Therm-A-Rest Vesper 20F Gear Review
May 3, 2019 at 7:00 am #3591505Andrew MarshallModerator
@andrewsmarshallLocale: Tahoe basin by way of the southern Appalachians
Companion forum thread to: Therm-A-Rest Vesper 20F Gear Review
A detailed review of the Therm-a-Rest Vesper 20F Sleeping bag over 3 seasons of use including detail commentary.May 3, 2019 at 11:16 am #3591514
Last weekend, I tried a Vesper 32 Long on an Uberlite pad. I wore light merino long underwear bottoms, relatively heavy wool socks, light merino long sleeve top and a Kuiu fleece.
I was quite cold when it got into the upper 40s. I had to put on a puffy to stay warm.
I’m 6’3″ and 200 pounds. I’m a side sleeper and found the pad attachment strap to be inadequate to prevent drafts. Laying on my back eliminated the drafts, but my back starts getting sore quickly when trying to sleep like that on an air pad.
The material is quite soft and comfortable. It’s light and compresses down nicely.
I returned it to REI this week. It’s inadequate for me. If you’re small or a back sleeper and accept that it’s not comfortable anywhere close to its rating, this might work for you.
I ordered a Feathered Friends Flicker 30 YF Long to replace the Vesper. The UL Long is not available now, only the regular. Reviews of FF bags indicate that their ratings are true comfort ratings. The Flicker can zip up if you’re cold or open completely to regulate. It’s heavier than the Vesper, but the Vesper 32 and Flicker 30 is not a fair comparison for weight when the Vesper’s comfort temp is much higher.May 3, 2019 at 12:04 pm #3591518
@Brad P – Are you sure that there might not have been another reason you were cold – dehydrated?, not enough fuel(food)?, etc? I think Thermarest had the Vesper quilts EN Rated (though I’m not sure how well that works with quilts). and the 9oz of 900fp down should be plenty to keep the “average” person warm down to at least the mid 30’s. For example the Katabatic Palisade, which is almost universally accepted as conservative has 9.5oz of 900fp down and is rated to 30*F.
The old Golite Ultra 20 quilt, which I own had 9.5oz of 800fp down, and though it was not warm enough for most as a 20* quilt, it was more than adequate for just about everyone at 30*F and I found it good to about 25*. My 20* quilt, which I bought in 2010 has 12oz of 850fp down and has been good to the upper teens with just a baselayer top and bottom. At the time the Nunatak 20* quilts had less than 12oz of down if I remember correctly.
Of course my experience is with either a Ridgerest (which I find warmer than it’s R rating), or an X-Therm, and the EN ratings assume a pad with an R value of 5? . The Uberlite may be just as much of a culprit as the Vesper, as though I haven’t tried it, it appears to just be an uninsulated air pad, which are notoriously cold. Did you try the Vesper for more than one night? Did you try it with a different pad or try a different bag? Do you historically sleep cold? Quilt experience?
*****Edit – One more thing? What did you wear on your head as insulation?
I’m not discounting your experience, in fact, I think it’s very valuable for the community, I’m just trying to figure out why the Vesper wasn’t warm enough, since on paper, it should at least be warm enough at those temps.May 3, 2019 at 12:18 pm #3591520
I suggest a minor edit to the article. The article states that the Vesper 20 is “safety rated” around 20*F. First off “safety rating” is not one of the EN ratings. I assume you mean this is the “Lower Limit” rating, which is the lowest temperature that the “average” male can sleep comfortably for 8 hours. There is also an “Extreme” rating where the “average” female can stay for six hours without risk of death from hypothermia.
EN13537 requires a thermal manikin test which produces four temperature results — upper limit, comfort, lower limit, and extreme. These temperatures were worked for normal consumers.
The standard measures four temperature ratings:
Upper Limit — the temperature at which a standard male can sleep without excessive perspiration. It is established with the hood and zippers open and with the arms outside of the bag.
Comfort — the temperature at which a standard female can expect to sleep comfortably in a relaxed position.
Lower Limit — the temperature at which a standard male can sleep for eight hours in a curled position without waking.
Extreme — the minimum temperature at which a standard female can remain for six hours without risk of death from hypothermia (though frostbite is still possible).
These ratings are taken assuming that the subject is using a sleeping pad, tent and is wearing one base layer of thermal underwear.
For the purpose of these measurements, a “standard man” is assumed to be 25 years old, with a height of 1.73 m and a weight of 73 kg; a “standard woman” is assumed to be 25 years old, with a height of 1.60 m and a weight of 60 kg.May 3, 2019 at 12:42 pm #3591526James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Good review, Andrew. I much prefer a long since I pull it over my head with only my face out. It saves the hassle of an extra hat/balaclava for sleeping at 20F temps. I am not sure a draft collar is the correct option in this case, though. I need my down jacket for sleeping at 20F, anyway.
While I also prefer a wide, the Vesper is already wider than most other quilts. This makes it a nice buy. As I said, with a jacket on, this makes a nice cover even bulked up. (I toss and turn a lot, too.)
The packing size is impressive. Probably due to the 900FP down. I usually keep all my “dry” gear in a single small compression/dry bag: socks, long-johns, jacket, quilt. The packing size (volume) means a lot to weight savings. Spending the extra 4.5oz on a compression sack means a smaller, lighter pack. Pretty much a break even on weight, but it also means a smaller, more maneuverable hiker on the trail.May 3, 2019 at 12:52 pm #3591529
I don’t consider myself a particularly cold sleeper. Also, I had the 32 degree version of the quilt, not the tested 20 degree version. Still, I should not have been cold in the upper 40s with what I was wearing (prior to the puffy).May 3, 2019 at 3:42 pm #3591544
I would think your hat and apple pie should have kept your head warm and metabolism up. I’m not sure a thinlight under the Uberlite did much good, but I would have still have thought you would have been warm in the 40’s. It will be interesting to see what others think about the Vesper line of quilts. I’m not sure one would be my top choice as regular retail, but I imagine you will be able to find them at 20-25% off retail regularly.May 3, 2019 at 4:40 pm #3591555
I used the REI 20% off coupon.
The Thinlight under the pad was to protect the pad from puncture and reduce sliding around, not really for any increased R value.
I’m just 1 person. There aren’t a lot of reviews out there that I could find. A few, but not a lot.
YMMV.May 3, 2019 at 4:59 pm #3591556
You had me go re-visit a spreadsheet that I made for a friend several years ago comparing quilts. I did notice that most quilt makers have considerably more down fill then they did a few years ago. For comparison a few years ago the Nunatak 20* Arc had 12oz, the EE Enigma 20* had 11.6oz, the Katabatic Alsek 22* had (and has) 12.4oz, and the Z-Packs 20* had 11.9oz. All of those are right in line with the Vesper 20’s 12oz of down, but all of those makers, except for one have increased the amount of down fill they have
Here is the current spreadsheet (The Javan Dempsey is my quilt):May 3, 2019 at 5:44 pm #3591562
The Vesper 32 Long I had came with 10 oz of 900 fill down. (Remember the review is for the 20 degree).
The FF Flicker YF 30 degree Long I ordered comes with 12 oz of 900+ fill down. The UL also has 12 oz of 950+ fill down.
That’s 20% more down for essentially the same temperature rated quilt with likely slightly higher rated down. It’s hard to believe these have just a 2 degree difference in temperature rating.
Good spreadsheet for comparison.May 3, 2019 at 7:51 pm #3591577Graham FBPL Member
@02174424Locale: Victoria-Southeast Australia
Just wondering what was used to gauge/ measure the temp. Brad? I bought a very accurate small fridge thermometer a while back and the temps reported by our Bureau of Meteorology did not match at all, the temps in my tent. I use a WM Megalite, went off quilts.May 3, 2019 at 8:32 pm #3591581
Graham, I have a tiny thermometer on my backpack and I took off my Garmin Fenix 5x for an hour.May 3, 2019 at 10:38 pm #3591589Graham FBPL Member
@02174424Locale: Victoria-Southeast Australia
Thanks Brad. Your Uberlite and thinlight combo were not the problem.
The little plastic thermometer I myself wouldn’t trust. Are the Fenixs reliable off the wrist for just an hour?
If so, it sounds like you’ve found the limit for you in that quilt.
Nunatak I reckon is an excellent (perhaps the) benchmark- their -1C (30F) ArUL quilt uses 330-360 (in the long) grams of down. They are always rated as faithful to their ratings. Their 40F uses 280 grams in an excellent quilt by all accounts.
I don’t think the Vesper uses that much does it?
Sorry just checked above and saw 10 ounces 280 grams-whoops there is the problem!!
That is not a 0C So called ‘Comfort’ item. Sounds far more like 5C to 6 C (42F) to me.
That fill amount combined with poor draught management/attachment and it makes sense you were cold.
You and me both find strap attachments on quilts a problem. The cold air chases the hot and gets sucked in to any and every gap there is.
The Megalite was my solution. Sounds like you have found yours.May 3, 2019 at 11:58 pm #3591597
Graham, the watch should be accurate off the wrist that long and they both agreed with the forecast. It felt accurate, too.
If you’re a back sleeper or smaller than I am, you might do well with the Vesper. It might even be good down close to the rated temp if you’re a warm sleeper.
It will not be as warm as quilts with more down and I want an attachment system that lets me tighten the quilt so it won’t have drafts.May 4, 2019 at 2:43 am #3591611Bill in RoswellBPL Member
@roadscrape88-2Locale: Roswell, GA, USA
<p style=”text-align: left;”>Graham, geography dictates microclimates, so nothing strange about your experience. Also, temp is measured several feet above the ground to keep ground temps from effecting air temp.</p>
My first camp quilt was a T-rest Corus. Rated to 35 using 650 fill. A bit bulky but very fluffy. Often had it in upper 20s wearing Smartwools and a hat. Never been cold in it with a Xlite regular pad. I’m 5-7, 200 lbs, side sleeper. T-rest got it right cutting their teeth on a none-UL quilt. I’ve been waiting on a quality field report on the Vesper and really appreciate Andrew’s insightful write up! One point not mentioned is Cascade Design’s warranty. Cottage firms understandably cannot match it. But I’m glad the Vesper is out there. It will make some of us older and now larger guys experience a quality quilt without regret.May 12, 2019 at 12:33 pm #3592622david morganBPL Member
Thanks so much for the incredibly thorough review. I too agree with the color issue (designer perspective to make it visually ‘as light and fluffy you’d think it was a just a cloud?’ influence?). Also the stuff sack (visually ugly, and encourages overcompression) issue is spot on (but at least this is an easy fix, unlike the color. Thirdly, I really love and respect when companies are HONEST with measurements (ISO). Lastly, the heavier but more useful baffles make an ENORMOUS difference to me when in a bag on a cold night. I can really feel the sew lines! Adding weight can make a POSITIVE, beneficial functional difference at times! Re the pad strap, just sew it on with high contrast thread (for later option of easily removing), or add some reflective fabric tape and low heat iron on to easily find it in low light hours. This bag, my current Trest Xtherm Large, and my current Cocoon Merino Wool liner (not SUL but SUPer cozy), and, when appropriate, my bivy cover will be perfect for anything the SE Appalachia can throw at me! Now, after 7 weeks, I am waiting for Cairns 40% off coupon as I sent in my sleeping bag to them!!!Aug 14, 2019 at 2:51 am #3606008Bill in RoswellBPL Member
@roadscrape88-2Locale: Roswell, GA, USA
The air temperature at night is one thing, the ground temp something else. Ground temp varies with hours of sunlight available. A flat camping spot at the base of a northside cliff could have much damper and cooler ground temps than dry, warm soil on a south facing site.
Outside of the microclimate point, our metabolism changes as we age. There may be no “one” factor that has us sleep colder, but degrees of several factors. The old I get the more important staying warm has become!
Bill in Roswell, GAOct 16, 2020 at 5:43 pm #3680019Rob DSpectator
I purchased a Thermarest Vesper 30F for the JMT mid Aug to ea Sept 2020. The quilt was light and well made but cold. I ended up wearing everything I had. The hydrophobic down in the bag appears to bunch up quite a bit. The translucent fabric makes “holes” in the insulation quite visible. No amount of fluffing and shaking would avoid large cold spots. My wife had a Katabatic quilt with same 30F temp rating. It was much warmer and the down lacked the cold spots of my Vesper. I will be sending it back.Oct 16, 2020 at 6:28 pm #3680023JCHBPL Member
“hydrophobic down”. 👎Mar 14, 2021 at 7:16 pm #3704630Erik NorsemanBPL Member
You said this is one of three top quilts available–what are the other two? What are your preferences and why?Apr 5, 2021 at 7:09 pm #3707811Robert IBPL Member
I picked up one of these at REI sale last month. I would rather that the pad straps allowed me to tuck the quilt up against or under me when it is cold. Like the REI trail quilt. I was wondering if you have figured out a way to modify the attachment system. Thanks
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