Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Kifaru Regulator Sleeping Bag Review

"Lightweight, Durable, Inexpensive. Your choice of two." - Truism

Many years ago my cousin and I were camping out in Galloway on the savagely beautiful west coast of Scotland.  We would have been about ten years old, the tent we had was one my own father had used to hike around Europe one summer in the late 50's so it would have been about 25ish years old. The weather was, what I believe in the local argot is called, 'blowing up a whoolie', or as we'd say down south 'proper lashing it down'. The tent didn't have a sewn in ground sheet and was (50's style ultra light) treated cotton.

Cousin T woke me by shouting "I'm cold" then he woke himself up by shouting it again a bit louder. The reason for his discomfort was water had made it's way into the tent and pooled on the ground sheet, then been soaked up by his down sleeping bag. I know you're wondering why the grown ups hadn't made sure we'd put the tent up properly - we'd been camping out together since we were six, and it was the late 70's kids were supposed to learn by their mistakes. Also we were both wilful, self-possessed, little turds who thought they knew it all already, mouthy too, so we'd been left to our own devices.

The leash may have been long but the safety rope was short, one of the camp grown-ups came and rescued him. In the morning someone gave us a lesson that I've never forgotten. My sleeping bag had soaked up a bit of water too but I hadn't noticed. Synthetics init.

One of the grown ups explained; down is a fantastic insulator until it gets damp (even a little bit - through condensation) when it loses 80% of it's thermal efficiency. I've slept in a lot of down filled bags, they are very comfortable, I've envied the small spaces they pack into, and their light weight, but I've never bought one.
Down but only in town.
I love my down filled Northface puffa jacket (19 years old and still good) but I only wear it in the city. It's not reliable enough to wear afield, the potential to suddenly lose 80% of its insulation, and the attendant hassles of trying to dry it out, mean I'd rather not have it with me.

As observant readers will have noticed I'm a big fan of boutique gear makers, any fool can have stuff run up in China, I'd rather my money went to the people who designed the stuff and paid a living wage to the people who made it. I'm fat enough as it is missing the odd meal isn't going to hurt. 

Let's call it what it is: Kifaru kit is Distant Monarch [distant in 3 / male monarch in 4 :-) ] expensive, and not a lot cheaper second hand. I took a deep breath and repeating the mantra
'Boots and Bed - if you're not in one you're in the other'
bit the bullet and dropped the cash on a Kifaru Regulator Sleeping Bag in the Three Season class. Basically this bag is at least 25% more than many equivalents (making it about four times the price of something more basic). Worth it? Let's find out.

Reliability and comfort are EVERYTHING. Nothing takes off condition like a night being cold and wet, any day can be tolerated if at its end is a warm night's sleep. Kifaru's Patrick Smith is certainly a very clever chap, with the knack of starting his designs with a clean sheet paper and this bag is no exception, it's the sleeping bag re-imagined.

Patrick Smith did away with the full length zip, which has left me wondering about the orthodoxy that a sleeping bag 'must' have one, if its a rectangular bag then sure, but when the bag's 'mummy' shaped what good does it do? He's set the hood up to close with a pull cord just like most other bags but he's also put in a neck baffle to keep the heat in. Works very well and is so floppy you dont notice its there.

Inner Skin
I dont know what this material is called but its very very thin and soft to the touch

Outer Skin
It's so thin you can see through it, its translucent to the point where I thought there was mark on the outer skin but I realised it was on the filler. I'm not about to test it to destruction, but if [when] I do knacker it you'll be the first to know

This stuff is amazing, its almost as light and floppy ( or if you wanted to be nerdy about it, it has 'high drape value') as a goose down bag and yet there's hardly any of it, it's amazing as the bag is rated to 20F which is about -6C yet feels decidedly flimsy in the hands.

I had great plans for all kinds of tests during the recent cold snap, but sadly camera, thermometer, sleeping bag and your pal the bushwacker were never in the same place at the same time.  I did manage to do a bit of testing one night, it was minus four centigrade so i opened the bedroom window in the late afternoon to cool the room thoroughly, and it was fiar chilly by the time I bedded down. Slept like a log but was woken by dreams of  being in the desert with Tintin and Captain Haddock [The Crab With The Golden Claws], I'd left the radiator turned on so when the heating fired at six am the sudden raise in temperature woke me. Not the most empirical of tests I will concede, but all in all a very good sleeping bag and plenty warm enough for most adventures.

Stay tuned for more reviews: all unerringly accurate, and the only truly objective writing on the web.
Your pal


South Texas Deer said...

I add this product into my must have list.

Josh said...

I dredge up all the old mantras when I'm looking to drop a boatload of cash on something, too. My current favorite: "That which is expensive is not expensive; and that that which is cheap is not cheap." Attributed to Confucious.

That said, I don't know if I could spend so much on a 3-season bag. Of course, I need gear that will camp equally well on the Pacific Coast of California and 8,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada range.

Your last line here is spot-on, and the only reason I only visit this site on the web. I don't even read my own stuff!

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

The only crap thing about buy good kit is that once you have it you don't ever need to have all the fun of choosing it again.

I got a bit of a deal on the bag - buying it second hand but it was still a fortune! At the time I was gripped by a serious case of Kifaru-itus which I've been cured of by Dr Poverty. A relapse is expected


Lagrandeimage said...


Nice introduction to the Kifaru Regulator!

I am most interested in your followups!

I am really itching to get one but it is quite hard to get a decent review for this bag.

It is not that old and few people buy it because it is expensive.

Furthermore those who buy it tend to be Kifaruites who seem to be a tad biased in favor of Kifaru.

Note that I don't love Kifaru as I have several of their stuff but Mr Poverty is a strong motivator not to buy too many over-hyped and priced goods.

And it is true that on the other hands there are reviews about the Kifaru Regulator saying that is is seriously overrated in temp.

If you take in account that their previous bag was not a runaway success there is room for some doubt.

Though finally it is not that expensive. In price, it is slightly less than comparable temp rated down bags of reputable manufacturers.

But then if it is as expensive as down bags why not buy a down bag? About everyone says that down is the best if you can spare it. So that is the dilemna.

Of course, there is the problem of down getting wet as you point out at the beginning of your post.

But then it is just a problem of not getting your sleeping bag wet which should be a no-brainer except for children and beginner's.

I have a British Army down filled bag (the one that folds up in its own hood). I bought it in a UK surplus 20 years ago. It is still going strong and serves me well. I slept confortably in technical tshirt and tigths in -1/-2 °C recently.

Of course that bag is very heavy and compresses not very well at all. So I am interested in a ligther and more compressible bag. The Kifaru definitely has the advantage there.

But I would be miffed to buy a new costly bag to find out it does not allow me to sleep as hot as a 30 year old army sleeping bag.

I do have reservations because I have A Kifaru Woobie. I love it but the fabric as you say seems very light. It's ok for a blanket and is quite hot quickly but I wonder wether this is sufficient for a sleeping bag.

Therefore I eagerly await your following posts and experience on this bag!!!

Thanks in advance, cheers

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


Funny you should write in today, as yesterday i noticed that kifaru have a few bags on special offer - for less than I paid for mine! if you dont like it i'd imagine you would get your money back reselling it, either on their forum, BB, BCUK or Ebay

I know the british army bag you mention TNM has one and I sleep in it when visting his boat, very warm, very big, and very heavy.

I'm still a fan of the Kifaru bag, although i've now missed my chance to give it a serious cold weather test.

I'll be sure to post an update as son as the bag has had so dirt time

PS stay tuned for some new kit reviews, bargain bino's, one bargain and one very expensive knife.

Lagrandeimage said...

Hiya SB,

Thanks for your reply.

You mention Kifaru has some bags up for sale.

Could you spare a link to the offer? I did not manage to spot it on their website?.

I am staying tuned for the folloups to th bag and also the rest, i put your blog in my RSS feed.


The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Found it!


Lagrandeimage said...


Thanks a lot for your time. I will pass my chance as I would like a 20° Long in wide cut and in Multicam. And I am in for a new one at that.
And counting on your review to finally make up my mind. Actually my mind is made up, I just need some rassurance :-)

Lagrandeimage said...

I am still in and eager for jour followup on this bag? Je have you had any chance to test it? Chers!

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


Yes i"m still using the bag - but its not gotten cold since you last asked - still very happy with it.

Lagrandeimage said...

Thanks for your reply! I'll just have to wait a couple more months :-) I am very interested in having your opinion on whether this bag meets its temperature rating or not.