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Contrary to what you might have seen or read, the thermal efficiency of bravado is actually quite low. It may appear perfectly adequate at 3pm on a sunny afternoon but roll the clock forward twelve hours and you’ll probably wish you’d packed something a little heavier. Staying warm through the night is often the difference between whether you actually enjoy or simply endure a night out and unfortunately, if you do happen to spend the night shivering and praying for the arrival of dawn, then you’ve only really got yourself to blame … and yes, I know I sound like your mum.

I’ve written before about sleeping bags and mats, so I won’t go into it all again here but if you are in the market for either of those items, the previous links might be worth having a look at. What I’d rather try and (hopefully) do here is offer a few ideas and suggestions that should enhance your choice of sleeping equipment and get you thinking.

The down ninja fears no cold!


Calories are heat … If you’re of a certain age, you’ll be well aware that, Ready Brek is central heating for kids. Well, it’s also central heating for big kids too and so is any other food you stuff down your face. Simply put, if you’re hungry (or thirsty) the chances of you being warm are reduced. Eat something before retiring for the night, if it’s hot and carb’ rich then all the better. A hot drink is also well worth the effort in the battle to ward off the 4am creeping chills … I would be a little cautious of tea / coffee though, hot chocolate, Horlicks or Ovaltine is generally a safer bet.

Don’t get cold in the first place … The insulation inside your sleeping bag works by trapping air and if that air’s warm or can be warmed quickly, the better things will feel. If you climb inside your bag tense and shivering, then the air within the insulation is going to remain cold for an awfully long time … and so are you. Once you stop, put your jacket on, don your hat and generally wrap up. If you start to feel yourself getting cold, start moving … have a little jog about, do some press ups or anything else to get your body to start generating heat.

Wet is cold … Getting wet may be unavoidable but if it does happen, particularly late on in the day when the chances of drying out naturally are slim, don’t be tempted to try sleeping in damp clothes in the hope of drying them out overnight. Remove anything even remotely soggy, replace it with whatever you have that’s dry (nothing is better than wet clothes) and resolve yourself to the fact that the first 5 minutes of the following morning are going to feel moderately uncomfortable.

Use your bag wisely … If your sleeping bag has a hood, then use it and if it has a drawcord on the chest baffle use that too. Think of the warm air in your sleeping bag as precious but rather stupid … it wants to escape to the cold outside. Any chink in your armour will become its escape route and unfortunately, warm air going out means cold air coming in.

Beware the wind … Do whatever you can to shelter yourself from the wind, even a gentle breeze is worth hiding from. Trees, walls, dips and gullies can all act as windbreaks and make a real difference to how warm you’ll sleep. If you’re under a tarp try using your luggage or dry bags to seal any gaps along the windward edge. The wind pushing against a bivvy can be enough to compress your sleeping bag and produce very noticeable cold spots.

Remember that the nights can still get properly chilly at the start of May, a touch of frost isn’t unheard of in the hills, so pack accordingly. A warm jacket, spare socks to sleep in and a hat should really be considered a minimum but you might want to add a set of base layers to that, especially if you know you’re not the warmest of sleepers.

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