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Marathon des sables

Marathon des SablesThe Marathon des Sables is the original desert foot race and is now in its 32nd 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 about 1,300 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. Desert nights can drop to a chilly 4°C, air frost temperature.

Down Sleeping Bag Selection

The PHD Desert Race Collection* of Desert Race bags has been designed specifically for desert racing. The Collection contains three bags, all made in 7X fabric (our lightest), and all the lightest of their type.

The basic figures for the MdS Collection:

Sleeping bagTOT (Min Temp)WeightPacked size
Hght x Diam (cm)
Desert Race One*8462709.521 x 13285
Desert Race Two*4393501221 x 13320
Desert Race Three*0324301521 x 13350

* The Desert Race Collection will be available again in Autumn 2017 in time for the 2018 MdS.

Sleep System

The MdS Collection also includes a Half Bag and Down Top combination Sleep System. The Desert Race Pullover† provides warmth around camp in the evenings and for those chilly pre-race mornings, and the Desert Race Half Bag† provides warmth for the legs and feet during sleep. This setup creates a very flexible system.

 TOT (Min Temp)WeightPacked size
Hght x Diam (cm)
Desert Race Half Bag337240921 x 13232
Desert Race Pullover3*37200721 x 13280
Desert Race Half Bag/Pullover Combo3374401621 x 13410

These items will be available again in Autumn 2017 in time for the 2018 MdS.

* +3°C for sleeping in. Typical Operating Temperature when wearing during the day (when your movement / metabolism creates more heat than at night) is -5°C.

Of the standard range of PHD sleeping bags, the Minimus K, Minim 400 K, and Ultra K offer the most suitable warmth and weight for this race. They can be ordered with water-resistant fabric for use in other races, such as the OMM. They can also be ordered with full- and half-length zips to give other venting options:

Sleeping bagTOT (Min Temp)WeightPacked size
Hght x Diam (cm)
Ultra K8463301221 x 13317
Minimus K5413801321 x 13364
Minim 400 K-5235852117 x 28458

Additional points:

  1. 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.
  2. LINERS: A liner will add to the insulation if you choose the Minimus K or the Ultra K, but want more warmth. As always it is a trade-off between the extra weight and bulk and the warmth you gain (maybe 2C). Silk liners at 140gm probably give the best value.
  3. FABRIC OPTIONS: The K Series sleeping bags come with MX outer fabric as standard. Ultrashell is an optional outer for these two bags. Ultrashell is highly wind/water resistant and adds about 18gm to the total weight.
  4. ZIPS: The Desert Race bag come with the option of a footzip, which adds 10g and allows some air circulation around the feet. Zips are an option on the Minim bags, but most competitors don't ask for one. A short zip with draft tube adds about 55gm (2oz): a full zip and tube adds about 120gm (4oz). Zips also add to the packed size. 
  5. PACKED SIZE: PHD stuff sacs tend to be on the loose side. All these bags can be compressed further in your sac.

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 Wafer and Ultra range of clothing were designed specifically for this need. The Wafer Jacket weighs only 190grms (7oz), which is lighter than most T shirts, yet it will give real warmth up to approximately 0°C. The Wafer Vest at 130gr is an exceptionally warm and light option too.

Also consider packing our ultralight Wafer trousers and Wafer socks, which will add considerably to the performance of your sleeping bag.

The next Marathon des Sables starts on 6th April 2018.