter. Everyone's metabolism is different, some sleep hot, some cold, some on their side, some on their back, some probably sleep upside down ... who knows.

All we can do here is recommend what works for us and in doing so provide some useful information to consider before spending what can be a considerable amount of money and often the largest budget item(s) in any pack.

We also assume some sensible sleepwear and this combination has been tested with the thermal underwear recommended in our "sleepwear section" (we do not assume the wearing of insulated jackets or over-trousers).

The combination of sleeping bags we recommend are intended to work together enabling their user to carry only what is likely to be necessary for each trip. This combination will work from the arid to the tropical and down into frostbite territory. It uses a mix of synthetic and down insulation, with the down bag always on the inside (except in conditions where warm dry weather is predictable and persistent).

This system will not be too relevant to those who venture out only when it's a nice day; but will likely be of interest to those who enjoy the challenge of enduring the unpleasant conditions that hostile environments visit upon them.

Test subject: Chest 42", Waist 33", Height: 5ft 8"
Test item(s): 2017 Release, Size L (215 cm)
Kit Tests: Summer, Early Winter
Disclaimer: None required (item not provided by manufacturer)

Datasheet

Outer Material: Polyester (Thread Count: 195T) 100%
Inner Material: Polyester (Thread Count: 260T) 100%
Insulation: Norguard S-PO 80 (High Loft Synthetic Fibre) L / XL 220g / 225g
Dimensions (L, max body length = 195cm): Length / Width top / Width bottom 215 / 85 / 50 cm
Dimensions (XL, max body length = 205cm): Length / Width top / Width bottom 230 / 88 / 50 cm
Stated Total Weight1 / Measured Weight (L) with2 / without3 stuff sack +65g (2.3 oz) 850g1 / 813g2 / 748g3 (26.4 oz)
Stated Total Weight1 / Estimated Weight (XL) with2 / without3 stuff sack +65g (2.3 oz) 900g1 / ~870g2 / ~805g3 (28.4 oz)
Temperature specifications according to EN 13537 (Comfort Limit / Extreme) 10 °C (50 ℉) / -2 °C (28.4 ℉)
Pack size (relaxed / compressed)  +1cm in length for XL 15 x 30 cm / 15 x 24 cm
Manufacturer RRP (priced in Euro = 79.95) ~ £71.00
Scramble's Price on SYSTEM £56.80

Available on SYSTEM


 

Scramble Review

Contents


Introduction: A Hard Find

Nordisk describe the Abel +10 as "a roomy summer bag for those who feel confined in a mummy shaped sleeping bag". Nordisk clearly regard the Abel +10 as a "non-technical" entry-level sleeping bag, however, Nordisk have inadvertently created a sleeping bag ideally suited to modularity; its use of synthetic fill, its dimensions and importantly its light weight make the Abel +10 an ideal outer bag for a lightweight modular system.

Out of the three sleeping bags we recommend, the hardest to source has been the one under review here: the "jungle bag" and 3 season outer. Finding a synthetic fill sleeping bag that is spacious enough to avoid compressing (and thus quashing the thermal effectiveness of) the down inner bag, while remaining light enough for mountain use has not been easy. Most non-mummy bags the industry has to offer tend to be designed for people with caravans or family tents the size of caravans and such folk tend not to count each and every gram.


Can Two Lightweight Summer Bags Make it Down to Zero?

The role of this bag is to deal with warm nights (10°C and above) in wet / saturated conditions (think jungle or disappointing UK summers) and to be the outer bag for when the temperature drops to zero. The outer bag's walled synthetic insulation provides a protective cocoon for the down inner, ensuring the down fill remains dry, lofting and effective in all conditions. The 2-bag approach also creates a double glazing effect as warmed air is trapped between the layers and likely adds a few degrees of warmth. Just as Carinthia's Defence 4 hosts Alpkit's Cloud Cover to extends its range; we needed the Nordisk Abel +10 to play the host equally effectively and in partnership with the Cloud Cover get us down to zero. But can 10 + 10 = 0?

The Abel +10 playing host to Alpkit's UL Cloud CoverNordisk's Abel +10 hosting Alpkit's Cloud Cover


Testing Conditions

In its solo role in warm, wet weather the Abel +10 performed as expected. It's spaciousness makes it an ideal warm weather bag and its brushed 50D polyester lining is very soft and comfortable. The Abel's 10 degree comfort limit rating when used with Scramble's recommended sleepwear is conservative and we didn't notice any loss of performance when wet. We're more than happy with this bag in its solo role, but we had to wait for the mercury to drop to find out whether it, in conjunction with the Cloud Cover, could handle more challenging conditions and fulfill its role as a 3 season outer.

Waiting for the temperature to dropWaiting for the temperature to drop. Measuring ambient temperature 45cm above the ground.

I tested the Abel +10 bag in the Welsh mountains at the end of November and after severe gale force winds and unseasonably warm weather the temperature dropped and by the 4th day bottomed out at -1.5°C.

I was using Macpac's Bush Cocoon hooped bivvy underneath a micro-tarp and slept on a Multimat 25S Self Inflating Mat. The bivvy was fully vented (with an open side door) to avoid condensation and given the lack thereof the temperature difference inside and outside of the bivvy was minimal.


Minimum Temperature Limit

If anything, I'm a slightly cold sleeper and wearing Scramble's recommended sleepwear, I would say that for a man, -2°C would be right at the limit for this combination. Anything below that would likely have me reaching for additional layers. However, after spending 10 hours a day trekking over icy bog in wet, gale-force conditions I had no problem sleeping. Sleep was generally uninterrupted and I slept very soundly at -0.5°C (in fact overslept and had a good 11 hours kip!) and at -1.5°C (a solid 9 hours).

A definite success. For the majority of tent and bivvy users this combination would likely be absolutely fine down to zero degrees. If temperatures are likely to drop below zero, that's when, ideally the Carinthia Defence 4 should be in the pack.
 

Cold Weather Caveat: The Taller User

The Cloud Cover in sleeping bag mode with foot section cinched shut

I'm 5ft 8" and the Cloud Cover was used in sleeping bag mode (with the foot section cinched tight, see image right). Taller users may well find they need to uncinch the foot section to get the Cloud Cover to wrap around their shoulders. This would mean only the Abel +10 is protecting the feet. If conditions are around freezing an additional pair of warm socks or a lightweight tent sock like Montane's Fireball Footies may be required.


Materials

The Abel +10's outer shell is made using DWR coated 210T 68D polyester. The polyester lining uses a 50D high thread count polyester with a comfortable brushed finish. The synthetic fill is Nordisk's proprietary Norguard S-PO 80. We don't have any information regarding the specific lab performance of this fill, but the sleeping bag has been tested in accordance with EN 13537 and has a comfort limit of +10°C.


Features

Regardless of who the Abel +10 (and the lighter, more expensive Gorm +10) is aimed at, its specs are ideal for an outer bag. The Abel +10 is:

  • Wide: at the shoulder, the L = 85cm and the XL = 88cm,
  • Long: the L is for people under 6ft 5" and the XL for those under 6ft 9", and
  • Light: weighing (without stuff sack) 750g for the L (Nordisk's site wrongly states this as "850g excl stuff sack") with a 50g premium for the XL. If one can believe Nordisk's figures the Gorm +10 is approx. ~100g lighter (but double the price).

What sets the Abel +10 apart from most bags is its broad, almond shape, tapering to a more traditional mummy-style footbox. Pleasingly, its "features" are minimal and this helps keep the weight down. We'll run through the notable ones from head to toe.
 

The Hood

The Abel +10 has a very simple yet spacious hood. 

Nordisk's Abel +10 keeping it simpleThe Abel +10's simple but effective hood

The hood and the top of the bag can be cinched independently via a cord on the right side at the shoulder, allowing the user to seal the bag at the neck and trap in the warmth. I found the hood worked best by stuffing it with a lightweight insulated jacket and then cinching it in place to make a stable pillow.  

The Abel +10's dual hood and neck cinchThe Hood and Neck can be cinched independently


Zips & Pockets

On the other side of the hood is a "zip cover", to prevent the zip from hitting your face as you sleep. This clearly worked as the zip went unnoticed.

The Abel +10's zip coverThe Abel +10's zip cover

The Abel 10+ has a 3/4 length zip with an effective draft tube to prevent cold spots. I found the zip performance to be quite reasonable; like most sleeping bags (the Defence 4 being the exception) the zip does occasionally snag, but when it does it's easily freed. If pulled from a sensible angle it glided along nicely. Unlike some sleeping bags, I never found myself getting frustrated with the Abel 10+ and this was despite quite a bit of wriggling around to get the Cloud Cover set right. In a traditional mummy-style sleeping bag this would have been practically impossible to do.

On the inside of the Abel +10 there's a small zipped pocket (I never use these for some reason) which some may find handy for storing nighttime essentials like a head-torch close at hand.

Don't forget the handy internal zip pocketInternal zipped pocket

This is where the Abel +10 starts looking like a "proper" sleeping bag. I'd actually prefer the footbox to be a little wider than its standard 50cm, but due to the fact that it's such a long bag most people (especially those under 6ft) will find that their feet fall quite a bit short of the foot section and this will provide additional space (see below right). Certainly I didn't experience any issues with the Cloud Cover being compressed at the foot end. For context, the Defence 4 (M) is 57cm at the footbox, but has 10cm less length, so both bags probably allow for a similar capacity at the foot-end.

Where the mummy begins and endsThe Abel +10 has a traditional mummy-style footbox.


In Context: Scramble's Recommended Sleeping Bag System

The military modular system uses 2 bags: a lighter "patrol" bag (down to 0°C) and a medium-weight cold weather bag (down to -15°C) which combine for extreme cold (down to -30°C, but a total weight of nearly 3kg). Scramble's recommended "modular" system uses 3 bags, is lighter and more flexible (better in hotter, arid conditions, yet still good down to -20°C and likely -25°C, the extreme combination weighing just over 2kg).

In essence the Abel +10 and the Cloud Cover combined are equivalent to the "patrol bag". As a rough comparison, Carinthia's Tropen is one such patrol bag, and is designed to fit inside the Defence 4. It weighs 1100g (M) or 1300g (L) and has a comfort limit of +5°C. The Abel +10 / Cloud Cover combo is right between the Medium and Large Tropens both in terms of dimensions and weight, yet from our test looks a good 5°C warmer. In addition, these bags can function on their own, so in summer you're either carrying just 450g (650g/850g lighter) or in wet conditions 750g (350g/550g lighter). 

Another interesting comparison is with Mountain Equipment's Aurora I, which costs about the same as the Cloud Cover and the Abel +10 combined, has a similar comfort limit (-2°C) and weighs in at just under 1100g. Again, the same inflexible logic applies, the ME bag would be too hot and too heavy for summer use, so a summer weight bag would also be required, but that summer bag wouldn't pair with the Aurora for -10°C and below, so an expensive winter bag is also required ... and maybe that's why modularity has yet to dawn on the outdoor market, yet is favoured by a more pragmatic military sector?  

The Abel +10 - a perfect hostThe Nordisk Abel +10 functions equally well on its own or when paired with the Cloud Cover

Weights (without stuff sacks, see our note below*):

  • Warm + Dry Weather: Alpkit Cloud Cover = 438g (stuff sack +14g)
  • Warm + Wet Weather: Nordisk Abel 10 (L) = 748g (stuff sack +65g)
  • Spring + Autumn: Cloud Cover + Abel 10 (L) = 1,186g
  • Winter: Carinthia Defence 4 (M) = 1,650g (stuff sack +209g)
  • Extreme Cold: Defence 4 (M) + Cloud Cover = 2,088g (stuff sack = Ortlieb Mediumweight Drybag PD350 = 293g, having the bag on the outside of the pack means we can carry lighter packs in Winter and also reduces the fuss of stuffing the sleeping bag - the compression straps of the pack do this job well).

 

Any Negatives?

The only minor annoyance for us was the zip which could possibly be improved upon - we've docked one point for function. Additional features like neck baffles, heavier duty zip guides etc. would all add weight and aren't really necessary for this type of sleeping bag.

Ideally we'd like the Abel +10 to be a little lighter (and this is reflected in the rating) but a lighter version already exists: Nordisk's Gorm +10, however the Gorm +10 is more than twice the price - so you're paying about £70 or £80 extra for a 100g saving. In terms of our rating method, what the Gorm gains in its weight score it more than loses in its value score. We've included the Gorm +10 in the product images below. 

 

Conclusion & Rating

Finding a lightweight 1 season synthetic bag is not a problem. Marmot, The North Face, Mountain Hardwear and Vaude all make such bags. Vaude's 630g Sioux 100 SYN is a good example, as is Nordisk's ultralight Oscar, weighing in at just 332g. However, none of these bags will host another lightweight bag inside them. Their effectiveness relies on their confined mummy-shape reducing the capacity for "dead air", yet it's this "empty space" we require when we want an inner bag to loft and achieve its optimal thermal efficiency. The ideal modular 3 season outer bag needs to be somewhere between the strict mummy-shape of the Oscar (bottom left) and the rectangular design of Snugpak's Jungle Bag (top left).

The Abel +10 is the ideal design compromise for a 3 season outer


The Abel +10's (and by extension, the Gorm +10's) rare "egg-shaped" design fits the bill perfectly. On its own the Abel +10 is a comfortable and effective warm / wet weather sleeping bag and when paired with an ultralight down bag such as Alpkit's Cloud Cover, the Abel +10 will provide a good nights sleep down to 0°C.

At some point outdoor manufacturers will embrace the modular approach; when they do Nordisk will have earned themselves a decent headstart; with their thoughtful, unfussy design the Abel and Gorm +10s will make excellent templates for the ideal lightweight outer bag.

The Abel +10 is Scramble's top pick for bag #2 in our recommended modular system: The 1 Season "Jungle Bag" and 3 Season Outer.

 

Product Images

The Abel +10 in green and the lighter Gorm +10 in blue

 

Rating (out of 10)

As it's too early for us to make an honest appraisal of the Abel +10's durability we've made an educated guess based on its build quality and lightweight materials. We'll update the durability score over time.

Function
 
9.0
Durability
 
7.0
Weight
 
7.5
RRP Value *
 
9.0
OVERALL RATING
 
8.1


* The value score is derived from two factors:
1) Competitive Market Price (CMP). This represents our judgement of a competitive online price point if we were to stock the item. e.g. if we feel we would need to sell an item at 40% off (i.e. 60% of its full RRP) to be competitive, then our CMP score will be 6/10.
2) Customer Value Price (CVP). We then make an honest appraisal of the maximum price we would be willing to pay for the item (and we're mean). So if we'd pay 80% of its RRP our CVP score would be 8/10.
We then average the two scores to get our final value score, which in our example would be 7/10.

 

Postscript

Why not down all the way?

As an inner bag, down is superb. If you can guarantee arid conditions (deserts, Himalayas, arctic etc.) then down is the way to go, but for the UK and northern Europe, not so much and you literally have to factor in a daily thermal performance loss for down in wet conditions (regardless of hydrophobic patches to an insoluble problem).

Andy Kirkpatrick explains:

"There is nothing as great as a bone dry down sleeping bag. Unfortunately there is also nothing as grim as a wet one. Saturated down loses 90% of its insulation as the delicate structure of the clusters stick together and collapse. The down absorbs a lot of water and because it loses most of its thermal performance it must be dried via an outside heat source like the sun, a tumble dryer or a body. In many cases where there is moisture present, a down bag will lose performance each night it is used, as the down becomes slowly saturated. The rate at which this happens is dependent on the skill of the user and the conditions in which it is being used. This water contamination comes both from without and within the bag and learning to slow the speed of this performance drop is one of the skills needed to use a down bag effectively. Down just doesn’t work in high saturated environments and best suits cold and dry conditions, or the protected sanctuary of a dry space like a tent, hut or snow hole."

Our Winter Kit test in 2016 was particularly tricky and saw 4 days of permanent heavy rain, hail and sleet book-ended by 3 days of freezing cold (down to -8°C). Everything got wet (regardless of care and skill) and the Defence 4, being synthetic held up superbly, a down bag would have been a disaster and quite possibly dangerous.

* A note on stuff sacks and weight stats

We don't quote the weights including stuff sacks, mainly because we don't feel the manufacturer's choice of stuff sacks design has a great deal to do with their sleeping bags (an example is Mountain Hardwear's Lamina bags which come with something more akin to a Tesco's 10 gram shopping bag, whereas Carinthia's come with military grade compression sacks; apples and oranges and all that. In addition we only use a stuff sack for the Carinthia bag, and for that we use Ortlieb's 22L PD350 Drybag attached to the side of a Karrimor SF Predator 30L pack. The Abel +10 can simply go in the base of ones pack (assuming it has a waterproof liner) as it fills the nooks and crannies well and gets compressed by all your other kit. The Cloud Cover comes with a superlight sack and likewise easily gets compressed when you cover it with the rest of your stuff. If it's used as an inner, then it can just go inside the Abel +10 or the Defence 4.

 

Last Updated: 08/12/17



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