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Camping, Bushcraft & Survival

Marmot Quark Sleeping Bag Review

The snow gently falls as you zip up the tent. The forecast suggest a night of around 0 degrees C. By 3am, the lake will be frozen, turning bright white as the moon reflects off the ice. Winter camping is a joy. Little beats the sound of the ice crackling off the tent in the morning, and the taste of hot coffee in the morning. The world is different in winter, somehow more serene.

However, a freezing night in an inadequate tent and not enough insulation is probably one of the least pleasant experiences you can ever have in the outdoors. Absolutely essential to comfort, perhaps the most important factor, is the sleeping. And sleeping bags are not created equally. Not by a long way.

“A cold weather sleeping bag needs to be perfect. The Marmot Quark has been chosen for the Outdoor 100 because it is pretty much perfect.”

There are many considerations when choosing a sleeping bag that is fit for purpose. Warmth is the obvious factor. Sleeping bag manufacturers use a fairly standard sleeping bag rating. The comfort limit should be well within what you expect to be using it in. Then there’s the material. Even with the the amazing advances in synthetic insulation, no man made materials come close to the warmth vs. weight ratio of down.

In the winter, it’s hugely important that the sleeping bag is well constructed too – it could be loaded with down, but if there’s a part that’s stitched through for example, it could leave no insulation at all. Or perhaps all the down moves around leaving cold spots. And below zero, that could be a serious consideration. In short, a cold weather sleeping bag needs to be perfect.

The Marmot Quark has been chosen for the Outdoor 100 because it is pretty much perfect. It comes together in a way that is more than the sum of its parts thanks to some very clever engineering.

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The Quark we’re testing is -1 degree C, perfect for autumn nights, with a smart blend of synthetic insulation (Thermal R Micro) and a very high quality (850 fill power) down. The reasoning is simple. When you sleep, the down flattens underneath into not very much at all, losing most of its insulating properties.

A layer of synthetic insulation will provide some comfort and warmth, even when wet. However, around the body, head and foot, Marmot have used a water-resistant down. The curved baffles should stop most of the down moving, er, down. The footbox is designed to maximise warmth for your tootsies. The hood also fits really well and has a draw cord to get really cosy.

Other great features include an extra fold down zip for ventilation and zips with an ‘anti-snag’ slider – there’s little more irritating in the cold with a stuck zipper on a sleeping bag. It all adds up to be one of the best sleeping bags we’ve ever tried. Is it snowing yet?

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Selected for The Outdoor 100 Winter 2016

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