In the realm of mediocre product ideas, Blackstone Outdoor Gear’s new Bedroll Protector wins a top prize. To be fair, this water-resistant sleeping bag cover isn’t a bad idea. It’s just not a really good one, either.
Essentially a body bag, the Bedroll Protector (www.blackstoneoutdoorgear.com) is made of a thin plastic material that crinkles when you lie down. Campers slip a sleeping bag and pad inside, and the bag’s bathtub-style floor does duty as a waterproof ground cloth.
Come morning time, campers keep their pad and sleeping bag inside, zipping the package closed and rolling it up to create a bulging blue cylinder ready for transport.
Strapped to a backpack, or tied to the rack on a mud-charging ATV, the Bedroll Protector eschews rain, sleet, snow and debris to keep bedtime baggage cozy and clean.
At $40, it’s a simple and inexpensive option for casual campers.
But for serious outdoors types — backpackers, mountaineers, wilderness hunters, distance kayakers, and the like — the Bedroll Protector leaves much to be desired.
Though billed as lightweight, the 1.5-pound bag will seem bulky to the ultra-light crowd. It’s large and roomy, at about 36 inches wide by 96 inches tall.
Made primarily for use as a ground cloth, some campers may be tempted to employ the Bedroll Protector as a backup weather protection system like a bivy sack. This would be a poor choice. Though waterproof, the plastic material does not breathe, creating a clammy inner environment.
Further, the nylon zipper has no water-resisting qualities, allowing rain to seep through and pool inside the bag.
The Bedroll Protector is a suffocation hazard. A prominent warning sticker on the bag cites the product as potentially dangerous for children. In all uppercase characters the label screams: “DO NOT ZIP PRODUCT CLOSED WITH PERSON INSIDE!”
Tom Wandel, president of Blackstone Outdoor Gear, conceived the idea for this product after his sleeping bag fell into a stream one ill-fated camping trip. “That night, I was miserable and cold,” he said. “The trip was about ruined.”
As an ad hoc bag cover, the Bedroll Protector will work fine in some situations. Rolled up tight enough, zippers hidden among the folds, the Bedroll Protector might have saved Wandel’s sleeping bag in the stream.
It’s undoubtedly quick and convenient. It’ll do fine for car campers. But for most other outdoors scenarios, this product comes up short on performance, long on the lacking.
(Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eight U.S. newspapers; see www.THEGEARJUNKIE.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold’s work.)