The Thermarest Vela Down Double Blanket is one of many fine products we’ve reviewed from the Cascade Designs family of companies over the years. In the Thermarest line, we’ve looked at the Thermarest Antares Sleeping Bag and NeoAir Xlite Mattress, the Thermarest NeoAir Camp Mattress, and a whack of stuff from MSR and SealLine (which we won’t link out to because we want to focus on the Vela.)
It seems like, over the last few years, people are beginning to admit that they’ve always had crap sleeps in the backcountry. Sure there have been changes in materials for warmth, weatherproofing, etc over the past few decades—it seems to me though, that it’s only in the last three or four years that manufacturers are beginning to rethink sleeping bags/or blankets from the ground up. We’ve reviewed a couple of these radical designs, like the Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy. The Thermarest Antares integrated bag/mattress approach is another example of this.
A new “rethink” design that seems to be popping up is the down blanket—the Thermarest Vela is in this group. Not necessarily a quiver-of-one sleeping system, the Vela is an ideal way to stay warm and comfortable with a loved (or liked). Its design allows you to avoid many of the negative aspects of usual camp sleeping that have plagued us all since humankind began sleeping out.
The beauty of the Vela is best explained with pictures. Oh, and, check out the video from Thermarest here. It’s a good illustration of the blanket systems work.
The idea behind the Vela is that it operates as a blanket or duvet—much like you might run at home. It’s available in a single or double version but we’ve got the double. It works with any two camp mattresses whose combined width is 127cm (or 50”). Here it is, laid out on the beach.eripheral adjust hood, adjustable hem, and fleece inner cuffs.
The Vela attaches to your mattress with the included “loop kit.” If you run it with the universal sheet as we did, there’s no need for a loop kit because there are loops already on the sheets.
Here’s a pic of the loop from the Universal Sheet, attaching to the simple snap on the Vela. With all the snaps done up and the elasticized footbox in plaY, the Vela/Universal Sheet/NeoAir Mattress combo offers a super duper sleep after a long day playing in Mother Nature.
Here’s another shoot of the underbelly, showing the elasticized footbox and customizability of the Universal Sheet. Amazeballs.
Here it is in all its cinema verity beauty. It fits perfectly in a three man tent and leaves enough room for extra gear.
Canoe camping on Slocan Lake in BC, August 2 and 3, the Vela was excellent. Night temps around 15°C. The power boat was brought by a late participant. We canoed.
Backpacking up to Gwillim Lakes in Vahalla Park, August 31, temps dipped around the bag’s rated limit of 4°C and I found myself getting a little chilled—even with a relatively warm body next to me. We slept in the MSR Carbon Reflex 3 tent. We promise, the Vela is inside.
Shoulder Girth: 183cm / 72in
Hip Girth: 183cm / 72in
Foot Box Girth: 142cm / 56in
Length: 210cm / 84in
Packed dimension: 20 x 46cm / 8 x 18in
EN Limit: 4 C / 40F
Fill weight: 492g
Liner fabric: 50d Polyester
Shell fabric: 20d Polyester
The Thermarest Vela Double Down Blanket really shines in certain circumstances. Think temps between 8 and 25°C where you are with your mate in any kind of a camping situation. If you are the kind of person who gets tangled up in a sleeping bag, as I am, the Vela blanket program will likely provide a significant boost to your sleeping. We all know that a lot of the fun in the backcountry happens during the daytime, but, if you have a poor sleep, it’s way harder to have fun. Unless you enjoy giddy exhaustion.
I’d say the Vela is ideal for car camping, backpacking, canoe camping, kayaking, etc. At 1.19K it’s not super light for a single bag, but it is super light as sleeping cover for two. On the backpacking trip up Gwillim Lakes, we split up our gear and it was noticeably lighter than if we were carrying a sleeping bag each.
Price: $279 US
Weight: 1.19kg / 2lb 10oz
Fits: 6ft 4in
- Remarkably comfortable sleeping experience
- Facilitates occasional backcountry shag
- Lightweight system for two
- Doesn’t quite work to the 4°C rating. (but this is understood)
- Down tends to bunch up a bit at the feet—not evenly distributed
- Works best as part of the Thermarest system—NeoAir mattress and Universal Blanket included
Quality / Price 1.5/2
This is only our opinion. Do you disagree? Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Join the discussion in the forums here, and let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation.