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    • Your tent is most likely the biggest or one of the biggest items you carry and your sleeping bag will be the other, I'm guessing you don't want bigger or heavier of either with you when you travel on your motorcycle for multiple nights?

      Staying warm in your tent can be a battle, then there is that added part we as motorcycle riders have, pack size. See above!

      If money and pack size is no object and you want to be REALLY warm there are very expensive sleeping bags out there that perform, like this one from PHD that is rated to -72 Fahrenheit and only weighs 3 1/2lbs, price tag $1400

    • ...but for us mere mortals that money would be better spent putting $1400 of gas in the tank and riding further - we need other (cheaper) solutions

      Sleeping bags are crazy expensive and honestly, YOU don't know if its the right bag for you until you've used it. What works for one person may not work for another. Then you are most likely out of the chance to get a full refund.

      The biggest test usually comes on a cold night, is that temp rating correct? A lot of the time, sorta, kinda, not really. Do bag manufacturers fudge the numbers?

      I camp a lot, and the biggest gripe I hear from other campers is - I love my sleeping bag most of the time, it keeps me warm but not all of me. The parts that always seem to get cold are the extremities (keep it clean inmates, don't get banned for that remark you are thinking)

      FeetHandsHead/ face or ears

      Options? A new bag, up the temp rating, but then your pack size increases, do you have additional room in your panniers for a bigger bag, sometimes double, and the price is a major factor, the warmer you want to be, the more expensive it gets, right?

      Keeping your feet warm. Stupid but simple, wear socks, wear two pairs of socks, have a dedicated pair of extra thick socks! Look for insulated socks, there are lots of options. $5 - $25

    • One backpacker I met told me to keep weight down he found socks/ slippers made of down, I did a quick search, and found some for around $10 it might be worth a try before you buy that new bag, and they pack down to around the size of half a can of soda and weigh virtually nothing.

    • He did add, pee in a dedicated bottle with a secure lid and put that in the bottom of the bag to warm it up as an extreme way to stay warm...your call on that one!

      Cold hands, you have riding gloves right? Wear them, do you also carry wet weather gloves, these will hold in the heat better...or of course as above a dedicated pair of warmer thicker gloves just for sleeping in.

      Cold head, get a beanie, make sure it covers your ears, most of the heat you gain in a sleeping bag will be lost out of the top of your head...cover it. If your face gets cold, try a balaclava, and a beanie over it, if it's really bad.

      Just not happy with your bag overall but can't afford another $300 to $500 for a top of the line new one.

      Look for insulated blankets, they start around $25, it only needs to cover your upside, and again pack size is very small for the additional heat they generate

      If you are thinking how will I keep it around my feet when it's cold? Rubber band or paracord tied around it will make the end into a pocketed area.

      Additional inner sheet style bags offer little in the way of warmth and if you move around in your sleep you'll find yourself getting tangled and having to undo the sleeping bag to untangle yourself, letting all the warmth out.

      other options and also very small pack size, good to keep one in your hydration pack are emergency blankets or bags, usually less than $10, they hold a lot of heat with mylar type materials, but be warned they DO NOT breathe so if you get too hot then there will be a lot of moisture

    • Another place heat is lost is through the sleeping pad or mat, if you don't have an insulated one, chances are you will always be fighting the cold. look at R values, compare all pads are not made equal the higher the R-value the warmer it will be

      The absolute cheapest way would be to wear more clothes, you layer up when it gets cold during the day, do the same when you sleep. If your riding jacket is too big to wear lay it over the feet area of your sleeping bag to keep additional heat in the area.

      If it's just going to be a freak one night of cold on a long trip, consider a charity shop before you set up your tent, you might find something warm for a couple of dollars and then you can donate it when you get to your next warmer area.

      Any other ways to help stay warm but not add too much pack size or weight?

    • Great information and advice, Paul!

      Coldest I've camped was 28 F with frost on the outside of my MSR Hubba Hubba old tent. I have a 38F reasonably good sleeping bag bought from REI ten years ago, and a silk bag liner. It's worth mentioning the actual effectiveness of degrees advertised on a sleeping bag vary wildly depending on individual's physical condition, state of rest, health, etc. They are just ballpark numbers for being able to survive - not be comfortable.. Thick wool socks, beanie and good thermal clothing. But I could not close an eye all night due to cold. It wasn't fun at all. being tired almost ruined my next day. If I knew I am going to be exposed to such camping conditions, I'd buy the best gear there is. For occasional / accidental use, I'd just follow our advice above, and suck it up with the cold best I can. But if there's an option to get a room, I would not hesitate skipping camping.

    • I am actually going to interview one of the well known execs at a camping gear company and he is going to detail a lot of specifics that get misunderstood about gear and whats its temp values really are, it'll be here soon

    • This topic interests me, as I am having a conversation with some folks about riding and camping in Death Valley in January, and to me it sounds like it may be quite cold in a tent during the nights there.

    • oh it will be, you can expects 20's to low 30's at night in january. you'll be amazed how quick the temps drop once the sun goes below the Panamint Range in the seriously prepared

    • I have camped in Death Valley and in Capital Reef in late November and the temps were frequently mid-teens at night. In South Africa it can be below freezing at night in June or July at higher elevations ( winter for them of course )

      There have been a lot of good suggestions here, but I have a couple that I haven't seen mentioned yet -

      Get a fleece or silk bag liner - they're small, not too expensive, and really will make your existing bag significantly warmer - fleece is warmer but silk sure feels nice. You can even use one of each if you so choose.

      Use a good insulated air mattress or other device to get you off the ground. Very important.

      Wear a hat and cover your head and neck with your sleeping bags hood - that's what its for!

      Lastly, don't use urine in your bag - yuck!! Do use some nice hot water heated over your campfire or stove - a hot water bottle will really warm up your bag a lot. Put them in your bag 15 minutes before retiring, and crawl into a nice warm comfy nest!

      Good safari companies put hot water bottles into your sleeping bags routinely in Africa when it is cold at night.

      Also, keep your thermos with you, inside your bag, with some nice warm liquid - hot toddy, or chicken noodle soup, to help you keep warm and comfortable through the night. Or you can eat the soup in the morning before getting out of your sleeping bag in the cold tent.

      Then you can wake up and shake all the snow off your tent before getting out of it in the morning.


    • The biggest bang for the buck I have found is to put a thin foam mat under my Big Agnes inflatable. Apparently my insulated inflatable isn’t that good. Adding a cheap foam mat adds 10–15 degrees easy. I am good to 25 degs now with my current gear. Thanks for the article. I am trying to extend my adventure riding season and getting more comfortable with sleeping outside in December is a big deal.

    • New Zealand has 2 winter motorcycle rallies, the Cold Kiwi in the North Island and the Brass Monkey in the South Island. I've done both and the temperature varies each year but the last few years I went to the Cold Kiwi it was usually around -8 Celsius at night which I think is about 17f.

      I use an Exped Downmat for my bed which has a R rating of 8 and takes up about half a saddle bag. @rtwPaul I also use an emergency thermal mylar blanket on the ground under my bed, it still seems to work and is much quieter.
      Having a good under layer made much more of a difference than putting on more top layers.

      For the sleeping bag I can't remember the brand but it's rated to something like -4 or -6C, but it rolls up huge, however given I am just on a weekend trip and not travelling RTW it's not a huge issue to throw it in a dry bag over the rear seat. Unfortunately my budget doesn't extend to $1400 for a sleeping bag.
      Combine those with wearing my thermals and a woolly hat to bed with a hot water bottle and I'm usually fairly cosy, the couple of bourbons around the bonfire probably help too.

      Don't breath into your sleeping bag thinking you will warm it up, the moisture can freeze and make you colder.