Sleeping Bag Liners: Layering at Night

homemade sleeping bag linerTurns out layering works with sleeping gear just as it does with t-shirts and jackets – the perfect warmth factor, maximum outdoor comfort, can be achieved by using different gradations of materials and thicknesses. The problem is, one good sleeping bag is hard enough and expensive enough to come by, let alone a variety of different lofts and temperature ratings. The solution – sleeping bag liners.

Liners quickly extend the season range of a sleeping bag, transforming summer bags into spring/fall bags, California 3-season bags into Minnesota ones. Add 2 liners to a 20° bag for warm cold-winter sleeping.

Sleeping bag liners range in price from about $20 to $80, in weight from 7 oz to 2 lbs, and some claim to add as much as 10° of warmth, depending on the material and thickness. Here are a few popular options:

Make/Model Material Weight Pack Size Avg Price
Cocoon coolmax Coolmax 11 oz 3.5” × 7” $40
Kelty 100 Fleece 1 lb 9 oz 7” × 14” $35
Sea to Summit Silk 7 oz 3” × 5.5” $65
Slumberjack Micro fleece 1 lb 1 oz 5” × 11” $65

Without insulation, i.e., with only a single layer of fabric, warmth depends mostly on weight – the heavier the fabric the warmer you’ll be. Higher prices come with the more comfortable or moisture-wicking fabrics.

The final option is to make your own liner, which is as easy as sewing two pieces of fabric together, since that’s all a liner is. The fleece liner above took 15 minutes, cost nothing (I reused an old blanket), fits well, and weighs 12 oz. I tested it out this weekend in the Sand Dunes State Forest.

A homemade liner is ideal for the youngsters, since cold-weather bags for kids are rare and kid-sized liners nonexistent.

Haliaeetus leucocephalus

bald eagle at dusk

H. leucocephalus fun facts: biggest bird, next to the condor, and that monstrous eagle on Rescuers Down Under; nearly extirpated by DDT, which was ingested by fish, which were ingested by the eagle; mates for life, monogamously, so they say; not really bald.

Staredown with a Bald Eagle

hiking with the kidsToday we hiked around Keller Lake (Maplewood, MN), through swamp and snow, in search of a bald eagle. Growing up in the central valley of California, where sightings are rare, the national bird is a legendary mythical creature, like a unicorn. Seeing one would be an omen of prosperity, or it would give you raptor powers – we weren’t sure. Turns out they’re common to the Twin Cities area, and they don’t give you special powers, though I did nearly wet myself when they made eye contact with me.

bald eagle        bald eagle close up

bald eagle in nest        bald eagle in nest

Mess Kit for Kids

kids mess kitWith a big year of camping ahead of us we’re trying to gather up some of the essential personal gear for our kids. The mess kit has a simple purpose, to get food from point A (the cookware) to point B (the mouth). We’re keeping it simple and affordable: two pieces, no moving parts, under 2$.

When I say mess kit, I’m referring only to the personal pieces, not the skillet, kettle, or espresso machine. In the minimalist, recyclist motif, ours consists of old plastic-ware and the skeleton of an infant/toddler fork.

mess kit for kidsA sierra mug is my plate/cup/bowl of choice, followed closely by the iconic blue enameled mug, aka hobo cup. Both cost around 5$ and are nearly indestructible, but the metal will get too hot for kids to handle. Instead, durable plastic is best, e.g., old tupperware or plates with monkey faces on them.

The only downside to the fork is it’s not a spork, otherwise it includes multiple clipping/lashing points, it rivals the ultralight utensils in weight (0.7 oz), and it destroys them in price (plastic utensils cost around 3$, titanium 9$). The steps are simple. If you want a full metal handle, find a fork or spoon with two pieces of plastic on the handle, like in the picture above. Then, hack the plastic off with a sharp knife. For utensils with a single molded piece of plastic, as in the pic below, you can drill a hole in the end for cords and carabiners.

kids mess kit        kids mess kit

Urban Campout

Last night the thermometer read 40°, which called for a campout in the urbs, despite the 40 mph wind gusts and the soggy snow.

There’s a lot of movement in the urbs at night. Who are all these people driving around at 2AM? Aren’t their kids going to wake them up soon, demanding breakfast? They must be out getting pedialite or emergency wipes.

Besides the cars, there’s a train or a jet going by every few minutes, so it’s hard to forget your tent is pitched in the city, not the woods. Still, it was a good time. The kids tested out their custom sleeping bags, giving them pretty good reviews: Me, with much excitement and encouragement – Do you like your awesome new sleeping bags? The kids, nonchalant – yeah. Can we have some more hot chocolate?

urban campoutWe told stories for a couple hours, about biscuit the bear, carbuncle the crab, and an anonymous ostrich, all of whom were good friends and very helpful to one another. Around 9PM my son and I dozed off while my daughter continued telling us about the volcano that was going to boil, which would feel really hot:

And there was a big rock that was going to roll into it and fill it up and then the planet would crack because the hot lava couldn’t get out.

[Laughter, followed by what sounded like a monkey, dying…]

I was talking like a funny monkey. Dad, can you do something for my finger to feel better? For my finger to be, um, not ripped?

She had a hangnail. That’s all I can remember.