Not the typical Mummy
Sleeping bags have been around almost since the days of Egyptian mummies. They have morphed from Egyptian cotton to hydrophobic down to newer synthetics that are light yet warm and dry.
When you travel with Tusker make sure your sleeping bag is up to date and can deal with various weather elements on each trip. A summer weight bag will not be warm enough on Kilimanjaro or at Everest Base Camp or in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca.
A good high tech bag these days can run you upwards of $400 but before you blow your budget, read what Tusker’s trip leaders recommend. Tusker’s leaders in Asia, Africa and South America sleep very well at night partially because they have the right bag and sleeping pad for their respective trips. Follow their advice if you want a restful sleep.
Asia: Hot vs Warm
In Nepal, Tusker trip leader Mel Kaida uses a Mountain Hardwear five degree down sleeping bag called Cloud’s Rest. It’s lightweight, warm and packs down really small. “It is a bit warm for Mongolia; however my other bag is not warm enough for Mongolia so I bring this one. I’d rather be too hot than too cold. For EBC I suggest a really warm bag, 0-5 degree. Down bags are lighter and pack down much better than a synthetic bag,” Mel said.
She recommends using a waterproof stuff sack so that you don’t risk getting your down sleeping bag wet. “Mummy design is the way to go as it traps body heat in better than a rectangular bag. I like bags that have a zipper that can open up from the top and bottom, that way if you do get too warm you can always open the bottom up a bit and stick your feet out.”
For Mongolia trekking, you can get away with a bag that is rated to 15 degrees as the temps are not as cold at night. However don’t be fooled, temps can still get down below freezing so don’t bring your summer bag on this trip, Mel adds.
Africa: Cold comfort
Tusker founder Eddie Frank is wary of sleeping bag manufacturer temperature ratings. “It’s biting cold at our sites near the summit and you need a bag rated for zero. I find the ratings on many bags as too low. It’s like gas mileages on cars you don’t always get what the manufacturer promises,” Eddie says.
The Kilimanjaro climb starts in tropical rainforest and the first night it’s warm. Eddie brings a custom designed flannel sleep sheet and uses it atop his Mountain Hardwear down bag that first warm night. Eddie acknowledges down’s loss of warmth in wet conditions, but on Kilimanjaro that is less a factor than in wetter places like Iceland where he goes with a synthetic sleeping bag.
A key item is a good compression sack that is water proof and has strap that condenses your bag. On Kilimanjaro Tusker provides the sleep mattress custom made.
Peru: Down to zero
Andrew Springsteel, Tusker’s South American trip leader advises you need to find the right bag for you. Everyone has different body temperature needs as well as sizing issues so before you leave the store try it out. “ If you get chilled real easily try it out to see if it keeps you warm. Try it out in a walk-in fridge if you need too. Find your operating temperature,” Andrew said.
On the Cordillera Blanca trek in Peru’s highest mountain range, it gets very cold at 16,000 feet, often in the teens. Andrew recommends a sleeping bag rated down to zero. For Andrew the down vs synthetic is an either-or proposition but he personally likes synthetic for its warmth and dry characteristics. He is a stickler for a good air mattress. “Spend more money on your mattress that has an integrated pump method for inflation. We have found the blow up models less effective.”
Sleeping bags are not required for the Patagonia trips where the group stays in hotels and refugios.
A good night’s sleep every night is key to making the summit. A big part of that night’s sleep is having a warm/ dry sleeping bag that is easy to zip and fits you almost like a glove. You will need some wriggle room.
Tusker trips are not your average camp-out by the lake where you roast marshmallows with the kids. It’s a serious trip so take your sleeping bag as seriously as your boots and your rainproof clothes.