For winter campers who don’t want to splash out on a down-filled sleeping bag, the Softie Expansion is a superb option. It’s warm, versatile, and ever so comfortable. It’s heavier and slightly bulkier than a premium down bag, so isn’t perfect for long backpacking missions, yet this is only a minor gripe.
Plush, luxurious and warm
Great for winter camping
Can regulate temperature with expander panel
Retains thermal qualities when wet
Larger pack size than most
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Snugpak Softie Expansion 5: first impressions
Snugpak’s polyester Softie insulation has been a mainstay in the British brand’s products for over thirty years. It utilizes superfine yarns bound together with special resins to mimic the properties of natural insulation such as down. The result is a really plush feeling bag that is easily warm enough for winter camping trips.
I found the Softie 5 to be a gloriously cozy cocoon to nestle within and, with a comfort limit of -15°C (5°F), it is wonderfully toasty in all but the most Baltic conditions. However, this is not a bag that’s limited to sub-zero use, as its elasticated expander panel allowed me to open things up, thus regulating the temperature inside.
However, as is to be expected with a synthetic bag, it’s not as light or a packable as its down-filled counterparts. The first thing that leaps out at you is the large pack size. Despite compression straps, it still took up a hefty chunk of my standard hiking backpack. So much so that, whenever I came to test it, I had to venture out with my 65-liter expedition pack.
List price: £150 (UK)
Weight: 2.3kg / 81oz
Length: 220cm / 87”
Pack size: 32cm x 26cm / 13" x 10"
Max user height: 190cm / 6 ft 2.5"
Fill: Polyester Softie insulation
Comfort: -15°C / 5°F
Limit: -20°C / -4°F
Compatibility: Wild camping and car camping all year round
Then there’s the weight, all 2.3kg (81 oz) of it. In these heady days of ultralight camping gear, it is admittedly on the heavy side, especially if you plan to wild camp. However, it’s a mere fraction of the cost of some of the leading down bags. Great value then, especially considering its luxurious feel and the amount of warmth it retains.
If you’re looking for a seriously high performing, lightweight expedition sleeping bag and you’ve got cash to spare, you may want to consider a premium down bag. However, I was happy carrying the Softie 5 around the backcountry and when you consider the excellent price, this sleeping bag is a no brainer.
The Softie 5 has a few handy tricks beneath its zips. As mentioned, the Elasticated Expander Panel gave me the option of increasing its width and cooling things down a little. This adds versatility to the bag, making it a suitable choice for the shoulder seasons as well as winter. I was also able to adjust its length using the foot shorting clips, which is a good thing as I’m certainly not anywhere near its maximum user height of 6 foot 2 inches. These clips also double up as hanging clips to air the bag after use.
There’s an integrated LED light that slots into a little pocket towards the hood. This would allow me to carry on reading while my campmates were happily snoring away. Depending on how snug I needed to be, I could adjust the hood using the elasticated drawcord. There’s also an internal valuables pocket with a useful hook and loop.
The outer fabric is made from Paratex Micro nylon, which is tough yet soft to the touch, as well as being lightweight and water repellent. Should any pesky water seep into the bag, the Softie insulation retains its thermal properties when wet. The inner polyester features Reflectatherm technology, which achieves a high warmth-to-weight ratio thanks to it being coated by tiny metallic dots that help to trap heat.
Other well-thought-out features include the insulated baffle that lines the two-way side zip. Snugpak have clearly deployed every tactic to ensure minimal heat escapes in the night.
In the field
It’s clear from its sub-zero comfort rating that the Softie 5 is a very warm sleeping bag. I headed out in late fall and in the depths of winter to test it in both mild and freezing conditions. Lugging it to my high wild camps was fine but if I was to head out on a longer, multi-night adventure, I’d probably want something lighter.
I found that opening the expander panel worked really well during milder nights and at no point was I uncomfortable. In fact, once set up, I’d say I’ve never been more comfortable on a wild camp. Just a shame that it takes a little more effort to get a weighty bag like this in situ. When things got colder, the Softie continued to deliver. Even on freezing mornings I was snug and warm in the Softie’s embrace, which was no surprise as I was still well within its comfort limit.
When it came to packing down, I always made full use of the compression straps, tightening everything up to within an inch of the bag’s life before shoving it back in my backpack. Back home, I used the hanging tabs at the foot to air and dry the bag, ready for its next adventure.
Alex is a freelance adventure writer and mountain leader with an insatiable passion for the mountains. A Cumbrian born and bred, his native English Lake District has a special place in his heart, though he is at least equally happy in North Wales, the Scottish Highlands or the European Alps. Through his hiking, mountaineering, climbing and trail running adventures, Alex aims to inspire others to get outdoors. He is currently President of the London Mountaineering Club, training to become a winter mountain leader, looking to finally finish bagging all the Wainwright fells of the Lake District and hoping to scale more Alpine 4000ers when circumstances allow. Find out more at www.alexfoxfield.com