Friday, February 20, 2015

Sleeping system

Yesterday evening, I walked into REI to browse.  It wasn't my intent to actually purchase anything, but I do still have a few bucks left on a gift card, and I do need a few things.  Before long, I found myself drawn into a review and discussion with several workers there that wasn't exactly what I came in for, but which was very useful nonetheless.

One of the things I've mentioned about last summer's trip to the Uintas was that I didn't sleep very well.  Part of the reason for this was that I wasn't quite warm enough at night.  I also should have (and meant to, but for some reason didn't get around to it) brought some sleeping pills.  But that's easy to fix; the warmth was what I was less sure of.  I had a bag--a small one, it's true, but still--that was supposedly rated at 30°.  Along with a knit cap, warm base-layers, merino wool socks (midweight, although I wore two pairs to bed) and a fleece to keep my core warmer--as well as even breaking out my gloves--I should have been OK.  But I wasn't quite.

I've been thinking of replacing the bag with a slightly bigger one, but I won't find anything at a price anywhere near what I paid for that one; not without taking on a ton of bulk and weight.  I looked at liners, and REI had some pretty solid looking ones, although they cost twice as much as my bag did.  I still like them, but I'm not really looking to spend that kind of money to correct what is mostly a small problem.

I also saw tiny and inexpensive space blankets, and I thought both in terms of size/weight and price, that looked about right.  I asked one of the guys there what his experience with them was.  Naturally, he recommended the much more expensive liners, but he did make a few good points; the space blankets are very crinkly and loud, and they don't breathe at all.  On reflection, I have vague memories of one of the kids I was a Boy Scout with bringing one of them instead of a sleeping bag one over-nighter, and him having a bad experience being cold and uncomfortable.

I still think the idea has some merit, but I'm no longer seriously considering using a space blanket as a sleeping bag liner.  Oh, well.

But one thing that the guy at REI pointed out that I hadn't really considered was that I might have had problems because of other aspects of my sleeping system, notably my pad.  Without sufficient insulation from the cold in the ground, sleeping bags don't perform to their warmth rating.  Of course, he recommended me toward several REI brand or Thermarest brand inflatable pads that are also very expensive, which I'm not interested in, but he may well have a point.  In fact, I'm now thinking that he almost certainly does; using a single, cheap blue-foam pad was not a good insulator.

Luckily for me, however, I already have more options.  I, in fact, own three blue foam pads as well as a Coleman self-inflating pad.  The latter is probably bulkier and heavier than I'm interested in, but it wouldn't be hard for me to roll up two foam pads together, bundle them fairly tightly and stick them together on the bottom of my pack, where the (minimal) extra bulk won't actually cause any additional problem for me to carry.  Because the things are essentially weightless, carrying two of them is more a problem of bulk than of weight, but again; the way I can pack them will make that a moot point too.

So, I'm going to make a slighter tweak to my sleeping system than I had thought--I'll merely bring an additional pad of those I already own, and wear an additional skin-tight baselayer underneath what I wore last time.  This should, I believe, do the trick.  If, for some reason, I'm still feeling a little colder than I'd like, then I can investigate liners.  I might do that via much cheaper fleece liners that I've seen in the sporting goods section of stores like Meijer or Wal-Mart, because it's much cheaper, but it would be bulker, no doubt.  I do like the liners I saw at REI, but they're at least $60 a piece.

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