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My Five-Ounce Sleeping Bag

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Actually, it was a sleeping bag liner, but it was five ounces, and it did keep me warm as the temperature dropped to the low forties on the bank of the Manistee River in Michigan. The key to my warmth was the fifteen minutes we spent gathering dead, dry bracken ferns to build a two-foot thick mattress, which we set the tent on. Then, with all my clothes on, I was fine.

If it is possible to stay warm with only a light sleeping bag liner in autumn, when it was only a few degrees above freezing, this strategy should work well for summer nights in the sixties. I think I bought the liner from Campmor, but I have since sewn a simple one out of bargain-bin nylon material ($1/yard) obtained at Walmart.

Using a Liner as a Sleeping Bag

Be careful backpacking with only a liner as a sleeping bag. It could be, at the very least, uncomfortable to the point of ruining your trip. Experiment, and know yourself and your environment.

First, learn a few tricks. Breath in your bag if it isn't too humid, and you will be much warmer. Some will tell you not to do this, because you will be damp in the morning, but in a dry environment you will be fine once you hit the trail. Dry the liner during a break.

Another trick is the one described above; using a mattress of dried plants. You can try dead leaves, palm fronds, grass, cattail leaves, some tree barks, etc. A mattress of this sort keeps you insulated from the ground, which is what usually takes away much of your heat. Scatter the leaves in the morning so they won't smother the plants underneath.

There are some other tricks to try. Have hot tea before going to sleep. Exercise a bit. Cover the sleeping bag liner with extra clothes. Elevate your feet slightly. Go to sleep earlier or later. Experiment to see what works best for you.

Go to Bed Warm

If you are already warm when you get into your sleeping bag, you are much more likely to stay warm through the night. It is difficult to get warm (especially in a thin bag) if you start out shivering.

Finally, I want to make it clear that I'm not recommending going backpacking with only a sleeping bag liner. I'm just saying it can work. I've even gone out with nothing more than a bivy sack in my jacket pocket, but I'm not recommending that either. I just want to mention all the possibilities for the ultralight backpacker.



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