Sleeping Bags / Mats
Connal uses The North Face Cat’s Meow and a Thermarest ProLite Plus
Anjel uses The North Face Women’s Cat’s Meow and a Thermarest Women’s ProLite Plus
We also strongly recommend a sleep sheet like Cocoon’s silk liners.
For us the Cat’s Meow hit that sweet spot between weight, warmth and cost. It’s a 3-season bag (good for everything except cold winter camping) and features a synthetic fill so it’s quicker to dry if it gets wet. You can buy the bags with the zipper on the left or the right side, which means that if you get one of each you can actually zip them together. We didn’t plan on using this much (you know how sexy you feel after trekking all day followed by a washcloth shower? …not very) but we thought it would be a good just-in-case option. The first time we zipped them together we were actually pleasantly surprised to find that it actually felt more roomy with both bags together. Or maybe we were just exhausted – you can sleep through anything when you’re exhausted.
There are some minor differences between the men’s and women’s versions of the Cat’s Meow bag. The women’s version is “Cut to accommodate a woman’s shape” with “extra insulation in the hood and foot area where women often find they need it most.” Basically it meant that Anjel had cozy fleece at the bottom of her bag and a little fleece muff to warm her hands with.
Thanks to the design of the hood, if you zip them all the way closed, the opening will close down to a small hole, just big enough for you to fit over your nose and mouth. The only time we took advantage of that feature, it was cold enough that we had other blankets on top of us… but it did help.
The bags also have a little zip pocket up near the hood that’s useful for storing earplugs or jewelry that you don’t want to sleep in. I’m not sure I’d put glasses in there unless you know you’re not a roller. It was super-useful but also seemed to be the only weak spot in the bag as it eventually tore off on both of ours (it’s “welded” on, so losing it didn’t rip or tear the bag at all)
The big things to consider with sleep mats are basically warmth, weight and durability. I’d say ours are pretty much middle of the road. There are lighter versions, but we were going to be lugging them around in less than ideal conditions a lot of the time, and didn’t want to risk a puncture. There are warmer versions (some even have a down fill) but we never camped in snow and extreme cold was never really an issue.
We both got full length sleep mats (long enough to cover head to foot). It’s possible to save a little weight with a 3/4 length mat, but having your heels on the ground can be a little uncomfortable and if you’re a side sleeper it can tweak your knees a bit to have your feet an inch or two lower than the rest of you.
We recently got a pair of Exped down filled mats for our trip to Alaska. They have a build in inflation pump and should be a little warmer on those cold Yukon nights. We’re looking forward to trying them out!
It may not be clear at first why it’s worth spending $50 for a silk bag when you just spent $150 on a sleeping bag. I can assure you that it is very much worth it, especially for extemded trips (camping or hostels) where you’ll be using your sleeping bag a lot. They’re also sometimes called Mummy Liners – they’re basically just a thin silk sheet that’s been sewed together like a sleeping bag.
First of all, they add a little extra heat. On cold nights they’re welcome, and if it’s too hot for the sleeping bag you can sleep in the sheet only .
Second, it’s much easier to wash a quick drying silk sheet than to wash your entire bag. It’s not always possible to shower every night, and even if you do shower every night, your bag is still going to get dirty. We pretty much always slept in the sleep sheet in the bag and rarely had to wash the bags.
Third, just because you have a bed for the night doesn’t mean you want to sleep in it. There are places where you may have concerns about the cleanliness of the sheets or the presence of bedbugs. There were more than a few nights where we slept in our sleep sheets underneath the covers. We treated the silk with a natural insect repellant and never had any troubles with bed bugs. Also works against mosquitos in warmer climates where you’re too hot to be in your bag, but don’t want exposed skin all night.