This is my fourth blog in a series on applicational hiking, where I purpose a small number of different situations and ask my readers to consider what works best for them, to get them to ponder on different approaching and techniques to hiking, and to offer my readers the ability to provide their own thoughts on feedback on how they approach the situation.
I would like to start off this article by saying that this will mostly apply to those who are XUL hikers. Please review this article for how I define the different weight categories if you are unfamiliar with how I define XUL.
A couple of summers ago I was preparing for a summer three day hiking trip, the day time temperatures where expected to be in the high 60’s(f) and the night temperatures where expected to be in the mid 50’s(f).
At these temperatures I gave a great deal of consideration to leaving behind my lightweight quilt (279 grams / 9.841 ounces) and instead taking slightly heaver base layer tops and bottoms.
It was an idea that is far from new and rarely done for a whole lot of reasons. On this specific trip I knew I would be within five miles of a road at any given time so if there was a drastic weather change I knew I could quickly bail out and get back to my truck and get home.
After a whole lot of pondering on the wisdom of it all I decided to give it a go and see how it worked out.
I would say that the strangest aspect of doing this was that most of us are so use to having a blanket/bag/quilt over us at night, that not having that blanket/quilt to reach for on a psychological level was a bit odd to experience.
Thankfully I never found myself shivering, I never found myself wanting to start a fire to get warm, and throughout the night my core temperature was able to stay consistent thanks to thermoregulation and the slightly heavier clothing.
The weight of the heavier base layer clothing was 181 grams (6.4 ounces) so I was able to save myself 98 grams (3.45 ounces) by not taking my 279 gram quilt, which is a significant percentage of total base pack weight when my total base pack weight was 872.64 grams / 30.78 ounces / 1.923 pounds.
I have given a great deal of thought on this matter over the last few months and I think that it was a great option, knowing that the weather would be close to what it typically is inside of my house, and with the knowledge that I could easily and quickly get back to a safe location and warm myself up should my core temperature fall below a safe level – keeping it mind it would have needed to drop 15+ degrees below the expected night time temperature before my base layer clothing was no longer able to help keep my body thermoregulation under control.
This is something I would only do in the summer time, with a firm understanding of the stability of the weather that we have where I live, and the ability to be back at my truck (and thus a heat source) within thirty or so minutes.
There are, of course, a lot of risks in doing this. If I were to injury myself, and if the weather where to all of a sudden fall below that 15 degree threshold I set with my clothing, than I would have found myself in a situation that I would now be looking back on and saying “that was really stupid John”.
Thankfully most XUL hikers have hundreds of nights spent on the trail and are at a point where they understand how to read the weather, have a very firm understanding of the limits of their gear, and hike in known areas. I am not sure I would attempt to go without a sleeping bag in any situation other then when those aspects are fully known and under as much control as is possible.
So that is my thoughts and experience on going out on a three day hike without a sleeping bag/quilt. If you have done it, I would love to hear about it, and what you have learned from doing it. Please be sure to list what the temperatures where at night, if the temperatures got colder then what you expected, and if you found you needed to do something to stay warm please share what you did to do so.