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Silk Sheets and Down Comfortors – For Traveling?

There’s nothing quite like a good night’s sleep to keep you going through long active travel days. Having had my share of really miserable nights on the road, I really wanted to minimize the misery and maximize the nighttime comfort for our long bicycle trip.

Silk Sheets

For three straight summers we suffered through miserable heat and humidity on our cycling trips. If it got below 87 degrees in the tent at night, we were happy. The heat was one thing, but adding the high humidity really made it tough.

Sleeping was miserable – it was so hot that we’d soak through anything. Realizing we needed something to make our lives bearable, I discovered the Cocoon Ripstop Silk Bag Liner/Travel Sheet at REI. I thought twice about spending the money for it, but now that we each have one, I can’t imagine ever being without them again. It’s a wide rectangular bag that opens halfway down on one side, and is fastened at the top with a small bit of Velcro. The top has a fold to keep your pillow in place. Ours are navy blue (doesn’t show anything), and they are made of an extremely durable ripstop silk.

Talk about comfortable! The silk feels just awesome against the skin. In really hot weather, it’s the only thing we use at night. It dries so quickly, and it’s so lightweight, that it’s far more comfortable sleeping with it than sleeping with nothing. It’s worth its weight in gold just for the comfort factor in tropical climates. It soaks up sweat from your body, and then it dries so fast that it’s comfortable again immediately. Despite being wet, it still doesn’t feel either hot or cold against the skin.

And it’s awesome on cold nights as well. For in between weather, I use it as a liner for my REI fleece blanket. It feels heavenly – even though the fleece blanket feels wonderful all itself, adding the silk sleep sack is just decadent. It adds several degrees of warmth to the bag as well.

These sleep sacks are so easy to clean that it’s unbelievable. I simply rinse them out in the sink and hang them to dry. It air dries astonishingly fast (another feature that makes them so nice in tropical climates).

They are so lightweight and low profile that it’s amazing. Chelsea faithfully packs hers back in the carry case that comes with it, but I’m too impatient for that, so I just stuff mine into a small ziplock bag.

As if all this weren’t enough, they act as liners for our sleeping bags, adding about ten degrees of warmth, and keeping the sleeping bag much cleaner.

We’ve used them in hostels, and they’d be perfect in hotels as well.

You will need to get used to sleeping with them – I found myself twisted up in them a few times till I got used to them, but that hasn’t bothered me in ages. It’s a really minor adjustment considering their comfort factor. The trick is to get your feet down into each corner and use your legs in a scissors movement to get it straightened out. Do make sure that you lay it out carefully when you get into it, too.

There is a mummy-style silk sleep sack (the Cocoon Expedition Liner-RipStop Silk MummyLiner) that would be excellent for sleeping bags if that’s all you’re using it for. We opted for the regular rectangular one, as we use it alone, and in the rectangular fleece sleep sack. We don’t really mind the extra fabric in the sleeping bag – it’s so lightweight anyway.

One final note – they warm up instantly on painfully cold nights, making it much easier to crawl in bed.

Where to buy – We have found the silk sleep sacks at several of our favorite merchants. When you’re buying, be careful that you are getting silk, and preferably that it’s ripstop silk – you want the durability of ripstop. There are a number of products that are partly cotton (which you may decide you want, of course!). Also be careful to make sure of what size you’re getting – there is a wide variety in the sizes available (ours are 86×35 inches, and it works perfectly for one person).

Check out www.magellans.com for their DreamSack; do a search for the Cocoon Ripstop Silk Bag Liner/Travel Sheet on www.REI.com (item #695428); or check out our Amazon store in the Sleeping Gear category.

Fleece blanket

I dearly love my REI Midweight Fleece Bag Liner. It’s another sleep sack, but made of very soft and comfortable washable fleece. It’s quite roomy, but it fits really well in my sleeping bag (mummy-style) and keeps me as warm as I can imagine. It’s also plush, and combined with the silk sleep sack and softness of the down, it’s like sleeping on expensive beds in a four-star hotel.

It’s a bit bulky to pack, but the comfort factor far, far outweighs that. It’s got a zipper around two sides so it can be opened up and used like a blanket, and more than once Chelsea and I have huddled together under it. Chelsea is clamoring for her own, so it’s on our short list for her.

It washes like a dream, and is incredibly durable. I wouldn’t do without it.

Where to buy – Do a search for it on www.REI.com (item #763960).

Down “comforter”

We opted for a down sleeping bag for the colder nights. We got the women-specific REI Womens Sub Kilo +15 sleeping bag and we’ve been really happy with the comfort level. We haven’t tried it out in freezing temperatures yet, but we’ve slept with it when it’s been in the high thirties and we’ve been fine. Chelsea was a bit cold, but I was in my fleece sleep sack, which she doesn’t have, and I was fine.

I put my silk sleep sack inside my fleece bag and use my down sleeping bag as comforter when the temps are in the sixties or so, and when it gets down to the fifties, I slip the silk/fleece bags inside the sleeping bag and zip partway up. Talk about heavenly!

The sleeping bag is considered light; it’s good for ultralight adventures and packs small in its stuff sack. We love the hood (it adds an amazing amount of warmth on really cold nights). The footbox isn’t too bad – it is mummy style though, and you’ve just got to get used to how to sleep in a mummy style bag. The full-length zipper is handy, and we love it that we can unzip from the bottom up or the top down.

We haven’t used it, but there’s also an internal pocket for your headlamp, watch, or glasses or whatever else you might need close at hand.

One thing it has that I didn’t realize until a week ago- it’s got pad loops that provide attachment points for sleeping bag straps. These straps keep your sleeping bag and pad together to avoid rolling off onto the floor (usually the cold ground).

Where to buy – REI doesn’t appear to have this particular sleeping bag available now, but they have an impressive selection – just do a search for sleeping bags on www.REI.com.

Sleeping bag straps

I’m getting us some of these really soon – REI Sleeping Bag Slip-Not Straps. It’s a pair of elastic straps that attach to the loops on your sleeping bag and keep the sleeping bag in its place on the sleeping pad. Having rolled off more times than I can count, these are a must-have on my list.

Where to buy – Check out www.REI.com and look for item #707584.

Eyeshades

Add a set of eyeshades, and ahhhh…the last ingredient for a good night’s sleep….

Normally I don’t like eyeshades at all, but we found ourselves one night in the designated bicycle-touring campsite in Pueblo Colorado at a big city park. When dark fell, on came one of those industrial strength lights, straight overhead from our tent. It was like trying to sleep at high noon staring straight into the sun. None of us got any rest.

We made it to Denver the next morning and I headed right for the eyeshades. I found the Eagle Creek Comfort Eye Shades and bought them on the spot. They have soft molded eyeshades made of polyester fleece that are amazingly comfortable.

They have indentations on the side for the eyes, which allow you to blink naturally, and doesn’t put pressure against the eyes. One thing I didn’t think was a big deal that I found I really appreciated was the wide adjustable strap for the head. It kept the shades in place all night, and didn’t pinch or feel awkward.

I actually slept all night wearing them…for me that’s a first.

Where to buy – You can find them at www.REI.com (item #773419) or take a look at our Amazon store in the Sleeping Gear category.