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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.

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10 Comments on Sleeping bag is too cold

  1. nmFreeWheeler // June 13, 2012 at 8:13 pm // Reply

    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).

  2. 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!

  3. Scoutmaster 920 // November 21, 2011 at 6:42 pm // Reply

    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.

  4. 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.

  5. Star Scout Mom // November 13, 2011 at 6:02 am // Reply

    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.

  6. some random person // November 11, 2011 at 9:50 pm // Reply

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

  7. Scoutmaster Bob // November 9, 2011 at 5:38 am // Reply

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

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

  9. Try changing your clothes, damp socks are the worst.

  10. 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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