Getting Extra Warmth Out of Your Sleeping Bag

Marmot SawtoothWe’ve been experiencing some perfect fall camping weather lately, but the winter cold isn’t too far out. If you’ve noticed your toes getting cold while you’re in your sleeping bag, or you’re still having flashbacks from those nights last winter you spent shivering instead of sleeping, it’s probably time to start thinking about adding some warmth to your sleeping bag. Of course, you can always just buy a new, warmer sleeping bag, but there are other things you can try before shelling out the money on a new bag.

Sleeping bag liners are a great way to add some extra warmth to your sleeping bag. Liners come in a number of different materials that can add anywhere between 5 and and 30 degrees to your bag’s warmth rating. Bag liners are also a great way to increase the lifespan of your sleeping bag.

Sometimes you don’t need any special gear to get the job done. A wool blanket is a simple way to get more insulation. Any blanket will do really, but wool has the advantage of insulating even when exposed to moisture.

Sleeping on the cold hard ground can suck all the warmth from your body like a sponge. A sleeping pad will help keep you insulated from the ground, and it will also add a lot of comfort to your sleep set up. You can get fancy with an inflatable pad, like ones made by Therm-a-Rest, or keep it simple with a basic closed cell foam pad.

Sleep with a hot water bottle. This is just fleeting comfort, but it can quite nice on a really cold night. Boil some water on your camp stove and fill your water bottle. Toss it in your sleeping bag 15 minutes before bed. Just make sure the cap is screwed on tight…

While you wouldn’t want to sleep with one every night, an emergency blanket is good to have on hand when you need it. They’re small enough to be kept in a pack pocket, and when the temperature unexpectedly plummets, you will be glad you have it.

Pull the cord! Old-school rectangular sleeping bags don’t have this feature, but most mummy bags can be cinched to trap in warmth. That little draw string dangling at the opening of your bag can be pulled tight to help keep you warm. Make sure you don’t pull it all the way closed though. Leave an opening for you to breathe, otherwise moisture from your breath can saturate your sleeping bag, which can be unpleasant to say the least.

Sleep with layers on. Again, this isn’t really adding warmth to your sleeping bag, but a warm base layer can will definitely help keep you toasty in your sleeping bag.

Of course, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and buy a new bag. It would be wonderful if sleeping bags lasted forever, but even the best bags need to be replaced over time. If your bag is past its prime, or it just isn’t warm enough, downgrade it to a summer bag and buy a new cold weather sleeping bag.

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