Sleeping Bags, Pads, and Liners

Whether you're heading out for an overnight trip or a two-week expedition, you're going to need a well-made, comfortable sleeping bag to keep you warm and cozy. Trust me, when you're trying to log serious nautical miles, a good night's rest is just as important as good nutrition. With poor or insufficient sleep, an expedition can quickly turn from an exhilarating adventure to a miserable experience.

Choosing the Right Sleeping Bag

There are pages and pages of things to say about sleeping bags, but I'll try to keep it simple. There are two main things you need to decide when buying a bag: the kind of fill (down or synthetic) and the effective temperature range the bag is rated to handle. Other important factors to consider include: how the bag is constructed, how much it weighs, how small it packs, and how long it will be likely to last. These other factors are what you will use to decide between two similar bags, but always begin with the kind of fill and the temperature rating—these two qualities have a dramatic effect on whether or not a particular bag will work for you at all.

Fill: Down vs. Synthetic

Down is the lightest, coziest, most packable, and longest-lasting fill available. Period. If properly cared for, down will perform far better and last much longer than any synthetic fill on the market (all of which gradually degrade from use, washing, etc.). Unfortunately, down also carries a much higher price tag than synthetic-filled bags. In fact, some of the highest-end synthetic bags are cheaper than many low-end down bags. But as with most things, you get what you pay for. If you want the ultimate in warmth, packability, and comfort, a down bag is definitely the way to go.

What makes down so great? Well, several things. Down has the best weight-to-warmth ratio of any fill available. It also lofts better than any synthetic fill, which means that it holds your body's heat more efficiently and insulates you from the surrounding air more effectively. Since down is extremely soft and pliable, it drapes over your body better than synthetics, minimizing empty space inside the bag. This means less dead air space for your body to heat (the bag warms up faster) and less chance of heat loss due to convection currents.

The Downside of Down

Of course, down has disadvantages as well. Down can shift around or clump together inside the bag, causing hot or cold spots wherever the down is distributed thicker or thinner than elsewhere. Some experienced campers consider this a desirable feature because it also means the down can be purposely shifted around to increase or decrease warmth in strategic areas of the bag, thereby creating a more customized feel. Of course, the extent to which the down can shift around inside any particular bag (purposely or not) depends on how the bag is constructed. But even in bags with extremely poor down-control, a good healthy shaking is usually sufficient to break up clumps and evenly re-distribute the down.

A far greater disadvantage of down is how it performs in wet conditions. If down gets very damp, it loses much of its loft and warmth. And if it gets soaked, it becomes utterly useless as an insulator. Even worse, down takes incredibly long to dry, so unless you have a very hot sun and an entire day to waste drying out your bag, you may end up freezing and shivering for more than just one night. Even so, this is not quite the intolerable disadvantage many people make it out to be. To protect against the dangers of water penetration, most manufacturers build their down bags with incredibly water-repellant shells. In fact, some down bags are so difficult to saturate that trying to wash them can be a slow, tedious process. This is not to say that down bags are waterproof. They aren't. Most of them will leak like a sieve through their seams, and all of them will eventually suffer condensation if water collects and pools on their shell. But short of an unprotected plunge in the lake or a thorough drenching in a downpour, most down bags will never get wet enough to pose a problem. For kayakers, a reliable dry bag is an obvious necessity, but beyond that, a little care and intelligence should eliminate any water-related sleeping bag disasters.

Of course, down needs to be protected from your body's moisture as well. Unless you like getting chilly, always use a sweat-wicking liner or wear sweat-wicking pajamas inside your down bag. Also, whenever possible, open the side zipper slightly to vent the bag and allow perspiration to escape. The same water-repellant materials that manufacturers use to keep wet weather out also serves to keep sweat in, which means that some kind of sweat-wicking material and, whenever possible, some ventilation is necessary to prevent condensation or trickles of sweat from collecting inside the bag to make you chilly.

The Benefits of Synthetics

So what about synthetic? Well, the best advantage of synthetic fills is their wet-weather performance. Even wet, most synthetics will continute to insulate you adequately. Your night will undoubtedly be a little chillier if you're wet, but you will have far better heat retention than in a wet down bag. Probably the best synthetics available on the market today are Polarguard Delta, PrimaLoft, and Lamilite. The latter of these is found exclusively in Wiggy's brand sleeping bags, which are used by the Navy Seals and many arctic expedition parties. Lamilite has the distinct advantage of being the most durable, hydrophobic fill of any kind on the market. In fact, Wiggy's backs it with a lifetime warranty. Wiggy's also claims that Lamilite is as light and packable as a down-filled bag of the same temperature rating, but this is mildly exaggerated. Although not many, there are some down-filled bags which pack noticeably smaller and weigh less for the same temperature rating. Almost invariably, these bags use an 800-fill down or better.

As for Polarguard Delta and PrimaLoft, these synthetics are also quite packable, but still noticeably bulkier than almost any high-quality down bag in the same temperature range. Regardless, any of these synthetics will insulate you well. The drawback is that they will lose their insulating properties and degrade in performance much faster than down—especially if you wash them often. If you're using your bag all the time, this might be a significant factor in your decision whether to buy down or synthetic; however, for those of you who only take a trip or two (or maybe three) each year, a synthetic bag will last quite long and probably serve as an effective, cheaper alternative to down without any of down's wet-weather disadvantages. With moderate use and good care, a good synthetic bag should last roughly 4 to 5 years before there is a noticeable degradation in its insulating abilities. By comparison, a properly-cared-for down bag will last 3 or 4 times longer (maybe more). Thus, in the long term, down offers more bang for the buck than most synthetics.

The Verdict

If you only plan to camp once in a blue moon, don't expect camping to become a long-term part of your life, or like to change the colors of your bag often, buy synthetic. Otherwise, spend the extra money to buy a spectacular down bag that you can use (and love) for the rest of your life.

Temperature Rating: How Not to Get Hot or Cold

Temperature ratings on sleeping bags are highly subjective things. A bag rated to 30 degrees Fahrenheit might feel hot to one person using it in 20 degree weather, but cold to another person using it in 40 degree weather. Why? Because no two bodies are alike. Some of us are "hot" sleepers and some of us are "cold" sleepers. To make matters more difficult, some of us sleep like to sleep in our boxer shorts and some of us like to sleep in layered clothing. Factors like elevation and humidity complicate the equation even further. And even worse, some bags are rated based on actual in-field testing by real people, and other bags are rated by laboratory testing in controlled conditions with a dummy. Regardless, the point is that you can never be guaranteed of the fact that a bag will keep you warm down to the precise rating it has been given. The only surefire way to determine the accuracy of a bag's temperature rating is to try it yourself and see how it feels to you.

The Rule of Ten Degrees

Since most of us don't have the luxury of testing a whole range of sleeping bags before we buy, the general rule of thumb is to buy a sleeping bag rated approximately 10 degrees lower than the lowest temperature you expect to encounter. True, you can make any bag warmer by carrying along a liner and extra layers of clothing, but don't let this fact cause you to completely disregard the practical advice of buying a bag 10 degrees warmer than you need. You shouldn't need to don two pairs of pants and three T-shirts to be able to sleep comfortably in your bag.

Having said that, you also don't want to buy a bag that is too warm. Ten years ago, I was given a -20 degree bag for my birthday because the relative who bought it believed a warmer bag was a better bag. Admittedly, it is a wonderful bag: attractive, well-made, incredibly warm and soft—but entirely useless. Why? Because never in my life have I camped in temperatures anywhere approaching -20 degrees. The only time I ever tried to use it was on an overnight trip in the Midwest in early Winter. Even though the temperature dropped to somewhere around 22 degrees, I ended up sweating so much inside the bag that I was forced to keep opening it. Naturally, given my sweating, I got chilled every time I did this, so I spent the entire night opening and closing my bag, with my body temperature oscillating back and forth between feverish and freezing. Trust me, it was no fun. The moral of the story? Find a bag that is slightly warmer than you expect to need, but not too warm. True, you can cool down any bag by opening the side zipper for ventilation, but if your bag is rated 30 degrees warmer than you need, nothing short of cutting holes in it will save you from a sweat-bath.

For kayakers, choosing a good temperature rating for a bag is much easier than it is for year-round campers. Since kayakers deal with water, and water freezes, it is rare that a typical kayaking expedition will ever take you into sub-freezing temperatures. For this reason, a 30 or 40 degree bag is ideal. Since temperatures tend to drop lower near large bodies of water, you may want to consider where you future expeditions are likely to take you. If, for example, you expect to paddle on Lake Superior anytime soon, you will almost certainly want a 30-degree bag. The Great Lakes—and Lake Superior in particular—are notorious for conjuring up intensely chilly evenings. (If you're a cold sleeper, you may even want to consider a 20 or 15 degree bag.) On the other hand, if you always head south to warmer climates, a 40 degree bag may be more practical. As long as it is well-constructed, any bag in the 30 to 40 degree temperature range should be sufficiently versatile to use just about anywhere your kayak can take you.

Down Bags and Fill Power: Why Fluffy Geese Make Better Bags

Contrary to popular belief, down is not exactly bird feathers. It's actually the soft, fluffy white stuff under the bird's feathers. And not all down is the same. More mature birds from colder climates typically produce finer, fluffier, longer-lasting down than younger birds and birds from warmer climates. Lesser quality down has less loft. Less loft means less warmth, which means more down fill must be stuffed into the bag to achieve a particular temperature rating, which in turn results in a somewhat heavier and bulkier bag. This, of course, explains why two different down bags might be virtually identical in size and construction, yet still be noticeably different in weight, packability, and warmth.

So how do you distinguish between average-quality down and extraordinary-quality down? Simple. The specific lofting power of any particular batch of down is expressed as its "fill power." Ordinarily, this rating describes the minimum number of cubic inches any given ounce from a particular batch of down is guaranteed to fill. Thus, if a particular sleeping bag is said to contain 600-fill down, it means that every ounce of down inside the bag should have at least 600 cubic inches of lofting power (maybe more). Similarly, every ounce of down inside a 700-fill down bag should have at least 700 cubic inches of lofting power—and so on. The higher the fill power, the greater loft a particular batch of down possesses. Thus, assuming the manufacturer's claims are honest, an 800-fill bag should be lighter and more packable (probably "puffier" too) than a 600-fill bag made with the same shell fabric and rated for the same temperature.

To ensure your bag is truly filled with the fill-power it claims, some manufacturers like Marmot use independent testing to verify the quality of each batch of down. Before you buy any down bag, find out if the manufacturer uses independent testing to rate the fill-power of its down bags, and if possible, read several reviews or talk to others about the particular bag you're interested in. You want to be sure you're really getting what you think you're paying for. Also, if you like the construction of a particular bag but are worried it won't be warm enough for your intended usage, try contacting the manufacturer to see about getting an over-filled bag. For a fee, many manufacturers will add a few extra ounces of down to your bag to achieve the insulating performance you desire.

Bag Construction: All Bags Are Not Created Equal

When deciding between two or more bags with comparable fills and temperature ratings, the next most important thing to consider is each bag's construction. Essentially, there are four main things you need to concern yourself with in terms of construction: (1) shell and lining material, (2) seams or stitching, (3) zipper, and (4) shape. Let's discuss these in order.

Shell and Lining

The material used for the shell and lining of a particular bag has a profound impact on its durability, comfort, packability, and cleanliness. Make sure that you're buying a bag with a durable, breathable, water-repellant shell fabric, such as Pertex or GoreTex DryLoft. This is especially important for down bags: If the shell is not water-repellant, the down may get wet from condensation or spills inside your tent; and if it is not breathable, your own body sweat will cause condensation inside the bag which will dampen the down and deprive it of crucial loft. Also, you want to make sure the lining material is comfortable against your skin. Many manufacturers now use linings that very closely approximate the feel of silk, and I recommend this type of lining over any other. While flannel or other soft-fabric linings may seem more snugly, they also weigh more, pack bulkier, and hold more sweat and body odor than silk-like alternatives. Some manufacturers treat these fabrics to make them anti-microbial, but if you really want a flannel or cottony feel on the inside of your bag, I recommend buying a separate liner, which will be easier to clean, as well as removable on warm nights.

Seams or Stitching

Although manufacturers have many different names for the way a bag is stitched together, there are two primary ways to sew the shell and insulation together: either by sewing the seams straight through, or by sewing in "baffles" to create boxes that hold the insulation. The former method causes cold spots at the seams because the bag is essentially pinched together very thinly along the stitching, allowing heat to escape and, in many cases, allowing drafts to enter. The latter method is far superior for warmth because instead of sewing the seams straight through, interior walls or "baffles" link the shell to the lining and restrict the movement of the down without collapsing the loft in those places. If you're using your bag strictly for summer use and you're typically a hot sleeper, a bag with sewn-through seams might be welcome for its built-in air-conditioning effect. On the other hand, if you're camping in the Apostle Islands or on Isle Royale, the cool temperatures of Lake Superior will probably leave you freezing in such a bag. In those cases, you will almost certainly want a bag that uses baffles to eliminate the cold spots produced by straight-through seams.

Zipper

It may seem like a small concern when buying, but zipper length is a big factor in the comfort equation when you actually get to camp. Many manufacturers have begun using partial-length zippers to save weight on bags. For a winter bag, this might be a nice feature because the shorter zipper means less room for cold air to seep in.But for a summer bag, partial-length zippers can be a tremendous annoyance. With a full-length zipper, a 30-degree bag can be made comfortable even on a 60-degree night because if you get too hot, you can easily unzip the entire bag and lay it over you lightly like a comforter. If, however, your bag only has a partial-length zipper, you're probably doomed to have hot feet (if you keep them inside the unzippable portion) or no cover for your feet at all (if you take them out) once the weather gets too warm to remain inside the bag. The point is that for kayaking in anything short of arctic waters, I strongly recommend that you buy a bag with a full-length zipper. Some bags like the Kelty LightYear try to compensate for their partial-length zippers by adding an additional zipper across the bottom of the footbox. While this does make it slightly more versatile, it still can't compare to the convenience of a full-length zipper (and, on cold nights, the zipper across the footbox is virtually guaranteed to leave you with cold feet).

While I'm speaking of zippers, here are four other important features to look for: (1) anti-snag lining along the zipper to keep it from snagging or tearing the shell; (2) a two-way zipper so that even with the top of the bag zipped up, you can unzip the bottom portion to vent your feet if needed; (3) a self-locking zipper or velcro flap to keep your bag from coming unzipped in the night; and (4) a full-length "draft-tube" running behind the zipper to block wind or cold drafts from seeping through. The last of these is less crucial for a summer bag, but I still highly recommend it, especially if you have any plans to sleep outside of a tent where the wind can get you, such as under a tarp or the open sky.

Shape

It may seem strange to leave the discussion of the bag's shape until now, but in many ways this is the single most subjective characteristic of a sleeping bag. Briefly put, if you don't care about the shape, then the single best design for a sleeping bag is the "mummy" or "sarcophagous" shape, which tapers to fit the contours of your body and covers the head with a hood. The closer, tapered fit means less dead air space for your body to heat, which in turn means a warmer, more efficient bag. Since no extra material is wasted, this style of bag is unquestionably the most packable, lightest-weight type of bag available. Moreover, the built-in hood ensures maximum heat retention throughout the night.

Even so, some people are "active" sleepers who like to toss and turn, or who feel claustrophobic in a form-fitting bag. If you're one of those people, a traditional rectangular bag may feel much more comfortable. Rectangular bags are not nearly as efficient at retaining heat, but they do offer greater comfort for active sleepers who like to sprawl out in every direction. Plus, for summer purposes, their reduced efficiency is probably not too big of a problem considering the warm conditions you are likely to encounter on a kayaking expedition. The more practical downside is that rectangular bags are often much heavier, bulkier, and harder to fit through a kayak hatch than most mummy bags. As a compromise, some companies make a "rectangular mummy," which is essentially a hooded mummy bag with a rectangular footbox for increased room. If mummy's make you claustrophobic but you like the option of a built-in hood, you may want to check out a rectangular mummy as an alternative.

Regardless of what shape bag you decide to buy, make sure you climb inside it and lay there for a few minutes before you buy. Ask yourself: Am I comfortable? Is there enough room in here to turn onto my side or back? Could I spend an entire night in this bag without feeling confined or uncomfortable? Could I put on a pair of socks without having to climb out of the bag to do it? Does the bag offer enough width in the shoulders? Can I rest my arms in a variety of positions? Is there too much room in this bag? And so on.

Weight: The Tie-Breaker

Unless you plan to use your bag for backpacking purposes as well, the weight of the bag is probably unimportant. After all, the kayak has to carry the weight—not you. Even so, there's no sense packing more ounces than you need, and there's definitely no reason that a summer-weight bag should ever need to weigh more than 3 pounds. If you're a gear fanatic like me and you plan to take your bag anywhere and everywhere, you may want to shoot for an even lighter bag. Many 30 degree down-filled bags on the market now weigh in at less than two pounds, and I say the lighter the better. So, if you compare two bags and find them equal in all other respects, use weight as a tie-breaker. Buy the lighter one. Your back will thank you if you ever have to haul your fully-loaded kayak across a long beach or over a lengthy portage trail.

Sleeping Pads: Why Bags Are Not Enough

To put it simply, unless you are a ridiculously hot sleeper, no sleeping bag will truly feel warm when the weather reaches its lowest temperature rating unless you are lying on top of a sleeping pad. Why? Because even the loftiest sleeping bag fill compresses and flattens under the weight of your body. Consequently, the bag's insulating properties are reduced to virtually nil between you and the ground. Without a pad, the ground will suck the heat out of you all night long like a leech, until eventually, you wake up shivering and ill-rested. The one notable exception, of course, is on those sultry summer nights when the weather never drops below 70 and the cool ground actually feels mildly refreshing as an escape from the heat. Even in those cases, a sleeping pad is often more comfortable than laying on hard ground. Regardless, the point is simple: if you ever want to get the full insulating capability out of your sleeping bag, you need a sleeping pad.

A sleeping pad consists of either a sheet of bare, closed-cell foam or a foam-filled self-inflating mattress. Because the pad is either solid or filled with air, it cannot compress under your body's weight. Consequently, it provides a thick layer of insulation between you and the ground and eliminates the heat-leeching effect that otherwise occurs. While traditional air-mattresses offer some protection, their thick air chambers make them notoriously inefficient. Ideally, you want a layer about 1 to 2 inches thick between you and the ground. A layer in this range of thickness will be thick enough to insulate you from the chilly surface of the ground, but not so thick that your body cannot warm it up. The goal is to trap a layer of air between you and the ground which your body heat can adequately warm so that you are effectively sleeping on a 1 or 2-inch thick cushion of warm air. Many closed-cell foam pads will have small channels or ridges carved on top of them to trap air for this purpose, whereas the foam-filled self-inflating pads trap air inside the entire mattress. In the latter case, the foam fill reduces the amount of air inside the mattress to make it thermally efficient for your body to heat, whereas with a traditional air mattress, you end up with so much air under you that your body will probably never heat it. Even so, a traditional air mattress is still vastly superior to sleeping directly on the ground.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both closed-cell pads (such as the RidgeRest) and self-inflating mattresses (such as the ThermaRest). Closed-cell foam pads are bulkier, but lighter than self-inflating mattresses. Since closed-cell foam cannot absorb water, they also have the distinct advantage of being entirely waterproof. Even better, closed-cell foam is virtually puncture-proof—a handy characteristic to have when you're sleeping on rocky beaches or sharp sticks. On the other hand, self-inflating mattresses almost always feel more comfortable and thermally efficient than closed-cell pads—particularly if you like to sleep on your side. With a self-inflating mattress, you also have the option of tweaking the feel of the mattress by adding or removing air to make it firmer or softer. Regardless, both kinds do a good job of insulating you. Just be sure you have one that feels comfortable to lay on, and that fits into your hatches or straps easily onto your rear deck.

Liners

Whether your bag is filled with down or synthetic fill, it is extremely important to keep it clean. Over time, dirt, sweat, and body oils will accumulate inside the shell of the bag, leaving behind an unpleasant odor and causing the fill to lose some of its thermal efficiency. Although these problems can be alleviated by giving the bag a good washing, too many washings will significantly shorten a bag's life. In other words, it's not good to leave your bag dirty and it's bad to wash it any more than you need to. So what's the solution? Simple. Buy a liner. A good sleeping bag liner will catch and collect most of your body's dirt, sweat, and oil before they have a chance to get at your bag. When you get home from a trip, you can wash the liner and just let your bag air out a little to eliminate any mild odors which remain.

There are many different types of liners on the market, but all of them are designed to do at least one of two things: keep your bag clean and increase its effective temperature rating. Assuming you take my advice to buy a bag which is already rated down to the lowest temperature you expect to encounter, there should be no need to buy a bulky liner like those made out of flannel or heavy cotton. (Of course, if you have an old bag that needs a little extra warmth, you might want to consider this option.) Ideally, a liner will be made out of 100% pure silk—one of the lightest, most packable, most comfortable materials available. Several companies manufacture silk liners, including Design Salt, Jag Bags, Sea to Summit, Integral Designs, and Dreamsacks. Silk has the distinct advantage of feeling warm in cool weather, cool in warm weather, and luxuriously smooth in any weather. Moreover, it is extremely light and packable, it breathes, it wicks away sweat, and it dries quickly. Of all the materials available for the type of conditions kayakers are likely to encounter, silk is almost certainly the best. Why? Because when the weather gets a bit too sultry to stay inside your sleeping bag, you can always use the liner by itself as a light, warm-weather layer—just like sleeping under a sheet at home.

Obviously, given the cost of silk, silk liners are not cheap. Typically, they run in the $60 to $70 range, depending on how they are constructed and the type or grade of silk that is used. But if you've invested $200 or more in a premium down bag and you plan to use it, make the smart choice: buy a silk liner to protect your investment. On the other hand, if you're using a synthetic bag it might be difficult to justify the cost of silk just to keep it clean. I still say buy silk—there's no substitute. Nonetheless, if you're really willing to sacrifice silk's luxurious smoothness and convenient quick-drying properties in order to save $30 to $40, consider a cotton liner for a much cheaper alternative.

Recommendations

In case I've left you with your head spinning, I've decided to share my recommendations for the ultimate sleeping bag, pad, and liner. If you use these products as the yardstick for measuring all others, you're guaranteed to come up with a fantastic sleep system that will help you catch Z's easily no matter where your paddling takes you.

For sleeping bags, I highly recommend the Marmot Arroyo. With a 30-degree temperature rating, luxurious 800-fill down, outstanding construction, excellent water-repellancy, a full-length self-locking zipper, and the snugliest hood on the market—all at less than two pounds—I believe the Arroyo is the perfect bag to take on any kayaking expedition. In fact, it may be the last bag you ever need to buy. Stuff it into a 10-liter dry bag to protect it from unexpected capsizes, and you're all set to go. This is one hell of a bag, and well-worth its $279 price tag. If you care for it well, it should keep you warm and cozy for many, many, many adventures to come.

For sleeping pads, I recommend the Regular-sized ThermaRest ProLite 4 self-inflating mattress. This pad offers complete insulation and comfort for your entire body, weighs under two pounds, and packs small enough to fit easily inside your hull: Just fold it in half, roll it up, and slide it inside a 10-liter dry bag.

For liners, I recommend the 100% silk Coccoon mummy liner manufactured by Design Salt. Although it's not the cheapest silk liner on the market, it is well-made, durable, light, and extremely packable. At only 4.7 ounces, it adds approximately 9.5 degrees Fahrenheit to your bag's temperature rating and packs down smaller than a 5" x 7" padded envelope—about the size of a thin pair of socks.

The Ultimate Sleep System

Why do I consider this the "ultimate" sleep system? Because of its sheer versatility. The ThermaRest ProLite 4 will keep you comfortably padded and insulated on any ground—dry or damp, soft or hard, hot or cold. Meanwhile, with the added warmth of a Design Salt silk liner, the 30-degree Marmot Arroyo will keep you warm and cozy all the way down to freezing temperatures. Nights getting warmer? No problem. With its full-length zipper, the Arroyo can be vented to keep its cool even on 50-degree nights. As the mercury climbs higher, open the bottom zipper and stick your feet out the side, or unzip the bag completely and drape it over you lightly like a comforter. And on sweltering nights, use the Design Salt Coccoon liner by itself like a cool, comfortable, sweat-wicking second skin. As for concerns about using the down-filled Arroyo in the sort of humid and wet conditions kayakers thrive in, I poured half a liter of water on mine and let it sit for half an hour. When I returned, the puddle was still sitting harmlessly on top of the shell and the down fill inside was completely dry! The verdict? If you keep the Arroyo in a dry bag, only take it out inside the tent, and use a liner when you sleep, you will never need to worry about a cold night again.

Comfort Tips

I highly recommend buying a good pair of technical wool socks (the warm, cushy type that hikers wear) and keeping them in the bottom of your sleeping bag. Never take them out, and never wear them except around camp, when your feet get chilly. Trust me, after a long day on the water, a warm clean pair of wool socks will feel divine on your feet and you'll sleep oh-so-much better. I also recommend packing along a knit stocking cap for the same reason. Although you will be less likely to wear it, a knit stocking cap is invaluable for those late evenings when you paddle into camp, wet and tired, suffering the effects of a low body temperature and mild hypothermia. You'll warm up much, much faster if you have something warm and dry to cover your head.

You can read more cold-weather comfort tips in my article 8 Cold-Weather Paddling Tips to Keep You Warm.

Cleaning and Storage

A final note about cleaning: If you're going to lay out the cash for a premier sleeping system, make sure you know how to clean and store it properly so as not to damage your investment. Read Cleaning and Storing Your Gear for more information.

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