Sleeping system

9:25 p.m. on December 15, 2009 (EST)
65 reviewer rep
168 forum posts

For years, I used a sleeping bag. Used the same one, no matter what the weather. It was heavy enough for cold weather, and I would add clothing as needed. It was too heavy for hot weather; sometimes I would take along a liner and use that on top of the sleeping bag rather than in it.

As time has gone on, I've tried different things, and now that has all jelled into what is a flexible system for me.

The heart of it is a Big Agnes bag. I have the 50 deg. Lost Dog. If I had it to do over again, I would go for the 40 deg. Cross Mountain instead. It would give a bit more flexibility.

I like the Big Agnes for two reasons. First and foremost, I am a big man. Most mummy bags are cut slim. I can fit in them, but it is truly confining. Not a claustrophobia problem, a barely-enough-room problem. The Big Agnes is cut broader and is very comfy for me. Just like my old Sierra Designs used to be when I was a skinny kid.

Second, I like the way that the pad mates with the bag. The bag really does weighless and pack smaller. You really don't need the insulation on the bottom when it is mated with a pad. Could be anything from Ensolite on up -- I've used a couple of Thermarests (3/4 length and full length) and an Exped DownMat and been very happy with all three.

For most 3 season camping, this bag alone is enough. Maybe add a t-shirt and socks on a chillier night. Like I say, a 40 deg. bag would give just a bit more flexibility; one night I pushed the limits and was kind of chilly. No harm done; lesson learned.

The Big Agnes works really well with liners. I have 3 -- sort of. The lightest is a Cocoon silk mummy liner. I use it in warmer weather when I want just a bit more warmth than the BA bag. As with most mummies, it is tight on me. For some reason, with this silk bag, it doesn't bother me.

When it gets a bit cooler, I go with a fleece liner. It is still pretty lightweight, but warmer than the silk; sometimes that is all I need, and I sleep on top of the BA bag. If it gets even cooler, then inside the BA bag with it and it's all toasty again.

If it is going to get down below freezing, then I take my REI Kilo +20 (discontinued.) I zip it open except for down around my feet. It goes inside the BA bag, over top of me, but with my feet in the footbox for extra warmth. Remember, the pad below is taking care of insulation on that side; I don't need to be fully enclosed by the bag. This is a very toasty combination down to -- well, I have gone out in weather that cold for a while now, since I moved to North Carolina a while back.

I tried a very simple bivy sack a while back -- Equinox Ultralight Bivy -- but did not feel as though it gave any extra warmth. Kind of surprised me -- a layer is a layer. It would have helped with damp weather but I was trying for extra warmth on that particular night.

Naturally I don't take all of this stuff every time. I take what I think I will need.

I didn't set out to get to where I am now; it was trial and error. But it turns out that I have set up a system that works really well for me, with adaptibility over a wide range of conditions.

August 21, 2014
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