Temperate overnighter - sleeping bag or no?
August 25, 2018 5:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning a quick and dirty bikepacking overnighter for next weekend, and need help sorting out which sleep system to take with me.

I have two sleep systems to consider for this trip:
1. Hammock + inflatable pad + bug net
2. Bivvy + inflatable pad
I can bring a fleece blanket OR a desert-rated sleeping bag, but not both and not neither.

And here are the facts of the matter:
- Either system will work in my chosen campsite. There's soft, flat ground for the bivvy, and plenty of choices for where to hang a hammock.
- Temperatures overnight shouldn't drop below 50°F
- Weather should be clear and calm.
- I sleep warm
- I can bring a fleece blanket OR a desert-rated sleeping bag, but would prefer to leave the bag at home because it is bulky and I have limited cargo capacity.
- I will have plenty of layers to wear on my body.
- I have slept one night in the hammock with just the blanket and the pad, it was fine and I slept well though it was probably 10°F warmer that night.
- Desperately trying to not bring a backpack or other wearable bag. I have a handlebar bag and a seat bag and don't see why I won't be able to fit everything I need in those.

Will I be miserable with just a blanket in the bivvy?

Having written all this out I've basically convinced myself to do Bivvy + pad + blanket but would appreciate your perspective on the matter. Tell me what I'm not considering, please!
posted by carsonb to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The pad does all the work insulating you from the ground, and with the bivy blocking drafts, it seems like the blanket would be fine.
posted by rockindata at 5:37 PM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's just one night? Take the gear you want, and if it doesn't work out and you're cold all night, you know you need more gear in the future.
posted by mollymayhem at 5:37 PM on August 25, 2018 [6 favorites]

The pad makes it work. You'll be fine.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:50 PM on August 25, 2018

Best answer: I used to do nights like that in just a sleeping bag liner and a pad. YMMV. If you know you have a good hammock spot - wow... I'm totally envious. I'd take a hammock any night. 2 feet off the ground is probably another +5 degrees by morning.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:59 PM on August 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've been touring/rando'ing for 10+ years I'd say you'd probably be fine if you're bringing layers.

I would never bring the bivy tho if I knew there were good hammock spots. Personally I'd do hammock + sleeping bag liner + pad. Sleeping bag liner one of the more useful bike camping things I've bought, takes up no space but adds a lot of options to existing equipment.
posted by bradbane at 8:03 PM on August 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

If it's 50ish degrees the worst that happens is that you are uncomfortable all night. Sucks, but... won't kill you.

And honestly, a couple nights of misery isn't the worst. I fought forest fires and sometimes the bags and gear just didn't get to where we were camping, so it was find a soft spot of ground and curl up under a sweatshirt. So it goes.

Those were some of the best day so my life.

It's possible to overthink these things. You'll survive in any case, and no good story describes or involves how comfortable you were. Take what you think will work and deal with the downsides. If you hated it, make changes for next time.

Personally - I take a 20 degree down bag everywhere now. If its warm, I sleep on it. Or partially in it. Anyway, I don't mind the bulk - and down is not bulky. Sometimes, its really nice to be snug as a bug in a rug. This is a departure from my younger days when a towel was my blanket and a balled up sweatshirt was my pillow. Do what works until it doesn't then change it until it works again.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:13 PM on August 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Wool socks, warm gloves, good warm headgear. Good long underwear top and bottom. Good pad and water barrier beneath to protect from the warmth-sucking ground.
Can you bring an amped up emergency blanket, one of the longer-lasting ones that still give you some room to stretch out? You might duct tape it together into a liner or add a tarp zipper onto it, so that it can be vented. Sweating under plastic in cold weather is counter-productive.
That might be enough to work along with the fleece blanket and bivy and still keep the bulk and weight down.
posted by TrishaU at 12:54 AM on August 26, 2018

The S.O.L. emergency bivy or a DIY version was what I was thinking of, not a silk or microfiber liner (although I enjoy my silk one).
posted by TrishaU at 1:26 AM on August 26, 2018

If you're not confident that your choice will be warm enough, bring a wool tuque too. You get a lot of warmth per cubic inch!
posted by MangoNews at 6:29 AM on August 26, 2018

Any of the systems you are proposing sound perfectly appropriate to me. The bivy + bag combo is probably the warmest and the hammock + blanket combo the least warm, but if I were on this trip with you I wouldn't bat an eye at any of them.

Personally I would go hammock + bag because hammocks are hella comfy and nice to hang out in, and a bag is easier to keep situated than a blanket is plus it insulates your underside so it's in the middle of your options, warmth-wise.

You do you, though. You should be fine no matter what.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:33 PM on August 26, 2018

Response by poster: Today I learned about sleeping bag liners.

Liner + Hammock + Pad + Bug net—perfect, comfortable, compact.

But seriously damn the bugs at West Fork!
posted by carsonb at 6:50 PM on August 26, 2018

Response by poster: Follow-up/Trip Report

I took my hammock, inflatable pad, and a polyester sleeping bag liner, and was cold.

BUT! That's 100% because I gave my inflatable pad to another camper who brought a hammock but decided to just spread it out and sleep on the ground. I got a great reminder why I started bringing the pad on my hammock adventures. That air gap traps a ton of heat that's otherwise radiated straight out the bottom of the hammock. I spend a good part of my waking time before dawn thinking about why my back gets so cold while my front (with the same coverings) is fine, and realized that the hammock itself provided a pretty good bubble of air if I got situated correctly inside of it and let the top close over me.

The night was very slightly warmer than expected and the piped spring nearby spouted warm-ish water, so we were generally cozy and practically had a hot shower.

This bag liner is a game-changer for me. It was about as bulky and heavy as two t-shirts and easily earned its spot in my pack. Thanks everyone for the advice and suggestions!
posted by carsonb at 8:09 AM on September 3, 2018

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