My Five-Ounce Sleeping Bag
By Steve Gillman
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
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
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
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