The Pied d’Elephant / Half Bag Concept
Having been an avid fan of the bivvy bag for some time now, I quite like to take a down jacket with me, in order to keep my upper half warm while sitting upright or walking around camp. A full sized sleeping bag has often felt like a waste, as my jacket keeps me well insulated from the waist up. I was interested to discover that PHD sell a “half bag” – intended to insulate the user from the waist down, saving on weight and bulk in the process.
The half bag approach originated from the weight-saving attempts of alpine big wall climbers, who took to cutting full sized bags in half to save weight. They were already carrying their down jackets for core warmth, so it didn’t make sense to bring along a full sized sleeping bag. The phrase pied d’Elephant, or “Elephant’s Foot” refers to the bag’s characteristic shape.
If you already have a down jacket which you like to bring on your camps / trips, the half bag approach may well help you save weight and pack bulk, while staying just as warm, if not warmer.
I’ve used the Hispar for the past six months on everything from summit bivvys to casual coastal camps. I’ve even used it a few times on those rare occasions where I bring a tent.
First off, some vital statistics:
- Outer fabric: water-resistant Ultrashell
- Inner fabric – Ultralight MX
- Rare 950 fillpower European Goose down
- Box wall construction to allow full loft
- Oval foot-piece for comfort
- Reflective strip for night location
- Stretch draw-cord with cord lock
- Rated to -15c
- Price £217
Thoughts from the trail
As someone who uses a bivvy bag almost exclusively, I’ve rather enjoyed the Hispar half bag’s lack of a zip. When it’s time to sleep, I just slip into the bag and pull the drawcord tight. There’s no problems with the bag being twisted or sitting the wrong way.
The waist-down nature of the half bag has also been much more comfortable in my bivvy bag when the morning comes. While the others attend to breakfast in their cold, clammy hard-shells after a good night’s sleep, I can comfortably sit up in my bivvy and take care of my morning meal. Then I pack everything away while the others are taking down their tents.
If it’s particularly cold and the first few miles in the morning are going to be relatively relaxed, I can keep my down jacket on for a while, retaining the heat built up during last night’s sleep. Once we’re moving for a while, I can swap it out for my hardshell.
The 950 fill power goose down makes the Hispar half bag exceptionally warm for its weight. I’ve never felt that my lower half is cold in this bag. Infact at times I have felt a little warm. In such cases, loosening the drawcord and letting some air in around the bag is enough to keep things from getting too clammy.
There is ample room in the foot box which is very comfortable and well insulated.
Little details like the reflective strip are interesting, although I’ve never found myself in a position where my bag was hard to locate.
The Hispar half bag packs down extremely small too. Its packability is an integral part of my being able to pack for a comfortable overnight bivvy with only a 32 litre pack.
The image below shows the Hispar half bag and a PHD Alpine Ultra jacket, packed down in an eVent compression dry sack:
As you can see the half bag packs down very well. Even when using a robust compression drybag the pack size and weight are minimal.
Long Term update
It’s now been a year since I first wrote this review. I continue to use the Hispar half bag for every trip. I’ve found it much more versatile than I expected. It’s extremely warm, but even in warmer weather I’ve found that leaving the drawcord completely loose, and pairing with a lighter upper body option (such as a wafer jacket and a fleece) means I can use it in weather which I would have previously considered too warm.
Even when things do get a little warm, loosening the draw cord and letting some air in works wonders. I’ve since sold my two full size sleeping bags, they weigh more and are less versatile.
Many other campers have commented to me about how they would miss the cosiness of wrapping yourself up in a big sleeping bag. This isn’t something I have missed. Putting up a down hood keeps the face warm and the jacket pockets are a fine place to keep my hands if I’m sleeping on my back, as I usually do.
The light weight, small pack size and high insulation performance of the Hispar half bag make it a winner for anyone who brings a down jacket to camp. Those who like to bivvy will enjoy the flexibility of movement and lack of messing around with snagging zips. This bag comes with my highest recommendation, with the only downside being its high price.
The Hispar half bag is available directly from PHD. Click here.