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How Do I Sleep Warmer?

It's getting colder but there's no way I'm not camping. Any tricks for staying warm?

Question:

I’m a cold sleeper. How do I sleep warmer?

Submitted by - Bruce, Denver CO

Answer:

I, too, am a cold sleeper. I’m always envious of people who can climb into a flimsy looking bag and snooze blissfully, while I lay awake shivering. But I’ve learned to adapt. Or maybe a better term: to cope. Here are some tips:

  • Buy a sleeping bag that’s rated 5 to 10 degrees colder than any temperature you expect to encounter. When my friends are packing 20-degree bags, I usually have a 10-degree bag in my pack. The excess insulation weighs more, but I like having the extra assurance.
  • Make sure your bag fits properly. If there’s too much elbow room, your body has to work overtime to heat up all that excess space. You can take up some of that space by storing water bottles and camera gear at the foot of the bag, and lining the sides with extra clothes, but your best bet is to start with a bag that you’re not swimming in. On the other hand, if the bag’s too small, the insulation gets compressed and can’t do its job of keeping you warm. Check out this video for the full scoop: http://www.backpacker.com/videos_find_the_perfect_sleeping_bag/videos/6
  • If you can, save a set of long johns for sleeping only. They’ll stay clean and dry, and will keep you warmer during the night. On cold, damp nights, I often go to bed wearing a light midlayer on top of my longies.
  • If your bag doesn’t have a draft collar—an insulated tube that fits around your neck to seal out drafts– wrap a piece of clothing around your neck to prevent cold air from sneaking in.
  • Go with a thick (up to 2.5 inch) mattress that has some insulation inside. Otherwise, you’ll lose a lot of conductive heat  to the cold ground. Forget about those plastic blow up air mattresses—save them for the pool in the summer time!
  • Wear a wool or fleece hat to bed to prevent heat loss from your noggin.
  • Make a hot water bottle. From September to May, I always snuggle into my bag with a leakproof bottle filled with boiled water.
  • Eat a good dinner and stay hydrated. Your body needs food and drink to function properly and keep you fueled throughout the night.
  • When you have to pee, don’t hold it in. Get up and do it, no matter how cold it is outside. You’ll sleep warmer and better after you expel that extra liquid.
  • Don’t zip your bag together with a “friend.” Although the extra body heat may sound enticing, the head opening becomes too big and twice the tossing and turning lets all your warm air escape. If sleeping it’s sleep your after (and not something else) it’s best to go it alone.

—KRISTIN

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