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DIY increasing sleeping pad R-value
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(Rayban) - MLife
DIY increasing sleeping pad R-value on 03/28/2011 13:22:46 MDT Print View

There've been a number of posts recently about sleeping bags not performing as rated and corresponding suggestions that it's not the bag but, instead, the sleeping pad that doesn’t have a sufficient R-value to prevent convection cooling, etc.

Some have suggested adding a thin CCF (closed cell foam) pad on top of whatever primary sleeping pad is being used to eliminate or lessen the cooling effect of otherwise low R-value pads.

Although relatively cheap, “thin” CCFs (e.g., from Gossamer Gear, Wal-Mart, etc.) are much more bulky in comparison to an effective alternative I created in an effort to stay as ultra light as possible without unnecessarily sacrificing functionality or incurring inordinate cost.

What I did was to start with a Thermo-lite Bivy 2.0 (pictured below and available for $26.50 from Amazon - - and maybe cheaper elsewhere).

As you can see, the Bivy 2.0 is a semi-mummy shaped emergency “bag” with a foot box that vents.

The DIY process

1. I first put my mummy shaped sleeping pad on top of the flattened Bivy 2.0 and traced an outline of the Bivy around my sleeping pad. (I let the air out of my pad; I found that it doesn’t really matter much if the pad is “airless” or not).

2. Using an exacto knife, I next cut the Bivy 2.0 along the pattern I had traced. This left a 2-ply (i.e., folded in half) "mummy shaped" remainder (see pictures below).

PLEASE NOTE: I laid out the pattern in such a way that I cut off the vented foot box from the piece left.

3. After this, I cut the 2-ply remainder of the Bivy 2.0 in half (again using the exacto knife and cutting a very narrow strip where the two "sides" are folded to make one piece).

PLEASE NOTE: if you want to use a “sandwich” approach – i.e., with the pad in the middle and both modified Bivy 2.0 sides around it - then don’t make the cut I did.

4. After doing the above, what’s left are two separate pieces, both identically shaped and each having an "inside" (dull) and an "outside" (shiny) (see pictures below of each side and its appearance).

5. I next put one piece of this modified Bivy 2.0 on top of my mummy sleeping pad and the sleeping bag on top of it. (NB- In an effort to prevent the Bivy 2.0 material from moving around on the pad, I first "painted" the pad on top with Silnet "dots", which effectively "fastened" the cut Bivy 2.0 material to the pad. I also "dotted" the bottom of my sleeping pad and tent to prevent any similar "slippage" from movement/pitching on non-level ground. I could have "dotted" the Bivy 2.0 material but found it unnecessary to prevent "sliding".

End result: the "half" Bivy 2.0 mummy piece I cut/use weighs 56 grams (i.e, 2 oz.) and is comparatively MUCH lighter and VERY much more compact (about fist size) than any CCF I’m aware of. It also reflects back roughly 80-90% of the radiant heat that would otherwise be lost using a low R-value sleeping pad (such as my custom model) and prevents virtually all heat loss through convection cooling.

(For those wanting an even lighter approach, you can use a “space blanket” - i.e., aluminized Mylar. However, the Bivy 2.0 material is MUCH quieter.)

And no, I don’t make these/sell them/have a pattern for them.

Uncut Bivy 2.0

Dull side of cut Bivy 2.0

Shiny side of cut Bivy 2.0

Nick Larsen
(stingray4540) - F

Locale: South Bay
R value? on 03/30/2011 12:44:07 MDT Print View

Awesome, I like this! I wonder how much this would add to the effective R value? Is the weight listed for two pieces(top of and under pad) or just one piece on top of pad?

(Rayban) - MLife
R-value increase on 04/01/2011 14:27:09 MDT Print View

The weight listed by me is for one piece. As to the amount of R-value increase, I have no data but found the increase in warmth to be very substantial in comparison to using a Neoair alone(which supposedly has about a 2.5 R-value)in temperatures of roughly 40 degrees or lower using bags rated for those conditions.

Edited by Rayban on 04/01/2011 14:29:48 MDT.

Chris H
(-NXP-) - F

Locale: Upper Midwest
So on 04/01/2011 20:58:02 MDT Print View

So you're only using one side of the cut up Bivy2 bag? Or are you sandwiching the air mat between the two pieces of the cut Bivy2 bag? I ask because I'm confused as to why you want to cut two pieces, but your instructions have only one used.


John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: DIY increasing sleeping pad R-value on 04/02/2011 05:19:49 MDT Print View

The only way to stop convective heat loss is stopping air currents. This does not do that unless you enclose the whole thing in a vapor barrier sack. It simply may radiate some heat back just as those who use mylar for a groundsheet. Your difference is using the thermolite on top of the sleeping pad ( which mostly leaves no air space between you and the reflective material.

Edited by jshann on 04/02/2011 05:43:14 MDT.

(Rayban) - MLife
Placement of cut bivy material on 04/07/2011 09:31:24 MDT Print View

I do place the material on top and have found that it functions very well to prevent the cold spots that I otherwise experienced on a Neoair even using an Alpinelite 20 degree bag.

To answer the other question, I considered simply inserting the uninsulated pad I ordinarily use for most 3 season trips into an uncut Bivy 2.0 but decided not to given the additional weight in comparison to simply buying a pad specifically desinged for such conditions (e.g., the POE Eclipse AC recently touted).