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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!