Thoughts on packing sleeping bags and mats...

Discussion in 'Touring and Adventure Cycling' started by friedel, 3 Sep 2007.

  1. friedel

    friedel New Member

    On our bikes!
    Hi everyone,

    I have a thought, sparked by another thread, which I'd like to take to the masses.

    The short summary is that we are almost resigned to buying new sleeping bags for the second year of our tour, since ours are worn out from 200 nights or so of use. Or at least they are no longer 3-season bags, the down fill just doesn't insulate like it used to.

    Discussing this on the LP forum, someone suggested that this was not because of the actual nights we used them but more because they were constantly compressed in stuff sacks, damaging the down. He suggested we just stuff them in our panniers and pack other stuff around the bags, which would compress them but not as much as putting the bags in their tiny sacks.

    He also suggested the same could be done with Thermarest type pads:

    "Try squeezing the air out of your pad, close up the air valve, then simply fold it a few times to conform (more or less) to the size of your pannier -- and slip the pad in either flat to the bottom -- or flat against one side. Next, to go in will be your sleeping bag -- followed by everything else. Stuff small items (clothing, socks, breakfast cereal packets, etc.) firmly and deeply into the sides and corners. You may be surprised how much more stuff you can pack this way!"

    What do you think? My initial thought is "hmmmm..... intriguing" but also I wonder if the bags/pads might not get dirtier more quickly this way.
  2. Cathryn

    Cathryn California Correspondant

    Having managed to avoid sleeping bags for the past 32 years (we take the duvet camping), I'm not much use, but I wonder if one of the benefits of your bags/thermorests is that they pack down so small? Would the bulk of not packing so tightly be a pain??
  3. Bigtallfatbloke

    Bigtallfatbloke New Member

    That is what I do. But I cant say if it will make any difference as I am not in your league when it comes to touring...around the Good luck to you:becool::ohmy:

    The reason I pack my alpmat without a stuff sack is because the stuff sack made hardly any difference to the bulk of the matt, and although only micro grams it was still weight I thought I could loose. My sleeping bag did however stay in the stuff sac...but it is not down.
  4. Cathryn

    Cathryn California Correspondant

    Friedel, slight detour. I've just been browsing your fabulous site, and am blown away by some of the photos. What camera do you use???
  5. Bigtallfatbloke

    Bigtallfatbloke New Member

    Yes I agree...what a cool site. What a way to live life...although I wouldnt want to do it on my own.
  6. OP

    friedel New Member

    On our bikes!
    You have me blushing :ohmy:

    We use a Nikon D80 most of the time and we have two lenses for it, a Tokina 12-24 wide angle and a 50mm fixed, which allows us to take macro shots. We also carry a Lensbaby set around with us but have hardly ever used it. It weighs nothing though and is so tiny we haven't bothered to send it home either.

    On top of that we have a Sony P9 but we really only use that for shooting videos and occasionally we use it to snap quick pictures if we don't want to take out the big camera.

    I love our SLR, but having said that, if you look at the 14 Degrees site, he only has a Canon A540 Powershot and I think his photos are great! It's more about knowing how to use the gear, thinking a bit about how to frame your shot, starting to "see" interesting pictures and then maybe doing a bit of post editing... much more so than "how big is your camera".

    If I'd seen Rob's site before we left, I might have kept the D80 at home!!

    Where post processing is concerned, we have the free editing program GIMP, which is every bit as good as Photoshop for the average user. We also have the free version of Photomatix, which lets you take three pictures (one normal exposure, one underexposed and one overexposed) and put them together to give you a rich photo. Great for making sure bright skies don't get blown out when you are trying to get the landscape just right and vice versa, like in this shot.

    Phew! Maybe we should start a separate photography thread? I'm sure others have stuff to contribute.

    You are welcome to join us anytime :biggrin:
  7. Cathryn

    Cathryn California Correspondant

    I need to print that off and work through it slowly!! Thanks for all the expertise. You're a massive asset to this forum, thanks so much!!
  8. CycleTourer

    CycleTourer Well-Known Member

    Bury St. Edmunds

    You are right, stuffing down sleeping bags and duvets for that matter into stuff sacks will in time damage the fine structure of the down and cause the down not to loft so well as it did when it was new and therefore not hold the air that is needed for insulation. Some good sleeping bag manufacturers give you two bags, one a stuff sac and the other one a much larger sack for storing it in when it's not being used.

    The less you can compress a down article such as a sleeping bag, duvet jacket etc. the better. However, I'm not sure how practical your suggestion would be in use. If you have large panniers that are not full and you have plenty of space left then that is fine, however trying to find things and unpacking at the next campsite when it's cold, wet and you are tired could be a bit frustrating, when all you want to do is get in your sleeping bag to warm up. The other consideration is like you say, keeping everything clean and dry and you would have to consider carefully what you pack with it!

    A better suggestion and perhaps a compromise is if you have that extra room to spare put the bags into a larger stuff sacs so that they are less compacted. My wife carries our duvet in one of her panniers and I made a made to measure pannier shaped stuff sack so that it fits nicely into our Ortlieb bike packer pannier to reduce the compression.

    Having said that our duvet is 10 years old and we found ourselves cold at night this year in Iceland. We held it up to a lght and could see that the down had clumped and had less life in it than it used to. One has to conceed the things wont last forever, so it will be a new one for next year!

    Down works best when it is dry and any slight dampness will stop it lofting well, damp nights and body perspiration will make it damp, so at every opportunity if it's a sunny dry day we air our down gear and if necessary pop them into the tumble dryer at campsites.
  9. rich p

    rich p ridiculous old lush

    I would have thought packing size was crucial, knowing how difficult it is to carry everything one might need. The accepted way to keep your body warm with clothing is thin layers so maybe you'd be better using sleeping bag liners to compensate for the loss of thermal quality.
    Fabulous site and adventure BTW.
  10. OP

    friedel New Member

    On our bikes!
    I think the idea behind just putting the bag in your pannier is that it might be just as efficient in terms of space because you pack things nestled against it so there are fewer empty spots, which happen if you have a relatively "square" bag in a stuff sack. It's all theory for us at the moment though, as we've yet to get up the energy to try this new idea!

    The liner thing passed our minds too, but we really couldn't find one that convinced us it would add enough heat to compensate for our worn down bags on cold nights. We already use liners and have thermal underwear and last winter there were nights we definitely wanted all three. With our thinner bags, we are too scared of being cold on those really chilly nights.


    We took the plunge this morning and ordered the Minim 500 from PH Designs. Looks like a pretty good buy if anyone is in the market for a bag! We will post a review after we've used them for a while. If they let us continue to use our tent on the cold nights instead of taking a hotel, the bags will pay for themselves before long.
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