Camino de Santiago, Camino Gear

Sleep System Tips & Tricks

June 10, 2014

Sleep, those little slices of death — how I loathe them.”  ― Edgar Allan Poe

Wow, poor Poe. I can’t fathom feeling that way about sleep, sleeping being one of my favorite pastimes. Hence the ongoing “sleep system” trials.

Last time I posted about sleep systems, it was my hope that the next time would be my final pre-trip post regarding this topic. Alas, that is not the case.

General thoughts about my sleep system trials/process

A) In hindsight, I returned the Nanowave 45 to REI too soon. For those of you who don’t know, I took it back after about five nights of testing because I found it too hot when the temp was over 65F. If I had it to do over, I would have kept it while I tried out other products. It may actually have been the best choice of all I have tried.

B) While making my own sleep system was a great idea in theory (as oh-so-many ideas are), in practice, I was clearly reinventing the proverbial wheel. There are a gazillion professional gear “engineers” who have already been through this process and created products that were better in umpteen different ways than anything I can make. I thought I could beat the system and I was wrong, at least regarding what I will need for this particular trip.

(By the time I pulled everything together to create the system I wanted, it was going to be a) just as heavy as anything I could buy; b) not nearly as durable and well-made as anything I could buy; c) not much of a cost savings, especially when time was factored in. It was fun while it lasted though; I definitely enjoyed the creative process so it wasn’t a waste.)

C) I posted the following on the Camino Forum:

And received the following response from veteran Camino walker, Falcon:

There will be many higher elevations where the temperature is below your limit. The hot ones will be ungodly hot! They are at their absolute worst when someone keeps closing windows and halting the circulation of air. I take a little $1 paper fan for when I have to move air across my face.

I think you are a sleeping bag person. You will not need a rating below about 40F, so find a light one in that range. In the hot albergues you probably will sleep on top of it. Remember that it is the exposed limb that gets bed bug bites! Even a permethrin sleeping bag treatment will not protect the exposed limb. I have used DEET as a backup measure, but it less effective against bed bugs than it is against mosquitoes.

That’s basically what I was thinking based on my recent sleeping experiences trying out these various systems.

So I have just ordered another sleeping bag, the REI Halo +40, which has 750-fill goose down, (“…the difference between a comforter with 550 fill power down and a comforter with 700 fill power down is that the 700 fill power down comforter will be lighter for the same warmth rating,” just in case you care) and weighs in at 25 ounces (vs. Nanowave’s 29 ounces; who would have thought that 4 ounces would be a consideration?). Note: It turns out that the Halo weighs 29 ounces when in the compression sack.

D) If you are planning your Camino and you live near an REI, plan to get to either their winter or summer garage sale. (If your Camino is in summer, try for the winter sale and vice versa for best chances of getting gear.) REI garage sale tips: 1, 2

Thoughts about specific aspects of sleep systems:

A) Fleece blanket or sack: Cozy and sort-of lightweight. Sadly un-compressable when compared to down or synthetic fill. If space is an issue, fleece is not your friend.

B) Silk liner or sack: Fabulous (light, soft, silky-lol) for those who sleep warm and just need a light barrier between themselves and the bed, air, etc. AND fabulous for people who need/want a sleeping bag liner to keep their bag clean and or add extra warm to a bag.

I am of the mind that the companies who make these should consider adding an opening that can be closed with Velcro. Although, in considering the experience described in IB (above), I recognize it is highly likely that the manufacturers have already experimented with doing so and have discovered that it doesn’t really work (for some reason un__________ to me.)

C) Tyvek mattress protector:

1) Make it yourself

2) Use Tyvek type 14 (as opposed to types 10 (too hard) or 16 (too soft), Goldilocks. Click on link above to get info about the differences.

3) Don’t use the Tyvek equivalent by Hardiewrap as it is a much heavier material.

4) Buy 3 yards at $3.50/yard at In the Wind (or you could do what I did, which was email everyone I know asking if anyone who was in construction or roofing had some they could give me, have several say yes but then spend weeks on edge wondering if/when they will give it to you and then when you finally get it, realize it’s the wrong kind (too hard or too soft) because you weren’t sure which kind you needed so you end up having to order it anyway.)

5) Cut it down to a 5×8 sheet that can be tucked around the mattress. Note 2014.12.26: It ended up coming untucked most nights so cutting it down might not have been the best idea.

6) Treat both sides with Permethrin (see below)

FYI, none of these are my ideas; simply information I have gleaned from perusing the Internet, mainly the Camino Forum and I may very well change all of it once I return from Spain!

D) Permethrin: There is significant debate about whether or not treating clothing and gear with Permethrin will reduce the likelihood of being bitten by bed bugs (*sigh* alliteration is so fun). My thought, if there’s even a chance that it will do so, I’m going to use it. Specific thoughts and recommendations regarding Permethrin:

1) Keep it AWAY from CATS

2) Word around town is that it’s cheaper at Walmart than REI (a shock, I know).

3) Read the directions before treating items with it. (I haven’t done this yet so I can’t say why it’s important but that’s what I read everywhere so that’s what I will do.)

4) Treat the following: a) outside of backpack  b) outside of sleeping sack, liner, blanket, bag, etc.  c) both sides of the sheet of Tyvek.

5) Safety: After fairly extensive exploration of this topic via the Internet, I have concluded that this chemical will not cause me undo (if any) harm. (It is, however, very toxic to cats!)

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