WINTER HIKE: SLEEP SYSTEM

Trust me, I don’t want to carry two sleeping bags. But with frigid temperatures soon to be the norm, it’s just the way it has to be.

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30-degrees don't look so bad next to the thought of single-digits.

To begin, I’ve been using a 22-degree, 900-fill goose down sleeping quilt for a few years. Katabatic produces this quilt, and it’s warmth, lightness and durability far exceeds many other bags. To supplement this quilt during winter, I will also carry a Mountain Laurel Design’s Spirit Quilt. It is a synthetic quilt, equally as light and it comes in three temperature ratings: 28-, 38-, and 48-degrees. Knowing there will be some frigid nights ahead, I opted for the 28-degree which is bulkier than I planned, but still suprisingly packable and lightweight. (The 38-degree may have been the better choice, but I’m sure when it’s 5-degrees or -5-degrees,  I will be thanking my vacillating throught process for choosing warmer, NOT lighter. It’s a difference of 2 whole ounces, FYI). When it comes down to it, this hike on the AT is going to be wicked cold at times! The total weight for the sleeping quilt combo is 41 ounces (2lb 9 ounce). Not too bad for winter camping.

Sure, I could have upgraded to a zero – degree bag, but then I’d be limitied. The conditions for next year’ triple crown endeavor will vary week to week, and having a sleeping system that allows for more versatility is crucial to comfort. Having down closest to my body for superior warmth, while having a synthetic upper for moisture management should prove to be an efficient sleeping system.

So I decided to adopt this strategy, one that two of the most well-known hikers in the thru-hiking community used on the first successful winter thru-hike of the PCT. Trauma and Pepper are a depth of knowledge, that’s for certain. But I am intrigued by the alpinist approach that many Patagonia ambassadors swear by…or is it swear at? Often, despite frigid temperatures, these climbers layer on their down. Using 3/4-lenght sleeping bags, they rely on the reliable warmth of the Fitz Roy Jacket to serve as a sort of jacket/sleeping bag combo. I will be carrying a Fitz Roy Jacket (a slightly older version that is shorter and if I’m lucky, an ounce lighter), and I wonder if the jacket, Katabatic quilt, synthetic skirt and some down booties would be enough….Despite the fact that half the country has been in a state of emergency and suffering from flood, blizzard or fire, I’ve been visiting family in Warwick, NY, where it is unseasonably mild. 40- and 50- and 60-degree afternoons are a hard environment to test out this new piece of gear.

Weighing safety and comfort over lightness and packabilty, I will be using the combination of quilts for the winter thru-hike(I can always downsize along the way), and by April, I will officially downsize to using just the Katabatic quilt. At which point I won’t know what to do with so much space!

Check out Katabatic Quilts here.

Check out Mountain Laurel Design Quilts here.

5 thoughts on “WINTER HIKE: SLEEP SYSTEM

  1. I’m sure those strong and beautiful legs of yours can handle the extra weight of two sleeping bags. Sounds like a smart idea and its best to be safe then sorry.

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  2. Hi Mary!

    If you had to choose between the two of those quilts from 3+ season use, all things considered, which would you choose? I’m leaving Chicago on a bikepacking trip in March and they happen to be the two quilts I’m choosing between. Do you think the Katabatic would be too warm mid-summer, especially if you weren’t in the coldest of climates?

    Appreciate it if you get a chance to respond. Thanks!

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    • Hey Matt. My Katabatic is usually great during the summer, though I’m usually up in the mountains at higher elevation. Since its a quilt, you can have a bit more versatility than a regular bag and adapt to temperature. I think the Katabatic Alsek is the most versatile so if you want one bag to do it all, then it’s the alsek. The synthetic is certainly convienent to washing, and I’m blown away at MLD’S craftsmanship as it parallels the katabatic. The Alsek does pack down more. Better warmth to weight. But it is down so if you are in wet, humid or real variable conditions the MLD is great. Plus, it can open up completely. So: concerned for weight or packabilty, go alsek. For hassle free, Reliably warm when wet: MLD.

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