I thought I would put together some photos of the bedding I use in the bush and share some of what I have learnt. Please respond with any comments, suggestions and ideas you might have.
My current kit for bedding down is:
Katmandu Navigator 3 Season Down Sleeping Bag. Silk Liner. SOL Escape Bivy. Karmandu Self Inflating Mat. Plastic Tarp (for a ground sheet). NZ Army DPM Hootchie/Tent Fly (not shown). NZ Army Mosquito Net (not shown).
I have used Down and Synthetic bags. Both have had their good and bad points. My personal choice would be a synthetic bag. I like to have a back up if anything should go wrong. If the waterproof covering for my sleeping bag tears, gets punctured or is not sealed correctly then gets submerged, my main warmth for the night (my sleeping bag) can get wet. If a synthetic bag gets wet it loses some insulation value but can still keep me warm. If my down bag gets wet it wont work. So, if I do not have a fire going and my down bag is wet I could be heading for trouble when the temperature drops. Some synthetics can be a little bulkier and heavier to carry but will still keep me reasonably warm when wet. Synthetics dry out quicker than down as well and I think they are cheaper. This is not an argument for or against, it is just personal choice.
My current bag is Duck Down. I bought it in a sale at Katmandu for about $120 dollars. It was in my price range at the time and I have had it since 2006. That shows you what a cheap skate I am. If I want tough, long lasting out doors stuff I buy from Mac Pac but this Katmandu bag has not let me down yet. One reason is because I look after it well. I hang it out in summer to let it air and evaporate any accumulated moisture then store it on a shelf rather than squashed up in its carry bag. This allows the down to stay fluffed up and the fabric does not wear from being crushed for long periods of time. In winter this bag is on my bed as my duvet. Works well.
My Katmandu Down Bag is a 3 season bag (spring, summer, autumn) but I have used it in winter in Waiouru (with an Army Bivy Bag) and been absolutely fine. This is no mountain bag though. I am confident to use it in sub alpine areas in winter (with extra layers) but would want a more serious bag for alpine altitudes.
Neil Clarke mentioned a Silk Liner and layering which works well for me too. My silk liner and a base layer thermal top and bottoms increases the warmth in winter. The dirt on our bodies from a day in the bush and the body oils and moisture we give off at night can work their way into the down, clogging it up and steadily reducing its ability to hold warmth. This can build up night after night and you might notice how each night your bag is just a little colder than the night before. A sleeping bag liner and airing and drying out the bag will help combat this.
My bedding set up as if for a night in the bush. I found that the SOL Bivy does not compress the sleeping bag at all so the down lofts up to its fullest. The compression sack for the sleeping bag and carry bag for the SOL Bivy are lying beside.
The Bivy Bag is not only part of my bedding system but is also the back up if the sleeping bag becomes unusable, I can use the bivy on its own. It is an SOL Escape Bivy (Survive Outdoors Longer). It was made as a survival bag but I have found it spacious enough and robust enough (so far) to act as water proof protection for my sleeping bag. (I carry duck tape to repair any tears or holes it may receive in the bush). The Escape Bivy Bag is waterproof and beathable and will still reflect about 80% of your body heat right back at ya. In summer I will consider just carrying my Bivy Bag and Liner. It is small and light and can go with me on day trips. It is about 2.5m long in total (including the open head area). For ease of getting in and out make sure the Bivy zipper and your sleeping bag zipper are on the same side. I shopped around for these and found hunting stores selling them for $140 and Blade Master and Top Gear for under $80.
This thing makes a big difference to me having a reasonable nights sleep. I can inflate it to any hardness, it all depends how much of my lung air I blow into it. The short length is all I need to keep my trunk warm and off the wet ground (the Bivy Bag takes care of my legs). The short length means less weight and bulk to carry and time for me to inflate it. This Katmandu item is about 4 years old. It does not self inflate much anymore but still does it's job when I have blown it up. In the below picture I have pulled it out from under the bags to be seen. The mat is actually not any wider than the Bivy Bag.
The individual items.
The Ground Sheet is from The Warehouse, about 1.8m long and 1.1m wide
All these things are plastics, nylons etc so sleeping next to an open fire is out. This is where a wool blanket becomes a consideration for me.
Shown below are other items I have used. An NZ Army DPM Bivy Bag and a Foam Mat. This Army Bivy Bag is pretty good. It is Gortex or something similar but is old and not as waterproof as a new one. It is very roomy inside and can probably fit two of me in there. It has a mosquito net sewn on. A couple of tent peg loops allow it to be secured to the ground then a short tent pole can be used to pitch up part of the bag by the opening. I have never used it like this but I guess it will lift part of the Bivy Bag allowing you some room to move around freely and maybe store some things in the bag with you. The Army And Leather Shop in Onehunga Mall Road, Onehunga, Auckland has these for sale for under $100 I think. This bag is not for warmth but is very tough and will protect your sleeping bag and keep it dry if maintained.
The Foam Mat was from K-Mart for twenty bucks but can be found just about anywhere these days. It is full length and you can see the comparison against the shorter Inflatable Mat on the opposite side of the DPM Bivy Bag. This mat is great value, keeping me off the wet ground, cushioning the hard ground and reflecting heat back to me (this mat has a normal foam side and a reflective silver side).
I may cut down the Foam Mat and try it out in place of the Inflatable Mat. This will save me 1/2 kg in weight and should pack to about the same size.
Off cuts of these mats can be used for padding old pack straps, padding waist belts, an arse cushion, back padding on older metal framed back packs and other things I'm sure.
I am always looking to decrease the weight I carry but not to limit my comfort and safety in the bush. I think the combination of Sleeping Bag, Liner, SOL Bivy , Mat and Ground Sheet are a reasonable combination. What do you reckon?
All the packed items together to show size differences.
SOL Escape Bivy (250gm).
NZ Army DPM Bivy (1.2kg).
Katmandu 3 Season Down Sleeping Bag (1.6kg).
Katmandu Self Inflating Mat (600gm).
Foam Mat (200gm).
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