Vango’s Viper 500 is a great, compact 3-4 season down sleeping bag that will appeal to backpackers and campers alike. I was given this sleeping bag to review from Sleeping Bags Outlet and was happy to try it out – this is exactly the kind of lightweight bag that I would use for backpacking in Spring or Autumn.
Vango position the Viper as part of their Expedition range. Being a down bag, it has a better warm-to-weight ratio than comparable synthetic bags. It contains 90/10 duck down with a 580 fill power concentration, keeping the weight down to 1250 grams (1205 grams on my scales). It also packs up to an impressively small size – 30 x 20cm – which means it’s an ideal size for backpacking.
The Viper has a soft and silky feel, being made of ripstop nylon with a water-resistant finish on the outside. Compared with my older synthetic/cotton Vango sleeping bag, it’s positively luxurious. For my 5′ 7″ (170cm) frame I found it to fit very well with no unwanted compression. Its maximum user height is 190cm and it measures 215cm (length) x 80cm (chest) x 50cm (feet). I found it wide enough to be able to bend my knees completely and to be able to turn over during the night without the bag turning with me. This is important since there’s slightly more down filling on the top than the underneath of the bag. Vango’s omega shaping is designed to retain the heat most efficiently and provide warmth where it’s needed most.
The Viper differs from the slightly cheaper Venom 300 in that it has more down filling, a full rather than a half-zip (with 3D baffle) and also includes an additional insulated shoulder baffle with a drawcord. On colder nights, the shoulder baffle is an effective way of minimising heat loss and when used with the four-panel insulated hood, offers good protection from the cold. A useful feature is the internal pocket with velcro enclosure, used to store valuable items such as keys and money.
It’s worth saying a little about the Viper 500’s temperature ratings. Vango, in common with most major sleeping bag manufacturers now have temperature ratings measured independently in accordance with EN 13537:2002. This means that the Viper’s ‘comfort’ sleeping tolerance is down to 1 degree Celsius, the ‘limit’ of comfort down to -5 degrees and the ‘extreme’ tolerance – the point at which it would prevent you getting hypothermia overnight – to -22 degrees C. Vango suggest that the ‘optimum temperature range’ is between -7 to +20 degrees.
I’m a moderately ‘warm sleeper’ and found the ratings to be reasonably accurate. Sleeping in my camper van when the outside temperature was down to -0.5 degrees and the inside temperature cold enough to see your breath (I’d estimate around +1-2 degrees), I found the sleeping bag to be bearably comfortable – but only just. Consequently, I would suggest that this is a very good 3-season bag but I would consider wearing thin clothes for temperatures below freezing. While Vango advertise the Viper as a 3-4 season bag I would probably only want to use this bag in the mildest of winter conditions. In contrast, I also tried the Viper inside my house but found it far too warm ! I’ll update this review once I’ve had a chance to get out tent camping.
The Vango Viper 500 is currently available from Sleeping Bags Outlet priced at £129.99 which I think, considering its features, offers pretty good value for money.
Inevitably, as with many things, you balance performance and price. While there are certainly lighter sleeping bags available, you would be hard pressed to find one at this price bracket offering comparable performance. It packs down to a very small size and I would certainly take it backpacking in Spring or Autumn when temperatures are likely to reach close to zero. While it’s advertised as a 3-4 season bag I would suggest that it’s most suited to 3-season conditions. It’s made of good quality materials and should last many years with good care.
What I like:
- compact size
- comfortable shape and not constricting
- silky and luxurious feel
- cord-adjustable shoulder baffle and hood
- full length zip
- good value for money.
What I don’t like:
- it’s a little heavier than some other sleeping bags (but at a much lower cost)
- on colder Spring/Autumn nights (below zero celsius) you might risk a chilly and uncomfortable night’s sleep.