A review of the model 65 Swiss army sleeping bag

In case you’re wondering, no, this older model Swiss army sleeping bag does not feature a corkscrew or a can opener. ;) What it does offer, though, is warmth, durability and excellent value. I picked mine up almost two years ago for 17 Euros/22 Dollars. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a steal at that price.

This sleeping bag was originally issued to Swiss troops as part of a three-piece sleep system (which I’ll get to later), but of the original system I only have the sleeping bag shown here. Some specifications:

Materials: There are no markings on my bag which would indicate what it is made of. Various online shops list the exterior/interior lining as nylon and the fill as polyester.

Dimensions:

  • From head to foot: 87″/220 cm
  • From shoulder to foot: 75″/190 cm
  • Width at shoulders: 30″/75 cm
  • Width at foot: 24″/60 cm

Weight: 3.8 pounds/1.7 kg

Temperature rating: It seems that there’s very little information available online as to the temperature rating of this bag. I have used it in the summer with just my skivvies and in spring and autumn down to about 2*C/35*F with long underwear and thick socks and have been comfortable. As a result of some recent cyber research, I’ve found three accounts of the extreme temperature capabilities of this bag: -10*C (14*F), -15*C (5*F) and -20*C (-4*F). Not having solid information, I’ll have to do some field testing this winter to figure out how well it works for me at low temperatures, but more on this later.

Fasteners/Closures:

  • Extremely rugged zipper
  • Flap running the length of the zipper, closed with four snaps
  • Drawstring around the hood

The first thing I noticed about this bag was it’s size. It’s no small-fry. Most likely, a troop would be wearing a considerable amount of clothing inside the bag while sleeping, so some wiggle-room would be desirable. The materials of this bag are extremely rugged. The fact that my bag was made in 1978 and looks/functions almost like new is a testament to that. Being on the tall side, this large sleeping bag fits the bill for me very well, especially since I like to move around and change positions often. There aren’t any pockets or other extra features to speak of, but I don’t feel that I’m missing anything with this bag. Overall, it does what a sleeping bag is supposed to do and doesn’t cost a lot by any means.

The original system. The sleeping bag is inside the bivy bag here. (image linked from online shop)

As mentioned above, this sleeping bag was originally issued as part of a set, which included the sleeping bag, a fleece liner bag for increased warmth, a waterproof bivy bag for the outside and a stuff sack. I’m guessing that the extreme temperature limits I found online apply for the three components used together. Not having the original issue bivy or fleece liner, but wanting to get the most I can get out of the bag, I decided to “reconstruct” the system. I bought an Italian military surplus bivy bag for 9 Euros/12 Dollars when I purchased the sleeping bag and, more recently, a lightweight summer sleeping bag for 6 Euros/8 Dollars which fits perfectly inside the Swiss bag. I think this configuration should work about as well as the original system. The weight of the reconstructed system is 3.5 kg/7.7 pounds total, and the price was 32 Euros/42 Dollars.

What’s left now is to test the configuration at various below-freezing temperatures, which I will do over the next several months. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes. If it ends up not being warm enough, I have another sleeping bag which also fits very well into the Swiss bag and is rated to a much lower temperature than the summer bag mentioned above, so there are multiple combination possibilities there. As an aside, I wear all my layers of daytime clothing (except my outer pants and jacket) when winter camping, which obviously improves the temperature capability of any sleep system.

Though I can’t provide information on winter performance at the moment, I can say that at this point I highly recommend this bag as at least a 3-season bag down to 2*C/35*F with suitable undergarments thanks to its heat retention, ruggedness and price. I have seen these sleeping bags available at various online stores, so they are readily available if you are interested in getting one!

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20 comments on “A review of the model 65 Swiss army sleeping bag

  1. American Grouch says:

    I’ve got two of them and my impressions mirror yours. I used mine Spring through Fall for a couple of years with good results. It’s also my go to bag for hammock use up in the Boundary Waters Wilderness, can get pretty cool there at night, especially in a hammock. This bag worked well in that environment so long as it is kept dry.

    You’re also right about needing to use all the components of the system to get maximum use in colder temps. I’ve searched in vain for a number of years to find those components here, stateside and have had no luck. For a while I combined it with the US Sleep System and that took care of most of my colder weather needs.

    It is a good piece of gear!

  2. Ron says:

    Nice one!
    I am looking all over the place for a sleepingbag that I can use under several circumstances. Extreme low temeratures are not for me yet, so this system might just fit the bill.

    • I think this sleeping bag (especially the whole system) would work well for you. It’s not as lightweight as newer bags, but it’s not overly heavy, either. Some Swedish military surplus shops might carry it. I don’t know if it’s available in Finland anymore (the store I got them at is sold out), but I can check other places if you want!

  3. Sam says:

    Looks good, I was wondering if it has a waterproof cover, so you could eliminate the need for a shelter?

    • Well, the original three-piece system was issued with a waterproof and reflective cover (bivy bag). This wasn’t available when I bought mine, so I bought a very similar one instead (Italian military surplus). Though these outer bags do provide a lot of protection from the elements, you’d probably want some kind of shelter above you because your face would still be exposed. But if you’re not expecting rain or snow, sure, you could use the sleeping bag in the outer cover without a shelter. :)

  4. Finnman says:

    I have that system( carrybag, sleeping bag, fleece liner) but no bivy. Have bought it sometime “just in case” and I don´t really need it, if someone is interested.

  5. Jay Rugged says:

    Hi FInnman. WHere did you buy the whole system?

  6. [...] fall, I reviewed the model 65 Swiss army sleeping bag which I have been using for the past 2 years. In that review, I mentioned how the older Swiss sleep [...]

  7. Joel Latto says:

    I have the original 3-part set, but this article was the first one in which I heard avout that waterproof bivy bag – too bad I don’t have one! Also this was the first place I finally found some data about the temperature ratings, so thanks for that too.

    I have slept with dual-configuration in -10C, but this week I’ll try to survive with my set in -15C – -19C (although this time we will have fire burning through the night).

  8. Pinewood Bushcraft says:

    I’m from Switzerland. If you are interested, I can try to get you a fleece liner for it!
    Nice articles! Thanks!

    • Thanks for the offer! :) A few months ago, I gave Scandic Woodsman a machete in trade for his Swiss sleeping bag liner, so I now have one. I have used it together with my bivy bag and was warm down to 12 or 13*C, so even just the liner by itself seems to work well as a summer sleeping bag. :) Again, thanks for the offer!

  9. […] a reading. Just as the weather report had forecast, it was 4°C/40°F. As a side note, I used the Swiss sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner on this trip and never felt […]

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