A sleep system for tall people

I am 6ft 4.  If you are tall like me then you will know that finding well-fitting gear is a challenge. I have spent many nights outdoors with cold shoulders because I had the wrong sized bag.

After many years of trying out the options this is the sleep system I developed.

Sizing advice

Generally, a normal mens sleeping bag will be around 200cm long. While I am 193cm tall, that does not mean a 200cm bag will fit me. When I lay flat on the ground my feet will flop forward. This means at a bare minimum my sleeping bag, bivvy or tent must be at least 230cm long to accommodate my feet too. Remember that when buying!

Sleeping bag

You will need to look for a manufacturer with “XL” size sleeping bags, these are usually bags over 190cm. There are not many, but I found some. I put the brands in an ascending order of quality (and therefore cost).

Snugpak provide good bags and they supply the military. I ordered the Snugpak Special Forces System in XL and it was huge, as well as warm. The drawbacks: super heavy and bulky. But not only that, the quality of the manufacturing was shoddy. Both bags had tears in the seams, when I opened the velcro closure the entire piece came away from its stitching. I also ordered the SF Bivvy from Snugpak which had a puncture hole about the size of a biro, rendering it useless. I sent it all back.

Alpkit are a young brand which have popped up in the midlands, providing quality kit at affordable prices. I have not tried their sleeping bags but they do them in decent XL sizes. Their down bags get good reviews, and seem to have the best value for money for any down bags out there.

Carinthia are a german manufacturer of military sleeping bags. Germans are tall, so are the bags. These are high-end military kit, they only do synthetic filling, but the designs of the bags are very nice if you are into olive green.

Rab do some great stuff. They have an extensive range of bags and it goes without saying that Rab is quality. They have the benefit of having highstreet stockists so you can probably try a few for size in store. That’s really important to do. I tried an XL Rab bag on in store and it felt reasonably comfortable, warm, but still not quite long enough for my 193cm frame. That’s why I didn’t go for Rab.

PHD Designs provide a fully bespoke service. This company is amazing, and I finally went with their Minim 400 sleeping bag.  The bag packs down small, the size of a rugby ball, and it goes down to -15C. The only drawback is that this bag has set me back half a grand. That is an outlay for 3 season bag, but it was worth it, because it has given me some of the best nights sleep outdoors I have had yet. I know this bag is made with the care and quality that means I won’t be let down by it.

The Minim 400 suited my needs. It is long, wide and comfortable.

With this bag I have gained freedom to sleep almost anywhere, and my sleeping bag problem is solved.

 

Sleeping mat

Thermarest Neoair Venture (Large) is my go to mat because it is full length, about 2 inches (6cm) thick when inflated. I got it from Tiso in Glasgow, which I rate as good suppliers of kit. It is thick enough to use on snow – I used it to sleep at the top of Tryfan Mountain in Snowdonia during Winter.

The main reason I chose this mat is not its length but its thickness. As I am a large man I weigh quite a bit and I need a mat which will support that weight. A thinner mat meant I sunk to the ground and had no support or insulation between me and the floor. The Neoair provides the best balance between weight, length, thickness and warmth that I have found.

Foam

Foam roll mats are fine if you can carry the bulk on the outside of your pack. In fact they are more reliable, and so this would be my preference for longer winter trips – the risk of a puncture would mean ending your trip here.

The thing with foam is you can buy two foam roll mats and trim them, join them to make an XL. You can also double-layer them to make the thickness or shape that you want.

 

Bivvy Bags

British Army Bivvy this is the only bivvy I use because it is massive and it is indestructible. It weighs about 800g, and its about 230cm long. If I could change a couple of things I would get an olive green one because woodland DPM pattern is exceedingly ugly. But I love my bivvy because I can do just about anything in it. I have even seen people wade through rivers in it.

Snugpak SF Bivvy If you are not too serious about bivvying, but you are about weight, then this will do you. I must warn you that the nylon is not nearly as thick as it needs to be. When I received it in the post it had a large puncture in it. It gave me no confidence in using it in the field. But it packs down very small, and its very, very  light. An occasional bivvy, or for a quick mission or a microadventure. Not for regular use, just won’t last.

Alpkit Hunka XL Another fine choice! Looks great, and probably a bit tougher than the Snugpak SF. I haven’t tried it but it seems popular, they’re always sold out.

 

Hooped Bivvies

Terra Nova Saturn I just about fit in this bivvy. I love it for its small pack size. It is very well made (in Britain) and Terra Nova have always given me excellent customer service (they sent me replacement poles free of charge). The Saturn Bivvi is longer than the Jupiter, the single hooped version. I really like this bivvy. My only complaint is it’s quite hard to get in and out of. You wriggle out like a caterpillar escaping from a chrysalis, therefore getting your knees and belly wet it the process.

But it has practical applications, I use this on ultralight/minimalist adventures where I cannot take a tent (it is ideal when packed as hand luggage on a plane).

Dutch army bivvy this is a beast. The dutch are really tall people. I have not used this bivvi, but it looks similar to the british army bivvy but with hoops and a door. The side opening seems much more practical than the Saturn’s front flap, it would allow you to cook while laying down, as well as make a speedy exit to do a wee during the night. Problem is it weighs more than a full size tent.

Tent

Terra Nova Zephyros 2 is an excellent tent from my favourite tent makers. I am faithful to this brand because of their build quality, customer service and value for money. I would not say the Zephyros 2 is a true two man tent though. It is big enough for a tall man and a small woman who doesn’t mind a cuddle. But it is just about long enough for me, and it suits me fine on a trip where I definitely need a tent (West Highland Way, Cape Wrath Trail) or when I am leaving it at basecamp. For a longer trip it is not too heavy or difficult to put up in a storm. Its about £100, and that gets you a bloody good tent.

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