Gear Guy

Should I use a silk liner instead of a sleeping bag?

Years ago you recommended The North Face Snowshoe sleeping bag to me, just the ticket for a dp 58 hours in Lapland's freezing rain! Since your record is one for one, I seek your advice again for a compact, light sleeping bag (down is out due to allergies) to use when backpacking in Croatia in August. We'll be sleeping hut-to-hut while walking in the countryside, while also spending some time in cities. Do you think Design Salt's silk liner is good enough for such a trip, or do we need an ultralight sleeping bag? Jan Helsinki, Finland

Well, with a one-for-one record, I'm batting 1.000 (in American-speak), so why risk my immaculate record? But what the heck, I'm sure I can knock this one outta the park as well (another Americanism).

The fact is, you really don't need much in the way of sleeping gear for that part of the world in August. You'd probably be just fine with a Cocoon Silk Mummy Liner from Design Salt (US$60; www.designsalt.com), which if you're a warm sleeper ought to keep you comfortable to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit (ten degrees Celsius). You could increase that rating just by taking along a light blanket made with Polartec or similar material for an inexpensive but pretty warm setup.

Of course, taking a light sleeping bag provides that extra insurance just in case it does get a little cool at night. What you need is a synthetic-fill bag rated to around eight degrees Celsius. In the U.S., that list would include the Sierra Designs Delta Fastbag ($99; www.sierradesigns.com), which has an uninsulated nylon "floor." Atop a mattress or pad, it'll keep you warm to eight to ten degrees Celsius. I'm not sure if you can find one of those in Europe, but I know you can find a Lafuma Extreme 800, which should run about 60 euros (www.lafuma.fr). It's an eight-degrees-rated, synthetic-fill bag that's very light (one pound, 11 ounces, or 756 grams) and compressible. Mammut's Kompakt Traveller (US$140—119 euros; www.mammut.ch) is a similar bag with a synthetic fill and a temp rating of about eight degrees also. Stuffs down to nothing. You can always unzip and use it as a blanket, too.

Have a good trip!

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