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Persistent Cold Sleeper, Help!
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Justin Go
(justin_g) - F

Locale: Durango, CO
Persistent Cold Sleeper, Help! on 07/24/2010 18:56:00 MDT Print View

Hi,

Thanks for everyone's posts on this forum; I've never posted before, but found the site very useful.

I've always been a cold sleeper, but I recently bought a new sleeping bag and down jacket to remedy the situation. I got a WM Alpinlite bag and a Montbell UL Alpine Down Parka. I tested them last night for the first time, thinking my problems would be solved, at least at moderate temperatures. I was still cold.

Details: I was camped at the Highland Mary Lakes in the Weminuche Wilderness in Colorado. It was around 12,000 feet, but I think the temperature was around 40 last night, although that's a blind guess. It was certainly above freezing, and there was little wind. There was some frost on the tent in the morning, but no liquids in the tent froze. I was in my tent (a Black Diamond Skylight) and using a no-name closed-cell foam pad from REI. I was wearing a couple light baselayer shirts, thick socks, a pair of shorts (didn't have dry pants) and fleece balaclava, in addition to the down jacket. I was cold enough to stay awake. I was surprised by this, because I didn’t think it was a very cold night and I wasn’t particularly cold when I was cooking, etc.

My own impression was that the bag is too wide for me. I had been using a ratty old REI Sub-Kilo that was around 59' wide, so the 64' Alpinlite felt like too much space to fill. I'm 5'10, 140 lbs, pretty skinny. (I knew I didn't need a wide bag--I bought the Alpinlite because it was on sale for a hefty discount. I didn’t truly realize how wide it was until last night.) I spent a lot of the night trying to stuff the empty spaces of the bag under me to make it snug on top. Would having a too-wide bag make me that cold? I know my pad wasn’t the warmest—I own a Big Agnes air core, just didn’t want the extra weight yesterday—but shouldn’t I have been warm enough anyway, at least 10-20 degrees above the temperature rating? What is a “normal” width for a regular size bag?

Right now I’m thinking I’m going to sell the bag and buy something warmer and narrower. I love the quality of the Western Mountaineering bags, so I’m thinking of buying a Versalite, but its only a couple inches narrower and 10 degrees warmer. Opinions?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Persistent Cold Sleeper, Help! on 07/24/2010 19:14:05 MDT Print View

> using a no-name closed-cell foam pad from REI

I would hazard considerable money that this is your problem. Your clothing and bag or quilt will not keep you warm where you are lying on the ground: the down gets squashed flat. And the width of the bag is not relevant either.

Before you spend any more money on expensive down gear, try upgrading your mat. But that does not mean going to the Big Agnes Air Core, because that is not very warm either. A simple and cheap way to test this would be to ADD something like a Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite or a Ridge Rest (warmer) on TOP of your REI mat. Try it for a few nights to see if that solves your problem. I bet it will.

Oh - and make sure you have a good dinner before going to sleep. No food => no energy => no warmth.

Cheers

Rod Lawlor
(Rod_Lawlor) - MLife

Locale: Australia
Altitude on 07/24/2010 20:08:05 MDT Print View

What altitude do you live at?

I've certainly had sleepless nights at 12,000ft, and if you're awake, you probably feel cold, even though it may not be the cold keeping you awake. Of course if you live at 10,000ft, this is probably null.

I agree with Roger about the mat. Other things include the uncovered legs. Better to pull a base layer on, even if it means pulling legs through the sleeves of your top, if you are on the edge of thermal comfort.

And if you are looking at changing bags, consider an Apache before a Versalite. Slim cut, with a more durable MF outer for less weight.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Persistent Cold Sleeper, Help! on 07/24/2010 20:17:18 MDT Print View

Did you by chance notice if one side of you was less cold than the other? If your underneath side was colder, that would definitely point to the mat. As Roger says, definitely start with more mat before spending $$$ on more down. For the temps you'll encounter in the high Rockies, the BA Air Core definitely won't do it--even the Insulated Air Core will be borderline. The Insulated Air Core with a 1/4" to 1/3" CCF layer on top will probably do it. Or check with Kooka Bay about their custom insulated mats (down or synthetic).

Some brisk exercise at bedtime to raise your metabolic rate to help you warm up the sleeping bag will help.

As Rod mentions, just the altitude can keep you awake (or sleeping more lightly and prone to wake up) when you're not acclimatized. More fluids and a more gradual ascent can help with that. Since you felt cold but evidently were not shivering, I wouldn't be surprised if altitude was a part of the problem.

A baselayer for your legs would also be a big help.

I'm also a COLD sleeper and went through the same issues when the thermometer went down to 18*F in the Washington Cascades last October. The issue definitely was the mat (NeoAir plus 1/8" closed cell foam pad=shivering all night!).

Edited by hikinggranny on 07/24/2010 20:24:14 MDT.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Persistent Cold Sleeper, Help!" on 07/24/2010 20:40:04 MDT Print View

Sure it couldn't be dehydration/exhausion/lack of calories?

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Persistent Cold Sleeper, Help! on 07/24/2010 20:47:50 MDT Print View

"Before you spend any more money on expensive down gear, try upgrading your mat. But that does not mean going to the Big Agnes Air Core, because that is not very warm either. A simple and cheap way to test this would be to ADD something like a Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite or a Ridge Rest (warmer) on TOP of your REI mat. Try it for a few nights to see if that solves your problem. I bet it will."

+1

"Big meal"

+1

Edited by ouzel on 07/24/2010 21:05:41 MDT.

Justin Go
(justin_g) - F

Locale: Durango, CO
Agreed on 07/24/2010 20:57:53 MDT Print View

Thanks for the replies, everyone. It's true, I'm sure the pad was the main issue, and I hadn't much thought about the altitude effect. I live at sea level in Los Angeles but have been spending the summer in Durango, which is 6500 feet, so obviously a one-night trip to 12,000 ft is quite a leap--I did have an altitude headache last night, and I'd just come off climbing at 13er. I kept thinking "it's not even that cold", but I suppose there's a lot more to it.

I actually own the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core. I'd been using it for years, it was only in the spirit of being lightweight that I pulled out my piece of junk old foam pad from years back. The BA pad was beginning to strike me as indulgently heavy. I was willing to sacrifice the cushion, but I guess I didn't realize how much warmth I might be giving up.

I also should have brought a baselayer for my legs. I had tons of layers on my torso and the heat was probably fleeing from my legs. I suppose it goes to show there's a lot more to warmth than just a good sleeping bag. I was probably expecting too much from the bag, given the altitude, my flimsy mat and my shorts. I guess I need to experiment around, thanks for the help.

Justin Go
(justin_g) - F

Locale: Durango, CO
Width? on 07/24/2010 21:17:37 MDT Print View

Before I permanently dismiss the thought-- is the width of a sleeping bag completely irrelevant? Although I believe I was cold because of all the other factors, at the time I just kept thinking the bag felt too wide and therefore hard to keep warm. But maybe that was just because I'm used to being straightjacked by my old narrow bag. You get used to the feeling of a bag you've used for six years...

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Persistent Cold Sleeper, Help! on 07/24/2010 21:26:33 MDT Print View

No, the amount of air space to warm up inside the sleeping bag is not irrelevant. It's just that you really should try the less expensive alternatives first.

At 12,000 feet altitude, dehydration would be a big problem even not counting the effects of the altitude. Just drinking more fluids (maybe with some electrolyte solution added) might solve the problem. But with the 6,000 foot elevation gain in (I assume) a day or two, that would cause you problems right there! Don't discount the effects of altitude; the more extreme versions of Acute Mountain Sickness can kill you! It is recommended either to do a climb high/sleep low routine for several days or to go up no more than a net of 1,000-1,500 feet between sleeping places before going that high.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Width? on 07/24/2010 21:30:07 MDT Print View

" is the width of a sleeping bag completely irrelevant"

The volume of a sleeping bag is directly related to its width. The greater the volume of air you have to warm up, and keep warm, the more energy required; The more energy required, the harder it is to stay warm as time goes on. Every time you get up in the middle of the night, you will have to at least partially reheat the air in your sleeping bag-the greater the volume the more energy required and so it goes. Narrow, low volume sleeping bags, such as the WM's Extreme Lite Series are all very efficient at keeping you warm, and one of the reasons is that they all have a narrow width-->low volume of air to be heated and kept heated. An earlier poster suggested the WM Apache, another low volume bag and an excellent choice. The Extreme Lite equivalent is the Ultralite. Either would keep you warm at a much lower cost than the Versalite, assuming you have adequate insulation underneath and eat a good, high calorie dinner.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Agreed on 07/24/2010 23:34:58 MDT Print View

Justin, one other thought- did you change into clean dry socks before you went to bed? This can have a effect also.

Bag width made a difference for me. I had to switch from a WM Megalite to a WM Summerlite- I'm thin and on the lower temp nights I was spending a lot of energy trying to heat up the larger bag.

I also used to have a BAIAC pad but it froze me at anything under 35*.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Width? on 07/25/2010 03:58:53 MDT Print View

> is the width of a sleeping bag completely irrelevant?

I sleep under a quilt at home which is about 6' wide. Very nice too.
Width of bag or quilt completely insignificant compared to the effect of the mat.

cheers
Edited to clarify what I meant.

Edited by rcaffin on 07/25/2010 15:37:00 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Width? on 07/25/2010 15:30:00 MDT Print View

"I sleep under a quilt at home which is about 6' wide. Very nice too.
Compared to the mat, completely irrelevant."

Compared to the subject at hand in general, methinks. ;)

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Persistent Cold Sleeper, Help! on 07/27/2010 12:34:33 MDT Print View

35% of your insulation comes from the pad underneath (if you're a back sleeper). Change the pad, not to the IAC. Get a down mat, or combine a foam pad w/something like a Prolite Plus.

You would not have been warm enough to compensate for the pad, because you were losing so much heat to the ground.

IIRC, manufacturers assume an R-value of around 4 in a pad when they rate the bags (for the 20-30F range). The one you used was probably around R 1 or 2?

Justin Go
(justin_g) - F

Locale: Durango, CO
Pad on 07/28/2010 12:02:54 MDT Print View

Yep, the generic foam pad on REI is listed as having a 1.6 R-value. Pretty sorry. I wonder what the r-value of pine needles are, or dirt...

I never thought the Big Agnes insulated air core was particularly warm, but it's R-Value is listed as 4.1, higher than any of the therm-a-rests I'm looking at. The R-value of the pro-lite plus in 3.8.

And yes, I did wear dry socks! I find a pair of thick, dry socks at night to be the greatest (necessary) luxury in backpacking...

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Re: Pad on 08/02/2010 20:43:25 MDT Print View

Justin,

I think the advice you're getting is good:
1. Better pad
2. Dry clothes
3. Go to bed well fed

Re the size of a bag, I find a bag that properly fits is warmer. I'm a regular size bag in some brands and a long in others. I got a long Phantom 15 and was a little cold in it. I tried a friend's regular Phantom 15 and found that it fit just fine. I exchanged my long for a regular and found the regular to be much warmer.

HJ

Jack Bauer
(mclovin) - F
beanie to bed on 08/05/2010 19:02:06 MDT Print View

Justin,

Do you wear a beanie to cover your head when you sleep?

Also, eat a snickers bar before bed and drink something hot also.