Snugpak Special Forces 1 Vs Robens Icefall Pro 300

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bigjackbrass

Nomad
Sep 1, 2003
497
30
Leeds
(I also posted this across at the Bushcraft USA forum, but since the odds of finding someone who's familiar with both of these sleeping bags are not great I hope you'll excuse the cut and paste)

Comparing specifications on the internet when you're not able to actually get out and see the product can sometimes be a frustrating exercise. In this case, it's also confusing.

I've been looking at two sleeping bags, the Snugpak Special Forces 1 and the Robens Icefall Pro 300, and I'm hoping that someone who has used or handled both might be able to explain a major difference between them: specifications, generally, are similar, both being centre zip synthetic fill bags; temperature range is similar (as far as you can trust such things); size is similar. Pack size is quite different - 34 X 17 cm for the Robens and 16 X 16 cm for the Snugpak - but Snugpak is probably quoting the fully compressed pack size there. What's throwing me is the overall weight: 1200g for the Snugpak but only 645g for the Robens.

Snugpak bags have a general tendency to be heavy for their warmth and usually rather optimistic in their temperature rating, but I have no experience with Robens. Even taking into account the reinforced foot area and beefier zip of the Snugpak I'm astonished that it seems to be almost double the weight of the Robens model. Considering that the price is much the same for each it seems to make the Icefall Pro 300 the obvious choice, but it's such a big weight difference that I find myself feeling dubious about it. Any thoughts?
 

Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,174
1,263
Berlin
I don't own the Robens sleeping bag but slept surely 600 to 800 nights in the Snugpak Special Forces 1, usually in conjunction with the Snugpak Special Forces bivvy bag. The bivvy bag works very well with the SF1 and is outstanding light.

The Robens is a summer sleeping bag, the SF1 a 3 seasons sleeping bag for the advanced user.

The Robens seems to be sewn through, what causes heat loss at these seams.
It's recommended down to 10°C. That's approximately what you have tonight in your town. We still have high summer, isn't it?

The SF1 is constructed for lower temperatures, they use a Swiss made filling, that can be compressed very well. The packing size they tell you means a fully compressed bag. The compression bag that comes with it is a bit small for my taste. I carry SF1 and SF bivvy bag together in a 7 litres Ortlieb PS 10 dry bag, compressed into it by hand. That is handy and works very well. Of course the package is in the end far smaller than 7 litres, but the sack has that size because that's the most handy solution.

They use a heat reflectiv fabric inside. Thats a third, from outside invisible layer. Surely a reason for a slightly higher weight but far smaller packing size compared to products of the competition with the same temperature rating.

The Special Forces System is the top model of the Snugpack sleeping bag offers.
The SF2 goes into the SF1 if you zipp in the adapter and both together fit into the SF bivvy bag.
It's always large enough to wear additional clothing in it, it has a totally different cut than the narrow Robens.

That's a military sleep system that allows you to wear a complete winter uniform including boots in the sleep system. It isn't called Special Forces without a reason. No idea if it's issued somewhere, but it's obviously developed for military use and has a NATO stock number.
Such stuff is robust, pretty idiot proof and long lasting.

The zippers don't lock like at the Robens. NATO sleeping bags have well resting zipper sledges that you can open in panic how you want. You can just pull the sides of the sleeping bag and the zipper opens.

The SF system is thought through like that in every point and if you want to compare it with something else, you should compare it with Carinthia Defence1 or Carinthia Tropen + Defence 4 and Carinthia GoreTex sleeping bag cover or the US army equivalent. Like that you compare the real competitors, not a Vauxhall with a Porsche.

To make it short: The Robens is not well insulating enough for British weather conditions. The colour would blend well in south French or Italian summer conditions where for it is obviously constructed.

The SF 1 is exactly made for British weather conditions during the warmer month. The SF2 for the colder month. Both together for the lowest temperatures that are realistic to assume in Britain, especially if you wear additional Ullfrotte's Woolpower underwear and a padded military winter suit, how it's issued in NATO armies.

If you buy the complete SF system you pay two sleeping bags but get options for using that as if you would buy three civil sleeping bags. In extremely cold conditions it's heavier than a civil winter sleeping bag but far more comfortable, because you can regulate the heat very well.

As you surely don't go so often for camping at -20 °C, the option to put one bag into the other is nice to have, but not the main reason to buy these sleeping bags.
But if you already start to invest money, I recommend to keep every option open and get the right stuff from the beginning.

The SF1 is the lightweight 3 seasons part of the best sleep system that you can get for civil use.

The Carinthia system Tropen + Defence 4 is a bit more practical to use but a bit less comfortable in winter conditions.

The Carinthia Goretex sleeping bag cover is much more expensive and much heavier than the Snugpak SF bivvy bag.
As the 3 seasons / summer bag and the bivvy bag is what civil users use most of the time, the lighter and cheaper Snugpak SF version is the better option for recreational use and most people who have to pay it themselves.

Another little but important point is that if you sleep without tarp in the bivvy in the open in the rain, you have to roll in the Snugpak SF system onto your left side, where most people fall better asleep.
Carinthia puts the soldier who sleeps next to the front line in the open field onto his right side, because that has an important influence on heavily stressed persons.

If you try it out in your own bed, you will see, that you fall on the left easier asleep than on the right, unless you have for good reasons psychological problems.

(You could of course use a British military bivvy bag as well, that has no zipper flap that forces you onto one side if you sleep in the rain. For the international market this model wouldn't be a good idea, because you can't ventilate it enough for use in central Europe or areas with similar weather. The British army bivvy bag weighs approximately the double as the SF bivvy bag.)

The Carinthia system is the more robust and over all slightly better system, especially regarding the bivvy bag, but much more expensive and a bit heavier.

For civil use the Snugpak SF System is in my opinion the best that you can buy on the world market.

I don't own that Robens but I can tell you that the Snugpak SF1 in it's bivvy bag is very convincing to use everywhere between Biarritz and Usedom from March to November. If It's cold I simply wear the clothing of the day without waterproofs in the sleeping bag and it's fine for me.

I am used to work, live and sleep outdoors. People who rather live and work in heated rooms can use the SF1 in it's bivvy bag on a good mat, let's say the British army roll mat, perhaps until 5 °C in a merino wool or polyesterfleece suit.

But I rather recommend to invest additional into a padded suit, for example UK made by Snugpak or something from Carinthia, and a second pair of warm socks, than into the SF2 if you don't plan to go for camping below the freezing point.

Some more informations about that I wrote in this thread:

 
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bigjackbrass

Nomad
Sep 1, 2003
497
30
Leeds
That's an exceptionally detailed reply; thank you for taking the time to write it.

The only review I've found of the Robens is a fairly superficial one, criticising the colour more than truly testing the bag. Since the model is new this year there simply isn't much in the way of actual field testing written about it. The remarkably low weight makes me think that the comfort ratings I've seen for it simply have to be wildly optimistic, as it appears to be too light to hold enough insulation.
 

TLM

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Nov 16, 2019
2,013
952
Vantaa, Finland
That's an exceptionally detailed reply; thank you for taking the time to write it.

The only review I've found of the Robens is a fairly superficial one, criticising the colour more than truly testing the bag. Since the model is new this year there simply isn't much in the way of actual field testing written about it. The remarkably low weight makes me think that the comfort ratings I've seen for it simply have to be wildly optimistic, as it appears to be too light to hold enough insulation.
The colder it gets the more important is ground insulation. My experience is that above about +5C the insulation is less important and more comfort. In sub zero C conditions the insulation get more and more important. In a tent or bivvy the temp is generally several degrees higher than outside, under a tarp not quite so, that makes a difference for the bag though not for the mat.
 
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Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,174
1,263
Berlin
No, Robens tells the client clearly that the "temperature, comfort, women" is 11°C.

That is the comfort temperature for a exhausted man with empty stomach in short underwear.

Below that you start to feel a bit cold if you didn't eat enough sausage, cheese and a bit bread before you use the sleeping bag.

This bag is an interesting offer. But for use in Spain, Italy, Greece and the Mediterranean coast of France and the land behind it in low altitude.

And there, in south France, where a lot of solvent potential clients spend their summer holydays, for example on the very popular original southern part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, where a lot of backpackers are on their way during the summer month, the outer coyote tan fabric and the inner grey fabric blend perfectly in the surrounding nature, sleeping on the ground and airing inside out on the washing line. And the bright colour also allows you to sleep there and then half an hour longer, before the sun forces you out of the sleeping bag.

I can imagine that a bushcrafter who lives in southern or middle France would buy the Robens as summer sleeping bag for the southern part of the country, Toulouse, Montpellier, Aix en Provence, Nice and the area between, and put it into the olive green SF1 in higher altitude during the summer or in Spring and Autumn.

In that kind of use the Robens surely will serve very well. Simply because it's exactly constructed for this.
And if you run around at 30 to 35 °C or even up to 45°C in Apt, you really start to think about every gram and rather accept one or two cold nights during a three weeks hike than to carry together with all the drinking water that you need there in July and August more than the bare minimum.

Nevertheless I decided to pack the olive green SF1 and SF bivvy bag for southern France if I carry the sleeping bag in the rucksack and use such a tropical sleeping bag, in my case the not really convincing Asian made Snugpak jungle bag, only if I can transport it additional by car.

If it's really hot I like such a minimal insulated bag. But I don't like it if I get a cold night there or just a few kilometers away in higher altitude, where a 10°C bag reaches its limit.

But may be that in most parts of Italy, Greece and Spain this Robens sleeping bag serves very well in the warmer month. Horses for courses!
 
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Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,174
1,263
Berlin
Once on a tour I slept in the SF1 and bivvy bag pretty late in the year on a camping ground next to a stream only on the relatively thin German army mat, wearing polyester cotton mix trousers and shirt, cotton T-shirt, briefs and a very thin polyester fleece jacket and relatively thick woolen hiking socks. I slept like a baby in it's bed, although in the morning everything around me was frozen, even when I awoke at 10 o'clock. I assume that with sunrise the temperature had been below the freezing point.
Before I went to bed I had a large plate of a traditional German meal with a lot of meat, potatoes and a really fat sauce.
I slept just under the poncho as plough point shelter in the bivvy bag but everything was fine.

Half a week later I visited someone and slept in a unheated little cottage , simple but closed, on the same mat and a wooden box, rest of the setup as before. I had eaten a pizza at four o'clock and afterwards wasn't hungry anymore. So I didn't eat anything afterwards.

Although outside the cottage it was 5°C lowest temperature of the night and inside surely a bit warmer, I awoke in the middle of the night and felt really cold.
The room was totally dry and windoroof.

Fortunately I had bought a day before a thick padded expensive hunting jacket that I had found in a thrift shop for a very good price and could put that over me.

And I was absolutely not exhausted in any way, because I went by train there and didn't walk in this day more than 2 km. Usually I walk for my job every day minimum 20 and often 30 km, so 2 km is nothing for me, and my rucksack is incredibly light.

If I camp with this setup below 10°C I eat directly before I sleep salami, cheese, chocolate and a bit bread or cookies until the stomach is well filled, the deeper the temperature the more I eat. With this trick I can sleep very comfortable even on this mat, that everybody who knows it would only recommend for summer conditions.
 
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Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,174
1,263
Berlin
So, I called Snugpak and asked them if the Special Forces system is actually issued somewhere.

And indeed, it's issued to units of the British army, US army, Australian army, to some British Police units and other British officials, and often bought by British soldiers privately.

Latvia issues a slightly different version.
 
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