Not dead, just pinin’ for Spring

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It’s a long slow winter here in Moosenut Falls, but yesterday I roused from hibernation long enough to finally wonk the old WallyWorld Ozark Trails 250 sleeping bag into a new configuration as a top-quilt.

  • [FYI Update~ March 5th, 2017: I have spent a lot of nights for the last month sleeping outside the covers while using this as a top quilt. I am incredibly well satisfied. I keep my bedroom temperature of around 60° in the winter, and this is too heavy most nights. I find myself having to vent by pulling my feet up out of the foot box and sticking them out to the side every couple of hours, or by flapping the upper half of the quilt to let some of the heat escape. I am quite confident that this would take me down into the mid 40°s(F). Read on to find out what I did]

 

For of those who might not be acquainted with the concept, top quilts are essentially down sleeping bags without zippers. The thinking is that since you end up sleeping on half of the down in your bag [compressing it flat enough so that it has no insulative value], you might as well just have the bag on top of you.  Most people now utilize an inflatable/insulated sleeping pad that will stop the heat loss to the ground or air underneath you, so you might as well have your insulation concentrated above…. Heat rises after all.

This is a little project I have been intending to get around to for a long time. You can, of course, use a sleeping bag as a top quilt by simply leaving the zipper open. This is a perfectly viable option if you want to continue to use your bag with the zipper if needed. For my own purposes I have determined that the top quilt suits my needs for better, and the unequal coverage length due to the hood on the unconverted bag was annoying. Additionally, there’s always that good feeling you get when you shave a couple of ounces off of your base-weight.

Anyway, yesterday I took the hood off by sewing a double row of stitching and then cutting the bag between the lines. This bag was an extra long, and I’m only 5’9″, so I was also able to roll the top edge into a draft collar. This gave me a nice, finished edge up under my neck. It only took about 15 minutes to trim the zippers off the edges and pick out the stitching on a couple of Velcro patches so that they could also be removed.

I ended up with a decent top quilt that should be good for temperatures down to around 40°F. [The WW OT250 claims 32°, but you would be foolish to believe that… Held up to the light, you can see the sparsity of down in the channels]. I know of a lot of people over on HammockForums who have added down to their OT250 hoping gain a few degrees tolerance, but that seems like a lot of hassle. I have an actual 30° TQ on order from my friend George at Loco Libre Quilts down in New Jersey, so with this and the Cosco down throws that I have previously mentioned, I’m really good for any situations I might encounter… I’m not a polar bear camper.

As adapted, in a stuff sack, it comes in at 21 ounces, and compacts down to about the size of a 2 L soda bottle.

[just an FYI: very sadly, Walmart no longer sells this model. They have discontinued down bags from their entire OT line. If you want to create a decent, warm weather TQ, you are best off to find one of the 70″ x 60″ down throws from Costco, Eddie Bauer, or Bed Bath and Beyond… Those all go for only $20-$25 apiece, and can be turned into a TQ by simply adding a drawstring across the bottom to create a foot box. If you want to get fancier, two of them can be combined in layers for more warmth, or pieces can be cannibalized from one and added to the other to create a larger Frankenquilt. You can find all the DIY information you need over on HammockForums… Just search CDT for Cosco Down Throw]

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As is probably quite apparent from my posts over the last year or 18 months, I have now moved entirely away from ground dwelling in favor of hammock hanging. A lighter total weight for my gear, quicker set up [especially in bad weather], and far, far more comfort are just a few of the reasons I made the change.

I came across this earlier today [obviously from the REI co-op], and thought I would share it here. Curiously, there are really only four but actually applied to hammock hanging. The rest are just good advice for general camping.

But it is a really nice little graphic.

In the spirit of HYOH [hang-yer-own-hang] I have to say I take a little bit of exception to their suggestion that you not exceed 18 inches. My first reaction was, “WTF… My hammock straps have to go over 6 feet above the ground or I am going to be dragging”. On reflection, I assume they are suggesting that the bottom of your hammock not exceed 18 inches. However, what works for one person is not always right for everyone. Are they talking about your hammock when you first hang it up?… or loaded up for the night with you and your gear?  Also, at that height, in really wet weather when you are using an underquilt you’re quite likely going to find that the splash-up has soaked your UQ and removed all of its insulation value.

The other one that I had to take a second thought about was taking down your hammock if you leave for camp for any period of time. Then that I realized that if large wildlife like deer or moose stumbled through it they could get tangled up and hurt… And you could lose your rig out there in the williwacks a hundred miles from nowhere.

If you haven’t yet tried hammock hanging as an alternative to tents and ground tarps, I would hardily recommend that should give it a shot. You can get some entry-level gear for as little as $100 if you keep your eyes open for sales.

[if you have any questions, just pop a message up here on the site… I’ll be happy to steer you as best I can]