Saturday, March 26, 2011

First Overnighter of the Year

Back in January, I posted about Rachael and I making a camping quilt for me.* The quilt is designed to be good down to about 40 degrees, and since last night's forecast was for lows in the low 30's, it was a perfect chance to see if my quilt could be used comfortably below the rated temp.

There are several ways to extend the range of your sleeping bag or quilt. The first is to add layers such as socks, long johns or a coat. There's an old saying: if your feet are cold, put on a hat. It's true. You can add a light layer outside the bag, like a poncho (as long as you're not compressing the all-important loft of the insulation. Another way is to increase the insulation under you, by adding another pad or even a thick pile of leaves under your tent. Some recommend a hot water bottle: pour boiling water into a stainless steel bottle, slip a sock over it to keep from burning you, then put the whole thing into a gallon ziplock (in case it leaks) and slip it down at your feet.

I set up 'camp' in my backyard. After putting up my tent I laid out my sleeping pads. For cold weather I use a blue closed-cell foam (CCF) pad from WalMart under my Thermarest pad (extra ground insulation). I also spread out my quilt and let it rest for a while and reloft after being packed up in my backpack.

Around 9pm I headed out for the night, dressed as I would be for a regular backpacking trip; long sleeve poly shirt, light windbreaker pants and wool socks. I woke up a few times during the night (normal for me) and checked the temperature, which was falling steadily.

At 45 degrees I pulled on a fleece hat. At 40 degrees I pulled on my field jacket liner and bundled a little deeper under the quilt. Still toasty. At 35 degrees (5am or so) I woke up and, although not cold, I wasn't really warm anymore either. My usual work wake-up time is 4am, so I came on inside, well rested and satisfied with the results.

I still had a lightweight thermal top and bottom I could have put on, so I feel pretty confident that my setup will take me comfortably down to freezing, and survivable well into the 20's. I don't Winter camp, but this should be good enough for most early Spring/late Fall surprises that Mother Nature throws at us, especially since I've got a trip planned for the end of April up into the Blue Ridge Mountains.

* Bou asked for pictures, so here's a couple shots of the quilt.

The first one shows the quilt spread out, showing its semi-mummy shape. It's made of ripstop nylon with synthetic insulation inside.

Here's the footbox. The bottom 18" or so is sewed together to make a cozy little cave for your feet. You can kind of see the draft-stopper, which is a fringe of nylon that runs all the way around the quilt. It's perfect for tucking under you when it's really chilly.


Suzette said...

You'd have more readers if you would describe your clothing layering in reverse order. Also: tip jar.