Thursday, May 3, 2018

Greg Duley reviews the Domex Halo sleeping bag


"Tight Lines of Napier are a great company to work with, who import and manufacture a range quality products A few years ago they purchased Domex - a sleeping bag brand that had been made in New Zealand for many years and had a great reputation with kiwi outdoors people. 

As has happened to many home brands, Domex was closing down as it had been unable to compete with the advent of cheaper Asian manufacturing. Tight Lines are one of our TV Show sponsors and they wanted us to take on the Domex sleeping bag brand, but as with all our Show sponsors we simply said we aren’t prepared to take on products that aren’t suitable for our hunting expeditions. We won’t take sponsorship money for a brand we wouldn’t use ourselves. Initially, the “new” Domex made a range of entry level bags. While some were warm enough, they were far too heavy and bulky to be used for transalpine hunting expeditions. Tight Lines asked us what a sleeping bag for these purposes needed, and said they’d get something into production. It’s taken a few years, and we’ve been trialling prototypes for some time now, but at last they have a bag that makes the grade available for purchase.

The specs were simple – the bag must be comfortable in -10C temperatures, pack down as small as possible and weigh no more than 1000gms. Ideally it would be more affordable than the specialty bags that do meet these specs, generally over the $1000 mark.  The only way to meet these specs is with quality down. You won’t make the warmth rating and weight limit with the usual Chinese 600 loft down. The minimum loft rating that can make the grade is genuine 800+ (the loft rating is measured by in³/oz, so the more cubic inches, the better the insulation per ounce.) Once Tight Lines acquired Nikwax products, it was a no-brainer to use Nikwax’s 800 loft hydrophobic down in their manufacture. This down has been given a water repellent treatment that not only gives it a higher loft rating, but means it is more likely to hold that loft rating over a damp and lengthy trip. Quite apart from actual rain, our bodies give off water vapour while we sleep, which can condense and progressively create sodden, useless down – especially if using a bivvy bag of Greg Duley in the Domex Halo sleeping bagaverage breathability.

Another important consideration  is the ability to bump the bags warmth rating by being able to wear a puffer jacket  inside. To achieve maximum insulation both the bag and puffer jacket must be able to loft – puff up to their full volume. If your bag is too tight, then you won’t get much advantage by putting a puffer on inside. This is especially so if you are like the majority of humans who sleep on their sides (80% do), then the bag needs to large enough around the shoulders and hips so you do not squash the loft out of your insulation by it pulling tight. There are only minor disadvantages for a bag too large, but huge disadvantages with a bag too small! Breathability is another important consideration in a bag’s inner and outer shell material. For the same reasons hydrophobic down is great, your outer layer in particular must be extremely breathable to let that vapour out. Most supposedly water resistant sleeping bags never breathe as well. The shell materials must also be down proof, as feathers are great at trying to escape if they can work their way through the fabric.  Then there is the actual down cavity  construction. The old way of simply stitching the inner and outer layers in  a grid pattern to keep the down evenly distributed creates cold spots on all the stitch lines. High end bag manufacturers progressed to various types of box wall construction, which keeps the thickness of down even across each baffle. Zips also let warmth out and need covering with an extra baffle flap. Unless you need to be able to open your bag right up to use it as a duvet, a ¾ side zip allows you to cut weight and retain warmth. The head and neck area also needs baffles to minimise heat escape around these openings – a huge amount of heat is lost through your head so when it gets cold, you need to mummy up.Greg Duley in the Domex Halo sleeping bag

The word “halo” has various definitions, but the general gist is a protective ring around something – so I suppose that fits this sleeping bag’s design purpose! As I said earlier, we have been trialling prototypes (and now the production run) of this sleeping bag for some time, and can only say Tightlines have done a pretty good job of meeting our criteria. The bag is warm and roomy enough - it packs down to a ery small 6 litres and yet is big enough for even 6’5 ½”/197cm and 100kg Willie to be able to wear extra insulation in. We have spent some very challenging nights bivvying on the snow without a tent and been comfortably warm despite plummeting temperatures and a bitterly cold wind. The packed size and weight has meant we have lots of capacity left for all the other gear. The inner layer is a little unusual feeling on your skin, but as you should always be using a bag liner or wearing at least a clean (-ish!) top and bottom thermal layer and a beanie/buff/balaclava, this isn’t an issue.

When you consider Tight Lines have managed to put the Halo together meeting all these criteria for an RRP of just $649, this is outstanding. Right now it would be impossible to go past it as the go-to bag for all round New Zealand outdoor adventures at that money!"

- Greg Duley, NZ Hunter Magazine


Find out more about the Domex Halo here.