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  1. #1
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    Underquilts overkill?

    I am a newbie trying to get a set up going. This summer I had a Hennessey hammock and loved it for my first hammock. Now I'm going lighter with a different brand. As the weather has turned colder, I am completely over fussing with a sleeping bag and pad. I'm getting an underquilt ASAP. I will eventually also get the top quilt. My future goal is to hike the entire AT in about 6 years b/c it just takes that long for a private school underpaid teacher to afford all the gear! So my question is, would a 0 degree underquilt be over kill for the AT starting in February? If I did get a 0 degree underquilt, does my top quilt also need to be 0 degree? I have very little fat on my body and get cold very easily. Last night it got down to 38 and I had 2 walmart sleeping bags, 2 blankets, 2 pairs of sweat pants and long johns on and 2 sweatshirts and a t-shirt on along with my hat and gloves. I was VERY comfortable. But boy what a hassle! Obviously I get cold easily.
    I just need help picking out the degree ratings in top and bottom quilts when working together. Is two 0 degree bags over doing it for the AT? I'm getting down quilts btw.

  2. #2
    cmoulder's Avatar
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    In a previous post you mentioned that you are 5'5"/125# so backpack weight is going to be a significant concern for you.

    In my very humble opinion, what you need right now is a mentor who has a lot of experience and is a smaller female who has faced the issues you will confront. I don't know if this will work, but you should try to get in contact with Dune Elliot, a young lady who has been active on UL forums and WhiteBlaze and who really seems to have her stuff together. She will not steer you wrong.

    To your specific question, 0°F quilts will definitely not be overkill for Feb on the AT, especially for a cold sleeper. However, that is an awfully early start for the AT and even though it is "down South" you are in some high mountains where snowstorms and very brutal/dangerous weather are not uncommon at all, so if at all possible consider a later start and perhaps section-hiking over 2-3 years. Looking at your plan to hike in 2028, however, you will have learned a lot by then and your kit and outlook will definitely evolve as you gain experience.

    Between now and then, get out as often as you can in all kinds of weather and make backpacking an integral part of your life.
    UL, because nobody ever asks "How can I make my pack heavier?"

  3. #3
    Yarome's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmoulder View Post
    Dune Elliot
    Looks like she hasn't logged into HF (might visit without logging in) since around April, but if needed I know who she is, have personal contact info. and could put you in touch with her.

    As said, she's a great girl. Full time RV'er, camp/hiker, roving ranch-hand... she knows her s...tuff. I don't recall her doing much with hammocks, but much of the gear in terms of materials and rating cross over quite nicely.
    “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, cigar in one hand, whiskey in the other, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by cmoulder View Post

    To your specific question, 0°F quilts will definitely not be overkill for Feb on the AT, especially for a cold sleeper. However, that is an awfully early start for the AT and even though it is "down South" you are in some high mountains where snowstorms and very brutal/dangerous weather are not uncommon at all, so if at all possible consider a later start and perhaps section-hiking over 2-3 years.
    February and March can be quite risky on the AT in GA. I thought Frozen would really be in for it this year when he started in February but he lucked out weather-wise which allowed him to finish in July. He had some dicey weather down here but nothing near as bad as it could have been.

  5. #5
    cmoulder's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clisbyclark View Post
    February and March can be quite risky on the AT in GA. I thought Frozen would really be in for it this year when he started in February but he lucked out weather-wise which allowed him to finish in July. He had some dicey weather down here but nothing near as bad as it could have been.
    Indeed, one might get lucky, but as the old saying goes "Hope is not a strategy!"
    UL, because nobody ever asks "How can I make my pack heavier?"

  6. #6
    Senior Member BillyBob58's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmoulder View Post
    Indeed, one might get lucky, but as the old saying goes "Hope is not a strategy!"
    LOL! I agree!

    ATGirl, in the coming years before you go, you have one huge advantage assuming you have a place at home to hang: training and experimenting in winters that will probably match anything you will experience on the AT. And that training is going to be essential for you, a self proclaimed very cold sleeper.

    You ask: would a zero F UQ be over kill? I ask: would a 0F UQ even be enough for you? There are numerous reasons why I ask that. For one, if you do some research, you will find lots of threads here at HF where folk's who are not particularly cold sleepers are cold in quilts when sleeping in temps 20 degrees or more above the quilts rating. And this applied to me regarding TQs when I first started(not now though). I just had various problems that could only be solved once I gave up and zipped up inside a bag and hood. But I do fine with a TQ now, I have trained myself to avoid the potential drafts of a TQ while sleeping. But there is probably a reason(or reasons) why several folks that don't consider themselves particularly cold natured always take quilts rated 20F warmer than the coldest temps they expect to encounter.

    Point is, There is a learning curve to quilts vs bags/pads, and especially to UQs, and not every one figures it out immediately. These are potential issues that simply do not exist if zipped up in a hooded/collared mummy bag and laying on top of an insulated pad, where there will be no gaps or drafts. The UQ must literally be hung perfectly, or you will have some sort of draft allowing cold air to seep into 1/2" any gap that might be under you, and you must not lift up an edge on your TQ as you toss in your sleep, or then you WILL be cold! Hence all of the threads like "HEY! What the heck! I am cold, even freezing, in my 20F quilt set at 40F!". Then a bunch of folks here come along and work with them to help them figure out what is wrong. And most of them more or less get it figured out, sooner or later. But this is not something you need to be figuring out on the trail, for safety's sake, not to mention avoiding a ruined trip, you must KNOW in advance at what temp your system will keep YOU warm. But, again, hopefully you can train in multiple Ohio winters, so no problem for you to get it nailed down, right?

    Second, even with equal skills and experience, just because I am plenty warm in an HH Super Shelter or JRB MW3 at 20F-30F, does not mean YOU will be. I can guarantee my wife would not be as warm as I would with any given bunch of insulation. There is at least a 20 degree difference in our comfort levels, something we prove daily inside the house or car. And this same difference applies to a lot of women I know, as well as some men. But I think we know where YOU fall on that continuum, don't we? I'm thinking your closer to my wife in that regard. But here is the deal: I'm pretty sure I would want a zero F set of insulation for the Appalachian mountains in Feb. I think that would be enough for me. But what about you? Only you can do the recommended testing to find out.

    Third: a 0F quilt set might be just fine and toasty for a given person one day at 10F, but leave that person cold the next day! So many variables: Are you getting to bed well fed and warm, or are you debilitated from a long days hike in windy, wet cold, with no energy or ability to cook a hot meal, and going to bed already cold? Have your quilts been accumulating body moisture night after night and then being packed up damp, with no sunshine available for drying? Are you able to 100% block all wind and external moisture, and also avoid excess condensation under your tarp? Any of these variables can cause a person to be toasty in a given quilt one night and freeze the next at the same temp.

    My best wild a** guess for you is that not only should you have 0F quilts for the AT mountains in Feb, but you should be looking into ways you can assure or even extend that warmth rating. There are many tricks to boost the warmth of whatever insulation you are using. The addition of a pad, or even being able to go back to ground for the worst case scenario. UQ protectors give great added insurance that you can keep the wind and wind driven rain snow off of your UQ and hammock, even better IMO than a giant tarp can, plus it will allow you to keep your tarp more open for better ventilation and less condensation, IMO. The safe use of hot water bottles. So there are lots of tricks, and a cold natured person like you really needs to be expert in all of them. Because you might need even more than 0F quilts! Be safe!

    Finally, one last trick. I am the extreme minority in this, but I guarantee you that I am correct. Based on my experience and a few other folks I know, as well as the simple laws of physics. If nothing else, if just for emergencies, you need to learn and become an expert in vapor barrier theory. Even if you can't stand the thought of it for normal sleeping, you need to be aware of it for extreme conditions or emergencies. It could save your life, or simply take you from being cold and miserable to warm and happy on some really bad night. But you MUST understand it and do it right. It is not rocket science at all, it is a simple concept, but people have a tendency to do it wrong and- as expected- end up cold and wet. Don't do that! Be the person that does this simple thing right! Right = warm and dry, wrong = cold and wet insulation!

    There is a fellow here at HF named Dejoha, who wrote a famous hammock hanging book, and he has a great tutorial on how it works with great illustrations. He also has a great personal experience he tells about when, after having wrote on the theory but never actually doing it, he remembered it one night when he was starting to shiver in temps well within his quilts rating, and how he was soon warm and toasty(after adding a VB) and stayed so all night. Also, search for a guy named Andrew Skurka and vapor barriers. He is a mad man who does solo long distance north country trips. He explains the theory well, and tells about what a huge difference it made doing the trip one winter without VBs, and the next winter with. Night and day.

    But while you are studying all of that-if you will- just do this simple test your self, just put my claim to the test when you have a safe bail out: next time you are camping in a situation where you know you are going to be cold- or maybe even wait until you are starting to get cold- and only wearing thin long Johns and socks but with plenty of outer and bag insulation- get your self a big old contractor leaf bag or garbage bag. Whatever, just make sure it is water proof. ( I don't like bag liners, I like close fitting lined VB clothing from Stephenson's Warmlite - but this is a cheap, convenient way to put it to the test). Put that garbage bag inside your sleeping bag, get inside the garbage bag, and cinch it closed around your neck. Or if for some reason that seems too confining, at least cinch it closed under your arm pits, around your upper chest. (but around your neck if you can stand it). Then just see what happens. Worst case scenario, it does not work or maybe even makes you colder, you bail and have a bag to use for leaves or garbage. But that ain't gonna happen, you are going to be much warmer. DO NOT WEAR INSULATING CLOTHES INSIDE THE GARBAGE BAG, other than the thin Long Johns and socks. Anything inside the VB is likely to get damp, it is sacrificed for comfort so that your skin won't be directly against the plastic bag. Though thin, synthetic Long Johns will dry quickly once you come out of the VB bag, you don't want to be getting your thicker insulation damp. The point is to keep it dryer. But try to use the same amount of insulation before and after adding the VB, just don't have any significant insulation inside the bag, or you will probably get it wet!

    Then, once you have the positive experience of significantly increased warmth that I anticipate(often 20+ degrees)- because you 100% stopped evaporative cooling and you also 100% stopped body moisture from condensing in your down or synthetic insulation making it lose warmth by the night, another thought might occur to you: you no longer have to worry about your insulation and shell being breathable, hoping against hope that all of your body vapor is able to escape to the outside and NOT condense into water inside your insulation, which happens more than folks realize. There is now no body vapor or sweat able to get into that insulation and past the shell and down. So, if you no longer have to worry about any of that, then your bag no longer has to be breathable. So what is to stop you from putting another large waterproof bag around the outside of your sleeping bag as well? Making it 100% wind and water proof, even if you have a small tarp, or are in a tent with condensation dripping down? All of which will give you even a further boost of warmth. No moisture will get into your insulation unless you are sleeping in a lake that is able to run in the neck opening. (but if you put that waterproof garbage bag around your down sleeping bag and do not also have a garbage bag between your skin and your sleeping bag, YOU WILL end up wet and much colder, I guarantee it. So, don't do that!

    You owe it to yourself to look into this. Even if you don't like it for every day sleeping because you think it feels too clammy, you probably would be willing to make that sacrifice some night when you are shivering. And BTW, lined VB clothing normally leaves me totally free of that clammy feeling, at least until I actually over heat and start sweating. But how often do you over heat and start sweating when trying to sleep outside in winter? If you experiment with this, please report back with results, pro or con. Some version of this has worked for me, when I feel I need it or just want to play, for 40 years.

  7. #7
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    Yea, I watched Frozen this year and thought the same thing. I'm watching EarlyRiser71 from 2017 and he's doing good so far. My thought is if it gets to the mid 20's, I'm bailing to a hostel that night. I have limits. I',m a pretty tough cookie, grew up outside, I just get cold easily. I just want to get ahead of the bubble as best possible. I like people, for a little while. I really can relate to EarlyRiser71. I'll talk to you, hang out with you, but I want to sleep in a corner by myself and my husband. I'm an introvert. Sounds like I better stick with the 0 degree tho. Thanks for the help.

  8. #8
    SilvrSurfr's Avatar
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    I can't get my 0* quilts in my 50L pack and still have room for other stuff. So when I do take the 0* quilts, I have to take my 70L pack.
    "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Ralph Waldo Emerson

  9. #9
    Senior Member BillyBob58's Avatar
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    And PS: don't forget to insulate your head as much or more as your lower body! That is very important to maintaining over all warmth!
    Last edited by BillyBob58; 10-19-2019 at 20:19.

  10. #10
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    Wow, I really appreciate all your advice. I learned a lot from your response.
    I have begun training this summer with just hanging my hammock and finding the perfect hang. I think I have that pretty nailed. I wanted to begin my winter sleeping this winter in my back yard, but I just wont have the money for both top and bottom quilt until next year, I'm still saving. This is a VERY expensive hobby, but I love every minute of waking up under the stars each morning in my back yard. There's just nothing like it. I currently sleep in a sleeping bag with blankets and a pad and absolutely hate it. It's just too much of a hassle. That's why I've decided to try quilts. Also, I don't think 3 bags and two blankets will fit in my bag on the AT...lol.
    I found it very helpful when you explained to me that even though someone else is warm in a 20 degree won't mean that I will be and that I will just have to play with it for myself. However it sounds like a 0 degree is a good start. I am really grateful for your advice on the VB. This sounds very interesting. It sounds like I have something to study this winter..lol. It's interesting no one else has mentioned it. I've heard of and have watched Andrew Skurka, but not in these regards. I'm very interested to hear what he has to say.
    Thank you so very much for your reply. I have more to learn, but plenty of time to do it. I just don't understand how people decide in Dec. to hike the AT and go in March. How do you find the money? And how in the world do you learn even HALF of what there is to learn?!

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