Ask IndefinitelyWild: What's The Best Add-On Camping Insulation?

Illustration for article titled Ask IndefinitelyWild: Whats The Best Add-On Camping Insulation?

You’re out camping when suddenly it’s colder and wetter than expected. What’s the best add-on or emergency insulation you can bring that doesn’t take up too much space or weight in your pack? Space blanket, emergency bivvy, silk sleeping bag liner...tell us your experiences.


Welcome to the first in an irregular series — Ask IndefinitelyWild. You guys are out doing stuff as much as we are, so I figure there’s a massive base of knowledge here we should be taking advantage of and sharing. Plus, I’m incredibly proud of the quality of our community, so I figure it’s time we give back a little bit. We’ll be giving away an item of outdoor gear from our closet with each of these. For this first installment, I’ll pick whatever I feel is the most useful or insightful comment and ship that reader that Biolite Nanogrid battery/lantern/flashlight thingie.

Illustration for article titled Ask IndefinitelyWild: Whats The Best Add-On Camping Insulation?

Corey, one of our contributors, is taking his wife backpacking and fly fishing in the High Sierra this weekend. Last week’s snow is still hanging around, so it’s going to be a little colder and wetter than anticipated. They have good, warm equipment, but I was up there last weekend and it was freezing, largely because it’s so wet. To ensure their comfort, we think it’d be a good idea to take along a little extra nighttime warmth. But how do you do that in a format which isn’t too heavy or too bulky? They’ll already be carrying an extra gear for reviews and photos, so their packs are already heavy.

I’ve had a lot of luck with the Coleman Fleece Sleeping Bag Liner, it’s cheap, machine washable and when it’s inside a sleeping bag, very warm. But it’s also big and heavy. A SOL Emergency Bivvy helped me get a little sleep once when temperatures plummeted to 0 degrees unexpectedly, but it was awfully noisy and not really made well enough to use multiple times. Corey’s thinking about ordering a Sea to Summit bag liner.

What products do you have experience with and what would you recommend using? Let’s stop short of filling their sleeping bags with leaves.

Top Photo: Chris Brinlee Jr

Standard Gawker contest rules apply. Anyone can comment, but I’m only shipping within the US. A winner will be chosen on Friday and announced here.


IndefinitelyWild is a new publication about adventure travel in the outdoors, the vehicles and gear that get us there and the people we meet along the way. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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I’m not a fan of any of the options above...

- The fleece liner is, as you mentioned, is heavy , has a single intended use, and takes up a lot of space. But, it will provide a lot of warmth if you don’t mind carrying it.

- An emergency Bivvy is made for emergencies... not planned use.

- I am currently using a Sea to Summit Silk Bag liner. I use it because it helps protect my down sleeping bag from the oils and junk that may damage the bag overtime. I don’t personally feel like the silk liner add any degree of added warmth and would not recommend it for such.

If you want to add a bit more warmth to your sleeping system would suggest 2 things:

1. Double up on ground insulation. Add a emergency blanket under your sleeping pad or use two sleeping pads. If i need to I add the Therm-a-rest Z-lite SOL under my normal 3” insulted pad... it’s cheap ($30), light, easily pack-able, and gives you an added R-value of 2.6.…

2. Wear additional insulation to bed. I like ice breaker thermal underwear and the warmest (clean pair that isn’t sweaty from hiking in - dedicated for sleeping only) full length ski socks you have and a wool cap. Easily adds 10-15 degrees of warmth to your bag and you’ll already be carrying most of it anyways. If you need to wear a down jacket to bed, but i prefer just the thermal so zippers aren’t poking at me.

Just my bit of advice from snow camping with the Boy Scouts in the Sierra’s for about 10 years. Have fun out there.