Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Items to keep you alive in the event you must evacuate: discussions of basic Survival Kits commonly called "Bug Out Bags" or "Go Bags"

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Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by the_alias » Tue Sep 28, 2010 4:10 pm

I have a Marmot Sawtooth 600down fill sleeping bag that is 4-5 years old now and has served me well. It has a rating on the bag of -9c ,15f and looking on the website an extreme rating of -28. Now obviously it is 4-5 years old I doubt the extreme rating still applies, not that I was ever intending to use such a bag that cold anyhow. But I do want to get out more this winter and my past experience has been quite good although I felt a bit cold still.
Not all of us can just run out and buy a new bag so are there alternatives?

I have a microfleece travel liner for the bag and that will add warmth, how much can I expect? Is it worth my while buying a silk liner? Could I use both? The other key question I have is I also usually trek with a woollen poncho, hey what can I say I like Spaghetti Westerns :lol: . Now if I were to use that I would think it best to wear it inside the bag not lay it over, if one does have spare blankets do I put them around me inside the bag or on the outside?

Ground insulation I know is also important, be that a good selection of pine boughs or a good groundmat (or both). I have a decent packable mini inflatable ground mat covered there.

Then I got to thinking about fire, we have log fire and reflector fires possible to boost warmth, perhaps even allowing for one to sleep without a sleeping bag. If we can put those aside for one minute and assume we are in a tent. We can heat rocks from the fire, wrap them in clothing and have those in the bag as well to add warmth. I wonder how 5-10 hand warmers would work inside a sleeping bag, perhaps something useful at the coldest point of the night or are they simply not good enough at generating heat?

I welcome other peoples thoughts on the matter of how one can increase a bags rating in the colder conditions without simply stumping up cash for a brand new bag!
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by ulfhedinn » Tue Sep 28, 2010 4:34 pm

Rei sells liners and bivis. This is the only two things I can think of. Bivy keeps the fluids out too.
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by the_alias » Tue Sep 28, 2010 4:40 pm

Should add I also have a British Army Goretex Bivibag :) Essential gear for the wetter parts of the British isles!
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by lonewolf15002000 » Tue Sep 28, 2010 4:45 pm

I don't think you want to put the hand warmers in the bag with you they do have a warning about how serious burns may result.

As for increasing your warmth you will want to stuff the area around your body inside the bag with extra blankets, clothing, newspaper, just about anything that will fill in the negative space that is just sapping your body heat away from you. I myself wouldn't put a heated rock in my bag with my body but rather bury some just under where your going to sleep (when with out a tent that is) and then making sure you have a good "mattress" (may be a ground pad, pine needles, etc.) under you keeping you off the ground. With a tent I tend to just bury my head under the sleeping bag to help retain the lost body heat.
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by ninja-elbow » Tue Sep 28, 2010 5:09 pm

My experience with bivvies is: Though adding waterproof-ness, not som much on warmth.

I tend to dress warmly, insulate myself from the ground and lastly put a woobie over me and the bag itself. Your wool poncho can do the same. The key is insulation from the ground.
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by BullOnParade » Tue Sep 28, 2010 5:57 pm

I'm not sure what you call them on the other side of the pond, but wear a heavy "touque" as they're called here in Canada. I believe others call them knit caps, wool hats, winter hats ... whatever you call them, you apparently lose 30-40% of your body heat through your head and feet. Thick wool socks and a good wool hat will keep you quite warm.
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by TacAir » Tue Sep 28, 2010 6:01 pm

If I may suggest

A liner of wool - like a Merino Wool bag liner For less money - an old surplus wool blanket can be sewn into a 'mummy' shape, better insulation, warmer - this GI blanket liner is how I 'extend' my Mountain bag.

A reflective tarp for a ground cloth

wear polypro 'long johns' + wool socks + bacalava.

Or start staying at a Motel 6 in really cold weather. ; )
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by Dogan » Tue Sep 28, 2010 6:13 pm

BullOnParade wrote:I'm not sure what you call them on the other side of the pond, but wear a heavy "touque" as they're called here in Canada. I believe others call them knit caps, wool hats, winter hats ... whatever you call them, you apparently lose 30-40% of your body heat through your head and feet.
I call them head condoms... :lol:
And own a half dozen assorted types. The ones that you can unroll and use as ski masks, neckers or headbands are the ones I find preferable, especially in fleece. I've been comfortable down into the low teens with just those on my head.
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by Redbad » Tue Sep 28, 2010 7:32 pm

A hot water bottle or 2 (Nalgene bottles work well) serve to keep a sleeping bag warm [this is the Shakespearean "sleeping with a virgin" concept].
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by KYZHunters » Tue Sep 28, 2010 7:44 pm

lonewolf15002000 wrote:I don't think you want to put the hand warmers in the bag with you they do have a warning about how serious burns may result.

As for increasing your warmth you will want to stuff the area around your body inside the bag with extra blankets, clothing, newspaper, just about anything that will fill in the negative space that is just sapping your body heat away from you.
I've done lots of cold weather work and I have to disagree with my fellow jarhead on this one. The air in your bag draws less energy than anything else your skin is in contact with. The less crap inside the bag with you the better.
Wear a fleece beanie on your melon, or better yet find one of those sleep caps that come in the USGI sleeping bags. We use to call them "legendary shit-bird covers" I don't know why. Put the wool poncho under your bag. Strip down to your skivvies in the bag and use your clothes as a pillow. You'll have that first moment of 'sleeping bag shock' but it doesn't last.
YMMV
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by Towanda » Tue Sep 28, 2010 7:50 pm

The only thing I have to add to all the good suggestions already made is to put a space blanket under your sleeping pad.
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by dukman » Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:05 pm

lonewolf15002000 wrote:I don't think you want to put the hand warmers in the bag with you they do have a warning about how serious burns may result.
They make pouches to hold the hand warmers in while sleeping, that way you won't get burned by having them in prolonged contact with your skin while asleep.
KYZHunters wrote:Strip down to your skivvies in the bag and use your clothes as a pillow. You'll have that first moment of 'sleeping bag shock' but it doesn't last.
YMMV
I have to agree... but I usually put my clothes at the foot of my bag so they aren't so cold when I try to put them on in the morning. Then again, cold clothes can wake you up just as fast as a hot cup of coffee.
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by Spartan299 » Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:50 pm

I guess if y'all sleep alone, those are good options.
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by mantis » Tue Sep 28, 2010 9:09 pm

dukman wrote:
lonewolf15002000 wrote:I don't think you want to put the hand warmers in the bag with you they do have a warning about how serious burns may result.
They make pouches to hold the hand warmers in while sleeping, that way you won't get burned by having them in prolonged contact with your skin while asleep.
They do indeed. I usually don't leave it burning in the bag though. Normally I use it to warm up the bag to dull that intial shock that hit you when you first climb in.
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by AgentBlack » Tue Sep 28, 2010 10:10 pm

This is a good reason to pack a crappy old messkit. The kind with the bowl that is the lid and the handle clamps them together. Fill that sucker with hot coals from the pit and wrap it in a shirt. Stuff it in the bottom of the bag to keep those toes warm. Works like an antique bed warmer except you leave it in.
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by Veritas » Tue Sep 28, 2010 10:29 pm

Great thread idea. I don't have the best sleeping bag around, so it would be great to hear some tips about how to make a bag warmer.
lonewolf15002000 wrote:As for increasing your warmth you will want to stuff the area around your body inside the bag with extra blankets, clothing, newspaper, just about anything that will fill in the negative space that is just sapping your body heat away from you.
KYZHunters wrote:The less crap inside the bag with you the better.... Strip down to your skivvies in the bag and use your clothes as a pillow.
I would like to hear more discussion about these two points of view. I always heard KYZ's point of view, but I can also see where lonewolf is coming from, and honestly I can't explain why it is not a valid point.

It would stand to reason that the more crap you have in the bag the more it would insulate you, but I don't really know why it supposedly doesn't work that way. Like I said, I have heard from multiple sources that you should sleep with as little clothing as possible, but the only reason I have heard is that it prevents you from overheating and sweating, which we all know is bad. However, if you are trying to increase warmth, you shouldn't be worried about sweating (yet, unless you increase warmth too much).
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by WhoShotJR » Tue Sep 28, 2010 10:35 pm

the_alias wrote: Not all of us can just run out and buy a new bag so are there alternatives?

I have a microfleece travel liner for the bag and that will add warmth, how much can I expect? Is it worth my while buying a silk liner? Could I use both? The other key question I have is I also usually trek with a woollen poncho, hey what can I say I like Spaghetti Westerns :lol: . Now if I were to use that I would think it best to wear it inside the bag not lay it over, if one does have spare blankets do I put them around me inside the bag or on the outside?

Ground insulation I know is also important, be that a good selection of pine boughs or a good groundmat (or both). I have a decent packable mini inflatable ground mat covered there.

Then I got to thinking about fire, we have log fire and reflector fires possible to boost warmth, perhaps even allowing for one to sleep without a sleeping bag. If we can put those aside for one minute and assume we are in a tent. We can heat rocks from the fire, wrap them in clothing and have those in the bag as well to add warmth. I wonder how 5-10 hand warmers would work inside a sleeping bag, perhaps something useful at the coldest point of the night or are they simply not good enough at generating heat?

I welcome other peoples thoughts on the matter of how one can increase a bags rating in the colder conditions without simply stumping up cash for a brand new bag!

I don't have much experience with cold weather camping here in GA, but I do have a lot of thermodynamics education. What you want is dead air space and efficient insulators, the goal is to maintain your body heat and minimize conductive losses. Number one goal here is to block the wind, without a cold air windbreaker you'll be miserable. Bivvy, tent, whatever. Next you want to keep your best insulators closest to your body. Think of it like a house, you keep your nice warm down comforter closest to you, with the fiberglass batting in the exterior walls. This is even more important in the outdoors where you don't have the furnace. Think of your sleeping bag as your comforter, and everything else as your exterior walls. Only you are the furnace out here.

I'm too tired to think anymore, if anyone wants to hear more let me know.

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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by KYZHunters » Tue Sep 28, 2010 10:37 pm

Our EMT/corpsman/medic types can probably determine if this is bullshit, but the way I see it is your head and then torso are generating (and losing) the most heat. If you clog up the circulation in the bag the air that your body is warming is not circulating around the rest of your body, and is therefore wasted.
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by Chris@MTCT » Tue Sep 28, 2010 10:41 pm

I have always been of the school of thought the less you wear in the bag the better, I have only slept in my usgi bag down to around 15 F with a woobie for added warmth and down to just my fleece cap.
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by the_alias » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:30 am

gravediggerfour wrote:I have always been of the school of thought the less you wear in the bag the better, I have only slept in my usgi bag down to around 15 F with a woobie for added warmth and down to just my fleece cap.
I have heard that as well oddly enough...

Good ideas all, thanks!
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by TacAir » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:51 am

the_alias wrote:
gravediggerfour wrote:I have always been of the school of thought the less you wear in the bag the better, I have only slept in my usgi bag down to around 15 F with a woobie for added warmth and down to just my fleece cap.
I have heard that as well oddly enough...

Good ideas all, thanks!
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Clothes you would wear in the AM
Bag
(You inside bag, inside liner with skivvies only)
M-65 over feet
Head inside of bag, mouth and nose only exposed
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In AM- skoosh thermos to top of bag
Extend arm into air with thermos - fill canteen cup (with rolled oats, coffee in insulated top of thermos

As breakfast warms, reach under bag and grb tshirt/OG-1049 -dress and sit up - still 1/2 way in nice warm bag
Eat hot breakfast and listen to rest of group piss and moan about the cold, listen to them try and start balky M-1950 stove. Find stove has many new names.

Finish hot breakfast, dress in remainder of warm clothes, turn bag inside out to air.
MAke another hot cup of coffee in canteen cup to clean it out and laugh the rest of the crew

Square away bag, load up ruck

Sit and wait for the rest of the crew while finishing off coffee... While stove is running, add water to boil - goes into thermos for lunch. (my stove will ber used for lunch....)

Hump ruck to nowhere in particular and finally call on radio for pickup

Wait - rinse - repeat.


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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by DrGonzo » Wed Sep 29, 2010 1:35 am

Add a military bivy sack for the outside, poncho liner for the inside, you'll be good.
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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by marktaff » Wed Sep 29, 2010 5:08 am

Some good points were made. Heat moves in three ways: radiation, conduction, and convection. The environment we want to create is relatively dry air at say 70 degrees F around your body, from head to toe. Your body produces heat as a byproduct of all the chemical reactions it takes to keep you alive. More of this heat is produced in your head and torso than in your feet. Also, if you are short on excess heat, your body will let your hands and feet freeze to save your vital organs and your brain.

The reason you want to sleep naked, or perhaps in your skivies, is to create an envelope of nice warm air inside the sleeping bag, so the heat can travel (by convection) though the air from your head and torso to your hands and feet. Warm feet are happy feet. :-)

In general, you do not typically lose 30-40% of your body heat from your head. That's just silly. Heat always moves from warmer areas to colder areas (entropy). How fast the heat moves has to do with the temperature difference. Feel the skin on your head. It isn't much warmer than your arms, chest, or legs, unless you are already hypothermic. So the difference between the air temperature and your skin temp will be about the same all over your body. The other factor at play is surface area. The surface of your head represents only a small portion of your total surface area. So wearing shorts and a t-shirt in winter, then putting on a wool hat to stay warm is just goofy.

The only time such a figure would come close to being true is if your entire body other than your head were well insulated.

The Earth has more than enough mass that if it is colder than you are, it will suck away all your heat. Air by itself is a piss-poor insulator, so don't use an air mattress as a cold weather pad. Use a solid foam pad, or a self-inflating foam pad (the foam is needed to retard convection).

If you want to make the most out of a bag:

--Sleep naked, or in your skivies
--Prevent the wind from blowing across your bag, either with a tent or a bivy bag
--Put extra insulation between you and the Earth
--Using a space blanket shiny side up underneath will help with radiative losses to the Earth
--Wear a hat, or just put your head inside the sleeping bag
--Use a silk liner or a wool liner or both
--Heat the air around the outside of the bag with a fire*

*Remember heat flows due to a difference in temperatures, so the smaller the difference in temp between your bag and the air temp, the warmer you will be. This is why Woods Walker's tent/stove winter setup is so appealing. This will also help with convective heat losses due to respiration.

I always use a silk liner. It adds a bit of warmth (not a lot), but it is easy to launder when it gets dirty, unlike my bag. Also, in warmer weather I can be inside the silk liner and leave the sleeping bag unzipped and folded open.

For this wintergeddon, I'll be using two 25 degree bags (one inside the other) and my liner with a pad. That should work, until I can shell out for a nice -20 bag.

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Re: Making Sleeping Bags Warmer

Post by Sealegs » Wed Sep 29, 2010 6:29 am

- Fill your bivvie with leaves/branches.
- Put all your dry clothes in the bag with you. (not on you).
- Put the bottom of the bag inside your backpack.
- If it has a zipper, try putting the most clothes on that side so as to block heat dissipation through it.
- Always with the head wear. We have a wool cap we call "Olles brorsa" (Olles brother). Awesome.
- Dry socks.
- Cover your bag with insulation. Fir branches, leaves whatnot.
- Do not touch the ground. Insulation, insulation, insulation.
- No wet shit in the bag. Condensation, condensation, condensation.
- Do not get up in the middle of the night. Bring a pee bottle. Hugging the cling wrapped turds is completely optional.
- Cover your porthole. Take the parka and lay over yourself, use one of the arms for a snorkel. Either that or show the face but cover it w. a scarf or something.
- Warm rocks from the fire. Just hot enough so you cannot hold them w. your bare hands. Wrap in clothes and keep in armpits, groin, gut, neck areas. Take some of them, put in boots for added morning after luxury. Put boots in backpack where you have the bottom of your bivvied up fartbag.
- Drink warm, wake warm. get something heated into your gullet before bed time. Save the calories.

If you really need to beef it up some "non sanctioned" approaches are:
- Space Sandwich, use two mylar blankets and tape/tie them together in a "dot welded" bag shape. Leaving large air holes down the sides. Put over bag, inside bivvy.
- Spray glue mylarblankets to inside of poncho/tarp. When you pitch it as a low rider basha you will get a small space tent. It does make noise though, hence unsanctioned.
- Fill your water bottles with hot water before going to bed. Put them in bivvy, not sleeping bag. In the bag it would get too hot and you would sweat. You want the air insulation to be heated in the bivvy.
- Heat gravel in cup until very very hot, put in thermos and use for hand warmer (dump it out in a sock) if you have to get up because your sleeping system is failing or morning arrives. It after 6hrs it wont be searing hot but way warmer than the air. Store thermos in bivvy or backpack.

Sorry for the messy post, might clean it up and add more. I have probably tried just about any trick you can think of to make a sleeping bag warmer. The army issue fartbags here were not up to the tasks at hand. The newer issue is awesome though. -50C comfortably. I luve it.
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