Sleep System 2nd of Big 3

May 21, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! Hope you had a good week! Today we're going to talk about Sleep Systems, the 2nd part of the Big Three. This can be a very personal thing to pick out because everybody is different and they sleep differently. Some sleep on their backs, some sleep on their sides, and some flip-flop all over the place when they sleep. Again, I'll emphasize that going cheap here will cause you not to get a good night's sleep making your backpacking experience not at all fun.  The big three items are where you should make a good investment. You can skimp on things like a cooking kit, but in my opinion the big three and footwear you shouldn't skimp on.

The sleep system is comprised of two items if you're a tent dweller, which most of you will be at first. One, a sleeping pad, and two, a sleeping bag or quilt. First of all, weight will factor into your decision because you have to carry what you use. Let's start with the sleeping pad. There are many versions that can work for you, especially if you're a back sleeper. Sleeping pads are a must and not an option. If you sleep right on the ground, the heat from your body will be pulled out by the ground you're laying on.  A barrier of insulation of some sort will keep the heat in your body, even in the summer. Pads also are a comfort item to cushion you as you sleep on the hard ground. Closed-cell foam pads are one of the most economical and durable choices.  A yoga mat from Walmart will work if you're willing to carry the bulkiness of it.  A popular choice in the cell foam is the Therm-A-Rest RidgeRest Classic.  This pad folds like an accordion into a neat little bundle, and it is durable. I still have the first one I bought. There are many you can choose from that are sold from different companies, and I'm sure they are all great. These pads are lightweight and weigh about a pound. The price is good at around $40. The next type is the type that you blow up. They are usually 2 to 3 inches in depth and provide a good insulation value. These work best for side sleepers. They can weigh in the pound to pound-and-a-half range. These are not as durable as the cell foam and can get leaks in them. They usually come with repair kits, and you have to be careful where you put these so as not to get leaks. These are also more expensive, running from $100 to $250 depending on what you get. If you're a back sleeper, you're good to go with a cell foam at $40. But if you sleep any other way, I would suggest one of the blow-up kinds, and you will have to put more money out. I have slept on closed-cell foam ones as a side sleeper, and my hips were sore when I woke up. But if you sleep on one and are okay with it, that's what I would use. So try the cell foam first, and if it doesn't work you can get one of the blow-up ones. You'll only be out $40, and you can use them for seat cushions after cutting them into small sections. 

Sleeping Bag or Quilt.  This is what is going to keep you warm. The insulation in these is what is going to keep you warm. There are basically two types of insulation that are used in the construction of these bags: goose down or a synthetic type of insulation.  The down is lighter and warmer, but also more expensive, and when wet doesn't work.  The synthetic is cheaper and heavier, but when wet still works. I will always pick down over synthetic for the reason that it's warmer and packs down better than the other one does. Space matters. You're not going to get this wet unless you have had some sort of accident where your pack or tent failed. Also, a factor to take into consideration is what the bag or quilt is rated. Bags and quilts are rated to the degree you can survive in them.  A 20-degree bag means you can survive in 20-degree weather, but you're not going to be comfortable at 20 degrees. However, at 30 and 40 degrees, you're going to be toasty. My first bag would be rated to a 20-degree rating.  Later on, if you decide to do a lot of winter camping, you can get a bag that is rated for colder conditions than 20 degrees. You could also go the other way and get a 50-degree bag to use in the summer. The lower the rating the heavier the bag so a 20-degree bag is heavier than a 50-degree bag. You can spend a lot of money on these bags, especially if you're getting a down bag. Up to $800 for a real fancy one.  I would try to find something in the $200 to $300 range for your first one.  The goal is to try to get a 30-degree bag at around $300. You will have a good quality bag to keep you warm and not too heavy. Quilts are like sleeping bags but have no zippers in them. They may have clips or straps that give you a place to put your feet, but you're not all around covered up.  The reasoning for using a quilt over a bag is that when you sleep in your bag the part of the insulation that you lay on is squished and has no insulation value. So if you cut that part out, you will save weight which makes it lighter. So through-hikers like to use this kind of quilt.  I have not tried one, but it's on my list.

As you can see, there are lots of considerations to make when picking out a sleep system, so choose with care. This choice can make the difference between a great trip or a bad one. You can check out my gear by following this link Lighter Pack. You can see my gear loadout and how much it weighs between tent and hammock and summer and winter by clicking on the list on the left. Until next week, get out and enjoy the outdoors.


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