The Sleeping Bag

I said you only need three things to go off grid, a vehicle, a sleeping bag, and a stove. And you ask, ‘but what about my toothbrush?’ Indeed, that makes four things; and you will need more than four things, think of them as categories. Did I just add another category? You do the math.

Sleeping bags are easy to get; they come in lots of colors and shapes. You can get a good one for under $100 at REI. I’m going to stick with REI as the supplier of choice since their gear is great and they are a coop. Remember, you can get all the basics on the road at Walmart, and you can camp in their parking lot (better security; not a great view).

So about these sleeping bags. I have some preferences:

  • Rated in the 20 degree range. (It gets into the 30s when I’m out in the Spring or Fall and sometimes at altitude in the Summer.) TIP: Make sure it’s rated 10 degrees less than the coolest temperature you’ll be in at night.
  • I hate ‘mummy’ sleeping bags, I usually need more foot room.
  • Down is a nice idea, but somehow I prefer a more washable/durable synthetic fill. The bag will get dusty and musty, make it easily washable (and dryable; if it requires hanging out to dry, that’s a drag when you’re on the road, the dog puked Ramen leftovers into your bag, and all you want to do is go wash and dry the bag and get back out to nature. Or spend the night in a hotel, either way, if you can’t dry your bag, you are sitting there watching the bag dry as the sun goes down. Not such a dramatic scene really, usually off grid, where I go in the high desert, things dry in seconds. But that’s more than you asked for,,, as I say, down is a nice idea – until you play that idea out.
  • A sleeping pad. Yes, we are branching off here.

Enough about sleeping bags, per se. The last point, ‘get a sleeping pad,’ is our gateway into the realm of sleeping. The sleeping bag is more of a category including sleeping, shelter, and campsites. So, the first non-sleeping bag item in the sleeping bag category is the sleeping pad. Just get one. You absolutely need one. It is your bed. The sleeping bag is your covers. Ask the nice folks at REI about’m. There’s not that much to them, they inflate slightly. Get a full length pad, the 3/4 length saves weight for backpacking, but who likes a 3/4 bed?

Set Up
OK, this is how I set up my bed. First, my philosophy: be comfortable! Since you are car camping, you can bring extra stuff. Bring extra bedding! When sleeping in my truck, there’s a 6′ x 2.5′ plywood board, on which I lay the sleeping pad, roll out a thick runner carpet (woven by a Bedouin women’s collective) then roll out a flannel sleeping bag that I sleep on top of. Usually, I sleep under an old down comforter.  When it’s warmer (50s) I sleep under an unzipped sleeping bag or blanket.

So that’s a lot of stuff. True, but I go out for a couple weeks at a time, I sleep great. While you may only need three things, there is a good bit of stuff you gotta bring.

REI Outlet