Smokey mountain advice

2:02 p.m. on February 26, 2014 (EST)
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I'm heading on a four nite trip with a friend and few other fellows whom I havnt met but I expect to be good company. I'm used to going as light as possible but I'm pretty sure that this will be a trip where we stuff as much in our bags as we can fit. We will only cover around 25 miles but I can't decide between my 0 degree bag or my 40 degree with liner. I also need to decide between 2 man tent and hammock. . We are leaving march 9th. Any suggestions what combo I should take

4:16 p.m. on February 26, 2014 (EST)
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Faced with your gear imitations i would choose the 0f bag, it still has the potential to get really cold. As far as tent or hammock, do you have a tarp for the hammock and what do u plan to use for under insulation? If you have a tarp and a pad or underquilt to use with your hammock then i would choose hammock personally. But a tent will work fine also. The tent or hammock thing really just boils down to personal preference.

4:38 p.m. on February 26, 2014 (EST)
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jock...what as far as clothes will you be sleeping in?...I sleep in puffies and thermal base-layers (basically everything but shells get used at night) so a 40 degree bag with a liner would be plenty for me.

6:51 p.m. on February 26, 2014 (EST)
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how well do you know your body thermostat?

generally speaking, are you a cold/hot sleeper?

do you prefer the cover of a tent or are you accepting of being "exposed"?

these are questions I would ask and proceed from there!

and to echo joseph...puffies=gold!

best of luck! :)

 

7:30 p.m. on February 26, 2014 (EST)
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I can't stand wearing excessive layers while sleeping unless its REALLY cold. The restricted feeling just drives me nuts. Not to mention temps can easily dip into the single digits or lower still at elevation in the smokies in early march.

My best advice would be to take a 15F bag and if it got close to just wear a puffy etc. But stretching a 40F bag to work comfortably in and around the 10-15F range is certainly doable, but I would just bring the 0f and be certain your covered without having to reinvent the wheel at the last moment trying to find out what works for you and what doesnt.

As of today lows are still 9f-28f throughout the park, highs are 35-51. So it depends on where you will be exactly, but i doubt it will be significantly warmer in a week and a half.

So ask yourself, will wearing a jacket and some extra clothes inside your 40f bag keep you warm and comfortable at 10f? If I were in your shoes i would definitely take the 0f bag. You can also open the 0f bag and vent it a little, but if you have all your layers on and your inside your 40f bag, your going to be hard pressed to get warmer. Yeah you can do tricks like the hot water in a nalgene, hand warmers etc. Its not super cold so either way you go you will be "ok" in the end.

It also depends on if we are talking about a quality and accurately rated 0f and 40f bag. A cheap non accurate bag would be more like 0f=15f and 40f=50f. What brand and model are your bags? If its a high quality accurately rated 40f i would be more inclined to recommend that route. Pay attention to the weather forecasts beforehand, if its looking like a cold front plan accordingly, if its gonna be warm then maybe take the 40f. But in either case make sure you have some warm layers to wear to augment if required.

8:20 p.m. on February 26, 2014 (EST)
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As one who goes backpacking in the smoky mountain region on a regular basis---I'd go for the 40 degree bag...

And tent vs hammock is a like someone noted--a personal preference...

I like to be in a tent for my own reasons...

Have you picked a route yet?

1:54 a.m. on February 27, 2014 (EST)
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522 and Rambler are correct...you need to know your own body in relation to the gear you will be using...but if you have ever slept in the temps that are predicted you should have no issues unless you have changed up a lot of your gear since the last time. As far as the strategy of going light on sleeping-insulation and heavy on layers...I was convinced of the strategy immediately...but it is not necessarily better than a more traditional strategy which calls for large amounts of sleeping-insulation...it is more of a personal choice and system of logic.

I personally bring as little sleeping insulation as possible...but I am always completely safe...because I always bring more than enough total insulation to get me through the lowest low expected (you're only going out 4 nights...the forecast is fairly reliable at that range). Since ultimately I carry the same amount of insulation...the only difference between me and someone with a larger sleeping-bag is that prefer to wear as much of my insulation as possible...because it can go with me:

1) when I get up in the middle of the night

2) when I am sitting around camp

3) when I am moving around in my sleep at night (I sort of flail around if not pinned in a hammock).

When it comes to comfort...I find just the opposite of Rambler...I find sleeping in my puffies more comfortable and less restrictive than a sleeping-bag...particularly a mummy-bag (several times a night I usually need to untangle myself from my bag). With puffies my arms + legs + torso are free to move around...and my warm bubble follows me into whatever position I find most comfortable. It can take a time or two to get accustomed to sleeping in a puffy hooded-jacket and pants (similar to sleeping in a hammock for the first-time)...but with high fill-power down and ultralight 10-20 denier fabrics I slept better than I ever had in the cold on the first night.

Another reason I prefer bringing less sleeping-insulation is that with a sleeping-bag you only have the bag itself to regulate your temp...where as with layers and a light quilt you have multiple configurations of layer warmth (base and puffy...jacket and pants) in addition to the quilt you have to regulate your temp (an analogy would be having a thermostat with more settings). So...as the temp gets warmer and colder through the year I drop different components to best fit my needs...maybe just the jacket and not the puffy pants this time...maybe just the quilt this time...maybe my heavy thermal base-layers + puffies + winter quilt? A zero degree-bag has a smaller comfort zone than puffies and quilt.

7:19 a.m. on February 27, 2014 (EST)
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In agreement with JR on varying the sleep clothing to expand the temp range.  I'm taking my 40°f quilt into the upper teens currently and working my way down as I tweak the sleep gear.

9:05 a.m. on February 27, 2014 (EST)
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Thanks for the responses. To answer additional questions..... O degree bag 20 year old slumberjack 40 degree bag lafuma thermarest inflatable sleeping pad I only have utility type tarp for hammock the campsites in the park are 92, 92, 13, 95 my two man tent is 3 season but I don't want to use my one man tent its a glorified bivy. I don't really sleep well in mummy bags but its all I have and I dont like clothing on my feet and legs but ill deal with it. To be honest I love hiking and I'm used to travelling much longer distances but sleeping has always been a grind and I usually get started on my next leg prior to sunrise. Im the new guy in this group and its going to be more laid back and more like a party

11:27 a.m. on February 28, 2014 (EST)
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Hey jock, I'm heading to the smokies tonight for a two night trip (Cataloochee side) and have chosen a 30 degree bag. as recently as last week I was carrying my winter bag (-10F). I'm in the crowd that doesn't like sleeping in jackets so I'll let you know how it goes. :)

2:29 p.m. on February 28, 2014 (EST)
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Those advocating for the spring rated bag have some valid points to consider, though I personally would take a 0F bag until April.  I prefer unzipping the bag or laying mostly out of it if it's too warm, rather than finding the temps take a dive and not being comfortable. I also do not like sleeping in lost of clothing or layers. 

Many of the folks who carry the 30-40F bag also tend to get many bag night a year, so their selection is informed with lots of experience and knowledge about their metabolism, gear, habits, and conditions for frequented locations. 

11:58 a.m. on March 3, 2014 (EST)
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Chiming in late, but last year I hiked with a guy who left the River-to-River Trail (Illinois) early because his 40-degree bag wasn't up to multiple nights in the low 20's.

1:23 p.m. on March 3, 2014 (EST)
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Jock,  

Well as promised....I took my 30 degree bag last weekend and it was uncomfortable Friday night; I could have used a little more insulation. Saturday night was fine...

As I look at the 10 day forecast from weather.com, the lows are consistently in the 30ies F. Unless your 40 degree bag is true to rating and/or you don’t mind sleeping in your jacket, I would bring the zero bag.

3:23 p.m. on March 3, 2014 (EST)
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Just to be clear for those who have never tried sleeping in layers...there is absolutely zero chance of you being cold if you sleep in your layers...because you should be adequately warm in your layers without the additional sleeping insulation...the sleeping insulation is completely bonus (also why it is so minimal). The only folks who complain about not bringing enough sleeping insulation are those who do not sleep in their layers...or who do not know how to properly pack a sufficient amount of clothing. The idea that you take a greater chance of being cold when you sleep in layers is completely mythological and not based in reality at all.

Like so much of backpacking there is nothing wrong with either strategy...one is simply more traditional than the other (though part of me thinks that bringing an abundance of sleeping insulation is a very recent historical phenomenon). The primary difference between the two strategies is that sleeping in layers emphasizes utility (because you cannot walk around in a sleeping bag) over the (for some) discomfort of sleeping in layers. However...as I mentioned above there are other advantages of sleeping in layers...you can flail around in your sleep more than in a mummy...it is cheaper...and getting up in the middle of the night is considerably more pleasant when you bring your warm bubble of air (what some call a microclimate) with you. Also...at times (in the warmer months) sleeping in layers can save considerable space and weight because you often do not need to bring a bag at all...often just a liner or nothing at all will do.

As far as the comfort issue...I was convinced of the strategy the first night I tried it (the same goes for the only other two folks I know personally who have tried it). I suspect that lot of the comfort issues come down to what people bring as layers to sleep in. In temps below freezing I wear super thin wicking shorts and long-sleeve top against my skin (which I imagine everyone does). Over the wicking layer I wear a lightweight thermal (powerdry) top and full-length bottoms (here is where I really differ from a more traditional approach). Over my base-layers I sleep in +800 fill down parka and pants made of 10-20 denier nylon fabric...which is equal to or better than most high-end sleeping bags...and very similar in feel. Over everything I use a 40-50 degree synthetic quilt (Primaloft One)...because my winter pack has ample room to prevent compression loss...and because I find synthetic insulation deals with the vapor that freezes in your outer layer of insulation better than down. Given what I sleep in then...(unless you sleep commando) my sleeping insulation is very similar to a more traditional approach...save for the fact that I use one additional (potentially restrictive) layer to sleep in (the thin thermal base-layer)...and my "sleeping-bag" comes in three (modular) pieces.

4:01 p.m. on March 3, 2014 (EST)
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Looks like the lows will be upper 20s to low 30s throughout my trip but one night we will be on windy higher elevation bald. Its an interesting debate . I'm leaning towards the 0 degree bag and leaving my fleece liner at home. I'm sure I would be fine either way. I have no problem with the layer philosophy.

4:35 p.m. on March 3, 2014 (EST)
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@Joseph

Yeah, but…..I like to sleep in my t-shirt and boxer shorts in an interruptible bubble of warmth :)

10:50 p.m. on March 3, 2014 (EST)
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Right Patman...there is no right or wrong way...I was only taking issue with the idea that using a lighter sleeping-bag necessarily means less overall warmth than taking a 20 degree sleeping-bag...or that sleeping in layers is necessarily more uncomfortable. For someone who likes to sleep in a t-shirt and boxers (I sleep in more than that at home)...a mummy-bag seems like an appropriate choice.

10:58 a.m. on March 4, 2014 (EST)
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Jock,

I used to sleep in the Smokies every spring on the way to Florida in March. Those mountains are incredibly damp and it makes it feel cold. I was always surprised by the weather there in March. Bring the zero degree bag and save some weight somewhere else. Most bags are over-rated.

11:01 a.m. on March 4, 2014 (EST)
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I disagree with Joseph. There is always a chance of being cold no matter what layers you have. It depends on the conditions. People freeze to death with some regularity doing winter trips.

4:13 p.m. on March 4, 2014 (EST)
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ppine...I can see how you would misunderstand my point...but my point is not that you cannot freeze to death (which happens with much greater regularity in cities and towns than it does outdoors)...my point is that a sleeping-bag is not anymore warmer than bringing an equal amount of insulation in layers. If I wear 20 degrees of warmth in a combination of layers and a 40 degree quilt...I will be warmer than someone who sleeps in boxers and a t-shirt with a 30 degree sleeping-bag. One form of insulation is not warmer than another...one is simply more traditional than the other...though only recently more traditional...because I am quite positive that for most of history those who slept outdoors slept in all their clothes and didn't bring puffy sleeping-bags so that they could sleep in their underwear...and did so for many of the same reasons I do (the old ways are sometimes best).

Also...sleeping in layers is not about saving weight? Sure...in the warmer months it can save you some weight and space...but in the winter the weight is about the same (because you are bringing the same amount of insulation). In fact...sleeping in layers is sometimes a bit heavier...and takes up a bit more space in the winter due to the fact that mummy-style sleeping-bags (while a static and non-modular form of insulation)...do usually provide slightly more warmth for weight. Sleeping in layers is about increasing versatility (sleeping-bags are only usable while in a static position)...and having a more modular system of insulation (which allows one to tailor the amount of insulation one brings to better match the situation they expect to encounter...as opposed to an all or nothing sleeping-bag approach). Saving weight is just a bonus that frequently results due to the advantages that sleeping in layers provides...not the goal.

7:39 a.m. on March 5, 2014 (EST)
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I'm only two days away and excited about the trip. I'm happy to get away from the complexity of my day to day business. I'm not concerned much about the weather. I really appreciate the feedback and agree that there are different ways to keep warm. I'm confident I would've been g one either way. I packed my 0degree bag, inflatable pad, and 2 man three season tent. All to get her I'm around 9 pounds. Not a big deal its going to be an easy trek for me with the pace and distance these guys have chosen. The meals planned sound awesome and I'm ready to go. thanks again. Ill report back next week

3:27 p.m. on March 5, 2014 (EST)
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thanks to Joseph

4:21 p.m. on March 5, 2014 (EST)
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Have a great time! Post a trip report when you get back.

October 1, 2014
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