PHD Combi Down Bag Review

I’ve only used this bag a handful of times, but it’s been in conditions difficult enough that I feel I’ve got a handle on it.
The Combi bag is basically a slightly looser cut down bag that fits over regular PHD lightweight bags. I’ve been using it with the Minim Ultra 900 (featured in the current Trail as my ultimate lightweight sleeping bag) that was sent for test in the summer where I found it spookily warm for it’s weight.
The fit is very good, no crushing of the inner bag and the hoods line up well. Both bags have standard box wall construction and the loft is very good. There’s nothing quite like returning to a tent in foul weather to see a fat sausage of fully lofted down waiting for you.

In the photie below the blue bag is the Combi (production version is in red) and the black bit sticking out of the hood is the Minim. The fabrics are all excellent, the Drishell used on the Combi outer is very good indeed. Water resistant enough to cope with spills, drips and a user daft enough to keep dragging snow into the tent.

The technical details are all on the PHD site, what’s most important to me is what it’s like in the field.
Using PHD gear has been a voyage of discovery for me, lighter than anything else I’ve used, more basic that anything I’d been used too. There seemed to be a danger that I’d prove the lightweight doubters correct and shiver through nights of tears, snotters and sufferng on the tops.
But the Minim was great in summer, and as reported recently, the Combi+Minim has been a revelation. Warm enough for me to abandon all clothing bar my coating of 190 weight merino, and although slim cut, I don’t feel restricted in it. The two bags interact very well, there is no sensation of multiple layers, moving from my right side to my left both bags move together and I haven’t had the nightmare scenario of the inner bag revolving right round an leaving me trapped inside like a bug in a coccoon.
The closures are simple, an opening with a drawcord, but having two gives venting options and I’ve always managed to find a comfortable balance. From open full when waking up roasting as the temperature outside climbed towards zero, to cinching everything in and pretending that the weather outside isn’t real.

One concern was that the gap between the two bags would be a dew point, would get wet and screw it all up, but the combination of accurate measuring from PHD and the fabrics used means that hasn’t happened. The two bags feel like one, but it’s some how cosier. I dare say it’s one of those things that you have to try, but I have to say I have been warm, comfortable even delighted using these bags.
Some folk might baulk at the idea of carrying two bags, but the Minim fits in your pocket and where else will you get that much boost to your comfort for the weight? I’m happy enough to carry both on cold camps.
I’ll use the Combi on it’s own when the temperatures suit and report back.

I think it’s good to look at the two bags as a system and as individual bits of kit. That way it does kinda cover the whole year, does that mean it’s all you need?

54 thoughts on “PHD Combi Down Bag Review”

  1. All you need? Well, maybe – if these bags had been available first….. as it is they’ve recently become additions 5 and 6 to my PHD bag line-up! I can’t help thinking that is overkill :))

  2. Very interesting. And it certainly makes more sense than owning two PHD bags than can’t be used together! (like I do)

  3. In my defence, 4 of them have been sale bargains…. and if they’d become available in a different order I’d probably only have 4! ;o)

  4. I’ve just started using two bags, a down skinny inside a synthetic (because that’s all I own at the moment) and think it’s an excellent concept. Add a pair of puffy troos and I reckon I could have every eventuality covered from warm summer nights to long, dark, arctic epics.

  5. Matt – you do realise that you have probably been personally responsible for the recent economic sustainability of Stalybridge. You should think hard about buying a couple of aditional bags and maybe a down jacket or two to help the area throught the forthcoming recession.

  6. Down jackets…. errr, ummm, well, now you mention it….
    This is in danger of turning into a session of PHDaholics NotsoAnonymous :))

  7. I honestly don’t think there’s anything else of theirs left for me to buy…. ;O)

    (Except perhaps my dream sub-sub-sub-zero DYO sleeping bag – but not until I win the lottery and plan my Antarctic expedition!)

    Er, don’t they usually do the winter sale in late Feb and the summer one in July/Aug?

  8. I’d like a Hispar 600 for the really cold nights, it’s light, got 900 down and it’s yellow.

    Bobinson’s got a bag coming from them any day as well. It’s catching!

  9. I’ve got a Hispar 700, rated to -25c, a special pre-general availability offer from the very nice Mr PHD as I’m such a cold sleeper. It’s about 1200g, bright yellow and black (hence it’s name, the Wasp), and WARM :-) It lofts insanely. I love it!
    (I also have 2 Minims. And a Yukon pullover). But I just like having my qualification printed on all my down gear ;-)

  10. Ach, I wish they made down gear with my qualification on it; RAF*

    Here, what bag are bringing for camping in April? There’s a good chance it’ll be below zero on the hills.

    *RAF = Rough AS Fu..

  11. Ah well. I was going to have a nose at the PHD February sale and see if they might be offering something around the Minim 600, or just bring the Wasp if the forecast’s for cold. Alternatively, I could try the Minim 400 with Yukon and get some of those Mont Bell down ‘pants’. That might be pushing it though it the temps are around zero. After all, I am the world’s coldest sleeper!

  12. I suppose distance and altitude is a big decider as well. Plenty of time to decide, but think of camping on a ridge under the stars, melting a pot of snow for a cuppa to accompany the sunrise.
    Christ, I’m away again. Need…to…camp…in…good…weather…

  13. Pity there isn’t a down gear company called BAW – that would make a good logo on some folk’s sleeping bag.
    (I think only the Scots will get that one)

  14. Kate – ‘Scottish Slang’ under ptc’s ‘Alternative Quality Destinations’ on the right should enlighten you.

  15. That’ll take a little explaining as well, the concept of the single bagger and the double bagger.

    In fact, the first accurate explanation (stand down Das) will win a Honey Stinger energy bar.

  16. Somebody who doesn’t trust one standard carrier to bear the weight of their carry-oot?

    I’ve been tempted by the “combi” for quite some time now btw. I just need to decide which kidney to sell.

  17. Kev, ebay as we both know is part of natures gear exchange cycle, get in there and fund that cozywondersleepiness :o)

    Bobinson, don’t make me come over there!

    However a clue for those ouside the Glagowish area…
    By the end of a night out, a two bagger may well become a one bagger due that which has been imbibed.

    One thing I didn’t mention about the Combi is that the foot area is really well done, it’s got shape and lofts particularly well, eithet from more fill or cleveness from PHD. Whatever, it’s not often I want take my socks off in a sleeping bag.

  18. number bags needed to hide a particularly offensive face, the worse the face, the more bags needed. I feel horrible for even saying it.

  19. Regarding the foot area – I was thinking the same about my Design-your-own PHD Diamir 300 with 900 fill thingy.

    The foot, when lofted, is very puffy – looks more like a 500 bag.

    i don’t know if it is genius design, or they had a bit of down left over when they got to the foot, but its good news for someone prone to cold feet (size 14s, large land mass, etc)

  20. Which rather questions the logic of the Shark’s toe* foot and other design gimmicks

    *Or ME’s ‘jumping the shark’ toe, as I like to call it

  21. Seemingly it’s genius – the DYO thing mentions that the fill is ‘marginally’ thicker on the chest and foot sections.

    Might even be worth seeing if PHD would do some nice light down trousers on request – or maybe even shorts?! Sort of like a gillet in principle but rather sillier looking :) I’d be tempted…..

  22. That’s not such a daft idea, some of the Scandinavian companies do insulated shorts.

    And once again, these are the pants to worn only in extreme emergencies…

  23. I love the idea of a sleeping bag in trouser form, but why oh why would you require a luminous yellow stripe right up yer arse-crack? Hey, hold on – it’s not a zipper is it?

    bobinson, if we’re sticking to local parlance then F.O. should of course be F.A.

  24. What a coincidence. I was just thinking about that after the two-bagger review was uplaoded.

    The Combi obviously works with narow Minim cut bags. But PhD mountain bags are cut wider to accomodate more clothing (e.g. a down jacket and gillet, which will have more room to loft). A thin pair of down filled troos, in combo a down jacket and adown booties would surely add an extra season or two on the inside in the same way that a Combi does on the outside.

    Is there any flaw in this logic that I’m missing (apart from “why not jusy wear a pair of merino leggings and fleecy tracky bottoms”?)

  25. Das, it is a handy zip…

    David last winter I wore a down jacket and down booties in a summer bag on several camps quite happily, now it’s just merino base layers inside the PHD combo. I’m carrying more bag, but less clothing insulation. The weight and bulk is probably working out quite similar. It might just come down to personal preference on what’s comfiest?
    Sitting in the tent or wandering around camp with a pair of insulated pants on would be bliss.

    Check out BGs got a nice set of synthetics pants for camp and star gazing.

  26. “And once again, these are the pants to worn only in extreme emergencies…”
    Hell would have to freezing over before I wore them as I would fry wearing them !

  27. I discussed with a few sales poeple about the standard and water repellent shell of Rab bags (Standard/Quantum and DryShell/Quantum Endurance). It seems that professionals are contradictory:
    – version 1: Endurance is good when going into humid conditions for 2-3 days, but for longer usage (2-3 weeks) it is better always better to use a standard quantum, it will dry faster.

    – version 2: Endurance will be better against the humidity, in the tent, bivy, under tarp, etc. And they just advice to turn the bag inside out every morning…

    What to think now?

  28. Hmmm, there’s truth in both of those. A waterproof bag is slower to dry from your night sweats getting into it, but protects better from condensation, snow and rain brought into the tent.
    It’s a balance I think. The Drishell Combi bag is probably a good compromise for me as it’s just water resistant, so still really breathable.
    My mate’s got a Gore Tex bag from Exped and hasn’t had a problem with it, but he sleeps cold.

    It’s probably a try and see thing, expensive experimentation though!

    PS eVent bags worry me a bit as eVent recommend that you wash the fabric often to maintain its performance. Wash a down bag often? Aye, right.

  29. Thanks Peter
    Just ordered a Combi bag and a Minimus bag based partly on the strengths of this review. Looking forward to getting them. Will report back on how I get on.

  30. Aye, let us know how you get on. Hopefully it’ll be good news!
    Coincedentally was talking to PHD last week about something new coming from them later in the year, it’s getting me all wintery!

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