Ask the Gear Guy

Sleeping bag is too cold


Q. I have a 20-degree-rated sleeping bag that I use with a fleece liner, but in late fall and early winter, I’m still cold. I’ve tried everything — what should I do?
– Shivering Ethan, Esmond, R.I.

A. Since I don’t know everything about your situation, Ethan, I’m just gonna have to give you some basic advice.

If your sleeping bag is a basic rectangle shape, try a mummy-shaped bag instead. Those fit closer to your body, so there’s less room inside the bag for your body to heat up. The fleece liner is a good idea, as that can add some valuable extra warmth to your bag. You might also try sleeping in your clothes, and wear a stocking cap — lots of your body’s heat escapes through your head. Maybe try a down sleeping bag. No synthetic insulation can match its weight to warmth ratio (but it’ll be more expensive).

You mentioned your 20-degree bag not being warm enough. Those ratings are just a general guide to what temperature you could sleep comfortably in. If you’re a cold sleeper, and it sounds as if you are, go for a sleeping bag that’s rated for much colder temps, like a 0-degree bag.

Finally, make sure you are sleeping on a sleeping pad, because the cold ground can quickly suck valuable heat from your body. Much like sleeping bags, pads are rated for colder temperatures, and using one would definitely help you sleep warmer.

Comments about “Sleeping bag is too cold”

  1. Anonymous says:

    The same thing happens to me and I sleep in atleast three layers of clothing on cold campouts

  2. scouter says:

    Well get a mummy bag. Get a lower degree sleeping bag or get some extra covers.

  3. Sly Fox says:

    If it’s real cold out, I place a long piece of cardboard on the ground and then my closed cell pad on top of it followed by an old comforter cut down to size and then my bag on top. This eliminates 90% of my heat loss. Add a hat and socks and you’re set. When in the snow, a quinzee will keep you warm compared to a tent or under the stars.

  4. Robinlhood says:

    The reflective sheet is a good idler BUT use it underneath you between you and the air mattress that is where your heat loss is, if you have an extra bag unzip it and use it as a quilt over you.

  5. nmFreeWheeler says:

    I use a ski mask/hat, two layers of loose long underwear, disposable hand-warmers, and I lay a fleece blanket/liner over my sleeping bag (like a regular blanket).

  6. Anonymous says:

    One thing that works for me are the reflective space blankets. Buy one, cut it in half, and use it on top of you in your sleeping/mummy bag. This works especially well when you throw one of those disposable 6 hour hand warmers under there too. If that doesn’t work, I’ve doubled up on sleeping bags. Bring a 20 or 0 degree then a 40 or 50 degree and stick one inside the other. Hope this helps!

  7. Scoutmaster 920 says:

    I have read all the comments above and they all work. I change my clothes, put on a stocking cap and open a package of hand warmers if it is below freezing.

  8. FlagstaffSM says:

    I have had good luck heating water before bed and putting it in a water bottle. I make sure it is one that I know doesn’t leak (Nalgene works for me). Put the bottle in a sock, then once in my sleeping bag put the bottle between my legs or at my feet. I stay warm all night and I have warm water in the morning to drink.

  9. Star Scout Mom says:

    My Star scout changes his socks to really thick wool ones, changes into fleece sleeping pants and uses a face mask hat to sleep in. My husband (an ASM) will use 2 layers of face masks to stay warm in addition to thermal underwear under the fleece. They do winter camping down to 10 degrees in January here in CT and are very comfortable.

  10. some random person says:

    make sure your bladder is emptied out because when its full you loose 3 degrees

  11. Scoutmaster Bob says:

    Best advice I ever got… Change into clean dry underwear & socks just before going to bed!

  12. Dodoscout says:

    You also want to make sure you are hydrated and fed before bed so your body can regulate its own temperature. Hope this helps.

  13. CAR103 says:

    Try changing your clothes, damp socks are the worst.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I tend to have this problem alot so i now bring a stocking cap, extra blanket, and before i go to sleep i put colthing that is still warm in my bag (after i checked for ticks and other un-wanted bugs or debris)

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