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Sleeping bag condensation w/ Pictures
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Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Bed wetting, bags, and quilts on 03/05/2012 22:47:59 MST Print View

>bed wetter ;)


LOL! :)

The first time I ever noticed it I was drinking some water. I thought for sure I had spilled on myself!


Although, this bag may be history. I just got my enLIGHTened Equipment 20*F quilt with overfill today. It appears to loft better than the 15*F bag in this thread, it is around 20 ounces lighter, and could be much more versatile.

When I first laid out the quilt I noticed the large gaps between baffles (Tim uses Karo baffles) and I was a bit worried that down shift would be an issue. However, from everything I've read, Karo baffles do a fine job of keeping down in place, unless you *want* to shift it around.

It seems really easy to move the down around, which means I can potentially use this quilt year-round. Shift all the down to the sides for warmer nights, and shift it back on top of me for the colder ones. I'm really excited to use this and put my theories to the test.

If this quilt can reliably take me to 15*, which it very well may with the overfill and if I wear my insulating layers, then the bag in this thread will probably go up on gear swap. If the Karo baffles allow me to shift enough down to make this quilt usable in the other 3 seasons, it may very well replace my Montbell #3 also. Time will tell.


I just hope I can contain my excitement and not wet the bed...

Edited by T.L. on 03/05/2012 22:50:38 MST.

Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
Re: Re: Sleeping bag condensation w/ Pictures on 03/06/2012 04:19:48 MST Print View

> At those temps the dew point is inside the insulation - unless maybe at super-low humidity

Indeed, I think the ambient humidity still plays a role here, even at those temps.

Just a couple weeks ago I was sleeping in conditions similar to what the OP described: upper teens, in the snow. The bag (a Nunatak Arc Expedition) was warmer graded, might be some thicker. Everything inside a non-waterproof topped bivy set up by the side of a stunted pine tree. The key difference was a steady, dry breeze that was blowing all night. Everything was dry, very dry, in the environment and in my sleep system. I don't know if there was humidity condensed inside the bag (didn't weight it) but surely none that I could feel to the touch, even when packing.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Too warm? on 03/06/2012 05:36:33 MST Print View

Is there any chance that you are going to bed too warm? I found that condensation in my bivy was greatly reduced if I go to bed lightly dressed and add a layer or items later in the night when it gets colder. I believe what may have been happening is I may have been sweating early because my total system was too warm for the conditions at the time.

David Goodyear
(dmgoody) - MLife

Locale: mid-west
pretty normal on 03/06/2012 05:45:14 MST Print View

That effect is pretty normal. We actually use the furnace of metabolism to dry out articles of clothing and sleep in our boot liners to dry them out on multi-day winter hikes. We push the moisture through the bag - I can't see sleeping in a vbl, but that is just me. I like to wake up warm and fully dressed - hunkered down in my sleeping bag while cooking a hot breakfast. The trick is to get the dew point outside your main sleeping bag. Most of the time we will wake to a frost lining on the inside of the bivy sack and just turn it inside out and shake. Sometimes there are ice balls inside the sleeping bag insulation. A little morning sun helps also. Some arctic travelers use a sacrificial overbag that captures the moisture and saves the main bag. This bag is replaced when they get their re-supplies.

I thought there was a discussion of this a while back in a thread about layering sleeping bags, but finding it may be a chore.


Enjoy,

Dave

P.S. I should mention that I use synthetic insulation - I haven't gone "down" that road yet.

David Olsen
(oware)

Locale: Steptoe Butte
down breaths better on 03/06/2012 09:34:12 MST Print View

It appeared to me on reading the military experiments that they describe the down bags
as retaining less condensation than the synthetic bags.

Stephan Doyle
(StephanCal)
Re: Sleeping bag condensation w/ Pictures on 03/06/2012 10:29:26 MST Print View

1) This is not an unreasonable result, as others have pointed out. It's a dew point issue, and it ends up on the top of your bag.

2) You're still wearing A LOT to sleep, probably overdressing.

The easiest solution is to dry your bag in the sun. In the morning, at lunch, at breaks.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Bivy, Quilt advantage on 03/06/2012 10:44:17 MST Print View

I don't think Travis ever answered the question about Bivy use. Are you using one or not? Use of a Bivy in winter seems obvious as a pretty effective way to move the condensation point outside the Sleeping bag but inside the bivy.

The other big thing is control of exhaled moisture. Ideally you want that draft collar cinched down tight below your mouth/chin to prevent exhaled moisture from reaching inside the bag and it's another big advantages of quilt. By having the head OUTSIDE the bag it is much easier to ensure your exhaled breath isn't going inside the bag.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Sleeping bag condensation w/ Pictures on 03/06/2012 14:13:34 MST Print View

Some thoughts on condensation…

I never had condensation problems until I started going UL. I will explain later.

Since I live in the lower desert and am acclimated to a hot climate, I do very poorly in cold weather. So over the years I have learned (and am still learning) about keeping warm and dry. Some ideas from what I have read over the years and what has worked for me.

First we need to look at the two types of body evaporation; insensitive and sensitive. Insensitive loss is evaporation that we are not aware of; that is vapor lost through breathing and a small amount of perspiration that is natural for us, as the body creates it to keep our skin moist. In an 8 hour period of sleep the average person will lose about 6-7 ounces (200 ml) of moisture through insensitive evaporation and probably around 80% of it is from breathing. That means if the ambient temperature is under 85 F and low humidity, your body is only going to sweat a couple ounces at most.

Sensitive evaporation: Above 85 F or in higher humidity, the body will try to cool itself by producing more evaporation, e.g., sweat. So if you are sleeping in cold weather with low humidity there are only two ways you could get more moisture into the insulation; 1) breathing into the bag or 2) creating an internal climate in the bag that is greater than 85 F. Now there are other dynamics such as dew point, amount of moisture that can pass up and down through the top of the bag. Also, keep in mind that when the body is working, such as walking, running, hiking, etc. it will constantly be producing sensitive sweat depending upon the ambient temperature, humidity, and amount of exertion. How much? Depends. I read somewhere that Alberto Salizar sweated 3.7L per hour in the 1984 Marathon!

For more than 20 years I only had one sleeping bag, a 20 degree rated modified mummy bag. It had no hood. Also was kind of heavy since I bought it in 1971. In cold weather I would wear a thick wool cap and a heavy fleece/nylon shell hat with ear muffs. This stuff was heavy by our standards, but the system kept my head warm and I never wore clothes or insulated garments to sleep in, just base layers. In temperatures below 20F I used either a double wall tent or a single walled pryamid that would actually form a sheet of thin ice on the inside walls. Also, below 20F I started using a vapor barrier liner. At first I used cotton long johns, which were miserable. Then I switched to polypropylene and that was the best base layer inside a VBL, even better than stuff like Calipene. So with this system I never had any moisture in my insulation. If I skipped a shelter, a water proof bivy was used over the bag, and VBL inside the bag for temperatures under 20F. I would be warm before going to bed wearing my insulation layers, I would take them off and get into the bag, and I would be cold at first when I got into the bag with just base layers, but would soon warm up.

When I started to really lighten my gear a few years ago, one of my first purchases was a WM Ultralite sleeping bag. Since it had a hood, I just used it without any other headwear; and as a side sleeper my head would often partially pop-out of the hood and my head would get cold. Unconsciously, I stuck my head inside the bag and wala… a soaking wet foot box. Other times I felt cold and added a puffy jacket and things were even worse. When it gets cold, the body tries to protect critical organs like the brain and stuff inside your torso. It feels the head is too cold, so it cranks up and starts heating the torso… too much moisture, insulation gets damp, you get cold, and it is a vicious cycle. I had similar problems with quilts too, and then Roger Caffin told me to get an insulated balaclava, which fixed me up. When it is cold and your feet and hands get cold, the brain is going to protect the vital organs, so it may not start generating more heat to warm up your hands and feet… we feel cold all over, put insulation on our body and start generating an oven. So, good insulation on head, feet, and hands (or keep hands against your torso) will do the trick, assuming a properly rated bag. When you first get into the bag with only base layers, you will be cold at first but give your body a little time to create a micro-climate that is just under 85 F.

Don’t use VBL unless it is under 20F, and wear only synthetic base layers, wool will make you too clammy. Also in winter, I never assume the weather will be good enough for me to air out my sleeping bag… I work to keep it dry. Lastly, don’t skimp on ground insulation.

This is what has worked for me. Perhaps for people in extremely cold environments who do much more winter camping than I do will have different experiences or will even find fault with my thinking/techniques.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
+++1 to what Nick said. on 03/06/2012 14:52:19 MST Print View

+++1 to what Nick said.

Can't stress enough. If you want a dry bag,

1) VBL on your feet at a minimum with overlarge PUFFY socks over that, or Feathered Friends Down booties. 2 layers if need be.
2) Take off insulation on your torso, too much insulation = you sweat big time, soaking your bag.
3) Take off wet base layer insulation. Wring it out if you have to, put dry on and crawl inside bag.

Once warm, bring wet cloths inside and place on top of yourself. Note, only if not using a full VBL bag liner or at a minimum have VBL liner full open. For this to work one really needs to be able to tell yourself to wake up in 3 hours and remomve said now DRY cloths and put the VBL liner sealed shut going back to sleep. Its winter, so, "sleep" or rest will be 12 hours long unless there is a bright moon out. In which case hike away no flashlight needed!

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: +++1 to what Nick said. on 03/06/2012 15:32:40 MST Print View

I've breathed into my bag before when I was cold, seeing if it would work

Don't do that, like Nick said

And in worst case conditions, don't have anything anywhere near where you breath out or it will be wet in the morning

I wear a fleece cap before bed, then if it's below freezing, I'll put a fleece balaclava over that, down to about 20 F. I have an insulated balaclava, but it's not sized to fit over the cap so it's inconvenient. I'm too lazy to make a properly sized insulated balaclava that fits over my cap.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
note on 03/06/2012 21:43:15 MST Print View

just as a note ... its quite important to ID where the condensation comes from ... is it the body or dew/drips from the outside ...

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Sleeping bag condensation question on 03/06/2012 22:52:46 MST Print View

A condensation question:

Is a thin fleece "blanket" draped over a sleeping bag/quilt enough to move the condensation point from inside the bag's insulation to within the fleece? I understand this wouldn't provide the same insulation value as, say, another synthetic bag/quilt draped over, but would it be worth carrying solely as a way to move the condensation point outward in those situations where condensation could be a problem?

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: note on 03/06/2012 23:33:56 MST Print View

"just as a note ... its quite important to ID where the condensation comes from ... is it the body or dew/drips from the outside ..."

Yes, and as I pointed out earlier...

Now there are other dynamics such as dew point, amount of moisture that can pass up and down through the top of the bag.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Sleeping bag condensation question on 03/06/2012 23:45:26 MST Print View

"Is a thin fleece "blanket" draped over a sleeping bag/quilt enough to move the condensation point from inside the bag's insulation to within the fleece? I understand this wouldn't provide the same insulation value as, say, another synthetic bag/quilt draped over, but would it be worth carrying solely as a way to move the condensation point outward in those situations where condensation could be a problem?"

We really need to ask the question, why is there condensation?

And are we better off to try to find the root cause, and then minimize it if possible? This is where I have tried to concentrate my efforts. And I am still thinking in terms of the OP, in temps below 20F.

Last year I changed my cold weather system. I put an enLightened Ephinay cuben quilt inside a Nunatak Arc Specialist. The cuben quilt acted as a VBL, and I had 3.75" of loft, versus 2.5" in my WM Ultralite. Additionally, it was much easier to vent my quilt. System worked extremely well.