The PHD Minim Combi sleeping bag isn’t your usual sleeping bag. It’s designed as an outer bag to add warmth to your summer bags, but also works as a slightly larger three season bag in it’s own right. We tested the bag out, mainly on it’s own, but also in conjunction with a PHD Minimus which is where we’ve actually rated the bag. At first glance it may seem like an expensive option as the Minim Combi costs £316 and the Minimus £233, that’s over £550 for both. However you essentially get three bags for the price of two, though you could probably get three lesser bags instead but the summer bag is among the lightest available. The Minimus is good for ultralight summer trips, the Minim Combi for most of the remainder of the year, and in conjunction with each other when it’s really cold.
Ours was in the lightest M1 fabric, rather than the water-resistant Drishell that would be even more useful in the damp winters that we have, and adds another £25 and 40g to the top line. You don’t get a choice of down – you just get the top of the range 900 fillpower goose down which is about as much loft as you’re going to get.
You also get a free storage mesh bag with PHD bags.
As the Minim Combi is an outer sleeping bag, it’s slightly wider than your usual bag in order to accommodate an extra inner bag comfortably. The problem with putting two bags of the same size into one another is that they essentially won’t fit very well, and the inner bag will end up smaller and the down possibly compressed and less effective. The poor sod inside isn’t going to be particularly comfortable either. As this is slightly wider, it solves this problem as well as providing a nicely roomy 3 season bag in it’s own right. It’s not as snug a fit, and is less efficient at insulation as it holds a bit too much air so it’s only good to -5°C on it’s lonesome. With that extra space, you can always wear a thin down jacket and still be comfortable when the temperature’s borderline.
At 780g, it’s not overly light for the price considering it’s only a three season bag (with a hint of 4 season), but that’s missing the point of this bag. It’s meant to be an add on to your ultralight summer bag, so you can create one uber-bag for deepest winter, as well as providing a third option of using just the Minim Combi. We coupled it with the Minimus, which at a weight starting at 387g for the short and slim version, and a price starting at £233 – brings the total weight to around 1200g, the cost somewhere in the region of £550 and the bag’s operating temperature to an impressive -18°C. The prices and weights are rather vague as you can buy these bags in so many permutations, you’ll need to check the PHD site for the details of the size and fabric you want.
With that in mind, we reviewed this bag in conjunction with one of the recommended bags, and the rating is given in that respect, rather than as a bag you’d buy in it’s own right where the score for value, function and weight would be significantly lower.
In the typical spring/summer conditions in Snowdonia, the bag functioned well, and has been in my pack more often than the lighter Minimus. Being zipless is a pain, but you quickly get used to it, and it’s arguably less hassle than having a zip that invariably in my experience tend to snag. Being roomy, it’s an exceptionally comfortable bag to boot. It’s just not the lightest bag for the insulation it provides, though that’s the compromise you make for having one system that provides the lightest summer bag along with a reasonably light 3 and impressively light 4 season bag for £550. If you priced those separately, you’d be easily looking at paying over £800 if not £900 for a three bag system as you’ll be paying for twice the down, and 50% more bag; neither of which is cheap.
So you’ve bought into the 2 bag system, and these sleeping bags work beautifully individually (when we reviewed the Minimus we were suitably impressed!). How do they perform together in the winter? We struggled to find suitable temperatures to test the full combination over time, but we did test in sub-zero temperatures where we were definitely snug. Would it be good to -18°C? Short of being locked in the chest freezer, we can’t say, but the individual bag ratings seem close enough to their mark that we don’t see a reason to doubt this. Of course, one camper’s -18°C bag is another cold-blooded’s -5°C sleeping bag, that’s something you’ll have to work out for yourself.
Together, they act as one bag – though it’s recommended to get into the smaller bag first, then wear the Combi Bag over that. I do move about a lot, and did find that the bags became mis-aligned at night, but I find myself facing the wrong way in a regular sleeping bag after a few hours, so you may be luckier. That said, a way of securing the two bags together would be welcome. It may add a few more grams, but there’s probably an easy way to do this, perhaps just by adding an eyelet that the inner hood draw-cord somehow attaches. If I knew the answer, I’d be designing sleeping bags myself.
Overall these are an excellent choice for the serious wildamper, but do represent an even more serious investment! Is it worth it? Depends how much camping you do. For us they’ve been worth every penny.