Buying outdoor gear is a minefield, and when it comes to sleeping bags there is no exception. Look on any outdoors website or in any outdoors store and you will be faced with a whole host of options – ranging from a few quid right up to several hundred. Google best sleeping bags, and the price tags alongside the best buy tag is almost always well over £100, and sometimes much, much more. What if you want something with a decent specification but can’t afford to spend the big bucks? What if around £50 is as much as you can spend – £60 tops? That was my dilemma earlier this year when I finally decided it was time to purchase a new sleeping bag.
The bag I was replacing was an old Blacks two-season bag which has served me well for the last 20 years or so. Thin and even thread bare in places, I was in desperate need of a new sack, but didn’t have much money to spend and so knew the market leaders of Rab and Mountain Hardware were out of the question. OEX, being an own-brand style company, is a great good-value alternative, and although I know their products probably aren’t going to match up fully in specification, they are a company I look at when making camping and hiking gear decisions.
Two things I was looking for specifically were both in comparison with the sleeping bag I was replacing – I wanted it to be the same or lighter in weight, and rated a little warmer so I could more comfortably camp in spring and autumn. When choosing my bag I had the West Highland Way in mind – that was my benchmark in terms of what I needed this bag to do for me in terms of be light enough to carry and warm enough for camping in Scotland.
After much deliberation, and what seemed like hundreds of recommendations from friends and others on social media (thanks all!), I chose the OEX Fathom EV 300, a three season synthetic sleeping bag exclusive to Go Outdoors. At £59.99 (for card holders) it offered the best ratio of value to weight I could find. I have had good experience with OEX products before now (read my review of their Carbon Trekking Poles), and trust the brand, so it seemed a good choice.
I’ve had my OEX Fathom for around six months now, but haven’t shared my review until now because the summer has been so incredibly warm. It’s a three-season sleeping bag, and as such, the first week I used it I slept on top of it rather than in it, and until the last couple of months I hadn’t zipped it up all the way. Hooray for a proper summer! The nights in September and October have been much cooler, as you might expect, and so I’ve now had opportunity to give some real consideration to my opinion.
OEX Fathom EV 300 Sleeping Bag
The OEX Fathom EV 300 Sleeping Bag is a synthetic, fully-lined mummy-style sleeping bag that is designed to be suitable for spring through to autumn. It is rated as comfortable down to temperatures as low as 1 degree Celsius (limit -5, extreme -22), which should mean it’s good for frosty mornings in remote areas.
Weight wise, it comes in at 1150 grams, which is 50 less than the sleeping bag I replaced. There are lots of lighter bags on the market, certainly, but none that I could find for this price and with this temperature rating. The packed size is pretty decent, too – with the compression straps pulled tightly I can fit this one in horizontally in my Osprey Tempest 40l pack, which is just right for me. Again, there are smaller bags on the market, but excellent value had to come into it for me this time.
I’ve packed it and carried it, but the real test of a sleeping bag is overnight comfort. The lightweight synthetic fill of the OEX Fathom doesn’t feel like much, but it is a good and warm bag. I’ve now used this in night time temperatures of five down to zero and have been happy and cosy. I do tend to sleep in an old pair of thermal leggings and a t-shirt, which I would recommend to anyone wanting to camp when the temperature is going to be anything close to four or less, and I always make sure I am warm before I get in my bag, but it is ultimately the bag that keeps me warm throughout the night. I also use a sleeping bag liner if I need one.
One thing I really like about the OEX Fathom is how big it is. I hate feeling constricted when I sleep, and this sack is very long and roomy (for me!) so I feel I can move around a bit without getting all caught up. I could probably get away with a “junior” sleeping bag, being so short, but I do appreciate the space. The opening for my face is quite small, but I can just about squeeze my Thermarest Compressible Pillow into the hood and still feel like my head is being well insulated by the filling. So far I have found the synthetic insulation has remained well distributed across the sleeping bag, with a little extra in the foot box and hood to keep the bits of you that get colder warm, and I will be keeping an eye on this as I know cheaper bags tend to go lumpy quicker.
The lining is as you’d expect from a sleeping bag – that shiny nylon material that is hard wearing, moisture wicking and odour resistant, but sticks to your face if it’s a bit warm out. You know what I mean. It’s nowhere near as bad as my old Blacks sleeping bag, which was actually horrendous when I think about it, but not as nice as a cotton pillowcase.
I guess I’ll never really know if my choice was 100% the best I could make, because I am only able to buy one sleeping bag (I only need one!). But, overall, I am very happy to report that I am quite content with my OEX Fathom EV 300 sleeping bag. It fits the specification I had in mind, didn’t break the bank, and has been keeping me happy at night this summer and autumn so far. As always, if my opinion changes over time I’ll be sure to let you know.
There is a two and four-season version of the OEX Fathom – you can see the whole range here.
I know I’ve now got my sleeping bag, and I hope it will last me for years to come, but if you have any recommendations of similar specification sacks for others who might be looking to buy one, please feel free to comment below.