Sleeping bags, Quilts, Blankets, and Kilts... And my choice in sleeping pad.
So... you have your backpack, your shoes, and you've watched every YouTube video on the thruhike of your dreams, now you are deciding on what sleeping "bag" to use. Well... The short answer is, it depends on what the weather will be. This blog is the longer answer of what I used to get thru the American Triple Crown.
I didn't use a sleeping bag. I had a sleep system based around 4 layers. A sleeping pad, an underquilt/underblanket, a quilt, and a contractor bag. I also had my 16 oz wool Kilt in the wintertime, Let me explain the setup.
The sleeping pad I used for the CDT and PCT was the Nemo Switchback My dog who joined me for most of the PCT used a sleeping pad from Amazon that you can find a similar one here. The great thing about rigid pads versus the inflatables is that they are less likely to flatten out in the night, and won't pop in the desert. Both Anubis and I had issues with stabby desert plants while trying to sleep.
I did use a Klymit V for my Appalachian trail hike, but I tossed it before leaving Katahdin because of the smell it held onto, it had more patches than an Eagle Scouts sash, and wasn't a devastating financial loss.
I recommend trying out different sleeping pads. Stores like REI and Academy will usually have displays for you to try. Some of the insulated inflatables can be super loud at night when you roll over. Just something to be aware of.
I had a rotation of underquilt, sheets, and blankets. All my quilts come from Cedar Ridge Outdoors, I love their guarantees and the guys there are great people who deserve all the support we as a community can give. I have a 45 degree and a 10 degree Leconte quilt from them. Super light and easy to clean.
I had a few different sheets that I would pick up from Walmart fairly cheap on the way, or if you are looking to get some early, Amazon has these.
When it wasn't quite cold enough for a zero degree quilt, and I wasn't paying shipping for a bounce box, I would pick up a cheap (under $20) fleece blanket. You can find them at most resupplies or gas stations, and if you (or your dog) tear them up, you can just toss them in the trash.
Inside of my backpack, I used a contractor bag as a waterproof liner. Which works really well for keeping things dry even when THIS happens. It is also a great way to add another layer of warmth in the extreme case that you don't have enough layers. This will cause a buildup of condensation, and your footbox will get wet, but it works. DO NOT pull the contractor bag above your waist. They don't print suffocation warnings on the bags themselves, and I've met some people out there who wouldn't understand this.
And that's it! That's my sleeping system! If you are like me and hike in a kilt, you know they double as a nice wool blanket to go on as another layer, or roll up into a nice pillow.
This is not the only way to hike, but this is what worked for me. Let me know in the comments section what you used or what you plan to buy for your hike.
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