Anytime you venture into the backcountry, efficiency becomes a major issue. How well is your backpack packed? Did you bring unnecessary gear or clothing? Are you prepared to deal with unpredictable weather or other situations? Is your camping sleep system able to meeting your variable needs?

Layering Is The Solution

These questions of efficiency also arise while we are designing gear and planning our product offerings. Over the years, we’ve tweaked and tested our products and found that one of the easiest ways to get a more versatile and efficient sleep system is by layering.

camping sleep system with camp quilt and sleeping bag

Let’s say you have a summer-weight sleeping bag like the Space Cowboy 45F/-7C and you have a big trip coming up that is going to be pushing the lower limits of the bag. You can’t use your beloved Space Cowboy on your trip, right? You could if it was layered with your Corus 35F/7C.Not only are you going to boost the comfort rating of your bag into a lower temperature range, you’re also going to get a blanket that you can use on it’s own for all sorts of other things.

We spent considerable time testing different Therm-a-Rest sleep systems at Kansas State University and in our on-site cold chamber. Using the data from those tests, we were able to assign official EN/ISO temperature ratings to many of these systems and predict the relative comfort in different conditions. These precise measurements help us make more informed decisions on how to build more efficient sleep systems and help you decide what to gear you need to bring to stay comfortable at camp.

sleeping bag temperature testing in cold chamber

Building a Camping Sleep System to Fit Your Needs

So, with a Space Cowboy and Corus in your gear closet, you could comfortably sleep in temps ranging from 20 to 50 degrees by using the products together or on their own. Add a Parsec 20F/-6C to the mix and you could sleep in conditions as cold as 5 degrees. Also, remember that your sleeping pad plays a key role in this equation. Jumping from an XLite NXT™ with an R-value of 4.5, to an XTherm NXT™ with an R-value of 7.3 will also have a big impact on the overall warmth of your sleep system.

Check out the table below to see the effects of combining a few of our favorite Therm-a-Rest pieces.

camping sleep system layering guide

Versatile and efficient gear is never an accident. By creatively combining different sleeping bags, quilts, pads, and blankets, you’ll soon have a layered system that perfectly suits the needs any adventure.

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Originally published February 19, 2019