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Thread: Sleep System

  1. #1

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    Hi everybody! I'm planning to through hike nobo in 2020 starting as early as Feb 1st with the approach trail. I don't have the budget or the need to equip myself with ultra light gear but I am trying to be sensible about weight. Based on the available choices in my price range I'm looking at a base weight of 15 to 17 lbs but that includes 2 lbs worth of bear canister which I intend to carry the whole way. I'm hoping to top out between 26 and 30 lbs with five days of food.
    My question is about sleeping bags. No mater which fill type, the weight seems to go up exponentially as the temp rating drops. I'm wondering if anyone has ever combined a 40 degree down bag with a silk liner and then put the sleeping bag inside an SOL emergency bivy? When combined with a closed cell foam pad would this be a viable system for late winter in the south and then again for early Fall in the Whites? The SOL bivys are more or less disposable but they are priced accordingly and can be tossed and replaced as needed.
    The heat index in Ms was 107 this afternoon so I wont be conducting any experiments with sleep systems till Dec. Since our winters are so mild here most retailers don't carry bags below 40 and you see a lot more 55 than 40! If I need a lower rated bag I want to order it asap so I can start packing and use my actual equipment to do my weekly PT hikes this summer and fall.
    Thanks...Michael (no trail name yet)
    Last edited by TwistedCF; 07-10-2019 at 20:42.

  2. #2

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    With a Feb 1 start date, the one thing you don't want to skimp on is the sleeping bag and a way to keep it dry. It will litterly mean the difference between life and death.

    A 40 degree bag, a silk liner and SOL bivy will not cut it. That combination is even marginal in April.

    A 0 degree bag, a silk liner and a SOL bivy would be the approperate combination for Feb. There is the potentual to have sub zero mornings at times. Although, it would be wise to head to town when those temps are forecast.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  3. #3

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    Thank you for the reply Slo-go'en. The thing I didn't know was how much the emergency bivy would mitigate heat loss, if any. I'll order the colder rated bag and if I decide I really need to drop a couple of pounds I'll switch to a one person shelter. I have been planning on using a 4 lb, two person, free standing tent but I have a few one person options that are three lbs or less without going over budget. I've always liked winter camping but it's been over twenty years since I did longer than a weekend. I really would like to keep the base weight around 15 and you know....staying alive would be a plus!

  4. #4
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    Long story: There are different wt and potential warmth adding categories of silk liners. As Slo go en said, and I assume he's detailing, are the lightest wt silk liners in the 4-5.5 oz range that only add UP TO 7-9* f or so warmth, basing those potential increases on optimal functioning ability. In an enclosed tent offering some more sleep system warmth you'd require a very warmth adding silk liner such as the Cocoon Thermolite. Silk is nice against the skin and slippery, more so than fleece, cotton, and some other similar liners but it's comparatively more $$. To save $ but add in some wt and possibly different fabric "feel" don't go with ripstop silk as the fabric for the liner. The liner, pad, sleep clothing, being enclosed in a tent, and some other factors would have to to be sharply addressed to make an accurately 40* temp rated bag as the core sleep system component work for 0 - -10* temps which you may experience. AND, since you're asking if it can work for a first wk of Feb NOBO start that makes me suspicious of your abilties to make such a bag work in the sleep system. IMHO I'm quite experienced in significantly extending a bag or quilt's temp rating as part of a sleep system but I woul not opt for a 40* bag for your start date. I suggest you sleep in a liner inside a bag a few nights to see if that system is personally agreeable. I use silk wt 4-5 oz bag liners to sometimes amend a sleep system but others don't like liners of whatever unexplained origin for the most part on WB so...?

    Short story: there comes a time when conditions, skill set, etc when it's best to go more simply to a colder rated bag

  5. #5

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    What he said. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  6. #6

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    Lots of good info Dogwood. Your post made me realize I left out some of the variables in my original post. Long underwear, wool socks, wool glove liners and wool cap. After a little more online browsing I'm considering a 10 degree bag with the above mentioned sleep clothing, an insulated pad and flannel liner. I may also start out with an inexpensive fleece blanket that it wouldn't break my heart to toss once things warm up a bit. The price, while not insignificant, is not my big aversion to the 0 and lower rated bags, it's the weight! I'm looking for something a little more modular so I can shed weight during summer with an easily replaceable layer I can pick up somewhere on trail in fall.
    I honestly didn't know bag liners were available in flannel. Embarrassing to admit but I've been so laser focused on silk that I hadn't noticed there were other options.

  7. #7
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    An SOL bivy might work for a night or two. But, it's a vapor barrier, so it pretty much stops evaporative and convective heat losses. Because it blocks water vapor it will lead to condensation accumulating from your body's perspiration on and in whatever sleeping bag you are using. As you sleep, both heat and moisture from your body "travel" through the sleeping bag. It's a slow process. But as long as you are in the bag providing a heat source, most of that moisture will travel through and evaporate out of the bag. [Bags still retain some additional moisture but come to an equilibrium point with their environment and use.] If you put what amounts to a vapor barrier over the bag, you trap pretty much all moisture and it will condense. In February that will likely lead to either a wet bag or, if below freezing, ice forming on and possibly even inside your sleeping bag, and it will then provide even less warmth. It's very hard to dry out a wet and/or frozen sleeping bag in February (you need heat and airflow, aka a clothes dryer). If you're going to start in February, there's really no realistic way around a breathable 0 to 10 degree bag or system (like two bags or quilts). Keep it dry, and allow it to air out as soon as you get out of it (while it is still warm). Warm. Cheap. Light. Choose any two.

  8. #8

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    Thanks for this 4eyedbuzzard. I hadn't considered the vapor barrier aspect of the emergency bivvy so that is now out! i guess what I keep getting hung up on is having to carry a heavy bag that I wont be using during warm weather. I'm basing that assessment on my warm weather camping in the South. If I'm in a tent here during warm weather I don't want any cover! If I unroll a bag at all it's just to get a little more padding to lay on. The more I look at bag liners the more I think that may be a good option. There is one on the market that says it can increase a bags rating by up to -25. Hypothetically a 20 degree bag with that type liner would put it at -5. The liner I mentioned weighs right at a pound but when paired with a 20 degree bag it may still be lighter than a 0 rated synthetic. Based on the prices I'm seeing I can afford down in a 20 degree bag but when you get down in the 0 degree range the down bags would blow my budget.
    To some of you in cooler climates reading this thread it may seem like I'm making much ado about nothing but weighing gear options is a fun part of planning this trip. I just won't have any opportunities to test any of the sleep system in real world conditions until I'm at elevation on the AT. Jan and Feb in Ms I'm usually in a cotton t-shirt. It's not quite Hades, but it's walking distance.
    I know what I don't know, that's why I'm here! Any and all input is appreciated

  9. #9

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    It takes a while to acclimate to cold temps. Also consider the fact you will be tired, cold and hungry. Everything you own will be damp and clammy.

    What would seem to be adequate in theory under ideal conditions is far from it in the real world of the AT. It's going to be friggen cold for a long time. You need to carry serious overkill.

    There will come a time when all you need is a sheet, but that's months away and if you keep up a good pace, you might mostly out run the hot weather.

    Of course, the other option is just to wait until you don't need serious overkill, like in April. Delay 2 months saves a lot in weight and expense.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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    I am excited for your hike. You will be cold and you will be wet. Zero or good 15 degree bag, w insulated sleep pad. Then look at your clothes and sleep clothes, inc. socks, gloves, hats. Some of these layers will be what you send home and get back. I also pack an sol which I use for a variety of things. For overnighting: Sitting on, laying horizontally over my bag when windy and damp, tucking just the feet of my bag into sol , wrapping my hind end and legs when hunkered down out of wind and it was just sooo wet and cold.Never had any condensation issue with it. It does have a few holes from being used, but they are pretty rugged I tried a liner fleece and silk - no heat benefit and always got tangled up. I definitely take it for slack packing. My husband loves his.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    It takes a while to acclimate to cold temps. Also consider the fact you will be tired, cold and hungry. Everything you own will be damp and clammy.

    What would seem to be adequate in theory under ideal conditions is far from it in the real world of the AT. It's going to be friggen cold for a long time. You need to carry serious overkill.

    There will come a time when all you need is a sheet, but that's months away and if you keep up a good pace, you might mostly out run the hot weather.

    Of course, the other option is just to wait until you don't need serious overkill, like in April. Delay 2 months saves a lot in weight and expense.
    OP should definitely consider the added cost of starting early. Typically carrying more weight (and expense) in insulation, gear, food, fuel. More days to cover same distance due to shorter days, hiking in snow and cold rain with slower general pace, lots of zero days waiting out storms in towns with extra money spent for hostels, motels, meals, etc. Unless one has to finish early due to schedule constraints, starting in April makes more sense for a lot of reasons.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TwistedCF View Post
    Lots of good info Dogwood. Your post made me realize I left out some of the variables in my original post. Long underwear, wool socks, wool glove liners and wool cap. After a little more online browsing I'm considering a 10 degree bag with the above mentioned sleep clothing, an insulated pad and flannel liner. I may also start out with an inexpensive fleece blanket that it wouldn't break my heart to toss once things warm up a bit. The price, while not insignificant, is not my big aversion to the 0 and lower rated bags, it's the weight! I'm looking for something a little more modular so I can shed weight during summer with an easily replaceable layer I can pick up somewhere on trail in fall.

    I honestly didn't know bag liners were available in flannel. Embarrassing to admit but I've been so laser focused on silk that I hadn't noticed there were other options.
    You're IMHO stepping on your wt shedding toes if you rock a 10* bag through a summer AT NOBO no matter how you modularize. It'll be too warm eventually! But if you do the Thermolite wt of a liner for example that may suffice as you're summer bed sheet/bag. Drop the 10* bag when weather sufficiently warms enough.

    Speaking for myself with your start date I could go a 20*, maybe even pushing it an accurately rated 30 bag or quilt, as my core sleep system piece but under both scenarios I'd want to - have to - modularize wisely. I'd definitely count on nights below 20* and certainly well below a 30* bag.

    If you want a 10-20* reasonably priced decently temp rated made in Maine USA of decent quality quilt try Enlightened Equipment. A quilt offers perhaps greater later warmer weather extended usage and basically infinite varieties of modularization on the front end of the hike. But, if doing a 20* quilt I strongly suggest you play with it out around 10- 20* before hitting an AT first wk of Feb start. IMHO you'd have to address quilt abilities or cons if you're new to quilts in those wintry conditions while pushing temp ratings of the core sleep system component.
    Last edited by Dogwood; 07-11-2019 at 22:59.

  13. #13
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    Know cheaper off brand, but also big dept store brands(Coleman, Aegis, Swiss Army, Slumberjack, Ozark Trail, etc) fudge their bag temp ratings to make them seem warmer and lighter wt(UL advertised???) in context of their temp ratings plus some are harder to warm with your body heat being rectangular bags that are comparatively heavier than similar mummy styles. So, those are other places to save $ and wt. Do NOT get caught out miserable in the cold with a sleep system that is significantly undervalued for the temps and conditions.

    Tip: when pushing a sleep systems rating on the foulest coldest wettest weather nights not in the bubble I might seek a dryer less draftier spot in an AT shelter that in itself is a solid non drafty shelter. Also, know where you sleep has an affect on cold. For example sleeping in a depression or steep sloping canyon is where cold settles and travels.


    You'll also have wet, cold wind, and sleety days with a virtual guarantee of some snowfall early on. Wet and cold is not a great scenario under such situations.

  14. #14

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    I'm not dead set on Feb 1st. I have all of 2020 cleared for my through hike after Jan. I want to get ahead of the bubble and I want time to do some off trail exploring in a few different areas. I could push my start up to sometime in March but at the end of Jan I will be watching the weather situation in Ga. At my fitness level I feel confident that I could power through and finish in four and a half to five months but I would really like to stretch it out till the end of Sep. This trek is about the journey, not the destination! An early start should give me time for some side excursions and still get me to Katahdin before it closes.
    I'm not new to sleeping under the stars and I have had some experience with cold weather camping in the Midwest. The new part of this will be carrying EVERYTHING! Truck camping has allowed me the luxury of never once considering the weight of a piece of equipment and as a result virtually none of my camp gear is suitable for trail life.
    I have noticed a lot of posters use the equation...warm, lightweight, inexpensive, pick two. A little research has shown this to be true and I have my own equation to add to the conversation. Cold, wet, happy, pick two! My outdoor experiences have taught me that I can be cold and happy, or wet and happy, but cold and wet equals miserable at best and could be catastrophic!
    Thanks to everyone who has shared their insights. I haven't made my final selections but I feel better equipped to make the decisions now and I wont go on trail under equipped!

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    Start around April 1, use a 30 degree bag. You will probably spend a few cold nights wearing all your clothes. Get on ebay and start looking for high quality light weight gear at bargin prices.

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    Personally, I would hate to have cold nights in series, and not be prepared for.
    Cold nights in most cases also mean cold days, and especially cold evenings, and only if I could look forward to a cosy night due to adequate or oversized sleep system I could stand such.

    I would recommend to carry two sleeping bags, one lightweight high quality down bag that would fit for the rest of the hike, and an oversized cheap synthetic bag you can thrash after the cold period is over.

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