Staying snug and warm in a sleeping bag
Oct 31 2013
First of all, try to protect yourself against wind chill. This means choosing a campsite in the shelter of a large rock or tree. Also, you do not need to sleep with a tent flysheet flapping noisily in the wind all night! Next, make sure you plan for the trip and set out adequately equipped – even if it is a very short trek. Even a single night in the outdoors should be as comfortable as you can make it.
First-time trekkers have a tendency to try to make do by borrowing used gear. This can easily be done for certain items but not for essential personal gear like sleeping bags and down jackets. Much used and worn out stuff will not be warm enough. If you are going to borrow these items, make sure they are in good condition. Apart from the sleeping bag and mat, look for efficient windproof and waterproof clothing.
Your sleeping bag must be suitable for the temperatures you are going to face. For mid-summer camping at altitudes up to 12,000 feet, sleeping bags with synthetic filling will do for most people. However, if you feel unusually cold or if you are going high, then you will need a down sleeping bag. At the end of summer, you will obviously need a down bag.
For warmth, it is a good idea to have a sleeping bag inner and outer. The inner is simple — if you cannot buy a readymade one, stitch your own. I have seen trekkers in West Bengal and Maharashtra take their mothers’ old cotton saris to the local tailor to make inners! The thicker the fabric, the more air it will trap and the warmer the lining.
However, do not let it be bulky otherwise it will be a pain to pack and carry. For the outer, either buy one from an adventure goods shop or go to a manufacturer of tents and ask him to make one from Gore Tex fabric. An outer made of Gore Tex will “breathe” and let the moisture generated by the heat of your body escape outward.
Then, insulate yourself against the cold from the ground. Inflatable mats are most insulating and easiest to carry. But there is a range of rubber mats available in adventure goods shops that are nearly as warm. The thicker the mat, the greater the insulation. But it is also bulkier when it comes to carrying it. If you are carrying all your gear on your back, choose what suits you.
If you feel really cold and are heading really high, take along a plastic sheet. Spread this on the floor of the tent first, then place your mat on it. To make it small and easy to carry, get the sheet cut to match the size of your mat with an inch to spare on all four sides.