I have ordered a Z-Packs 20-degree (-7 degrees C) regular width, medium length sleeping bag. This is a plain rectangular bag with a 3/4 zip so it can be mostly unfolded to be like a quilt. There are no tubes around the zip to insulate it – you just put the zip underneath you if it’s really cold. There’s no hood or fancy neck warmers – you just pick a size up (or buy their extra hood) to snuggle in when it’s cold. Check out their website if you want to hear more about their bags. It is being made as we speak and will be here in a few weeks (hopefully!). UPDATE: ZPacks bag has arrived and been tested. It is excellent. Comfortable, easy to use, definitely warm enough but also easy to cool down (get airflow) when needed.
I’ll probably get a silk inner to keep the bag clean, but also to use as a sheet when it is too warm to use the bag. UPDATE: No silk inner – couldn’t justify the weight!
I did a lot of research on sleeping bags and learnt a lot.
1. Down is almost useless as an insulator when compressed, so the part of the bag underneath you does nothing to keep you warm – hence the advantage of an insulating sleeping mat and why quilts are more popular in lightweight circles than bags.
2. Attached hoods can be quite a disadvantage. They can be uncomfortable, tangle around you so you end up breathing (condensation) all over the inside of the hood and can’t be taken off so are just deadweight in warmer weather.
3. If there is too much space inside a bag it will be cold (too much air to heat up). Obviously if there’s not enough, you’ll be uncomfortable (or won’t be able to put extra clothes on when it gets cold).
4. The aim is to be just warm enough, with all your extra clothes on, on the coldest night.
5. It’s really really important to not let your sleeping bag get wet! (the Z-packs bags come with their own dry-bag as a stuff sack)
I was thinking of going without a sleeping mat, but it was suggested that it’s probably worth it for comfort and general wellbeing if I’m not accustomed to sleeping on the ground!
I have bought a Thermarest NeoAir XLite 3/4 length. This is a blow up sleeping mat, but is only ~1.2m long. I’ve tested a similar length mat and did not have any problems at all with the length. The mat will help both comfort and insulation.
The mat can be blown up by hand (OK, by mouth!), but this can cause moisture to accumulate inside the mat and damage it. I’m considering buying some kind of pump (probably bellows style, I’ve seen some that double as pillows and are fairly light) to prevent this.
UPDATE: No bellows, just blowing it up by hand (mouth). On another note, I now count a sleeping mat as a necessity, having realised how cold the ground is (esp since down insulation doesn’t work underneath you), and how much difference a sleeping mat makes to this temperature.