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Speed Hike Sleep System Question
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Art ...
(asandh) - F
Speed Hike Sleep System Question on 12/11/2012 09:42:50 MST Print View

I'm looking for opinions on the best overall sleep system for mountain (Sierra) use.
by sleep system I mean the combination of shelter, sleeping bag, sleeping pad.
to be used in a multi day "speed hike" - mountain, but on trail, situation.
this would be for 2 people (non affiliated males).

Before going further, let me say I am Not a tarp person.
it's either a bivy bag or something that passes for a tent.

The Setting
Sierra, mid to late summer, travel up to 14,000, all on trail, 45 mile days.

The Criteria (in order of importance)
1. as light as possible overall
2. as warm as possible overall
3. fast, easy, simple
4. protection from wind and rain

My Comments & Questions
1. yes Sierra summers are often mild but I like being prepared for worst case.
2. I realize there is a trade off between light weight and warm & protective
3. the fly and poles of my current 2 person tent weighs 2.3 lbs and can be used as a floorless tent (free standing stetup).
4. but there are 7 oz bivies availble on the market.
5. I tend to get "down" wet from perspiration so typically use synthetics.
6. do synthetic quilts really work well ?

Main Question
given a set weight we are willing to carry, would that weight best be put toward the sleeping bag(quilt), the shelter, or the pad to meet our criteria ?


Edited by asandh on 12/11/2012 10:01:59 MST.

(jhaura) - F

Locale: Trail
Re: Speed Hike Sleep System Question on 12/11/2012 10:07:35 MST Print View


I just returned from a fastpack trip with an ultra-runner. We were all off trail though, but doesn't really matter, except that a compact shelter is key in that situation.

Anyway, I use

Shelter: Half-pyramid type full enclosure and skip the bivy. Full protection, good ventilation and easy to set up. Can be set up with just one poll (excluding SoloMid) or hung from a tree etc. So that would be an MLD SoloMid, Oware Alphamid, Gatewood Cape or Zpacks Hexamid with Beak. A Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo will be much warmer, but is heavier and if you don't set it up right you'll have condensation issues if the weather is right for it.

Pad: 1/8" full length closed cell foam, then a short inflatable like an Xlite or NeoAir on top. The foam pad insulates and protects the inflatable from punctures.

Ground Sheet: PolyCryo, Cuben or Tyvek. I use a PolyCryo or our LiteTrail one (prototype) because they are lighter, but a bathtub cuben would be nice.

Sleeping Bag: I plan for temps in the low 20s, and use a Katabatic Alsek bag supplemented with my extra clothing (polartec tights, Cap4 Hoody, UL Down Montbell Parka). 12 oz down in bag minimum is what I bring to Sierras 3 season. Without the bivy, I've never had any serious down wetting issues from my own body moisture using a well-ventilated shelter.

This is all ultralight and light enough for any speed trip, but has a high degree of comfort.

It's such a personal thing that we could all use something totally different and still do the same trip at the same speed and at the same relative comfort/effort level.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Speed Hike Sleep System on 12/11/2012 10:22:01 MST Print View

Here's my thoughts:

You want your shelter to provide protection from the wind and rain (and bugs?). Don't count on much warmth from your shelter besides wind blocking, because it's far more efficient to put the weight into a warmer bag.

My favorite shelter for this is a cuben pyramid tent (ie. MLD DuoMid). They are extremely light (~14oz) and equally important, they are extremely fast and simple to pitch. It's normally just 4 stakes (one at each corner) and then shove a hiking pole in the middle. Add a 2-3 oz painters cloth groundsheet (maybe) and you're all set, unless it's bug season - in which case bring an inner net tent. Alternatively, grab two solo sized pyramid tents (~11oz ea). Go with silnylon (+5oz) if cost is a factor.

Sleeping Bag/Quilt
I find that when I'm pushing big mile days, I tend to sleep a lot warmer. Likely because metabolism is boosted and the body is keeping busy at night repairing damaged tissues. The obvious suggestion in this category is a down quilt. You say that you tend to get down wet from perspiration, but perhaps this is because (1) you're using it in bivy with low breathability or (2) you're using too warm of a down bag and/or (3) you're using a bag that doesn't have the same venting flexibility as a quilt. With a down quilt inside of a pyramid tent, it's hard to imagine getting it excessively soaked with soak in short order unless you've choosen one that is way too warm - even then you can open some gaps to let air circulate. So my suggestion is a 30-40F quilt from Zpacks at 12-15oz. It's hard to imagine going wrong with one of those - especially on a few day trip in mid-late summer.

The pad is a tough one. If I was sleeping solo I would bring a torso sized Ridgerest at ~8oz and combine that with my pack under my feet and a well selected spot. To sleep well on one of these, I really need to find soft ground with a nice dip for my hips. If I'm sharing a shelter with a partner, it's not that easy to find a a spot that is naturally landscaped to be comfortable for two (except for sand), so I tend to bring an inflatable pad. Sleeping poorly sucks when every hour of sleep is precious.

So overall, I think a great combo is: cuben MLD SoloMid (11oz) + 30F Zpacks Quilt (16oz) + torso Ridgerest (8oz). That's ~2 lbs for all the main components and it's quite a capable setup. You'd still need to factor in stakes and perhaps a groundsheet (2-3oz). I think a pyramid tarp is worth the extra 4oz over a bivy - it's so much nicer for riding out foul weather in.

If you want to share a shelter with your hiking partner, then a cuben MLD DuoMid (14oz) + 30F Zpacks Quilt (12oz) + torso sized inflating pad (ie. NeoAir @ 9oz) is a nice combo. Overall you're lighter per person, but the inflatable pad takes away from the simplicity and ease of the Ridgerest. You also really need the groundsheet with an inflatable pad to add some protection/safety margin.

So to actually answer your main question about allotting a set weight, the pad options don't vary much in weight, so count on 7-10oz there. Then put enough weight towards your sleeping quilt/bag to ensure you'll be warm enough to sleep, and then put the remainder towards the robust-ness of your shelter.

Edited by dandydan on 12/11/2012 10:26:02 MST.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Speed Hike Sleep System on 12/11/2012 10:25:43 MST Print View

"Don't count on much warmth from your shelter besides wind blocking, because it's far more efficient to put the weight into a warmer bag."

Unless you are completely exposed to the wind and then a warmer bag will lose heat through convection.

Both shelter and insulation work as a system. I remember spending the night in a Hilleberg Akto where it was 12C warmer inside the tent than outside.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Wind/Warmth on 12/11/2012 10:44:02 MST Print View

"I remember spending the night in a Hilleberg Akto where it was 12C warmer inside..."

So a 42oz tent added 12 C of warmth. How much warmer would an 11oz pyramid tent + 31oz extra in a sleeping bag be? I could swap out my +5C quilt (15oz) for my -20 C bag (38oz) for 23oz, which would theoretically add 25 C of capability. Reality isn't quite this simple, but the underlying point is. Once you've blocked the wind, putting weight into your sleeping bag (and in some circumstances the pad) is the most weight efficient path to warmth.

Edited by dandydan on 12/11/2012 11:01:54 MST.

Ozzy McKinney
(PorcupinePhobia) - F

Locale: PNW
Bivy? on 12/11/2012 11:06:57 MST Print View

I know they don't get much play in this forum, but a WPB bivy-

1-Is about as simple as they come to "set up"
2-Can be had for around the same weight as a pyramid/groundcloth combo
3-Are relative in cost, some cheaper
4-Would certainly add significant warmth to a sleep system
5-Require no stakes or poles

I wouldn't want to have to hang out in one for extended periods, but in fastpacking I don't think that's the point.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Re on 12/11/2012 11:08:02 MST Print View

For fast hiking, I dig a hammock, since it ties up about the same speed as a tent (10 minutes) but completely eliminates the problem of clearing ground or finding suitable spots that are free of rocks, sticks, etc.

And before you say "You need to find suitable trees!" I've lived out of my hennessy hammock for about 80 days this year and have never spent even minutes finding suitable trees when I'm in the woods. It's a non-issue, significantly easier than finding a clear spot for a thermarest.

As for the pad, closed-cell foam is fast and inflatables aren't. I would always choose closed-cell for moving quickly. With a hammock, sleep comfort is guaranteed- see how many problems that solves?

As for rain and bugs, my hennessy hammock prevents both. Boo-yah!

Hammock camping. The ultimate sleep system.


Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
My turn on 12/11/2012 11:13:27 MST Print View

I would likely use Dans setup that he describe with the Neoair. The last thing I want to do after a long day is toss and turn on an uncomfortable pad. I personally would take a tarp knowing full well that I would probably not set it up. As you have probably experienced the blood suckers go away just after dark and since you are doing a long day I would ask if you need anything more than a tarp as an emergency shelter only. This would also allow you to throw down wherever you are ready to drop from exhaustion.

I smell a four day JMT attempt. :)

Edited by gg-man on 12/11/2012 11:20:01 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: speed sleep rig on 12/11/2012 11:25:08 MST Print View

If you want to actually sleep for 4-8 hours, a mid, down bag/quilt, and pad of your choice is best. For race pace in the Sierra, a torso foam mat, light puffy coat, and a dry pair of socks are all you need. Sleep until you wake up shivering, then get moving. ;)

Edited by DaveC on 12/11/2012 11:34:20 MST.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Re:DaveC on 12/11/2012 11:29:29 MST Print View

I like that. I want to try it ;)

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Bag & clothing combo on 12/11/2012 12:26:34 MST Print View

Try adding insulating pants & jacket to your sleeping bag. The pants and jacket are use durig the day (if necessary) and permit a lighter bag.

Then at least you have the insulated pants and jacket for bad weather/emergency use.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Wind/Warmth on 12/11/2012 13:41:04 MST Print View

"Once you've blocked the wind, putting weight into your sleeping bag (and in some circumstances the pad) is the most weight efficient path to warmth."

This clarifies your earlier remark and no one will disagree. But you did not clarify that preventing convective heat loss is number one, with conductive issues easily remedied with insulation.

Edited by FamilyGuy on 12/11/2012 14:29:21 MST.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Re: Wind/Warmth on 12/11/2012 13:57:42 MST Print View

this probably gets to the gist of my main question ...
whether to allocate weight to the sleeping bag/quilt, or to allocate weight to an increased air space in a small 2 person tent v.s. 2 separate UL bivies with minimal trapped air space.
the discussion seems to be leaning toward putting the weight in the bag.

given that this is summer, can I assume minimal weight for the pad too ?
I can see something for the pad, like a really cut down 3/8 standard closed cell.

Edited by asandh on 12/11/2012 14:04:53 MST.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Re: Wind/Warmth on 12/11/2012 14:11:46 MST Print View

Art, I think as long as you can minimize drafts from your shelter in the wind, be it a mid or bivy (if you can pitch the mid close to the ground, I would think a bivy would not be necessary), then the focus should be maximizing warmth through insulation. My earlier point is that if you can't minimize the wind factor through shelter (or bivy) then your sleeping bag / insulation can collapse and you may find it very difficult to retain warmth.

With respect to the pad, will the ground be cold? If not, then you can probably get away with a shorter closed cell pad without any conductive heat loss. So Mid, warm bag, cut down closed cell foam would be my preference.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Ground on 12/11/2012 14:36:25 MST Print View

Dave's point is very relevant. The ground will likely be warm even on nights when a cold breeze runs through, so weight in the sleeping bag seems a lot more useful than weight in the pad(s).

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re on 12/11/2012 16:38:36 MST Print View

"Hammock camping. The ultimate sleep system."

Not above treeline, which is where it seems Art will be spending considerable time.
Hammocks are not generally a good option in the Sierra.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: My turn on 12/11/2012 16:40:36 MST Print View

"I would likely use Dans setup that he describe with the Neoair. The last thing I want to do after a long day is toss and turn on an uncomfortable pad."


michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
Re on 12/11/2012 16:48:49 MST Print View

I think what this thread boils down to is how fast OP wants to run or hike. A sub 5 pound baseweight seems realistic without additional information. Obviously if you running the whole time you want like half that.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: My turn on 12/11/2012 17:22:54 MST Print View

"The last thing I want to do after a long day is toss and turn on an uncomfortable pad."


After a long day of speed hiking, being sufficiently exhausted, one should sleep just fine. At least this has been my experience.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Sleep system on 12/11/2012 17:41:11 MST Print View

My ideal for this scenario would currently be the following:

MLD Cuben poncho tarp as shelter (with polycro for groundsheet): about as minimal as you can go for rain/wind protection but doubles as part of raingear, allowing a windshirt instead of rain jacket and possibly ditching rain pants as well.

Gossamer Gear Nightlight pad: foolproof and failproof and very light.

Any decent 6-7 oz. bivy.

MLD Spirit synthetic quilt in 38 degree (or similar): 17 ounces. Combines with clothes and a bivy, you could push this to freezing or below.

This whole setup would be compact, and in the ballpark of only 2 pounds total.

Only swap I would make, if money were no object, would be a cuben solomid in place of the poncho tarp and bivy.

You taking trekking poles?


Sounds a bit like someone is gearing up for a JMT speed attempt...?