Sleeping bag liners not only protect your bag from dirt, but wick moisture and add warmth, too.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures
There was no escape.
Once, back in the olden days, some friends and I went camping in winter. We were young and invincible, meaning occasionally foolhardy, and this was our first experience with tenting in snow.
That first day was busy. We were active, pitching tents, arranging our primitive camp kitchen, exploring a bit, building a campfire.
All that kept up warm.
But when we went to sleep – or tried to anyway – the cold penetrated down to the depths of our very souls. A fitful night was followed by a day spent trying to get back to normal, then another fitful night.
Our sleeping bags just couldn’t compensate for the weather. So we were more than ready to leave by weekend’s end.
On the other extreme, I recall summertime campouts in hot, muggy, sticky weather. Some were a week or longer. They involved paddling, fishing, hiking, and more.
In those cases, staying warm wasn’t the problem.
Instead, the issue was that long before we got home, our sleeping bags felt dirty, sweaty and oily. They were, in a word, grungy.
There is an answer for both problems, though: the sleeping bag liner.
They come in all sorts. Depending on weight and material, some are best for car camping, others for backpacking, and some are primarily intended to provide warmth, other to keep you dry.
All have value.
I still like camping in all seasons, but rarely do I spend a night out without a liner of some sort. It’s not a matter of whether to take one, but which one to take.
Here’s a look at liner options.
These are the liners best for winter camping. Generally insulated with hollow core fiber –Thermolilte is a common brand — they add warmth, often a lot of it.
That can mean as much as 25 or more degrees. Put one in your sleeping bag rated down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit and you’re suddenly covered down to minus 15, for example.
Like microfiber, fleece adds warmth. It’s also quick to dry and wicks moisture away from your body.
But it’s bulky, too. That makes fleece liners a good option for car camping, where weight isn’t an issue, but a poor one for backpacking.
If you sleep with cotton bedsheets, you know e3xactly what you’re getting with a cotton liner. They’re light, cool, comfortable against the skin and less expensive than other options.
They do absorb water, though, and can take longer to dry in camp than other materials.
Silk liners weigh almost nothing. That alone makes them popular with backpackers.
But silk has more going for it than that.
Ever hiked using silk socks as liners? Silk liners offer the same benefits, meaning a degree of insulation in colder weather while remaining breathable in warmer conditions. Always, they also wick moisture away.
Another good option for winter, wool liners – often merino wool — add warmth. And they just feel cozy.
Wool liners are also best at naturally resisting odor. Hollow spaces in the fibers make them breathable. As a result, they don’t take on that “old camper” smell like some others can.
Now, there are other liners out there. Some offer a mix of materials, like a cotton and silk blend, for example.
All are good barriers against dirt. It’s a lot easier to machine wash a liner at home than your sleeping bag.
And they can each be used alone. Many is the time I’ve slept in just a liner – fleece in particular — if conditions are warm enough.
I’m definitely older than I was in those long-ago days. Perhaps I’m smarter, too, or just wimpier. Or both.
But a liner is always a part of my kit these days.
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