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GSLeader_in_NC
10-18-2011, 14:44
This past weekend I went backpacking in Western North Carolina and the temperatures got down to 37 degrees with a wind chill down to approx. 30. I absolute froze my tail off in my sleeping bag! I'm here looking for help. I am a 5'11" woman, 45, 200 lbs. I was sleeping solo in a 2-man, Big Agnes Copper Spur Tent.

What I have:

Big Agnes Lost Ranger sleeping bag, rated 15 degrees.
Big Agnes Insulated Air Core sleeping pad, rated 15 degrees.

I sleep very cold; always have...I don't have a lot of money to re-invest in other gear, so I'm hoping to modify what I have to make it warmer. I literally took my hands out of my mittens and tested the air in my bag. It was cold! Could it be because air is getting through the insulated air core and coming up from the ground or from the sides of the pad?

Here's the options I'm thinking of. Any others?

1. Carry a blue closed-cell Wally World pad - put it underneath my pad, or IN my sleeping bag?
2. Buy another pad, like a BA Two Track (heavy!) or a lighter one from another manufacturer.
3. Lay a bag liner on the inside of my bag. Not sure that would do the trick tho'...

I love my BA Lost Ranger for the room-i-ness, but I'm thinking it was a mistake to buy something that doesn't have insulation on the bottom - and also lets air circulate right underneath my body. I am a side-sleeper and love the thickness of my 2 1/2 inch IAC. I probabaly could go an inch or so less, but it has to be comfy. I'm too old and curvy to sleep on rock-hardness anymore.

Thanks for any input!

scope
10-18-2011, 14:59
Are you cold when you go to sleep, or just waking up cold? I have experienced the Air Core seemingly losing temperature during the night. Makes sense as you sleep your body temperature drops at the same time its getting colder out, and I think the thickness of the BA pad starts to work against you. I had no problems with a Zlite pad on top of the BA pad. You can do it the other way around, and that will help, too, but not as much. Though, the closed cell on top renders the insulation in the BA pad useless. I'm sure a blue pad would work the same. That is probably most of the problem.

As far as the bag goes, the hot water bottle helps warm the bag and warm you, which in turn warms the bag which keeps you warm. That synchronicity will take you longer into the wee hours before you start getting cold.

I've not had a BA bottomless insulation bag, but I do have a top quilt that I've used with the same pad. You should be able to get comfortable in the 30s with that setup.

leaftye
10-18-2011, 16:17
My guess is that the down did not fully loft. How thoroughly did you shake it out? Adding a blue pad sounds like a good inexpensive option. The warmth in the air pad might have been somewhat compromised by blowing humid air into it. Using a pump or something like the Instaflator should eliminate that problem. So the blue pad and Instaflator would give you two things to try out for less than $15 total. Also, you should still be warm when you climb into your sleeping bag and have plenty of calories in your stomach. I wouldn't bother with a liner. Getting another insulated pad can be very expensive, especially if that doesn't solve the problem. If none of that works, then I would look into ways of adding down to your sleeping bag since that will add a lot of warmth and is much less expensive than buying a new sleeping bag. If you do opt for another sleeping bag, you might want to consider a quilt instead since you said you're a side sleeper. Take a look at EnLIGHTened Equipment or Hammockgear. Fwiw, I have a quilt from the first company and plan to buy another. You'll need to keep your head warm, and I use a Rayway bomber hat in milder weather and a Downworks down balaclava when the temperature drops much below 30F.

grayfox
10-18-2011, 17:00
All good ideas so far--be sure to fluff up the bag and don't compress it any more than you need to. A hot water bottle in a sock or one of those chemical warmers in a sock work very well too.

Your mattress holds a lot of air which your body needs to heat up. Also it conducts heat into the ground. My favorite inflatable for cold nights is a thermarest prolite plus, but when it is really cold I use two foam pads both full length.

Here is what I would do. I sometimes carry a space blanket formed into a bag. I would use this, or just a sheet of mylar to wrap around the mattress and then put the wrapped mat into the sleeve of the sleeping bag. It will keep your body heat from going to ground as fast. I usually use a piece of all weather space blanket, the thicker kind, as a ground cloth. Or, a thin closed cell pad cut to the shape of the sleeping bag sleeve and placed over the mattress would also help and not take up too much space. The pad would be good for a side sleeper.


Wear your insulation layer to bed, socks, hat, mits, long johns, and down jacket or fleece--only if they are dry. Put your raincoat or poncho over the bag but watch for condensation which would be counter productive. Keep some ventilation for the tent but pitch the low end to the wind.


You have a good bag and pad, these ideas should help you stay comfortable and not have to spend any more money.

clsvideo
10-18-2011, 17:41
I too have the air core and between it, my Mountain Hardwear Lamina 35 bag and my base layers, I've been comfortable when it got down to 17 degrees. Do you have too much room in your sleeping bag? That could be an issue. Otherwise your sleep system should be fine at those temps.

Slo-go'en
10-18-2011, 18:43
If the air inside your bag was cold, I think you had too many clothes on. The fact you had to take your mittens off to test the air is a clue right there. You shouldn't need more than your thermal tops and bottoms and a hat inside the bag. If you wear too many clothes to bed, you don't loose enough heat to warm up the bag.

nox
10-18-2011, 19:32
did you have the pad inside the pad sleeve of the bag or was the bag just laying on top of the pad? if it was just laying on top you might have rolled over enough to uncover yourself from the down and had just the shell covering your back... just an idea. Thats the only time I get cold in my quilt, when i "untuck" myself

Papa D
10-18-2011, 20:58
Here are some winter sleeping tips:

1) keep hydrated but pee before you go to bed and don't try to hold pee in - eat carbohydrates - Idahoan instant Potatoes are free in every hiker box in the world
2) boil water and fill a nalgene bottle - don't cross- thread it whatever you do, but sleep with it - warm all night - looks like "scope" mentioned this.
3) sleep in fleece or wool long johns and a stocking cap and barefoot - but not a whole bunch of clothes - not sure why this works but it does (sub 10 degrees, I do add my down jacket)
4) don't breathe into your bag - I know you want to go cheap but a vapor barrier liner is really nice - you can breath through this.
5) Bag under your bag is fine - don't put it inside - this is sort of a newbie thing I've seen - you end up compressing the loft under your bag - invest in a thermorest - they are the best - 3/4 is fine for me
6) sleeping in your tent is warmer than the shelters - no doubt

p.s. I wonder why you sleep solo in a 2-person tent - that's a lot to carry - you might check out a solo tent.

Have fun.

Franco
10-18-2011, 21:48
Essentially no bag can turn a cold body warm . All a bag does is to hold (up to a point) the heat you produce.
To produce heat you need fuel. Food is your fuel.
Fats and carbohydrates are your friends. An easy one is a hot chocolate before bed made from full cream milk ( powder)
Spices with dinner is not a bad idea either. Find some that make you "hot" (typically chili/paprika and some curry spices) and add those to your dinner too.
Franco

Franco
10-18-2011, 21:51
BTW, I usually add extra virgin olive oil to my dinners and always have some hard cheese and pancetta (loads of fat there...) with me.
In the bush I avoid "non fat" meals...

Papa D
10-18-2011, 22:28
yep - ditto what Franco says - here is a perfect carb loaded meal - Bag of Cheesy Potatoes, add 1 foil pack tuna (or maybe baked tofu?), curry powder, extra hot sauce, hot chocolate with powdered milk - sleep well! Also, they say liquor thins the blood and makes you colder, etc. - and that's probably true, but one shot of rum before you fall asleep is really super nice on a cold night.

Tinker
10-18-2011, 22:46
This past weekend I went backpacking in Western North Carolina and the temperatures got down to 37 degrees with a wind chill down to approx. 30. I absolute froze my tail off in my sleeping bag! I'm here looking for help. I am a 5'11" woman, 45, 200 lbs. I was sleeping solo in a 2-man, Big Agnes Copper Spur Tent.

What I have:

Big Agnes Lost Ranger sleeping bag, rated 15 degrees.
Big Agnes Insulated Air Core sleeping pad, rated 15 degrees.

I sleep very cold; always have...I don't have a lot of money to re-invest in other gear, so I'm hoping to modify what I have to make it warmer. I literally took my hands out of my mittens and tested the air in my bag. It was cold! Could it be because air is getting through the insulated air core and coming up from the ground or from the sides of the pad?

Here's the options I'm thinking of. Any others?

1. Carry a blue closed-cell Wally World pad - put it underneath my pad, or IN my sleeping bag?
2. Buy another pad, like a BA Two Track (heavy!) or a lighter one from another manufacturer.
3. Lay a bag liner on the inside of my bag. Not sure that would do the trick tho'...

I love my BA Lost Ranger for the room-i-ness, but I'm thinking it was a mistake to buy something that doesn't have insulation on the bottom - and also lets air circulate right underneath my body. I am a side-sleeper and love the thickness of my 2 1/2 inch IAC. I probabaly could go an inch or so less, but it has to be comfy. I'm too old and curvy to sleep on rock-hardness anymore.

Thanks for any input!

I have a non-insulated BA air core mummy pad and in cold weather when I'm not using my hammock I use the pad with a closed cell foam on top of it. The CCF pad does little to nothing underneath except to help minimize punctures.
A roomy bag is tough for the body to heat up. A liner won't help much unless it has insulation and takes up some of that space. Try using a borrowed bag inside of yours, and, if it works, shop around for one to use inside the Lost Ranger. Down booties and pants, as well as a down jacket would go a long way toward taking up some of that empty space and adding insulation.

Ladytrekker
10-18-2011, 23:15
I use a neoair and a montbell 15 deg with down and have found the combo perfect for me I tend to sleep cold also. But my friend bought the Big Agnes with pad combination and she was cold all night we were camping in 30 ish degrees. She said she was really cold on the bottom side so I am thinking that her pad does not warm up as well as the neoair I have never felt cold thru mine. Interesting that you had the same issue with that product.

Deerleg
10-18-2011, 23:42
Lots of good advice here.
I would add a couple of common sense items that could help a little...
Keep bag stored lofted maybe on a hanger when not hiking to keep like new temp rating longer. I have one old 20 degree bag that is worthless because all the loft has been compacted over time.
Sight selection: When sleeping on the ground look for a "leaf trap" or collect dry leaves (maybe next to a log)both more comfortable and warmer.

Amanita
10-19-2011, 03:40
A roomy bag is tough for the body to heat up. A liner won't help much unless it has insulation and takes up some of that space.

BINGO! I used to borrow sleeping bags from my father, who's a foot taller than me. No matter that they were rated to 15 degrees, at even 45 I was freezing. The problem? All that airflow around my body. Any space in your bag that's not taken up by your body needs to be heated. Look for a bag with dimensions as close to the size of your body in both length and width without being undersized as possible.

Don H
10-19-2011, 08:03
BINGO! I used to borrow sleeping bags from my father, who's a foot taller than me. No matter that they were rated to 15 degrees, at even 45 I was freezing. The problem? All that airflow around my body. Any space in your bag that's not taken up by your body needs to be heated. Look for a bag with dimensions as close to the size of your body in both length and width without being undersized as possible.

This is why I like the MonteBell U.L. Super Spiral Down Hugger. I used a #3 for most of my thru-hike with a silk liner and was always warm.

scope
10-19-2011, 09:09
...3) sleep in fleece or wool long johns and a stocking cap and barefoot - but not a whole bunch of clothes - not sure why this works but it does ...


Essentially no bag can turn a cold body warm . All a bag does is to hold (up to a point) the heat you produce.
To produce heat you need fuel. Food is your fuel....

Too many clothes covers up your warmth, doesn't allow efficient radiation of heat into the air within the fibers of the bag. Yes, a bigger bag is less efficient, but in the 30s it shouldn't be that much of an issue. If anything, its usually less efficient down at the feet, so get some down booties to help.

Tom Murphy
10-19-2011, 11:53
I have the BA Encampnent Model which is syn and rated for 15 deg F. I use it with a BA insulted air core. So the only difference in construction between our systems is the insulating material (syn vs down).

I am a warm sleeper and the BA bag is good for me to only ~ 30 deg F. I attribute the "under-performance" to two issues.

1) semi-mummy shape leaves too much internal dead air space
&
2) overly generous rating by manufacturer

I still think the BA concept is valid but if I were to buy another one, I would buy the Divide Series mummy shape and would alos discount discount their stated temp rating by at least 10 deg F. I hope BA applies the European EN standard to their bags someday. I suspect that they do not due to the temp ratings they would be forced to publish.

I bought my son a Marmot bag which is rated for 15 deg F per the European EN standard and that bag works well for me well below its rating with the BA pad; so I have kind of ruled out the BA pad as an issue.

Now when I use the BA bag, I put my empty pack and any extra dry clothing in the BA bag to fill it up more, seems to help a bit.

In the winter, I nest his Marmot bag inside my BA bag and that combo have been good down below 0 deg F [also heavy and bulky has saved me from buying an very expensive winter bag].

Tom Murphy
10-19-2011, 11:56
I love my BA Lost Ranger for the room-i-ness.


IMO its that room-i-ness that is causing you to be cold. Sorry.

Wags
10-20-2011, 00:16
did you have the brown side facing up on your pad? if not, then the insulation was probably just laying flat instead of being suspended inside the pad :O

was the cold at particular spots or was it a dull, overall chill?

skinewmexico
10-20-2011, 12:21
Lots of good ideas here, adding a blue CCF pad will help, since R value is cumulative. Test some of these ideas (only one at a time) in the backyard, so you can go inside if it doesn't work!

magneto
10-20-2011, 13:56
I have to second this. Eat a nice, hot, fatty, carby meal for dinner. It makes a huge difference.

GSLeader_in_NC
10-20-2011, 14:05
Thanks for the replies, everyone. I knew I could get some help from this site.

A few answers:

I wasn't cold when I went to sleep. I only had on long johns, a dry hiking shirt, my fleece jacket, clean wool socks and a hat. As the night went on, I added a warmer jacket, my hiking pants and then my other pair of socks over my hands. Yes, I probabaly wore too many clothes, but only then was I able to sleep warmly.

I will try shaking out my sleeping bag a bit more. I had it laid out about 5 hours before bed (it was a short backpacking trip), but maybe I didn't shake it enough.

I also like the idea of handwarmers or a hot water bottle tucked in with me - I will try that next time.

The space blanket idea intrigues me. I think I can fashion a sleeve and put it around the mattress before I stuff it in the sleeve of the sleeping bag. Most of the cold was coming from the bottom up (and by the way, I was using the brown side up the way I was taught at REI.)

Surprisingly, there's not a lot of room in the Lost Ranger for me. Being 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, I had to get the Long, so there's a few extra inches at the feet, but if I got the Regular, it would have been too short. I have tried a few other mummy bags from different companies, but if I can't move around a little, my bones tend to get stiff and sore and it wakes me up hourly... It's almost like I need to "exercise" when I sleep.

I was a little hungry when I went to bed, I have to admit... my next trip out I will try a few suggestions you all posted. After all, I am a relative newbie to 3-season camping. I usually go in the late Spring/summer/early Fall. This 30 + degrees with a windchill is new to me.

I love my 2-man tent, but realize it is heavy. I will be looking for suggestions for other tents/tarptents soon. I'll post my "dream specs" soon, and research all suggestions you make. :)

Again, thanks for all your help!

I'll make this work eventually,

Jeanne

Mundele
10-22-2011, 08:16
I wanted to echo what others have said. The roominess is why you're cold. I have a BA bag and I freeze in it. Since the pad is in the sleeve, the bag conforms to the shape of the pad instead of the shape of your body. This creates tons of dead space you must heat up. Also, when you move your body flaps the bag making it act like a bellows pumping the air you've warmed up out. At least it works that way in my bag. I only use my BA bag for summer. In fact I should get rid of it.

-Matt

pyroman53
10-22-2011, 13:15
I've owned both aircore and insulated aircore BA pads. I couldn't stay warm with the BA pads, insulated aircore included. I guess I sleep cold, but whenever the temps got lower than 40, even with the insulated one, I started to feel the heat being sucked outta my body by the pad. Good thing I bought them from REI. I returned the aircore and traded up to insulated. Still not happy Then I traded in the insulated aircore and got the Thermarest Pro 4, 1.5 inch. That works for me, is almost as comfortable as the BA, and I sleep warml to mid 20's. Problem solved since I don't usually do winter camping.

My sleeping bags are all Westerm Mountaineering so temp ratings are accurate or even conservative for the temperatures, but like I said, I know I sleep cold. Just never could get used to that heat sink air pad.

Don Newcomb
10-23-2011, 19:22
I recently switched from a Thermarest Ultralight to a BA Air Core, for more comfort. I find the BA much colder on the backside than the Thermarest. Not only will the air in the mattress convect your body heat to the ground and air, the moisture from your breath accelerates this convection. If there is any way to inflate the mattress with a dry gas it would probably help. Also, if you can think of any way to remove the accumulated moisture from the mattress that would also help. Stephenson has a system of using the stuff sack as a bellows to inflate the down-filled air mattress inside their sleeping bags. You are absolutely forbidden to blow your breath into their air mattress, as this will ruin it.

I have not tried it but there are folks who believe that you should sleep mother-naked inside a vapor barrier (like a big condom) in your sleeping bag. This prevents the vapor from your body getting into the down/fibers of the sleeping bag. Over several cold nights a sleeping bag can accumulate a lot of water, which means the end of insulation. A sleeping bag needs to be dry to work.

Del Q
10-23-2011, 19:52
I agree with Tom Murphy...............I have two BA bags, am a wide-shouldered man, that I why I bought them, so I did not feel like a mummy. Also agree on Thermarest, much warmer...........I went to a 25 degree Mont Bell bag, less space but plenty roomy, super stretch is a great technology, have been a LOT warmer. Have a liner, never used it, too heavy.

Cold Gear: Sleep in socks, merino wool long underwear, merino wool tee shirt and capilene for tops, balaclava, gloves.

Echraide
10-23-2011, 20:15
I'm your height and I sleep extremely cold, too. I had to give up on down bags for winter. I only use them as light summer bags and I lug the weight of a synthetic during winter. I can't sleep when I'm cold so it's just not an option for me to be cold at night. No sleep, no hike. I prefer a synthetic for safety reasons anyway, it'll still keep you warm even if it gets wet and down won't.

Sleeping bag ratings are subjective, aren't they? They're sort of a rough guide - very rough. It took a lot of hit and miss for me to find a winter bag that keeps me warm. Aim for much lower temp ratings. My current winter bag is an old Slumberjack rated at (I think) 10F; it's not one they make any more otherwise I'd recommend it to you. It's heavy, about 4 pounds, but it's been through a lot and multiple washings and still keeps me warm. I've used a liner with it on occasion but that was more to keep the bag clean on long hikes than for warmth.

The crucial features on the bag are the padded strip under the zipper and the thick, padded neck collar. Both do a good job keeping heat in the bag, particularly the collar (I slept in a bag without one a few weeks ago and couldn't believe how hard it was to try to stay warm). At night I wear that waffle-pattern long underwear, sometimes with an additional shirt on top or another layer of silk on the bottom. My feet freeze at night almost no matter what so I wear thick socks plus booties of several layers of fleece (I made those). I put on mittens and a thick balaclava as soon as temps get near freezing. I also use a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core, my hip bones can't take the hard ground anymore.

Remember bag ratings aren't as important as you getting a good nights' sleep. Do whatever you need to to be comfortable at night. For me that means a slightly heavier pack during the day but that's okay for me. HYOH and SYOS (sleep your own sleep)!

skinewmexico
10-24-2011, 00:22
What's the EN rating on that BA bag? And going to bed hungry will do it for sure.

Bronk
10-24-2011, 03:26
If the air inside your bag was cold, I think you had too many clothes on. The fact you had to take your mittens off to test the air is a clue right there. You shouldn't need more than your thermal tops and bottoms and a hat inside the bag. If you wear too many clothes to bed, you don't loose enough heat to warm up the bag.


If you're not losing enough heat to warm up the bag then why on earth would you be cold unless your body weren't producing enough heat to begin with? What difference does it make whether the insulation is coming from your clothing or from the sleeping bag? Its all the same...removing layers of clothing when you are cold is just plain stupid, especially if there is no insulation on the bottom of the bag to begin with as the OP has stated.

If you have enough (or more than enough) insulation to keep you warm and you are still cold then the problem is with your metabolism, not your choice in clothing or bedding. Try eating something with protein or fat before you go to bed...don't get full mind you, but eat enough to keep the furnace burning while you sleep...fat and protein take longer to burn, carbs will burn off fast and you'll wake up cold again.

scope
10-24-2011, 09:58
If you're not losing enough heat to warm up the bag then why on earth would you be cold unless your body weren't producing enough heat to begin with? What difference does it make whether the insulation is coming from your clothing or from the sleeping bag? Its all the same...removing layers of clothing when you are cold is just plain stupid, especially if there is no insulation on the bottom of the bag to begin with as the OP has stated.

If you have enough (or more than enough) insulation to keep you warm and you are still cold then the problem is with your metabolism, not your choice in clothing or bedding. Try eating something with protein or fat before you go to bed...don't get full mind you, but eat enough to keep the furnace burning while you sleep...fat and protein take longer to burn, carbs will burn off fast and you'll wake up cold again.

Not exactly.... clothes work more like a closed cell pad in that they trap heat and provide a barrier to the cold. In a sleeping bag, they trap the heat that would otherwise warm the bag, and then provide a barrier to receive the heat that the bag does have. Can't say I disagree about putting clothes on when you're cold, because at that point its not likely you're going to do much to warm the bag.

Key is to get the bag warm, not just be warm when you get in. Once the heat is within the insulation, it will pretty much stay there. However, a low of 37 might mean you're going to bed in the 50s and relatively warm already. Stoking your metabolism might be the best way to generate more heat during the night as the temps drop, instead of immediately getting the bag warm with the hot water bottle.

I do think that the bag conforming to the pad is an issue with leaving dead air space. Keep in mind, though, that the dead air space can be warmed, too. Just need to cinch everything down around your neck and shoulders. As you move around, that dead air gets pushed out and then replaced by cold air sucked in unless you really have yourself collared.

Just paying some attention to these details will help, but I think the biggest thing is probably the closed cell pad on top of the BA pad. Again, at 37 degrees, that bag ought to be OK.

Tinker
10-24-2011, 12:03
Echraide: I'm your height and I sleep extremely cold, too. I had to give up on down bags for winter.

Please explain. If synthetics are better insulators, why do expeditions to extremely cold climates use down?

If moisture in the down is what people worry about, it's simple enough to bring a vapor barrier liner to keep your body's moisture out of the insulation. The package will still be smaller and lighter than a synthetic bag and it will last much longer, too.

Don Newcomb
10-24-2011, 14:33
Please explain. If synthetics are better insulators, why do expeditions to extremely cold climates use down? Down (good down) is totally superior in cold weather provided you keep it dry. If you don't keep it dry it would be better to take a wool blanket. Getting in a down bag with damp clothing, breathing into the bag, etc will wet the down. Again, some folks strongly recommend using a vapor barrier to keep any perspiration from condensing into the down. Of course, eating backpacking food then getting into a vapor barrier that opens only at the nose could be a suicidal combination. :eek:

Amanita
10-24-2011, 15:18
One thing I have found about synthetics is cold conditions is that they don't compress as much as down. Now this makes them harder to fit in your pack, but means they are warmer against the pad/floor because you aren't losing quite as much loft under the weight of your body. If your back is borderline, this WILL make a difference. In a hammock, or confined tent where your bag might touch the sides, this is even more a benefit.

Also in my experience synthetics don't move around in the baffles as much as down, preventing cold spots.

Both down and synthetics have benefits and drawbacks.

Echraide
10-24-2011, 15:19
Please explain. If synthetics are better insulators, why do expeditions to extremely cold climates use down?

I've never been on an expedition so I can't answer that. Down shifts around a lot and leaves cold spots sometimes in even bags with baffles, especially on any part of your body that's wide, like hips and shoulders. Maybe I've had poor quality down bags but I don't think so. At least two were Marmots that I ended up using for summers. I especially loved my Helium. OMG did I look forward to crawling into that bag after a long day of hiking! It was like being enveloped in a fluffy cloud. It's possibly my second-favorite bag ever - it just didn't keep me warm enough to be a winter bag. It's advertised as a 3-season bag, I think.