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  1. #1
    Bears on Bikes
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    Sleeping Bag or Liner?

    This summer I will be riding east coast to west coast, starting mid May and ending mid August. My question is whether or not I will need anything warmer than a sleeping bag liner. I know that Colorado for instance can get pretty chilly at night, even during the summer; but lugging a bulky sleeping bag around with me for months at a time with little to no use does not sound fun.

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Have the bag mailed to you via general delivery. Return when no longer needed. The post office will hold the pkg for maybe 10 days before returning to sender. When I've done this, I put a note on the pkg "On bicycle tour. Please hold for pickup" to encourage hold time leniency. Never had a problem with this method.

    I always pack a pair of wind pants and a light pull over to supplement the flannal sheet bag I carry in the summer in case the temps drop a bit lower than expected. Not unusual to sleep on top of the sheet on especially warm nights. Had a bunch of those last summer in the north central US.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  3. #3
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    I would think you could get by without the bulky sleeping bag if you made sure you had some sort of jacket you could sleep in if you needed to.
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

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    My advice may not be germane for you, but I would bring the bag. The reason is, I tend to do lots of days with 100-200 miles and actively seek out routes with lots of elevation change. As a result, I often end the day a bit dehydrated. This makes me more sensitive to cold night-time temperatures. If you do the standard 40-60 mile days with a preference for flat terrain, then you can probably enjoy yourself without the bag.

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    i remember that i washed my socks in Lake St. Marys (at 4484 el. at the east entrance to Glacier National Park) before i went to bed at the campground on July 4th and found them frozen the next morning.

    denver is the "mile high" city. you could have some long nights...
    Last edited by hueyhoolihan; 03-28-12 at 02:35 AM.

  6. #6
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Down compresses well , and now mummy bags such as Montbell makes ,
    are using elastic thread baffle making.
    to hold it even closer to trap air around you, tightly.
    might drive you Nuts with Claustrophobia , but the wee bag will keep you warmer
    than a more spacious one..

  7. #7
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    MrBearSir .... have you ever slept outside, on the ground, at night?

  8. #8
    Has opinion, will express
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    Quote Originally Posted by nancy sv View Post
    I would think you could get by without the bulky sleeping bag if you made sure you had some sort of jacket you could sleep in if you needed to.
    The issue often is not up top, but my legs. And note the following:

    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    My advice may not be germane for you, but I would bring the bag. The reason is, I tend to do lots of days with 100-200 miles and actively seek out routes with lots of elevation change. As a result, I often end the day a bit dehydrated. This makes me more sensitive to cold night-time temperatures. If you do the standard 40-60 mile days with a preference for flat terrain, then you can probably enjoy yourself without the bag.
    This is very true. That dehydration issue is one that can catch a touring cyclist unawares because it is unexpected. There have been many days when I have pulled into camp, pitched the tent and crawled inside my sleeping bag to warm up... when the temps are quite mild outside.

    And, unless you are completely skint, why not invest in a lightish but relatively cheap synthetic bag, combined with a silk liner? The strategy reduces the volume and weight, but gives you a safeguard because you just don't know when the weather will change for the worse.

    I should add that Machka and I recently invested in Exped mats, and for me at least, they have proven to be the best sleeping investment I have made, based on just two relatively cool nights.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  9. #9
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    On both of the trips where I went coast to coast I encountered freezing temperatures. One was the TA in summer and during an especially warm summer. It can snow in the Rockies any time of year. Even in the east chilly nights are not unheard of. When I strip my gear weight to the bare minimum (14 pounds last trip) I still take the Phantom 45. My Mountain Hardware Phantom 45 was fine for me at 18 F with a silk liner, thick socks, and one layer of clothes. I use a down vest as a pillow and could put that on if it was even colder. I sleep especially warm though, most people tell me they would freeze in the same conditions.

    A sleeping bag does not need to be all that bulky. The Phantum 45 for instance packs to the size of a grapefruit and weighs 1 pound 1 ounce.

    Going without a sleeping bag sounds like a very bad idea to me. Even on a trip where it was over 100F much of the time we had a few cold nights.

  10. #10
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    bulky?

    40 degree down bags pack up to about the size of a grapefruit.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  11. #11
    Bears on Bikes
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    Yes Machka, I have slept outside... on the ground... at night... many times.

    I will be packing my thermarest without doubt. Buying any new gear is out of the question. What I am left with is a synthetic bag and liner. I will likely bring the bag, but I wanted to hear what others had to say, because I haven't done much SUMMER outside ground night sleeping.

    The dehydration point makes the most sense to me, on top of the expectation that there will undoubtedly be some cold nights. In any case, thanks for the input!

  12. #12
    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    Figure out what temps you're comfortable at. Figure out what temps you'll be sleeping at. Plan accordingly.

    In the south, in the summer, my bag liner is usually sufficient. But I still have my sleeping bag with me, usually under me, unzipped, and will sometimes zip it up in the night. My trips are short, a couple of days, maybe a week. A restless, cold night wouldn't be the end of the world because I will be in a warm bed in a couple of days. But even then I have a sleeping bag, just in case. You better believe I'd have it going cross country unless I knew the temps would be staying well within my comfort threshold, and given the variety of terrain/climates, I don't see how you could know that.

    For me, whatever conditions I have to bike through, it's comfort to know that at the end of the day I will find a way to be warm and dry. When I try and think about how to shave weight from my camping supplies, the first question I ask about any item is, "Is this likely to be essential at some point in letting me sleep warm and dry?" If the answer is yes, it goes back in the bag, and I look elsewhere for weight savings. Some people are a lot more tolerant of discomfort than I am, so you need to know that about yourself, but I would look a lot of other places for weight savings before I ditched the sleeping bag.

  13. #13
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
    Figure out what temps you're comfortable at. Figure out what temps you'll be sleeping at. Plan accordingly.
    +1

    I will also suggest that Weatherspark.com is a great way to figure out what kind of conditions are possible and where.

    I always try to have a bag comfortable at or below the expected mean low temperature and make sure I can get down to record lows when it is supplemented with liner and clothing. Keep in mind that you have to account for the highest elevations that you might camp at.

  14. #14
    djb
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    Rob e's comments pretty much sum up my opinion as well. Having a cold unpleasant nights sleep certainly isn't worth it.
    Also don't forget the very real possibility of riding all day in rain and wind for already feeling perhaps cold and miserable.
    +1 on having some warm socks for a cold night.

  15. #15
    Cycle Dallas MMACH 5's Avatar
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    I have a ThermaRest Tech Blanket. I've used this with a sleeping pad, down into the mid 30s with little problem.

    http://cascadedesigns.com/therm-a-re...lanket/product

    It packs into its own, built-in pocket. However, I can pack it down smaller by rolling it and putting it into a small ditty bag.
    That's gonna leave a mark.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    And, unless you are completely skint, why not invest in a lightish but relatively cheap synthetic bag, combined with a silk liner? The strategy reduces the volume and weight, but gives you a safeguard because you just don't know when the weather will change for the worse.
    +1

    A light synthetic bag will handle most of the conditions you can expect in a summer TransAm, and the liner is a safety net at the bottom (and the only bag you may need in Kansas).

  17. #17
    Silly Party Member
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    I agonized over the same choice riding east coast to west coast on a recent trip. I ended up going with a 30 degree rated down bag (I'd always done synthetic bags before) that I found on sale for cheap. Though the weather in the east was hot at the beginning of the trip, I found the down bag unzipped or laying on top of me like a blanket was fine (it's a rectangular bag, not a mummy). By the time we got further west, and hit snow in Yellowstone in late July, I was happy to have the bag. The Cascades were downright freezing and we had to stop and buy long undies to survive at night. The down bag was light enough and packed small enough to make it a good choice.

  18. #18
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrBearSir View Post
    Yes Machka, I have slept outside... on the ground... at night... many times.

    I will be packing my thermarest without doubt. Buying any new gear is out of the question. What I am left with is a synthetic bag and liner. I will likely bring the bag, but I wanted to hear what others had to say, because I haven't done much SUMMER outside ground night sleeping.

    The dehydration point makes the most sense to me, on top of the expectation that there will undoubtedly be some cold nights. In any case, thanks for the input!
    Good. Lots of people who ask questions here have not experimented and tried things.

    And yes, even through the prairies you'll likely encounter a few cold nights.

    For me, there's the comfort factor as well. The thermarest is not a thick bag, Along about my 4th or 5th night on the thermarest, my hips were killing me. But when it was warm enough that I was able to lay my sleeping bags down on top of the thermarest, and sleep on top of them with my sarong over me, I was more comfortable and my hips weren't as sore. The bags provided a little bit of extra cushioning.

  19. #19
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    I use weather underground to look at seasonal averages:
    http://www.wunderground.com/

    Type in a location, then when you have the location page up, half way down the page on the left side you can click on seasonal weather averages. That gives you average and record lows and highs for that location.

    Example, I am going thru Whitefish Montana this summer, so this is the info I get for that location:
    http://www.wunderground.com/NORMS/Di...=none&IATA=FCA

    I will bring a bag that is good for sub freezing temperatures for Montana and Canadian rockies in July, but I used to backpack in Wyoming and Colorado and have been snowed upon in July and August.

  20. #20
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    IMHO - get a light weight synthetic mummy bag - weight is under a kg. I put mine in a flannel pillow case and use it as a pillow. Travel with the bag and pillow case in a compression sack - the whole package is small, but provides a lot of comfort. Get a quality bag, easy to cheap out on this item - don't suggest doing so..
    ride long & prosper

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    The issue often is not up top, but my legs. And note the following:


    This is very true. That dehydration issue is one that can catch a touring cyclist unawares because it is unexpected. There have been many days when I have pulled into camp, pitched the tent and crawled inside my sleeping bag to warm up... when the temps are quite mild outside.

    And, unless you are completely skint, why not invest in a lightish but relatively cheap synthetic bag, combined with a silk liner? The strategy reduces the volume and weight, but gives you a safeguard because you just don't know when the weather will change for the worse.

    I should add that Machka and I recently invested in Exped mats, and for me at least, they have proven to be the best sleeping investment I have made, based on just two relatively cool nights.
    and for even more heat with your exped put some of that aluminium underlay you would use for laying laminated wooden floors works a treat.

  22. #22
    Senior Member coldfeet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    bulky?

    40 degree down bags pack up to about the size of a grapefruit.
    Yup. We sell a -3C rated bag that you can stuff into a 1 liter Nalgene bottle. Look for bags that have a 750 rated down or better for maximum compressibility. a good waterproof compression sack can save a fair amount of room.

  23. #23
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    I wouldn't consider long distance without a sleeping bag. I also use an old flannel sheet for a liner that probably weighs more than the bag. Being cold is no fun for me.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
    Have the bag mailed to you via general delivery. Return when no longer needed. The post office will hold the pkg for maybe 10 days before returning to sender...
    Been there ...The USPS under the international postal rules governing the distribution of postal mail is OBLIGATED to hold any poste restante/ general delivery mail for 4 weeks (or is it 30 days).

    When I am in Canada I have all of my Amazon purchases sent to a PO in Minnesota and then when I have maybe 10 or 15 book packages, I drive across the border, go through the US Customs and Border control hurdles and get my packages, Then I cross the border back into Canada and leave the country on my merry way - travelling.

    Amazon WILL NOT ship used books to countries I frequent.. So Whenever I come back to Canada/USA this method is a legal workaround... Cheap too because I do not pay Canada Customs collectible taxes when I show my exit airline ticket (to show my intent is to leave the country with the purchases) ...

    Poste restante is VERY useful. I have used it in wide and varied places that are subject to international postal union rules - including Australia, Oman and Iran - as well as the USA. Seriously folks, it works for either 4 weeks or 30 days. If delayed, I call the postmaster on Skype and ask them to hold it for an extra week. They are always willing to oblige and ask me questions about my impressions of travel in THEIR country...

  25. #25
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tmac100 View Post
    Amazon WILL NOT ship used books to countries I frequent.. So Whenever I come back to Canada/USA this method is a legal workaround... Cheap too because I do not pay Canada Customs collectible taxes when I show my exit airline ticket (to show my intent is to leave the country with the purchases) ...
    Outside of the context of this thread, but anyone traveling overseas who does a lot of book reading should invest in an Amazon's Kindle w/ whispernet. You can download (or purchase) books virtually anywhere in the world for free, wherever you get a 3G cell phone signal. No monthly subscriptions. It even has a very rudimentary browser that will allow you to surf the internet to read/send emails or read news... very VERY slow but it works! These kindles are also super light which make them perfect for touring.
    Last edited by Chris Pringle; 03-29-12 at 02:07 PM.

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