Alpkit PipeDream 200 + Cloud Base: A Wallet-Friendly Ultralight Sleep System
Reducing the weight and bulk of core gear and adopting a minimal bikepacking setup can require significant investment. So, it’s always good to try ultralight gear that’s aimed towards the more affordable end of the market. Here are our thoughts on a summer pairing from Alpkit: the PipeDream 200 down sleeping bag and the Cloud Base air mattress…
Investing in an ultralight sleeping bag, mattress, and tent – like the Tarptent Double Rainbow, or even Alpkit’s simple Rig 3.5 shelter – can make all the difference for those seeking to ditch their panniers and adopt a more streamlined bikepacking approach to bike touring. Trouble is, saving that volume and shedding those extra grams can be a disproportionately expensive.
Alpkit PipeDream 200 Review
Alpkit has long had a reputation in the UK for making well-designed, frills-free camping gear. At £155 (€178), the 200 PipeDream isn’t exactly budget in the ‘car camping’ definition of budget gear. But if you want to lose bulk in your sleeping bag, moving from a synthetic fill to feathers is the way to go. And in this regard, the PipeDream 200 is leanly priced within the world of ultralight bags.
Officially it’s rated for two-season use, with a 7°C (45°F) recommended limit for comfortable sleeping. However, as we all handle temperatures differently – and how we sleep also depends on what we’ve eaten and what we’re sleeping on – temperature ratings aren’t an exact science, at least in terms of what they mean in the real world. Having spent a few weeks in the UK, Spain, and France in early summer – at altitudes between sea level and 1200m – I can report that the PipeDream 200 did an admirable job at keeping me sufficiently warm throughout the night. It zips up high and there is plenty of space in the hood to get cosy, with a drawstring to keep out draughts. If conditions are extra chilly, I simply supplement it with a light fleece. I also tried the bag out with my six-year-old son. It quickly became his favourite; despite dwarfing him in size, it kept him toasty and warm.
There’s nothing too fancy in terms of its construction. The PipeDream 200 uses a simple stitch-through design with horizontal baffles, rather than the more expensive and slightly heavier box baffling. It’s worth working the bag in your arms to help loft the down feathers and spread them evenly before you get in. Making sure the down is on top rather than on the bottom is a good trick to making the most of what’s in there. The zip is 160cm long, so it’s easy enough to open almost all the way if conditions are especially warm.
The down itself is of good quality for the bag’s price. At 750+ (with a 200g fill weight), it’s at the higher end of the scale. And it’s Nikwax hydrophobic down, which helps guard against the down clogging up in damp European climates, along with the shell’s DWR coating. Just as importantly, the 90/10 Chinese goose down is RDS certified. The 90/10 refers to the down plumes versus feathers ratio. The higher the ratio, the lighter, softer and more compressible a sleeping bag will be, with fewer feather quills or spines to poke through the fabric of a bag. I’ve only had one valuable feather escape so far.
The PipeDream 200 comes in a Regular (545g) and XL (575g) option, with left or right zips, so couples can zip them together. The shape is on the wide side, making it a good option for those who don’t like to feel too constricted (185cm long x 80cm wide in the regular or 210cm long for the XL version). With the supplied bag, it packs down to a compact 15.5 x 20 cm barrel, but you could easily squeeze it smaller using a stuff sack with compression sacks. Either way, don’t store it packed for too long. Rather, use the cotton storage bag provided, or hang it from the tabs at the end.
It’s easy to pack away too, thanks to a wide bag with a double drawstring closure. The drawstrings themselves are somewhat long and bulky, as are the closure toggles on the bag. If you’re feeling especially nerdy, could always swap these out at some point.
For those heading into colder climes, Alpkit offers a PipeDream 400 (-6°C/32°F) and 600 (-12°C/-10°F) too, both of which use a warmer box construction. But if most of your outings are in warm weather, with occasional trips into the shoulder seasons, I’d recommend going for the 200 and simply boosting the rating with a liner when needed, like Sea to Summit’s Reactor. Or, you could eventually invest in Alpkit’s £99 (€113) Cloud Cover goose-down quilt. There’s no official rating for the quilt itself, but I bet it would make a great layering system when teamed with the generously cut PipeDream 200, giving you a versatile, modular setup for a variety of seasons.
- Tiny pack size and low weight
- Hydrophobic down and DWR coating suited to humid conditions
- RDS certified down
- Roomy fit for broad shouldered folk, or for space to add a quilt for autumnal use
- Simple horizontal baffles means the sleeping bag benefits from lofting
- Stitch through rather than box design
- Model Tested Alpkit PipeDream 200 (Regular)
- Weight 545g
- Size 185x60cm (73x24in)
- Packed size 15.5x20cm (8x6in)
- Temp rating 7°C (45°F)
- Price £155/€178
- Place of Manufacture China
- Manufacturer’s Details Alpkit
Alpkit Cloud Base Review
Although a closed cell foam pad can’t be beaten when it comes to the hallowed price to weight ratio – as an example, Alpkit offers the 310g Napster for £10 (€11) – an air mattress is definitely the way to go if you need to cut back on bulk.
The Cloud Base comes in at a very reasonable £45 and weighs 415g. It’s reminiscent of the Sea to Summit Insulated Air Mat I like so much, in terms of the dimple-like design, which makes it very, very quick to inflate. This design also does a good job at cupping the body. In terms of comfort, I found it more than sufficient – I’m 75kg and my hips are kept off the ground when I sleep on my side. At 5cm thick, the pad soaks up any divots and imperfections in the ground too. And, at 189cm x 56cm in dimensions, the length and width are good for tall, broad-shouldered folks. The storage bag it comes with is appropriately sized too, so there’s no frustration loading it in, as is sometimes the case with air mattresses.
The Cloud Base features a large one-way valve port, which means that when you’re inflating it, you can rest between breaths without the mattress losing air. I did, however, notice that when I’m rolling it away, the valve door can sometimes close, making it a little tricky to expunge the very last few pockets of air – it doesn’t have the extra wedge that some models feature that keep the valve door open. Note too that there isn’t a separate air pump stuff sack-style system available for inflating it, which some manufacturers use to help prevent condensation entering the bag from your breath as you blow it up. It’s not been a problem so far, but I’m guessing mildew may form over time. I’ve not experienced any punctures over the last year, so all good there; for the most part, I’ve been camping in pastures and on forest floors rather than desert scrub, though there’s been a fair share of pointy-ended pine needles. If you do get a puncture, a basic repair kit comes included, whilst the pad itself is guaranteed for three years.
Simple valve aside, the only real downside to the Cloud Base is that I didn’t find it especially warm. There’s no mention of insulation on the Alpkit’s website, so my guess is that it’s recommended for summer use only, or at least warm spring and autumnal nights. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been rotating this mattress with other insulated options on a family trip, and the difference was noticeable. Still, it’s certainly sufficient for all your summer needs, just bear this in mind when things get cooler.
I’ve had a couple of months with the PipeDream 200, and a year with the mattress. I’ll update this review if anything untoward occurs.
- Tiny pack size and low weight
- Very quick to inflate
- Generous size for tall and wide-shouldered folks
- No insulation, so a bit chilly outside summer
- One-way valve sometimes shuts when rolling up bag
- Moisture in breath can create mildew
- Weight 415g
- Size 189x55x5cm (74x22x2in)
- Packed size 8x28cm
- Price £45/€52
- Place of Manufacture China
- Manufacturer’s Details Alpkit
If you’re looking for ultralight gear that’s relatively affordable but also long lasting, I don’t think you can go wrong with this pairing. Pack size is extremely small and weight is minimal, making a significant difference as to how you load your bike – and the space you have left for food. I’d consider the combined cost (£200/€230) to be a good value, especially given the overall quality of the down bag. A few minor gripes aside, I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest both for your ultralight summer bikepacking adventures, adding an extra layer or two for spring and autumnal use.
Do you have any longterm experience with Alpkit’s PipeDream 200 and Cloud Base? Let us know in the comments below!