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Another base layer/sleep clothing discussion
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Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Another base layer/sleep clothing discussion on 06/28/2013 02:53:12 MDT Print View

Here is what I have been trying to figure out for the past few weeks. In the past few years I have upgraded my gear systems to include a few down feather sleeping bags. Down feather sleeping bags are expensive and tricky to wash, and as such I want to take good care of them.

I happen to enjoy the luxury of often taking a set of base layers with me on trips, which act as my sleeping clothing, and I keep them in a water proof or water resistant stuff sack which is inside of a seam-sealed Cuben backpack. In addition to adding warmth while sleeping, it is also convenient to wear them at night and early in the morning under my clothing worn, and as a side benefit base layers provide protection to my nice sleeping bags. I don't want to get my sweat and body oil on my sleeping bag, simple as that.

But taking base layers as additional clothing has some issues. For one, extra weight. Lots of extra weight if you compare a set with a very light sleeping bag. For example, my synthetic base layer set weighs 340g, and my 40F/5C sleeping bag weighs 428g with stuff sack. On top of the extra weight, in warmer weather a base layer is not as useful for obvious reasons. I have a section hike coming up next week and can't decide if I want to bring the base layer or not for these reasons.

So is there a better solution that I am overlooking here? For instance, what are the lightest base layers available? Maybe my set is just on the heavy side? Or is getting a nice sleeping bag dirty not that big a deal? What about a sleeping bag liner? Liners seem like they are just as heavy or heavier than a set of base layers, and not as useful because you can't walk around camp in them. What is the lightest sleeping bag liner (non-vapor barrier!) available?

The tentative solution I have is that I will bring my base layer bottoms and wear my clothing worn wind shirt as my PJ top when I sleep. My wind shirt might be wet/sweaty/dirty, so I may have to deal with cleaning it on the trail, but at least it will will dry off quickly.

I hope the weather is very warm, that way I can just leave the sleeping bag home altogether and just bring a light fleece sweater to sleep in, but I'll have to wait for the weather reports. Last year it got down to 8C at night at times.

Any tips or perspective would be appreciated :)

Drew Jay

Locale: Central Coast
Light baselayers on 06/28/2013 04:59:03 MDT Print View

At about 6 ounces for a pair silk is the lightest, but not as useful should you ever have to rely on them during the day. For synthetic check out the Arc'Teryx Phase SL at 7oz/pair. For merino look at the Montbell Super Merino L.W., Patagonia Merino 1, and RAB Meco 120, these are going to be in the 9-11oz/pair range. And by pair I mean a short sleeve crew and bottoms.

Edited by drewjh on 06/28/2013 05:05:48 MDT.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Another base layer/sleep clothing discussion on 06/28/2013 05:54:02 MDT Print View

Don't sweat it. Three quarters of a pound of weight for a necessary item is part of long distance camping. They are not part of an SUL kit, but they work well enough as part of a UL one. For beyond a few days, you cannot rely on the weatherman. Even in July, the weather in some places is unpredictable enough that I really want the long johns. This is not a "just in case" item, since it will preserve the overall loft of your bag for up to three or four weeks. And, if you are relying on taking a 40F bag down to 30F, you need them, besides being a comfort item for mornings.

If you are out for a week or less, just ignore it...not that big of a deal. If you are out for a couple weeks, you might find your bag is lofting less, usually meaning it is less warm. You need to get comfortable with washing it.
1) Use an agitatorless washer. Make sure there is NO traces of detergent that can ruin good down. Usually, carefull selection of , a washer if you go to a laundromat is needed. Maybe you need a different laundromat. A full wash cycle before doing your bag helps. Unzip the bag.
2) Use down wash. NEVER a detergent. Use about 1/2-1/4 as much as recommended. WATER washes, soaps loosen dirts and oils (not true but you can think of it that way.) Use extra water (large load), gentle cycle, and extra rinse. Run it through, then run it through again without any soap. Hot water is OK. Cold water is OK.
2a) If you want a DWR on the bag, do it now.
3) Like a baby, you bag is very delicate when wet. Fold it, slip your hands under it to carry it to the dryer.
4) Heat does not bother down (up to steam heat anyway) but it *can* damage the shell. A few dryer balls or tennis balls works well to break up clumps. Start drying it and monitor the heat by opening it every couple minutes to check. Commercial and home dryers vary in temp settings.
5) After about 2 hours, it should be fairly dry. You can take it home and hang it for a few days to finish drying.

I do it all at home (no agitator in the washer, extra large dryer) so it is far less painfull than heading out to a laundromat. The bag should loft better than what it was when new. The bag will last about 20 years like that. I put mine on a schedule of about every 14-21 days of use. I don't wory about stains and stuff. Just the overall function. Down bags can take compression for up to a couple days without damage, but you have to fluff them quite a bit after two days. Spend about a minute shaking the bag out to get it to loft again. After a day of hiking, I set my shelter, pad and bag first. Then I shake it out and open it. This is good for about three weeks on the trail before I can notice a loss of loft, it just won't fluff as easy.

I carry the long johns (UL smartwool, light smartwool, heavy smartwool) for keeping the bag claner, for doing laundry on longer trips, and for "oh sh*t" weather since it is beyond what can be predicted. Sometimes I have needed to wear it till 1300 or so. For short weekend trips, I don't always bring it. A set of UL long johns weighs about 3/4 of a pound, as you know.

For shorter SUL trips, don't worry about the bag, they are relativly easy to wash once you know how. But, you will usually be within weather prediction range, so, as always, bring only what is essential given the conditions.

Not knowing conditions, plan for the worst, though. This is the biggest reason that through hikers or long distance hikers do not use a SUL kit. At times, they will need a bit extra of clothing. Most plan on carrying around 30pounds pack weight and plan on two weeks with no resupply. Long johns become part of "necessary items" under those conditions. Even if the base weight is around 6-7 pounds, it better be able to handle the worst the trail can throw at them.

Edited by jamesdmarco on 06/28/2013 05:56:23 MDT.

Dharma Dog

Locale: The Louisiana Swamp
Re: Another base layer/sleep clothing discussion on 06/28/2013 06:41:01 MDT Print View

My silk "Jag Bag" sleeping bag liner weighs 4.5 oz. It adds a few degrees to the warmth of my bag in winter and protects my bag from becoming dirty. Unlike the bag it's real easy to clean and dries in minutes.
Many times in the summer I'll just sleep in the liner. It acts as a great bug barrier if I'm only sleeping under a tarp.

Todd T
(texasbb) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
PJs are the cat's pajamas on 06/28/2013 07:51:53 MDT Print View

I always take a dedicated in-camp baselayer (top & bottom). Keeps the bag clean as you say, keeps sticky legs and arms from sticking to each other, lets me get out of whatever sweaty stuff I hiked in. It's amazing how cold even a damp underwear waistband can make you. Worth their weight.

Lance Stalnaker
base layers on 06/28/2013 09:14:45 MDT Print View

I take a base layer in cooler weather, but skip it for a lightweight clothing change in the summer after I make camp. I would not worry too much with losing loft, as long as you have a high quality high fill down bag, I have seen a WM bag after an AT through hike and the loss of loft was barely noticeable, a quick wash with down wash quickly restored it to full loft.

FYI- "down" and "feathers" are two different thing in insulation pieces.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Another base layer/sleep clothing discussion on 06/28/2013 09:55:55 MDT Print View

Unless you are doing a thru hike, I won't worry so much about protecting the bag. Provided you clean yourself up before going to bed (a quick bandana bath) it takes a lot of nights before the bag needs to be washed. Washing a down bag can be scary, but it's really not a big deal. I don't have a front loading washer, so unlike Jim, I have to go to the laundry mat which is kind of a drag, but I only need to do it a couple times a year. Bottom line, I would not do any sort of sleep bag liner just to keep the bag clean.

As to an extra base layer... I would say it depends on your clothing strategy. If it makes sense to bring them, don't sweat the extra weight. For me, the "extra" base layer is also used as light insulation (rather than a fleece) and I will also choice to wear it during the day if the weather turns unexpectedly cold. In my case I often wear a very light (silk weight synthetic, or 150g wool) shirt for the day, my "extra" / sleep base is a Patagonia Cap 4 hoody and I typically have a down sweater for the really cold nights. Until the dead of winter I don;'t bother with base for my legs.


Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Re: Another base layer/sleep clothing discussion on 06/28/2013 10:01:55 MDT Print View


If I know its going to be over 20c at night time I bring a silk liner, the rest of the year I bring a spare Capilene 1 top and bottoms, its nice to get changed in to them at the end of the day, also if the weather does turn out much colder than expected during the day I can use them to supplement my day time clothes (but try not to do this).

If its an overnighter I often do not bother though.

Edited by stephenm on 06/28/2013 10:02:35 MDT.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
extra weight on 06/28/2013 11:10:24 MDT Print View

I sleep in the shirt I hike in unless it's super dirty. An extra shirt is about as much add I take. I sleep in my merino boxers. I also sleep in calf high merino socks which protect my sleeping bag from getting dirty from dirty feet.

The warmth to weight of leggings and an extra long sleeve base layer is just not worth it. You are better off just sleeping in a down jacket or vest in the 6 ounce range for a huge boost in warmth.

Tall sleeping socks make merino leggings redundant.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Another base layer/sleep clothing discussion on 06/28/2013 11:27:01 MDT Print View

My solution is to pull clean windpants over my hiking pants and wear insulation/windshirt over hiking shirt, to keep my bag clean. I have not washed my RAB bag since I got it (~2005) with no loss of loft. It works for me.

Edited by jshann on 06/28/2013 11:33:51 MDT.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
season and "sleep wear" on 06/28/2013 13:53:44 MDT Print View

I just returned from a 6 day backpack in Coyote Gulch, Escalante, Utah area.

There, because of the warm nights, I had to use my WM Megalite down bag as a quilt, with the foot of my reg. length ProLite mattress tucked in the foot of my bag.

My sleep wear was a dedicated T shirt and briefs. Another T shirt was slipped over the top 1/4 of my mattress to keep face oils off of it.

So that was my summer sleep wear.

But for spring, fall and high altitudes (8,000 ft. +) I use light poly long johns for sleep wear. As the OP mentioned, they do double duty as extra warmth under day clothes around camp. So actually they can be a safety item if the weather should suddenly give you a nasty cold front. (Hey, it once snowed 3 ft. in Zion in late June!)

So far by using dedicated sleep wear, airing my bag every day I camp and spraying it with FABREEZE when I get home I've avoided having to wash it for 4 years. But the time is approaching this fall when I'll have to wash it to keep funky smells away.

P.S. Those of you that like Merino longies may feel good that the wool absorbs more body oils than polyester, thus keeping your bag cleaner. I may get some "sheep's clothing" soon for sleep wear.

Edited by Danepacker on 06/29/2013 11:00:53 MDT.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Re:base layer on 06/28/2013 16:36:51 MDT Print View

I sleep in the same merino baselayer and hiking pants I wear during the day. Usually I only start to notice the smell by day 5.

I also skip the ground sheet to protect my bivy floor, or any other things to protect things that already work fine by themselves. I believe that gear is meant to be used, so I dont worry too much, but honestly, despite monthly trips, I don't find that I have to wash my quilt more than every couple years. Not a big deal, and get to enjoy the simplicity of less stuff.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Fabreeze on 06/28/2013 19:17:02 MDT Print View


Any issues spraying Fabreeze on your bag?

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Thanks all on 06/29/2013 01:17:30 MDT Print View

Thanks everyone for the feedback. I will take it all into consideration. This is nit-picky gram geek stuff to be sure, the difference in weight of whatever I choose could end up being 100-300g, which is not that big a deal. But where else can I dissect these nuanced weight options :) ?!

So far I have only slept in my two down bags with base layer on, and it's a pretty nice system. I am glad to hear that I probably won't have to clean my bags for years to come, especially if I continue to use a base layer. It sure is nice to change into dry clothing after hiking in the rain all day too, when it happens--and it rains a fair amount in my neck of the woods.

John Holmes

Locale: SouthEastern US
Microweight wool on 06/29/2013 07:52:04 MDT Print View

I carry "dedicated" 150gm merino sleepwear. I *can* wear it during the day if the weather really turns cold, but generally find hiking warms me up quite nicely :) As mentioned, not SUL, but does fit into a 13lb base weight.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
FABREEZE for sleeping bags on 06/29/2013 11:05:53 MDT Print View


The FABREEZE seems to get rid of funky odors quickly. I completely wet the interior of the bag with it.

Because I leave my bag unzipped and the interior completely open to the hot Mojave sun here at home the smell of FABREEZE seems to go away. There is no residue left on the bag as FABREEZE is likely 99% water.

P.S. No fabric deodorant will remove body oils, the cause of odor. That's why, as the OP says, one needs to wear dedicated sleep clothing to prevent most of these oils from contaminating the bag.

When washing a down bag BOTH body oils and some natural oils on the down will be removed, reducing loft a bit. This is why I wash my bag as little as possible.

Edited by Danepacker on 06/29/2013 11:10:10 MDT.