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Sleeping system & clothing in winter
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Hendrik Morkel
(skullmonkey) - MLife

Locale: Finland
Sleeping system & clothing in winter on 11/19/2009 05:02:54 MST Print View

I would put this in the Winter Forum, but it seems here are more folks.

Planning a one week trip in February here in Finland. Temperatures will be between -20°C (that's -4°F) and -30°C (that's -22°F). If it goes under that we get our back-up to get us out.

I'll use a CCF Multimat Adventure full length as a base, and a Multimat Summit Compact 38 inflatable for on top, 775 g together. Easy so far, now the hard stuff starts.

I'd like to stay light, warm and save. I want to do multipurpose. For sleeping I am thinking:
- GoLite Ultra 20°
- Backpacking Light PRO 90 or 180 Quilt as a outer layer, still need to decide on one and buy it
- Instead of the Ultra 20° I am thinking that a Nunatak Arc Expedition might be better and warmer, or combine it with the Ultra 20°
- TiGoat Ptargamia Bivy, maybe
- Scarp 1 as shelter, or I might consider getting a tarp/ DuoMid in which case the bivy would definitely be with me

For clothing I'll be wearing:
- Woolpower 200 Merino baselayer, always on + fresh spare one for the night
- Integral Designs PLQ Jacket & Pants synthetics for walking in the day if its really cold, sleeping at night and wearing at camp
- Klättermusen Loke down hoody for sleeping and camp
- Rab Momentum Jacket & Drillium Pants for the day, usually enough over the merino to stay dry and warm when walking

I have slept with the Ultra 20° + Loke + baselayer comfy warm till -9°C (16°F) and think that with something extra over it I should be fine till the expected temperatures. I reckon I could throw in some down or Primaloft booties/ socks into the mix to keep the feet warm.

Right, I'd like to hear your opinions on the following:

- Ultra 20° + Nunatak Arc Expedition
- Ultra 20° + Nunatak Arc Expedition + BPL 90
- Ultra 20° + Nunatak Arc Expedition + BPL 180
- Ultra 20° + BPL 90
- Ultra 20° + BPL 180
- Nunatak Arc Expedition + BPL 90
- Nunatak Arc Expedition + BPL 180

What do you think will be the smartest system to keep me warm till -30°C, given I will be wearing a merino baselayer, primaloft pants and jacket and a down hoody?

Is there something I am missing, something that I forgot to look at?

I have a Joutsen (Finnish company, makes high quality down gear) winter sleeping bag which can easily keep me warm till -30°C, but weighing in at a bit over 1700 g and a huge packsize I would like to get something smaller and lighter. I might sell it to be able to afford the Nunatak.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re : "Sleeping system & clothing in winter" on 11/19/2009 05:20:18 MST Print View

Hi Hendrik.

I can't give any advice on sleeping in temps as cold as that.
I use a Nunatak Arc Specialist quilt though, and i think it's important to get one wide enough, especially at those temps. If you are a side sleeper, you will need a wider quilt than a back sleeper. Every quilt is custom made as you probably know, so you may as well get it made to fit perfectly.
I would wear all the clothing you would expect to wear under it, and get someone to measure your dimensions whilst lying down. You want it to be wide enough to have enough room to tuck in at the sides without compressing your down clothing. You also want the footbox to be large enough for any down clothing or boots you might wear.
I used an old sheet to make a mock-up of the size i wanted before ordering.
The Arc Expedition looks like a fantastic quilt.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Cocoon on 11/19/2009 06:06:03 MST Print View

If the 90 and 180 are cut anything like the 60 I have, you'll only be able to use them as inner bags. Much too small for putting over any other sleeping bag.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Sleeping system & clothing in winter on 11/19/2009 06:22:53 MST Print View

Let me parrot some things I've read on the forums:

The BPL quilts aren't wide enough to be winter overbags, as indicated in this review and in other posts on the forums I can't find at the moment. You just have to look at the bag dimensions. I can't find the Golite Ultra 20 dimensions, but take my Nunatak Arc Specialist. It has a shoulder girth of 55". The BPL quilts are 50". I'd have to use the BPL as an under quilt.

As far as temperature ratings, I will again cadge from a post I can't find. I believe it was one of the Jacks from JRB who said a rough estimate of a two bag system could be gotten by taking the rating of the top bag, and subtracting that from 70, dividing that by two, then subtracting that from the rating of the inner bag. In my case the 32* Nunatak and a 40 degree JRM Shenadoah as the inner quilt(It's narrower).70-32=38. 38/2=19. 40-19=21. Note if I reversed the bag I get 70-40=30. 30/2=15. 32-15=17. So it's a general estimate.

That also jibes with adding the down fill amounts together. 8oz of down for the Nunatak, 6 oz in the narrower, sewn-thr Shenandoah. 14 oz total. The 20* Nunatak has 11 oz, the 5* expedition has 20oz. For JRB, the Rocky Mountain Sniveler(10-15*) has 15oz. So taking into account the different cuts of the two bags, the 20 degree estimates seems fairly reasonable.

Also, I have learned here(I a thread I actually could find!) that your sleeping pads need to have a total R-Value of at least 5, or you are losing heat to the ground no matter how warm you bag system is. I can tell you from experience, after using a ~3.5 R-Value system last winter and being chilled in a 15* bag in 20 degree temps in a snow cave.

Edited by jrmacd on 11/19/2009 06:29:09 MST.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Sleeping system & clothing in winter on 11/19/2009 08:13:18 MST Print View

"TiGoat Ptarmigan Bivy"

I would recommend against this bivy if you're going to be using thick sleeping pads with high-loft bags.

They're honest about its use in such situations. I wanted to use one with a regular NeoAir pad and regular sleeping quilt (I think I was using my cuben quilt). The NeoAir simply wouldn't fit. Even with the Raven (longer), if I could get the NeoAir in, I wouldn't be able to comfortably get my feet in, and that's without a bag/quilt over my feet.

They're supposed to be coming out with a revamped Ptarmigan (or Raven) that will accomodate thicker pads. I'd wait for that, or get a bivy that will accomodate thicker pads (MLD's new SuperLight claims to).

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Re: Sleeping system & clothing in winter on 11/19/2009 08:16:08 MST Print View

In temperatures that cold, there is also the concern that any additional fabric on top of your bag(even breathable)will trap condensation and reduce the loft of your down.

Hendrik Morkel
(skullmonkey) - MLife

Locale: Finland
Re: Re: Sleeping system & clothing in winter on 11/19/2009 08:49:22 MST Print View

I will get rid of my NeoAir (I don't find it comfortable), and in those temperatures it would be suicidal to take it. I'll take a 9 mm CCF mat and a 38 mm inflatable mat. I don't mind if the CCF goes outside of the bivy.

Re: additional fabric, hence my thought of having a synthetic over quilt. That would mean that the dew point is in the synthetic quilt rather than in the down quilt.

Re: BPL quilts, the L version could just be big enough. I'm mid-size at 175 cm and 62 kg, so I am fine with smaller quilts and a larger over quilt.

Mike, thanks for the tips regarding the Nunatak. I'll try to follow your advice, and have my girlfriend measure me up before ordering.

Thanks Jim for your comments, I will check those articles!

Edited by skullmonkey on 11/19/2009 08:50:47 MST.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Sleeping system & clothing in winter on 11/19/2009 08:53:18 MST Print View

Never heard of that pad before; looked it up and it has a "Tog" value of 7.8. Richard? Is "Tog" equivalent to R-value?

I really don't think that quilts are adequate for sub-zero weather. Even if you bring a huge down hood/balaclava, you just can't seal in the heat (or seal out the cold) well enough for temps that extreme.

The Joutsen bag you mention sounds ideal for your trip. Frankly, it's quite light. Western Mountaineering's -25*F Puma weighs ~3.5 pounds, its -40*F Bison weighs ~4.5 pounds. In contrast, the Joutsen weighs 3.75 pounds. You're not going to find equivalent warmth for the weight. Incidentally, just in terms of raw numbers the Arc Expedition and BPL 180 quilt combo weigh in at 3 pounds. For temps that cold you need more than just a jacket hood, so figure in a down balaclava. With Nunatak's, you're then at 3.25 pounds. I just don't think all the horsing around is worth the 0.5 pound weight savings in condtions that extreme... personally I'd cut all weight from everywhere else instead. At least if the "stuff" hits the fan I know I've got a fail-safe insulation backup plan.

If it's an overnight trip and you can deal with a bad night of cold sleep if/when it comes to that, then experiment away. When it's that cold, though, I think it's smart to have a solid bit of insulation. Stuff happens. If I need every single piece of clothing and insulation to just barely squeak shivering by at 20 degrees below zero, there's zero margin for any kind of minor mishap.

Kier Selinsky
(Kieran) - F

Locale: Seattle, WA
Hmmm... on 11/19/2009 09:10:35 MST Print View

Considering the combined weight of some of your options outweighs your Joutsen bag, it sounds like the right choice may simply be to go with your tried true Joutsen bag. The BPL's aren't big enough to be overbags, and the Ultra 20° + Nunatak Arc Expedition is roughly the same weight as that Joutsen bag. And by going with what you know will work, you're less likely to need the back-up to get you out.

Spruce Goose
(SpruceGoose) - F

Locale: New England
Re: Sleeping system & clothing in winter on 11/19/2009 11:15:19 MST Print View

>>In temperatures that cold, there is also the concern that any additional fabric on top of your bag(even breathable)will trap condensation and reduce the loft of your down.<<

If you do decide to go with a bivy, the best way I've found to avoid the condensation/loft issue is to use a VBL.

The only problem you may run into with this is that you may be too warm. I've taken my 0 F bag comfortably down to -15 F with a VBL and Tyvek bivy...with an R-value of about 5 under me.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Sleeping system & clothing in winter on 11/19/2009 12:01:49 MST Print View

I am also in the camp that votes for just going with your Joutsen bag and save all the hassle of dealing with multiple layers and an unknown system. I also vote for use of a VBL rather than a bivy bag. Much warmer and much better protection for your down.

However, if you are set on a change, Roger Caffin uses a layered system like you are describing, but it's a two person setup. 2 Down bags with an over-quilt, but not sure if the weight efficiency is as good with solo use.

Edited by retropump on 11/19/2009 12:04:09 MST.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Re: Sleeping system & clothing in winter on 11/19/2009 12:08:43 MST Print View

Ah, yes. Highly recommend using a VBL. I wouldn't quite say that I adore my Western Hotsac, but it probably doesn't fall far from adoration... Adds a lot of warmth for little weight, and as Lynn said, keeps your bag very dry. (The biggest way people normally get their bags wet is by sweating in them too much.)

martin cooperman
(martyc) - M

Locale: Industrial Midwest
Using a VBL on 11/19/2009 13:35:29 MST Print View

There is a downside to using a VBL. Generally it is used to inhibit moisture build up in a down sleeping bag. This might be an issue over several weeks, but may not be that much of an issue in just a one-week trip.

The downside of using the VBL is that you can't sleep in your down clothes.

At those low temperatures, stopping for lunch, snacks and camp set up and take down would prompt me to take my warmest down jacket, pants and booties. You'll be spending long dark hours in Finland at that time of year and you might want to hang out around a fire rather than spending 14 hours in a sleeping bag. Good down clothing would be very useful for that.

But if you sleep inside a VBL you won't be able to wear those warm down garments inside your bag, as they'll get damp with your body moisture, even if your bag stays dry.

Lastly, if others are taking double-walled tents and you can share the weight with them, your combined body warmth will make that tent very nice and cozy. I spent a night out in 22 below zero weather with 2 friends in a double walled tent, with only a 3-season sleeping bag and a good Thermarest pad (this was 25 years ago) and slept comfortably.

Marty Cooperman

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Using a VBL on 11/19/2009 13:45:04 MST Print View

Sharing a double skin tent is indeed a great way to increase the warmth of your sleep system, Even one person in a solo double walled tent generates a significant amount of heat.

RE: VBL-I wear VBL "pyjamas" that go under my down jacket etc...I made them out of cuben and they really add a lot of warmth for almost no weight.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Sleeping system & clothing in winter on 11/19/2009 14:00:17 MST Print View

Hi Hendrick

There's no reason why you can't use a quilt system in winter - we do. But the quilts MUST be wide enough.

We have found a second quilt works very well over the two of us because it means we are sharing warmth. You would need more than us if there is only one of you.

I would not use a tarp at all. The heat loss due to air movement would be nasty. A tarp and bivy bag still isn't very nice as you have to spend a fair bit of time in the tent in the evening and the morning. The same applies to any single-skin tarp-tent. You would be pushing it all a bit too hard to do this on a multi-day trip without a LOT of experimentation beforehand.

The use of a bivy bag over a quilt or SB does NOT mean the frost line will automatically be on the inside of the bivy bag surface, outside the SB. If that was the case then you would have a 30 C drop across the fabric of the bivy bag, and we all know that is just not going to happen! The frost line will be inside the down.

The use of VBL sack seems to be a bit incompatible with wearing down clothing to bed. You would need to find some VBL overalls. Not sure whether they exist! This one is difficult.

The Joutsen bag might be your best option at this stage. Pack size does not really matter a lot compared to pack weight. Experiment very cautiously at -30 C.

The 8 mm Multimat Adventure would be adequate combined with the Summit Compact 38. Heat loss downwards is always a hazard, but ...


Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Using a VBL on 11/19/2009 14:15:45 MST Print View

Just to clarify, no, of course you wouldn't sleep with down clothes on inside a VBL. That would be a bit daft! If I find that my VBL, which adds ~15*F of warmth to my bag, hasn't added enough extra warmth to my bag, then I simply drape my down parka over me... just like a quilt.

If my feet are cold, I throw something over them. No big deal. But if layering clothes is a concern for you, Lynn's idea is great w/the cuben clothes.

xavier dor

Locale: A bit more East, a bit more North..
sleeping system and clothing in winter on 11/20/2009 00:55:57 MST Print View

Terve Hendrik,

interesting subject in these up-coming times... I am myself thinking about it and can't wait until the winter time! :)

I'm glad to see that other people support the Joutsen option since that was my initial thought. I think that if it is really cold, you don't have a better option.

However, I was thinking to share my own sleeping system for such temperatures. It might help you to make your own decision. Here it is:

- Joutsen 900 QTM (450g of down first class -don't exactly know the CUIN but close to 800 cuin EU standard I believe). T° confort about 0°C / -2°C by experience (extreme -20°)
- Jack-R-Better quilt No sniveler, 270g of down. temp confort +5°C/0°C by experience. this one can convert in upper boddy insulated cloth for camp.
- I'm testing VBLs at the moment. I have tested last week a VBL liner made with a survival blanket (light one 60g). I was extremely convinced by it altough the material was too noisy. This coming weekend, I'll try the VBL but this time made out of plastic bags (hoping that the temperature will drop below 0° but I doubt it) and if I'm still convinced by the experience, I will make myselft a VBL liner with hood and drawcord for this winter with Silnylon. (Also maybe a VBL shirt and pants)
- I also have a down pants and down vest and all of that should keep me confortably warm until -15° -20°.

For lower temperature (-30°C), anyway, you'll need a fire for the camp, otherwise, the camping experience will be difficult. Just the unpacking/packing will be awful.
I have only experienced such low temperature once, but I believe that with a fleece cover (~350g), a fleece pants, thermal pants, and additional fleece sweater, plus jacket and rainpants (or equivalent VBL), I should be alright.
At least, during my experience in -31°C in Oulu at the end of January 2006, I had a similar system and I was rather alright. Not super super confortable, but more OK than very cold.

I'll try to detail a bit more with the following:
[old experience => what I would do now]
- Joutsen 900 QTM => still using the same
- old cheap McKinley synthetic -5°C bag (actually +2°/0°C bag by experience) => now replaced by JackRBetter quilt
- fleece blanket=> I might take a similar one if temperature is really cold (5€/9€ is department stores) => I don't know if I would put it inside my bags (maybe warmer) or outside (would make the 0°C equilibrium point a bit further from body... which would help to keep bags a bit drier but here again, if I use VBL.... ?!)
- moisture was prevented by using synthetic bag outside the downbag => now I would use VBL, so I think it would be OK to use 2 downbags.
- I was wearing thermal bottom clothes (fleece), hiking pants, skipants, and 1 paire of normal socks and 2 pairs of woold grandma-socks (loose) => I replace ski pants by VPL pants and fleece loose pants (both home-made). I keep thermal bottoms and hiking pants and keep the same system for feet + my home made VBL socks which I finished last week.
- I was wearing thermal upper body cloth (synthetic), fleece sweather, wool sweather with synthetic insulation, and hiking jacket => I would use the same thermal cloth and fleece sweater. I'm adding my merino shirt, VBL shirt (homemade), my down vest, and maybe a light wool shirt (if I fear for extreme cold).
- gloves => Of coure, I would wear them
- for the head system, since I would loose one hood (quilt instead of synthetic bag), I would add more beanie / balaclava.

last thought, in opposite with Roger, I think that your mattress system is too weak.
For such low temperature, I had a 3cm thick foam pad from K-market (bought I was living in Kajaani) and 2 half-length torso foam pads (old Millet pads, 8mm x2).=> now, I think I would use my full length foam mat "CAMP'INN bioeva" (~8mm) + 2/3 ridgrest rolled together tight (a bit bulky but 20cm of diameter rolled, and carried outside the backpack) and my Prolite 3 + windscreen sun protection for car rolled inside my backpack.
And also, I think your head insulation is also too weak, since you only have your downjacket hood for it if you use 2 quilts. You'll have to review that.

My list is far from being a "dreamlist". I'm using what I currently have and some other cheap things. It could be perfected, but unfortunately, I don't have much money for it at the moment.
But despite all, I know it works or would work by those temperatures in the south of Finland.
It seems a lot, presented like that, but I can store all of that in my ULA conduit for a 2/3 days hiking trip. For a 5 days or week long trip, I would use probably all my mesh pockets and probably a front "belly"bag (I don't know how do you call them in english). but I believe that a bigger pack would be definitely more appropriate.

A yeah... last, but not least, I would take a very small shelter (such as the gatewood cape) in the south of Finland. => Lots of trees and usually very stable weather conditions, so not need for a bombproof shelter!
In the case of a trip to the northern part of Finland for example (Lapland, above the treeline), I would at least take the outside of my Hilleberg Unna, and maybe even the inside. but in this case, I would loose a lot of space in my pack, and I would therefore need a much bigger pack (something equivalent to cuircuit or even catalyst).

Ok. Long post... I hope you didn't fall asleep. :D
I don't pretend this is the perfect list, but it would be my list for such a trip, and I have faith in it.
But it is like everything, it's not a definite list, but rather an ever changing experience!
We could discuss more about it in the near feature on a camping trip.

See you soon.
'Hope that it helps.


Edited by waluyo on 11/20/2009 01:05:21 MST.

xavier dor

Locale: A bit more East, a bit more North..
Re: sleeping system and clothing in winter part.2 on 11/20/2009 02:10:00 MST Print View

Having that said, I checked at the features of the Nunatak bag you were speaking about and I was really impressed by it's filling. Whu! I'd love this bag.

That makes me think that the nunatak combine with the golite and you should be fine for the body. But, as my own solution, I think you would also need the VBL to keep it dry.
and more insulation on your head. (roomy down balaclava?)

I would personnaly vote for:
- nunatak expedition + ultra 20° + VBL + down balaclava

You could maybe use the BPL quilt instead of the VBL (if you would use it outside), but I'm also wondering if it would be roomy enough. Anyway, I am not sure about this.

However, I am not sure if this combo nanatak + ultra + balaclava is lighter and less bulky than the Joutsen you have...

Edited by waluyo on 11/20/2009 02:13:03 MST.

David Lutz

Locale: Bay Area
Belly bag on 11/20/2009 08:35:36 MST Print View

Xavier......what do you use as a "belly bag"?

xavier dor

Locale: A bit more East, a bit more North..
"Waist pack"... on 11/20/2009 09:40:41 MST Print View

Hi David.

I just have a Benetton fannypack (approx. 3l. and maybe 15years old!!) which would do the job if I would need additional space.
Any fanny pack would do the job if you need additional space but don't have money to buy a bigger pack and if you're not SO regarding to the weight. :D

But if you're willing to spend a few $, a few options from mountainsmith or granitegear can be seen here.

I guest one of the best choice would be the Equinox ultralight waist pack
It looks like a great option.
Oli_v_ier from had it for his UL traverse of Iceland. Review in French here

you can translate the article with google if needed.

Sorry for being off-topic...

Edited by waluyo on 11/20/2009 09:42:20 MST.