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Layering strategies for rest/camp using sleeping insulation
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Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Layering strategies for rest/camp using sleeping insulation on 11/03/2013 10:21:19 MST Print View

There have been a few threads on layering for colder weather and I want to open a discussion on including sleep insulation (quilt or sleeping bag) as insulation for rest stops or camp.

The concept seems to follow UL philosophy well, with points for multiple use. A quilt would be my first choice, with a foot box that can open fully and a toggle or snap added to one side so it can be worn like a cape or shawl. The other alternative is to have a head hole like the Jacks R Better design. A mummy bag would be clumsier but still workable.

It seems to be a matter of choice between lowest weight and convenience. It needs to be compared with using belay insulation as part of a sleep system too.

I've been playing with using a Therm-a-Rest Tech Blanket for warmest summer weather hammock top quilt and it makes and excellent shawl as well.

The weakest parts of this seems to be with rest stop convienience and rain.

Also, it is really a reflection of hiking style and camp living. If you hike fast and far, you are walking until late and not sitting around in camp, as well as cooking out of camp. As many have said, if you are cold, go to bed.

So, do you depend on sleep insulation for rest stop/camp use? If you carry a vest or jacket for rest stops, do you count that as part of the effective range of your sleep system?

Kat ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Using a quilt on 11/03/2013 10:55:03 MST Print View

Sometimes I use my quilt wrapped around me at camp. I am usually very cold so instead of bringing extra extra insulation it makes sense to me to use what I already pack anyway. I don't see it done very often though.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Layering strategies for rest/camp using sleeping insulation on 11/03/2013 11:01:01 MST Print View

In winter I use a campfire (which I also cook on). I get cold at rest and all of that camp clothing would be very heavy. In the summer, after a long day of hiking I go to bed when it gets dark and sleep all night.

I do need to get myself a big, 1 pound down puffy that I could use in camp and to keep warmer while sleeping.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Layering strategies for rest/camp using sleeping insulation on 11/03/2013 11:30:29 MST Print View

I forgot to mention the campfire issues. For many of the Boomers, sitting around a campfire was a seminal part of camping. With the advent of fast and light and Leave No Trace, campfires have been reduced to car camping for me. Seems that sitting around in the dark and cold with headlamps isn't close to the same. I hike solo much of the time so there's little reason not to climb into a warm sleeping bag and read. My wife is a reader too.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

I HAVE IT! on 11/03/2013 12:37:15 MST Print View

I have a radical idea for this!!!!

I successfully tested this system early in the spring. Your sleep system has three pieces:

1. Sleeping Bag/Quilt. This should be about 10-20ºF higher than the expected low.

2. Jacket as insulation for your top half

3. Quilt with snaps that can form a "mini" sleeping bag for your feet and legs. A footbox quilt.

With this system, your footbox quilt can be easily used as additional insulation around camp, since it's a smaller more manageable size for carrying around with you or setting aside.

Cool, huh?

insulation on 11/03/2013 12:39:03 MST Print View

When I stop in the humid east, like on the AT, Im damp with sweat. Not smart to put on a down garment even at that time, much less down quilt.

Fleece works best in that situation.

Out west where sweat evaporates before it soaks you, its less of an issue.

Of course, do I want to risk my $400 UL quilt with 10D fabric by wearing it around, risking snags, or such? Not really.

It also resides at the bottom of my pack, not practicle to pull out at stops, at all. It could do for camp after Ive cooled down. But I bring a 5.9 oz montbell exlight usually for that.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: insulation on 11/03/2013 13:30:06 MST Print View

Yeah, the quilt at the bottom of the pack thing was a stumbling block for rest stops.

Hmmm, you could have a quilt in two sections. The top part could unzip and have arm holes so it could be worn like a vest.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: layering strategies on 11/03/2013 13:44:34 MST Print View

A really cold coffee break

I've tried this strategy in the past, but wouldn't want to do it too regularly. The photo above from from a fall trip I tried a few years ago with no insulation except for my 30 F quilt. Forecast was for lows in the high 30s, but it ended up dropping to about 28F one night. With no supplemental insulation to boost my sleep system, I had to do some acrobatics to keep warm that night.

The next morning, getting out of the quilt was painful. I didn't dare stop for breakfast for about 3 hours until I had warmed up a bit. I could bring a warmer quilt next time to account for lower than expected temps, but it seems far more versatile to have a quilt and jacket combo, or at least a backup vest.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: cold coffee break on 11/03/2013 14:36:35 MST Print View

Good insight, Ike . My thought was to only use the quilt as the usual puffy insulation, but still having a base layer, windshirt and mid-layer like an R1 fleece (my typical kit), all which could be worn for sleep too.

I assume the quilt at hand would cover the range of expected temps. Your experience is a good example of unexpected variation in the weather. Finding conditions 10F lower than expected that cross the line to sub-freezing is significant.

So on this trip you had no mid layers, cap, gloves, etc?

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: Re: cold coffee break on 11/03/2013 15:28:02 MST Print View

I was on a trip in Michiagn earlier this year and the night time low was supposed to be 10f and it -13f, the locals have told me never to trust the weather forecast.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: layering strategies on 11/03/2013 16:22:40 MST Print View

"So on this trip you had no mid layers, cap, gloves, etc?"

Gloves, what's that? The morning after..

Don't get me wrong, it was an awesome trip. Trips like that teach you a lot about your limits, and I feel like I'm pretty well dialed in these days because of these sort of experiences in all seasons. I would certainly recommend trying it, but wouldn't advocate it as a great all-the-time strategy.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Hmm... on 11/03/2013 19:28:47 MST Print View

I remember this method being a symbol of those truly dedicated to the UL philosophy a few years ago, but notice it's all but entirely disappeared as a technique. I'll go over a few issues why this may be.

First, your sleep insulation is best placed at the bottom of your pack to ensure best weight carry. Makes it a huge PITA to pull it out at stops. Increased faff.

Second, quilts with built in holes are heavier than those without and introduce cold spots (or are even further made heavier to eliminate them). So some of the advantage is negated right here. According to JRB there's a +2.5oz weight penalty for sniveller models.

Without head holes (or even with) a quilt or bag does not envelop your body as well as a jacket (and you lose the hood). This makes drafts a continuous problem limiting the technique to above freezing temps with less than ideal success.

Finally, down jackets have lost a lot of weight. With the many vests, jackets and parkas less than 10 oz, and the MB Plasma at 4oz, the versatility outweighs the weight.

We're seeing the general trend of moving away from arbitrary weight goals and using SUL philosophies to help us dial in our systems to as light weight as possible, but w/o sacrificing much comfort. Yay technology progress! I think the quilt as jacket was simply the first casualties in the move away from light for light's sake.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
risk on 11/03/2013 20:05:06 MST Print View

the biggest risk IMO is in using your primary down sleep system that your life litereally depends upon for general insulation

if its nice and dry then the risks are much less ... but if its wet, or theres snow, etc ... which are the times you would most likely depend on this insulation or need it in camp

in one of the previous threads some posters stated that you should not get your down wet at all and not take any risks with it, as we have had a decent number of BPL members come out and state they had experiences with wet down ...

the other risk of course is that you are using everything to meet your insulation goals, basically trusting the weather forecast and not making a mistake ...

you have no margin for error with down in this case


Robert Meurant
(rmeurant) - MLife
Providence on 11/04/2013 06:12:19 MST Print View

I agree with Eric - you need redundancy for unpredictable situations - such as accidents, unexpected severe changes in weather, etc. It is simply part of wise preparation.

just Justin Whitson
Re: Providence on 11/04/2013 11:48:19 MST Print View

My sleep system for colder weather is kind of odd since it's partially based on a sometimes accompanying intimate partner (spouse).

I have EE Rev X 40 degree quilt, and she has about a 30 degree quilt, but we also have the Exped Dream Walker Duo 400, which does have the neck opening*. The double quilt is not a very warm quilt, but i feel we get some benefit from having a double over quilt as i'm a much warmer sleeper than her and some of my warmth is trapped for her as well, maybe not directly (since her and my single quilt each is to some extent shielding her directly from my warmth) but in slowing down overall conductive energy loss.

We have tried using the dream walker quilt in it's "poncho" like form, but i'm kind of paranoid that it will get ripped, overly dirty, or what not, much easier than using it purely as an over quilt.

*(i realize that three separate quilts increase the overall weight of said system, however, the adaptability is awesome and i think worth it. She doesn't always come with, and when she doesn't i can either just take my single quilt or hers if it's colder, or sometimes she can take my quilt and i just take the double one since i'm such a warm sleeper usually, etc. It can be mixed and matched in various ways, which i really like. Also part of why i developed this system was because of the cost, all said quilt were relatively inexpensive, and about equivalent in price to a much colder weather, high down content double quilt such as Zpacks sells).