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Choosing emergency sleeping bags

Weekend Homesteader: DecemberOnce you've chosen your emergency winter wardrobe, I recommend you spend the  majority of the cash you've set aside for this project on a good sleeping bag.  If you snuggle down inside a sleeping bag rated at 0 degrees Fahrenheit in all of the clothes mentioned above (minus the boots), you'll be warm as toast no matter what happens.

When choosing sleeping bags for power outages, you don't need to buy the expensive, light-weight versions meant for backpacking.  And as long as you keep your bag dry, the insulating material doesn't matter.  Instead, make your choice based on two characteristics --- temperature rating and style.

Sleeping bag temperature ratings should be taken with a grain of salt since a 0 degree bag probably won't make you very happy in a tent on a windy mountaintop at 0 Fahrenheit.  That said, lower ratings do mean warmer bags, so go as low as your wallet will allow.

There are two main types of sleeping bag styles --- mummy bags and rectangular bags.  Mummy bags are the warmest for one person sleeping alone since they follow the contour of your body when zipped up (and usually even include a hood to keep your head warm.)  But don't buy a mummy bag if you can't sleep in a confined situation ---- a zipped up rectangular bag will be warmer than an unzipped mummy bag.  In addition, make sure you choose a bag that's big enough if you're especially tall or wide.

Weekend Homesteader paperback If you regularly sleep with someone, you might want to choose a right and left handed pair of sleeping bags.  These bags can be used separately or can be zipped together to make a family-sized warm spot.

Don't just toss your sleeping bags into the closet while waiting for a power outage.  Rectangular bags can often be unzipped so they lie all the way flat and work as an extra comforter on your bed, allowing you to turn down the heat at night.  I enjoy slipping my mummy bag inside the sheets to give me something to snuggle into when I first get into my cold bed at night --- a sleeping bag heats up much faster than a traditional bed.

I hope you enjoy this excerpt from Weekend Homesteader: December.  The 99 cent ebook walks you through the basics of planting your first fruit trees, staying warm without electricity, understanding the uses of essential tools, and turning trash into treasures.  If you're interested in other aspects of basic emergency preparedness, Weekend Homesteader: November gives tips on storing drinking water and the upcoming Weekend Homesteader: January will cover backup lighting options.

This post is part of our Emergency Warmth lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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A good tip I remember from Boy Scouts is to change into a fresh pair of clothes or long underwear before hitting the sack. Even though your clothes from the day are warm they're also full of sweat that will cool once you're laying in bed.
Comment by Phil Fri Dec 2 23:25:44 2011

I also recommend not sleeping in the clothes you have either worn before hitting the sack, or the clothes you will wear in the morning... Instead if you want your clothes pre-warmed, put then in the bag with you during the night, but don't wear them. The issue here is really sweat, and it will feel colder in the morning with those clothes on.

That said...

The best sleeping bag I ever bought was that one I stayed in the yurt with. It's this one I think, but I bought it at a gun show for $50.

I've stayed in that bag several times and have been nice and toasty every time. In the yurt, I'm pretty sure I remember single digit temps, and I didn't wake up often enough to stuff the stove. My boots froze to the floor, but I was still warm. The bag is a bit too heavy for backpacking and the like, but I think it would be downright hot in that bag into the negatives if one added a fleece liner.

Comment by Shannon Sat Dec 3 10:22:23 2011
Phil and Shannon --- Great tips on not going to bed sweaty! And thanks for the link to the super warm sleeping bag.
Comment by anna Sat Dec 3 11:46:10 2011

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