• Hobart Swag / Bedroll review & why Swags suit me.

    Hobart Swag / Bedroll review as well as what is a swag and why would you use one?

    Iíve been going to write this review / thoughts on swags, for a long time but canvas bedrolls were not really available in the UK. The ones I had were not commonly available so there seemed little point in telling people about a thing I really liked that they couldnít get for themselves. Then I discovered the Hobart swag from Outhaus and asked if they could send a review sample so I could see it if it were the equal of the ones I already had. As luck would have it, for my purposes at least, the Hobart is superior to the two swags I had prior.

    This review is going to be in two sections. The first part if my reasoning for wanting to use any sort of swag and what I see as the benefits and drawbacks. The second part is why I recommend the Hobart swag or bedroll in particular. Not all information can be cleanly split between the two sections so it may be worth reading both sections if you are interested.

    Why use a Swag or Bedroll?

    Iíve never been a tent camper. In the same way Iíve always been a wild camper and only end up on an official campsite if I am some sort of event or big meet up. For me camping, like canoeing, is a way to get out and experience the outdoors and nature. I donít want to spend great chunks of that time in a tent isolated from the outdoors.

    Of course I donít particularly want to get a soaking when it is raining either. To that end Iíve always had a tarp set up to keep the rain off and give an area to cook etc. Sleeping wise I have always been a fan of hammocking. With an under blanket this was a year round set up and kept me toasty warm.

    A couple of things made me move on from hammocking. Getting dogs again was one but to be honest that was a minor issue. The dogs just slept under the hammock. No, the real issue was a desire to be even less isolated from the outdoors. I realised we were setting up the tarp and sitting under it on evenings when it was not raining. It had become a habit to shelter under it even when there was no rain to shelter from. I longed to be able to sleep under the stars, able to just open my eyes from my slumber and look up into the night sky through the trees. I could set the hammock up without a tarp but if there was a shower of rain during the night it was a real faff to get up and set one up. In the hammock you are also slightly cocooned and it is not that easy to look out sideways at your environment either.

    Of course the initial thought was a bivi bag. A goretex or the like bivi would sort of do what I wanted. I could look out at the stars and if it rained just pull it over my head to keep me dry. I wanted a bivi bag that I could have my whole sleeping set up inside. I wanted the sleeping mat, sleeping bag and me all inside with enough room to move about. All the bags I saw were intended to have the mat on the outside. The other issue is I am hard on my gear and near fires a lot so a nylon bag is not really ideal.

    It didnít take long to discover swags. Traditional canvas bedrolls, usually supplied with a mattress inside them. They were not easy to find in the UK. Wynchester do one which is pretty pricy. For a brief while Burke and Willis had a dealer in the UK. I ordered an Ironbark swag from them and about the same time got a Biker swag cheap off eBay.

    From my first trip I was convinced this was going to be an improvement in my set up. The ďpitchingĒ time was minimal. If you used the supplied mattress all you did was roll out the swag which already had your sleeping bag in it and you were done. You can peg the swag down but I donít. If it starts to rain you can just pull the flap over your head to keep you dry. If it gets really wild you can get up, drag the swag under the tarp and get back in and go to sleep all in less than a minute.

    The openness to the environment was what I was hoping for. I could look straight up into the sky and see all round me during the night. Even when under the tarp you could see much more than when in the hammock as you are not up under the tarp and donít have the hammock sides blocking your view. Despite being more open to the environment view wise the swag offered much more protection from the weather. Inside is a microclimate so you do not need as warm a sleeping bag. The canvas bedrolls are what I would call water resistant rather than waterproof. They will keep out showers, snow and frost but if it is going to be chucking it down with rain Iíd definitely put it under a tarp.

    The canvas is also spark resistant so you can have it close to the fire. I tend not to sleep right next to the fire in case of accidents but I can move the swag next to the fire in the morning if I want to stay in bed and get the fire going.

    When I first started hammocking I was always worried Iíd not be able to find a good spot with trees the right distance but was not bothered about whether the ground was level. Now I find it strange to be looking for a flat spot and not caring about trees. I am still getting my eye in for this. I still tend to think I need a bigger spot than I actually do and that it needs to be more level than it really required. A bit of a slope is fine you just donít want it running sideways to you.

    The Ironbark and Biker swags were big enough for me and my sleeping kit and you could fit the dogs in there too but it got a little tight. The Hobart is a lot more roomy for this but Iíll cover those details in the review part.

    People worry about condensation but Iíve been amazed at how little condensation I get. Iíve slept with both dogs fully in the swag and the flap over my face to keep the rain off and had no condensation. I did have a bit of condensation on one trip and it was when I used the supplied mattress. I donít know if this is a coincidence or to do with the ground insulation. Either way I like to have my face in the open and if I have the flap over my head I tend to still have an opening at the side to look out which probably reduces condensation too. I think, but have no evidence to support, that having the swag without hoops helps. I think having the material away from the sleeping bag would create a bigger temperature difference so more chance of moisture condensing on the swag before it permeates out. Like if you held a goretex jacket well away from your body the moisture could condense on the inside rather than travel through. People with more experience of bivi bags and hooped bivi bags may be able to chip in on this with their experiences.

    Downside to swags in general are obviously weight and bulk. With the supplied mattress they are pretty huge and not light. Usually above 5kg, sometimes by quite a lot. However once you strip out the supplied mattress and replace it with a Neoair things get more reasonable. Letís say the tarp stays the same, although in practice Iím moving to a smaller tarp now I use the swag but I could have used smaller for the hammock too. The sleeping bag does not change either. My hammock set up including straps etc but no insect net is 1801g. My underblanket is 1100g. This gives a total of 2901g. The Hobart swag without mattress is 3190g and the Neoair 850g so a total of 4040g. Basically you are carrying an extra kilogramme although this would be less of a difference if I was taking the insect net for the hammock and the biker swag is half a kilo lighter if you went for that option.

    For me there is a saving in weight as I do not need to take any sort of bedding for the dogs. I actually have a mini tent they can use but I rarely took it as it was a faff.

    We are starting to get into the differences in swags so lets move onto that section.

    The Hobart Swag

    The spec page for the Hobart Swag is here, https://www.outhausoutdoors.com/prod...-swag-bedroll/ however at least one thing on this page is wrong. It says the weight without the mattress is 4.15kg when it is actually 3.19kg. Effectively a whole kilo out. The rest of the information seems accurate.

    The swag arrives vacuum packed. Once youíve let the air in and re-rolled it up with the mattress but without any other bedding it looks like this.

    Iíve used a Marlowe for a size guide. If you havenít seen a Marlowe, he is a little smaller than a Sam.

    Iíve said I donít use the supplied mattress and thatís true but I have used it on a couple of trips so I could give an informed opinion.

    The foam mattress is not as comfy as a Neoair nor quite as insulating. If you sleep on your side your hip might compress the foam fully (if you are as heavy as me). The advantage of the supplied mattress is it is the full width of the bedroll and does not need inflating. It also canít be punctured. The downside is it makes the pack size really big and adds a lot of weight. With the mattress you can only roll the bedroll up without folding it to make it narrower which makes packing more restrictive. For car camping and some canoe trips I could see the supplied mattress being a good solution but overall Iíd prefer it is there was an option to buy the swag without and save some money.

    The swag comes with two straps stitched to the bottom. These are used to secure the swag when rolled up. I donít like that these are attached. It means you can only roll from the top to the bottom and if you make the swag narrower (without the supplied mattress) they donít work as they are spaced too widely. Iíll be cutting these off soon as I have already done with my Burke and Wills ones.

    Below is the swag rolled up without the supplied mattress, however, inside it has a Neoair mattress, my down filled -12, four season sleeping bag and a thin foam mattress. Given that this is a complete sleeping kit it is not so bulky. Again Iíve included a Marlowe for size.

    Unfasten the strap and roll it out and unfold to full width and you get this.

    Zip open the top to show the contents.

    And inflate the Neoair.

    You can see the Neoair is not close to the full width of the bedroll. This is why I have the thin foam mattress to make up the difference so that the dogs are not directly on the cold ground. Itís not something you need if you are just storing spare gear in the swag or just enjoying all the space.

    Next you can see me and the dogs on the bedroll. Iím 6 foot 3 inches tall. Sam is a 32kg Rottie and Marlowe a 21kg Vizsla. You can see there is room for us all in there.

    The floor area of the swag is all useful as there are vertical sides all round the swag. The Burke and Wills swags were both narrower and arched up from the side over and back down, so if you move to the edges you were squished a bit. As a result there is tons of room at the foot end of the Hobart which would easily accommodate your rucksack or bags if you are not filling the space with dogs

    As Iíve said I just use the swag with my face exposed and throw the flap over my face if it rains, however you have more options. You can tie up the swag flap to form a sort of porch.

    This allows you to still zip down the side to get in and out.

    I forgot to mention that there is also insect netting at the top so you can zip up fully to keep insects out but still let air in and out.

    You can attach guy lines to the front or middle of the flap depending on how you want it to sit for weather protection.

    Another optional set up is to peg down the swag, zip open the top and peg up the flap with poles or paddles to form a lean too. This would certainly give plenty of air circulating but not sure I really see many situations where it would be a useful set up but you have the option.

    Not bothering with any of the fancy pegging down and guyline options allows more flexibility to move the swag about depending on changes in weather. it also means we can position it as somewhere for the dogs to lie while we are sitting round the fire of an evening. An opportunity the dogs never pass up on.

    The advantages of the Hobart over the Ironbark and Biker, Burke and Wills swags are it is much bigger. 10cm wider, a bit longer. It is lighter than the Ironbark. In addition to itís bigger footprint it has much more useable space thanks to the vertical sides making all the area useable space. So you can have your feet right at the side at the bottom without your toes being bent back on themselves. I think there is probably more space in the Hobart bedroll than most one person tents. Certainly there is more room than in the ionosphere http://www.songofthepaddle.co.uk/for...an-Tent-Review or any bivi bag I have seen. At a push it could be used as a double swag as long as your very friendly with the other person

    Outhaus also do hooped swags which I really think of as tents. Iíve never tried one of these so donít know what to think. The Palmerston one looks interesting as it seems like you could almost use it like a campfire tent but not sure it would be quite tall enough for that.

    All in all I really love using the Hobart Swag. There is something so good about just unrolling it and thatís you pretty much set. Having the space for the dogs is great but even if I didnít have the dogs I think Iíd still prefer this to the hammock. Being able to quickly move it to whatever location I want is great. On one occasion I positioned it to watch the sunset then during the night when I got up for a pee I quickly dragged it to a different spot where I would see the sunrise best. I usually end up at the same spot for multi day trips but on a recent trip Russ and I changed islands on day two due to the weather. While it took Russ a while to take down and then reset up his hammock at the new spot I simply had to roll up the swag and unroll it at the other end.

    The colour of the Hobart also suits me. I like my stuff to blend in and you would struggle to spot this if you were wanting to keep your camp low key. I also like my equipment to be bomb proof and robust. The Hobart is that and more.

    The downsides are, as Iíve already said, weight and bulk. Given that Iím carrying a canvas pack that weighs more and a SotP pollycotton tarp that is heavier, weight is clearly not my first concern. If I had to save weight Iíd change the pack and tarp before I swapped the swag out.

    In conclusion and as no surprise to anyone who has read this far I recommend the Hobart Swag, as do the dogs

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Hobart Swag / Bedroll review & why Swags suit me. started by MagiKelly View original post