Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: High quality materials, extra space for layering.
Cons: Complicated and heavy neck baffle, wide in shoulders for trim people, tight in lower legs, expensive!
Best Uses: Used with down jacket.
The Valandre Bloody Mary is a versatile three-season down bag that can take you from the heat of the summer to fast and light alpine climbing and mountaineering. The bag has top quality down and materials, but a disappointingly heavy and complicated neck baffle and a cut that's design for climbers that use a down jacket inside the bag. The bag has a low warmth to weight ratio.
We've found that quilt style bags are lighter, warmer for their weight, and more versatile than bags with hoods and zippers. Our testers prefer them for three-season use. Check out our Backpacking Sleeping Bag Review for details.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Valandre is a French company that makes top-quality cold weather down garments. The Bloody Mary is their most versatile three-season bag. It uses 850+ fill down from the fat French grey goose and highly water-repellent Asahi-Kasei Ripstop Polymide imported from Japan. The cut is tight in the lower legs and spacious in the upper body, leaving room for storage at the thighs and space for down clothing.
The feature that distinguishes the Bloody Mary from all other bags is its three-piece modular neck baffle. A velcro strip at the back and a zipper on the front allow you to tailor your neck baffle experience to the conditions at hand. The options are: no neck baffle (for summer), a zippered passive front collar (for spring and fall), and a full-blown 360-degree baffle (for winter). The latter attaches with a zipper on the front and velcro on the back. The side closest to the bag's main entry zipper has two velcro strips that allow you to get in and out, while and the other side opens up with a zipper. There are two small holes on either side that allow you to poke your hands out and adjust things during the night. A "double clip-in tanka" drawstring makes the final seal around your neck. Complicated? Yes. Warm? Yes. Once you've inserted yourself, closed up the bag, sealed the velcro closures, and tighten the pull cord, you'll seal the hot air in and the cold air out. It's cumbersome, but effective.
We like the simple non-cinching passive collar that zips to the front of the bag. This is cozy and warm and requires much less effort than the larger neck baffle described above. When not in use, this stuffs into a four-inch velcro pocket that sits at the shoulder. The pocket can also be used for a watch, headlamp, or other small items.
Although the Bloody Mary is constructed with high quality materials the bag has several drawbacks. We found the neck baffle is complicated and heavy compared to other sleeping bags. It makes the bag slightly more versatile than others, but we don't think it's worth the trouble or the additional weight. Other neck baffles are nearly as warm, easier to operate, and weigh considerably less.
The Bloody Mary's hood could also be more comfortable. Other bags have a small tube of down between the hood draw cord and your face, which creates a better seal around your face and makes the bag more comfortable.
Another potential drawback is the bag's cut. We found the lower leg region to be well sized for summer use, but too small for winter because there's no storage at your feet. Stowing some items at thigh level works fine, but for longer trips we prefer space at our feet. The upper body is also larger than most three-season and zero degree bags. This gives you plenty of space for layers, but too much for trimmer people without layers. Do you plan to go fast and light with this bag (no insulated jacket) or layer up and take the bag well below freezing? Broad shouldered people will be best for the former and skinny people the latter.
Consider the Western Mountaineering Versalite or Katabatic Gear Sawatch.
And four about their construction here.
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: November 15, 2012
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