So I have been continuing the experiments with my zero rated 60 euro Quechua S0 Ultralight sleeping bag trying out different combinations of stuff partly in an attempt to get cold in it which happened about –8°C on a simple closed cell foam mat on the snow but basically just to see what happens. Any excuse to sleep out.
The bag is rated to a comfort level of 1°C and a limit temperature of –5°C and as I said before in a previous blog performs well beyond that.
Recently though in an attempt to extend its use I bought four cheap fleece plaids from Ikea (yeah, I know, and I am ashamed of myself, but I wore a disguise and sometimes Ikea actually does have something worth buying that their designers haven’t pissed around with too much) and got the wife to quilt them together and turn them into a sleeping bag liner. It restricts movement quite a lot but I reckon that it adds at least 3 to 4 degrees to the temperature in the bag.
So last night I covered a thick layer of ice with some broken up snow and made a really comfortable bed using a snow shovel which I thought was fun. The snow was icy and didn’t compact much so it didn’t hummock and dip like soft snow and was like sleeping on a mattress.
I learned a couple of things. I put a groundsheet on the snow of course to stop the bag getting wet underneath and on top of the groundsheet I put the self-inflating mattress first instead of the foam mat which I put on top. Then I put me and the bag on that . This made an enormous difference as opposed to the other way round.
The problem without an outer covering of some sort is condensation and the damp night air though in this case freezing fog which crusted most of the lower part of my bag and quite a lot of the rest with ice which meant I was not losing much heat through the bag. If you stay on your back no problem, the top gets wet but nothing else happens. But, if you move about in your sleep which I do, which ever side is up gets wet and then if you turn over and sleep on that you start to get chilly patches. The fleece liner to a certain point takes care of that.
There’s a debate about how much clothing to wear in the bag. Well in my experience so far, too much clothing doesn’t help much. I tried sleeping in a ski suit once and was as warm as toast at minus 8 until the bag got wet when I could still feel the cold patches though not to the extent that they prevented me sleeping. But getting my men’s bits out of a ski suit for a widdle in the middle of the night was a nightmare. Apart from the ski suit all my tests have been in a simple pair of Marks and Spencer (yeah, I know, but I have subsequently chopped off a finger in penitence) thermal longjohns, a T-shirt and a thin fleece and normal socks. I usually do without a hat but have a thin balaclava which is perfect. For a start it keeps your hair from greasing up the bag and then because of course, you can’t put your head in the bag because of condensation you can pull the balaclava over your face and still breathe.
One problem though is that I get cold eyes a lot. I usually pull the balaclava down but I’m hunting for an alternative solution. Sleeping in ski goggles perhaps???!!! .
So how cold did it get? Well unusually for this area the temperature got down to minus 11 with a chilly breeze coming off the hillside and freezing fog for part of the night but it was really toasty all night though I don’t think it would cope with colder temperatures. So I’m well pleased. I might be able to extend it further by wearing a top later of clothes which will be my next test I suppose.
Of course I hear you say, it would be much easier to simply buy a bag which goes down to minus 10 or minus 15 or something rather than the 0°C bag I have and have done with it and I would definitely agree. But the wife would lynch me if even mentioned buying another bag (the three of us now have a new bag each for emergency use plus my zero degrees bag) and the interestingly cold weather is almost over anyway but I’ll be hunting round for a serious bag during the year. Also, I’m having fun trying things out.
The freezing fog was great. It created centimetre long spikes over everything. At a certain point the pattering on the sleeping bag made me think it was snowing but it was just the ice crystals blowing off the trees. Very Christmassy.