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A sleeping bag liner does just what it promises: lines your sleeping bag, keeping the inside from touching you.
But why do you need this piece of hiking gear?
Maybe you don't!
Take a look with me at the variables that go into deciding whether or not to purchase, and deploy, a sleeping bag liner.
Or keep things fast and easy: just take my word for it and buy the one I carry on backpacking trips.
Choosing a great sleeping bag is a tough job.
In contrast, choosing a liner is really straightforward.
It's a tug of war between comfort and price!
Maybe you'll have to split the difference to make a decision.
But if you have the luxury of a plump slush to spend on backpacking and camping gear, the comfort factor will rise as you pay for a more robust liner.
Let's take a look at comfort first.
As a backpacker (current or aspiring), you realize that sleep is essential to a safe, enjoyable backpacking trip.
Here's the non-negotiable fact of being in the dark and possibly facing the wind, cold, rain, hail, sleet, snow or whatever antics Mother Nature wants to throw at you:
You can't sleep if you're cold.
A sleeping bag liner is built to slide inside your current sleeping bag and do two nice things for you:
A liner is an ideal solution to the problem of weight -vs- comfort, because for a few extra ounces you can get away with a less expensive, (possibly) heavier sleeping bag without sacrificing your comfort.
Bag liners are easy to wash and line dry, but sleeping bags are not. So why not go the easy route and use a liner?
Not convinced yet?
More good news about using a sleeping bag liner:
Money is definitely a factor in price, but for a backpacker, weight also comes at a price.
Let's tackle the monetary cost first.
A silk bag liner is going to set you back more than a polyester liner, but neither of them is considered a cheap piece of hiking gear.
That's why you need to ponder whether you really need one of these liners.
Maybe you can get away with using just a bag liner, and skip the whole "what is the best sleeping bag for me" ordeal. Think of the weight and space you'll save!
But if you're going to be caught out in wet, windy or unpredictable conditions, packing a liner to augment your sleeping bag makes good sense.
For these reasons, buying a liner is a good move.
Another plus: Liners usually come with a stuff sack and because they're soft and pliable you can squish them into any dead space in your pack. Be sure the sack gets encased in a plastic bag or waterproof sack along with other survival gear.
Here's another great feature of carrying a sleeping bag liner:
I've used my liner as a pillow when I didn't need to be inside of it.
One more idea to justify the expense: you can carry the liner year round on day hikes, as an extra "ten essentials" to buy yourself a small margin of safety if you need to spend an unplanned night out of doors.
Now to address the "extra weight" price.
Ultralight hikers would be scandalized by my suggestion to carry a liner AND a sleeping bag, because liners range between 5 and 14 ounces.
To them, I say that sleep is priceless and I'm willing to sacrifice weight in other areas in order to guarantee a deep sleep cycle.
Be sure to select the right liner to match your bag:
Otherwise you'll have too much, or too little, fabric, which creates uneven thermal conditions.
Pay attention to how you enter the sack:
-Some liners are
just big sacks with a top opening, so you might have to squirm and
wiggle a bit to get into them. But all of that muscle action will create
body heat, which you will efficiently trap!
-Others will open up wide and give you a lot of space to thrash around in.
there's a draw cord, you might want to cinch it down to keep your heat
in where it matters. Or use it to vent the liner if you're a menopausal hiker.
How do you feel about sleeping bag liners now?
Only you can decide whether the extra ounces make sense for your budget, your back, and your sleeping needs.
But I think you can see that I come down squarely in the "buy the liner already!!" camp.
To recap why I'm a fan, here's what a sleeping bag liner gives you:
So it won't surprise you to know that I own one of these little beauties!
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