Marathon des Sables
MDS Sleeping Bags
The Marathon Des Sables is the original desert foot race and is now in its 27th year. Covering approximately 230km in the Moroccan desert, each participant must carry his or her own rucksack containing food, sleeping bag and clothes. Participants enter as individuals or in teams of three and this year approximately 900 runners will be competing.
For the Marathon des Sables, as with all desert ultra marathons, a balance needs to be struck. Running in the heat of the day, one wants the lightest load possible. On cold desert nights one wants to rest and sleep well.
The two PHD sleeping bags which have been chosen most frequently for the MDS are the Minimus and the Minim 400, roughly in equal numbers. The Minimus excels at saving weight and bulk in your pack, while the Minim 400 ensures secure warmth if the temperature dips.
The Minimus has been used below zero on many occasions, but mostly in competitions where only one or two nights camping were involved. The MDS is much longer and the argument for extra comfort (Minim 400) is strong.
There is a third bag, the Ultra, which is a choice for the extra-competitive or the hardy: it is the lightest bag of all, but you may have chilly nights.
The basic figures for the standard models:
|S-bag||TOT (Min Temp)||Weight||Packed size
Hght x Diam (cm)
|Minimus||5||41||465||16||21 x 13||218|
|Minim 400||-5||23||670||24||28 x 17||273|
|Minim Ultra||8||46||345||12||21 x 13||226|
- TEMPERATURE RATING: Put simply these are the temperatures at which you should be able to get a night's sleep in normal circumstances. For fuller details about the TOT rating see this Technical Briefing.
- LINERS: A liner will add to the insulation if you choose the Minimus or the Ultra, but want more warmth. As always it is a trade-off between the extra weight & bulk and the warmth you gain (maybe 2C). Silk liners at 140gm probably give the best value.
- CLOTHING: Thermals (if you are taking them) and/or other clothing obviously help to keep you warm. If choosing the Minimus or the Ultra, an Ultra Down Vest at 150gm is an optional addition for minimal weight.
- FABRIC OPTIONS: The Minimus and Minim 400 come as standard with M1 outer fabric. MX and Drishell are the other optional outers for these two bags. MX is our lightest fabric and reduces the total weight by about 25gm. Drishell is highly wind/water resistant and adds about 25gm to the total weight.
- DOWN OPTIONS: You can opt for 900 quality down in the Minimus bag, which will provide the same insulation as the standard 800 while reducing the total weight by 40gm.
- ZIPS: None of these bags has a zip. Zips are an option, but most competitors don't ask for one. A short zip with draft tube adds about 55gm (2oz): a full zip & tube adds about 120gm (4oz). Zips also add to the packed size.
- PACKED SIZE: PHD stuff sacs tend to be on the loose side. All these bags can be compressed further in your sac, particularly the Ultra.
Figures for Fabric/Down options:
|S-bag||Materials||TOT (Min Temp)||Weight||Packed size
Hght x Diam (cm)
|Minimus||MX outer||5||41||440||15.5||21 x 13||234|
|Minimus||MX & 900 down||5||41||400||14||21 x 13||272|
|Minim 400||MX outer||-5||23||645||23||28 x 17||289|
|Minim 400||Drishell outer||-5||23||695||24.5||28 x 17||298|
Down Clothing selection
The use of down clothing as a layering system while in your sleeping bag and for wearing around camp is a good option for ultimate weight saving and provision of warmth. The ultra range of clothing was designed with this need in mind. The Ultra vest weighs only 150grms, which is lighter than most T shirts, yet it will give real warmth up to approximately –5c. The Ultra Pullover is, for the same reasons, another good option. At 230grms it's about half the weight and bulk of a conventional fleece jacket and 100% windproof as well. Also consider the new Minimus trousers and Minimus socks, which can add considerably to the performance of your sleeping bag.
The Marathon des Sables takes place from 5th-15th April 2013.