On the Sleep System

Getting a good night sleep is critical to maintaining the energy level necessary to backpack day in and day out.  Along with my shelter, my sleep system is my #1 defense against life threatening hypothermia.  It is also one of my heaviest things I am carrying.

When I did my research, conventional wisdom was that a 20-degree sleeping bag was good enough.  With that in mind and based upon the recommendation of a thru-hiker I met on the Ice Age Trail, I purchased the Enlightened Equipment Revelation with 900 fill.  I bought the wide edition on their recommendation as I am a side sleeper.  I also selected the Downtech water resistant down.  It took a while to receive it, but it is simply amazing.  It has become the #1 thing for everyone in the family to use when they want to snuggle in for a nap.  It is soft and warm.  I’ve huddled in it in raining conditions and it kept me warm even though it was damp.  I thought everything was settled.

The 2016 Halfmile Anywhere hiker survey made me question my decision.  The #1 complaint that class had was that a 20-degree sleeping quilt was not warm enough.  The 2017 survey also reported the same results.

Because I live in Wisconsin and backpack in colder weather, my sleeping pad is the slightly heavier Klymit Static V Insulated from Massdrop, which I hope will compensate for the 20-degree quilt.  It has an R value of 4.4 which is much higher than most hikers’ sleeping pads.  It also costs about a quarter of what most hikers use.  As I’m a side sleeper, I need a sleeping pad with more cushion or I wake up with sore hips.  I am also a warm sleeper, so this might all be moot.

The bottom line is that I already dropped a good chunk of change for an excellent sleeping quilt.  I think using a thicker insulated pad will keep me warm enough.  I’m not going to replace my Revelation.  Instead, I have focused on some other strategies.

I have three choices, and I’m not going to make them right away.  Once choice is to ship my trusty Costco down quilt.  For $20, this quilt is an amazing deal and I own two of them.  Adding the Costco quilt to my sleep system will surely keep me warm.  Another choice is to add a silk sleeping quilt liner.  The liner had two useful functions.  First, it keeps my quilt from touching my dirty disgusting backpacking body.  The liner is much easier to clean.  Second, the liner generally adds 10 degrees of warmth.  It also weighs less than my Costco quilt.  My final choice is to upgrade my sleeping base layer to a thicker grade.

So there you have it.  I buy a simply amazing product.  It should be perfect based upon all the research I did prior to purchasing it, but it might not be enough.  I’ve tested it in below freezing conditions which is easy for me to do and I seemed to be warm enough.  The only way I’ll know that my sleep system will keep me warm on the PCT is to hike the PCT.  I think I will do that.