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How to go w/o sleeping bag down to 32F?
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Unknown abc
(edude) - F
How to go w/o sleeping bag down to 32F? on 02/07/2009 14:22:54 MST Print View

Just curious, how many of you have ever gone with just a bivy in temps down to 32F?

Is it as uncomfortable as it sounds?
How long does it take to gather the materials required?


Edited by edude on 02/07/2009 14:52:50 MST.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: How to go w/o sleeping bag down to 32F? on 02/07/2009 15:55:05 MST Print View

Doubt many have tried. You will likely be uncomfortably cold and will be wishing the sun would come up. Go ahead and try it, but take insulation just in case it is too much for you, as it will be if you are only in a bivy. Down to about 50ish you might get away with it.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: How to go w/o sleeping bag down to 32F? on 02/07/2009 16:15:34 MST Print View

> Is it as uncomfortable as it sounds?

Not at all.
By 3 am, it is even worse.


Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: How to go w/o sleeping bag down to 32F? on 02/07/2009 16:50:25 MST Print View

I guess it would depend on what you are wearing. Sleeping in an Expedition/Himalayan mountaineering suit is probably fine down to 32F, whereas sleeping in a set of BPL Thorofares would obviously give different results. You planning on just bringing some camp insulation and leave the sleeping bag at home?

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
"How to go w/o sleeping bag down to 32F?" on 02/07/2009 16:52:20 MST Print View

Yeah, just wearing 3 season clothing inside. Thinking about trying it on a car-camping trip with a sleeping bag as backup in summer.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: "How to go w/o sleeping bag down to 32F?" on 02/07/2009 17:11:29 MST Print View

going to sleep with out a bag is easy,
its waking up ever again that will be hard...

Michael Wands
(walksoftly) - F

Locale: Piney Woods
"How to go w/o sleeping bag down to 32F?" on 02/07/2009 20:30:04 MST Print View

I have found that when it gets down to only 55 or so at night that I can get by with a mummy liner and a heetsheets bivy (for wind & rain) and be comfy.

I tried using a WM Flight jacket and Monbell down pants and found that they would take me down to the mid-40's if the wind was calm.

Down to freezing? I think that you could fall asleep OK, but am afraid that you would wake up in the middle of the night and wish for some real insulation. Getting back to sleep would be problematic.

The only way I would try it is if I could build a campfire and use a heetsheets blanket set up as a tarp behind me to trap the heat. Not a very weather-worthy shelter, though.

My $0.02

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Getting cold just considering that on 02/07/2009 20:39:34 MST Print View

Evan -

I understand the urge to test limits of any setup. Do you currently go out overnight in warmer temps with a bivy sans sleeping bag? How does that work out for you?

I guess I find myself carrying pretty warm bags (15 and 10 degrees) all the time here in Washington for no other reason than I like a warm and toasty bag. I feel positively wimpy compared to those who carry minimalist bags or in your case, no bag at all!


Edited by dirk9827 on 02/07/2009 21:06:14 MST.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Going to 32 on 02/07/2009 21:12:05 MST Print View

Build yourself a debris shelter with the bivy inside, and bury yourself in leaves.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
How cold can you sleep? on 02/07/2009 22:40:51 MST Print View

An easy test this time of year is to try it in the back yard fist-- assuming you live in the right climate. With a pad and no wind, you could tough it out for a night, but it sure wouldn't be "recreation" unless you have masochistic tendencies :) There's a big ol' gap between surviving and comfortable! Like others said, it loses it's "flavor" about 3 AM.

And who's to say it won't drop another 10 degrees and REALLY make you haaaaaappy. Or add a 15mph breeze and turn you into a polyester popcicle?

That's why great grandad built a big ol' fire when he was out there with just his wool blanket. But we don't go there, and we don't cut down a couple bushels of boughs for ground insulation, etc, etc.

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
"How to go w/o sleeping bag down to 32F?" on 02/07/2009 23:20:54 MST Print View

Just to let yal' know, I would never actually try the bivy thing out except in summer with a realistic backup and bailout(I hope my parents would't lock me out, lol)


Misfit Mystic

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
RE: How to go w/o sleeping bag down to 32F on 02/07/2009 23:32:38 MST Print View

I have been caught out a couple times on a forced bivy without a bag and it wasn't alot of fun. Both times were on summer climbing trips, nighttime temps in the low 40's. It was pretty impossible to stay warm; we had no pads, no belay jackets, just storm shells. Both nights we gave up and just started climbing again, in the dark, but it seemed safer than becoming hypothermic. I've also done this intentionally on a really light, LIGHT climbing trip. 2 foamies, 2 belay jackets, a bothy and a puppy pile. I lived, but I will never, NEVER plan on bivying without a bag again.

That being said, I think what you are proposing is incredibly dangerous. When on that light alpine climb, I was at the peak of fitness, with nearly 20 years of outdoor experience under my belt, and I was accompanied by two equally fit, experienced partners. We knew EXACTLY what we were doing and were well aware of the potential consequences. More weight would have made the climb nearly impossible, so we made an educated, calculated judgement. Not a guess, and not hoping for the best. And it still turned out far worse than we thought it would.

Try it in your yard if you want; set an alarm so you definitely wake up and can check your status. After you nearly freeze, forget about trying it ever again. A quilt can weigh as little as 11 oz. If this is too much weight, stick to day hiking, in warm weather. I hate doing body recoveries in the snow.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: How to go w/o sleeping bag down to 32F on 02/08/2009 00:21:14 MST Print View

Actually, I have done that ONCE.

We were running in a 24 hour InterVarsity orienteering race, and I managed to sprain both knees leaping down tall buildings - or whatever. Night was coming and it was clear I was not going to make it to the next checkpoint-with-support. So we found a farmer's shed with a wood floor and an old canvas tarp, wrapped me up in it in my running clothes and parka (that's ALL I had), and my mates went off to the next checkpoint to get me rescued.

It got dark, and frost formed outside. I couldn't move my legs much by now, so I put myself into a trance-state and ... waited. Kept my head warm and let the rest chill down. Real cosy stuff - but at least I was out of the wind.

Around midnight the support crew found my shed and me, carried me out, put me on the back seat of a car, and drove me back to the checkpoint with a fire and warm drinks and warm clothing. Yeah, I was OK by the morning.

A cold night can be awful long ...

PS: my team did win the race. 2 out of 3 finishing was acceptable.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Re: How to go w/o sleeping bag down to 32F on 02/08/2009 01:50:23 MST Print View

Evan, let us know when you discover a lighter, more efficient form of insulation than a down quilt/bag.

In those conditions you can ditch extra clothing, but not your primary, most efficient form of insulation. It doesn't make sense from a lightweight perspective, let alone a common sense, safety perspective!

Jon Rhoderick
(hotrhoddudeguy) - F - M

Locale: New England
Re: How to go w/o sleeping bag down to 32F? on 02/08/2009 11:28:08 MST Print View

I tried it once in Utah, it was maybe low 40s with a micro puff and a pack for my legs, it was also the day i punctured my torsolite about 45 times, it sucked more than anything and eventually I got out my sleeping bag and lost the bet. The three others trying did not fare so well either. I may try with a feathered friends frontpoint, with 13 oz its probably capable of going to mid 20s, but my legs will probably get cold, and I would use a huge nice pad, because it would be fitfull sleep.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: How to go w/o sleeping bag down to 32F? on 02/08/2009 13:58:16 MST Print View

Any alpinist worth his salt will tell you that willingly undergoing such misery is to be avoided in lieu of getting off the mountain and pushing through the darkness of night.

Alan Dixon and I did what was supposed to be an easy alpine ice climb in the Tetons some years ago. Early start, zip up to the top, back down for dinner type of thing.

We arrived in Jackson ready to roll at 8pm, grabbed a burger at Billy's, and looked for a motel. They were all booked.

"No big deal" we'll just take emergency bivies with us and grab a few zzz's on the trail.

We hit the trail at 11pm, were asleep by 12:30am, woke up freezing (it was 35 degrees) and shivering at 3:00am, finished the approach at 7am, started the climb, got engulfed in a storm at the summit at 4pm, descended an unknown route on the other side, reached the base at 6am, hallucinated our way to the car, and ate purple pancakes at Jedediah's at 10am.

Jed's was an out of body experience, but I'm pretty sure both of us agreed between mouthfuls of syrup, "we should'n'ta bivied on the way up..." which certainly drove our decision not to spend another night on the mountain without a sleeping bag, electing instead to rappel down a 2000 foot couloir with 13 pieces of protection and a 30m x 7.9mm rope. Do the math: uninsulated bivies at cold temps pretty much suck.

Edited by ryan on 02/08/2009 14:00:21 MST.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: How to go w/o sleeping bag down to 32F? on 02/08/2009 16:02:43 MST Print View

There have been a few nights where for version reasons I was out in cold weather with a sleeping bag or quilt. Long story short... it sucked! The first time I tried to sleep and found I couldn't because I was so chilled... and I sleep pretty warm (I have slept in 15F weather under a 1lb down quilt rated for 32F wearing just a baselayer and warm hat). You need 2x the insulation to sleep as walking around camp and almost 10x the insulation then when you are climbing hard. Most of the other nights I was stuck without a bag I spent the night alternating between resting and doing isometrics to stay warm. The one night I was able to sleep there was a lot of pine needles and a tree hollow which make a nice little den.

As other have said, you can't match the weight/warmth of a good down sleeping bag or quilt... except maybe something made with a aerogel.

Edited by verber on 02/08/2009 16:06:05 MST.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: How to go w/o sleeping bag down to 32F? on 02/08/2009 17:11:54 MST Print View

There are many possible ways to go without a sleeping bag, including wearing lots of insulated clothing, making hot water bottles and hot drinks, building a fire and building or digging a shelter. The other option is to just shiver/exercise all night and pray for the first rays of dawn to thaw you out.

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Excellent topic on 02/08/2009 19:10:23 MST Print View

Excellent topic - and I'd like to add another scenario to this at the end my post.

The full down mountaineering suits reminded me of the following fellow: I work at a winter camp in central MN for Boy Scouts in January and February. Last weekend I had an adult leader, a man of about 6'0" tall and all of 300 lbs sleep outside under a very crude tarp with three snow walls without a sleeping bag. He had a bag suitable for the conditions and his size, but declined to use it. The temp low temp overnight was between 10 and 20F (I never got a good read, but it was NOT in the single digits F). He was on two full length RidgeRests and slept partially sitting up (I think he had some form of sleep apnea). Anyway, he was wearing what looked like a full suit that was meant for deer hunting - read: sitting on a cold, cold stand for hours on end. Under than he had a layer or two of fleece and/or wool. He was fine, somehow.

I own and have paged through Tom Brown's survival book many times. It is an excellent read for those "Oh, crap" situations that we all hope we never, ever get into. I think this situation falls into those categories. If I was outside in those temps w/o a bag I'd make myself a bivy-like debris hut and pile leaves and other natural insulating a few feet deep. It would take a while to do, keep me warm while I was doing it and hopefully keep me warm overnight. Absent that, I think Ryan is right - when all else fails, you can simply keep walking or otherwise hike out.

On to a similar topic: what is the coldest you've pushed a sleeping bag overnight? What were you wearing, what was the temp, shelter conditions, etc?

My current foray into this field is to see how far I can push my Marmot Hydrogen (32F, 800 fill down) with a single 3/4 Ridgerest and a sit pad under my feet. So far, I have taken it into the low teens three times and last night it hit 8F, my lowest yet. I was wearing the following:

R1 Hoody
Thermawrap Parka
generic thin wicking gloves
generic poly pro bottoms
Thermawrap pants
Xstatic liners
VBL socks
Smartwool Mountaineering socks

I was sleeping in an ID MK1 XL with another person. My toes got cold initially at about 3 a.m. and then again at about 6 a.m. I ate a few hundred calories of gorp overnight and drank about 8 oz of water. I was otherwise well-hydrated and fed.

What about you?

Edited by citystuckhiker on 02/08/2009 19:33:47 MST.

Ali e
(barefootnavigator) - F

Locale: Outside
"How to go w/o sleeping bag down to 32F?" on 02/08/2009 19:18:16 MST Print View

For what its worth I slept or should I say sivered all night with nothing but one of those silver space blankets just to see if I could. It only got down to 35 and I can say with all honesty it sucked. The funny part was me trying to light my stove at 4am while shivering so hard I could not keep my match lit. I think the main reason was that I was too warm for most the night and was sweating then I got chilled. I was fine till 3AM then I got really cold. Now I always carry a space blanket and a lighter. Ali