Sleeping in my clothes? I've been doing it wrong.

8:22 a.m. on March 23, 2010 (EDT)
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I have, in the past, slept in all my layers if the weather dipped below the temperature rating of my bag. As with many things, I've been told that I am "doing it wrong;" moisture from my clothing has been reducing the efficiency of my down bag. Ergo, naked might have been better.

But I was recently intrigued by a professional thru-hiker's defense of clothing usage--he wore clothing layers to bed on cold nights, but did it with a twist; he wore his wool clothing next to his body, then used his pack liner (a trash compactor bag) to cover his lower body and ultra-light, not particularly breathable, raingear to cover his upper body before getting into his bag. That way, he suggested, the layers that still functioned while wet minimally affected the function of the down.

He obviously wasn't suggesting that soaked clothes be worn--but the moderately sweaty clothes that come from hiking.

Of course, I'd prefer not to bring trail funk into my sleeping bag at all. It's just that I own a 32 degree bag and didn't want to spring for another down bag before my upcoming late summer/early fall hike of the John Muir Trail. (I have friends that would like to change my trail name to "Cheap B******").

I hope you will give me as much thought and feedback as has gone into the neverending "pooping in the woods" thread!!

10:03 a.m. on March 23, 2010 (EDT)
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I really can't imagine wearing anything but dry layers to bed.

I personally wear a full polyester base layer with Smartwool socks and a Smartwool beanie to bed.

Don't under estimate the importants of a good pad during cold weather adventures.

10:13 a.m. on March 23, 2010 (EDT)
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I hear ya' about the pad, Dreamer. Gave up inflatable awhile back after freezing my behankers off on cold ground. Maybe there is an inflatable out there that insulates as well as closed cell foam, but it wasn't either of the inflatables I have owned.

From your pic, I would trust anything you have to say about cold!

Another thought on down and moisture--isn't it tempting to slide down into your sleeping bag on a cold night? But wow, does my bag ever pick up moisture from my breathing/snoring.

10:26 a.m. on March 23, 2010 (EDT)
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Maybe the "pro"thru hiker was trying to mimic a vapor barrier via using the bag and rain gear.When the temps drop down low enough,my experiance has been around 20degrees and lower,a vapor barrier is both warmer and i dehidrate less.Google vapor barriers for more info.Other than this i have found that if i have to wear all i have to bed i have little to add when leaveing my sleeping bag on those cold mornings.I prefer to have dry,clean cloths when i sleep,in winter this is even more important for a good nights rest.ymmv

11:49 a.m. on March 23, 2010 (EDT)
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For extra insulation I use a sheet sewn together the longway and a light blanket also sewn together. The sheet goes on the inside like a vapor barrier and the blanket on the outside over the bag as extra insulation. I use a 20 degree bag and with this method I can extend to comfort zone at night.

I also do not sleep in anything more than my boxers/Tshirt in the summer and long underwear in winter. In winter and cool summer mornings I sleep with my clothing in my bag with me so it will be warm in the morning to put on. A water bottle in the winter too can be kept from freezing by keeping it in your bag at night.

8:00 p.m. on March 23, 2010 (EDT)
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The sleeping in clothes vs sleeping in skin only vs somewhere in between has been debated for eons. Jack Stephenson was an avid proponent of sleeping naked (as well as use of VBLs, and a lot of other things). The old Stephenson catalogs had long tirades, er, I mean, discussions of the advantages of naked sleeping. At the other end of the spectrum, a large number of ultralight advocates preach the advantage of carrying a minimal weight sleeping bag (or blanket/comforter) and making up the difference with all the clothes you carry with you.

One big disadvantage of sleeping with no clothes or in your Tshirt and underpants is that all your sweat and body oils are directly transferred to the lining of your sleeping bag (unless you use a liner). Sleeping in long johns helps some with that, or long pajamas. But in warm weather, you probably don't have long johns with you anyway, and pajamas, well, that's extra weight.

Sleeping in your clothes is just plain uncomfortable. Especially if you do not empty that SAK or Leatherman and all the other stuff you had in your pockets. But sweaty, damp (or soaked), clothes covered with mud or just dust can really be uncomfortable. On the other hand, I have been in situations where we all slept in everything except our double plastic boots, in case the storm developed to the point that the tent was ripped to shreds or we otherwise had to bail quickly. And I have bivied in just the clothes I had on me (tied into the slope, no sleeping bag available). Clothes can get twisted around and get really uncomfortable. The theory that the clothes provide more layers of insulation is partially true, but clothes inside a sleeping bag are not that effective as insulation. Remember, when hiking/climbing/skiing, you want to wear just enough to minimize loss of heat (except hot, humid climes, when you want to dump as much heat as possible), but little enough to avoid sweating and soaking your clothes.

It is all a tradeoff, like just about everything else in the hills and woods - there is no answer that is always right, and many times, it's just what is available at the time.

For the OP, don't worry so much about what you are told - wear as much or little as makes you comfortable. Unless you are using a VBL, avoid wearing your wet clothing (or even damp clothing) inside your down sleeping bag (or even your synthetic sleeping bag). (Caution - use of a VBL requires an understanding of how it works and doesn't work - it ain't magic).

As for the "professional thru-hiker", there ain't no such thing. You can't earn a living by thru-hiking. Full-time trail-bum, maybe. Maker and peddler of gear for thru-hikers, maybe. But professional - nope.

June 22, 2018
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