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Over three miserable nights, I melted a Sylvia-sized patch through a foot and a half of snow, leaving an icy imprint behind. All that despite being buried in my new -9 C-rated down sleeping bag. I shivered in all the layers I'd brought, every hour on my nearly dead cellphone a reminder of how long it would be until sunrise.

“I don’t care what it costs,” I grouched to the sparkly tent roof with chattering teeth. “I need to invest in an even warmer bag to keep my cold-blooded body warm.”

Or did I?

While my fingers thawed on the drive home, the sleepless nights still fresh in my mind, I did some research.

Besides learning that a full bladder wasn’t helping, it became evident my sleeping bag wasn’t the problem.

tent sleeping cozyHotcore

Sleeping bags are insulators, meant to trap the heat you produce against your body and keep the cold out. Form-fitted sleeping bags, like my mummy bag, are more thermally efficient than rectangular bags, meaning a warmer cold sleeper. Which I am.

In fact, most women sleep colder than the average man, needing a bag rated at least 5 C warmer to have a comfortable sleep. And cold sleepers should get a bag rated 5-10 C warmer.

Besides that, temperature ratings are a guide, not an absolute. In North America, we don’t have standardized testing criteria, but some manufacturers still use a European standard known as EN testing. Ratings are subjective to a variety of factors including nutrition, body type, altitude, etc. You should always test out your gear ahead of a trip to know how it works for you.

Seemingly more cold-blooded than most (as evidenced by my happily snoring companions), I always err on the warmer side, which is the definition of Hotcore’s Genesis 4S mummy bag.

Hotcore sleeping bag in cold tempsHotcore

To stack the odds of having a comfortable night’s sleep in your favour, a tent suited to the conditions is important as well. Proper three-season tents, such as any of the Mantis tents from Hotcore, should have full rainflies to keep out the cold wind and rain, which we had on this trip.

My sleeping bag and tent checked out, and I really couldn’t blame my toque, fleece sweater and puffy jacket I’d been forced to don, so my attention turned to my sleeping pad.

Sleeping pads provide 40 per cent of the insulated warmth. I assumed my fluffy bag (plus a liner to increase the warmth rating) would do the trick, but it was only doing 60 per cent of the work. I knew my pad did more than raise me off the tent floor and provide cushioning, but I didn’t realize it was a whopping 40 per cent of the reason I was contributing to reduced snowpack in the mountains.

Sleeping bag temperature guides, including EN tested bags, actually presume a good sleeping pad pairing. The standard self-inflating mat used during EN testing of sleeping bags is a 3.8-centimetre-thick winter-rated pad.

So, while I was grumbling in the dark at whoever gave my bag the -9 C rating, it was my pad that was letting my bag, and the human icicle inside, down.

tent cozy snugglesHotcore

My mat did not have a high enough R-value, which is the measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat travelling through it, for the conditions. And so, I melted an ice bed for myself.

If I ever wanted to be comfortable on a winter camping trip, my numb-thumbed research revealed I’d have to invest in a better sleeping mat.

The HYPNOS 3 Insulated Air Pad from Hotcore sounds exactly like what I needed. It inflates to a plush seven centimetres thick, is insulated with Thermolite Ecomade synthetic insulation to trap warmth, and has no cold spots touching the ground. That would have been handy on this trip: I was a rotisserie all night trying to keep my heels, rear and other ground-contacting body parts from freezing. Plus, this pad comes with an inflation sack, which means you don’t have to blow moist air directly into the pad and compromise thermal efficiency.

air padHotcore

Based on that chilly experience, I’d say the mat is the crux of the camping trio. It didn’t matter how warm or high-quality the tent or sleeping bag was; an ill-suited pad meant what little body heat I produced was used to leave a deep icy well in the snow.

I guess sometimes miserable nights are necessary for those light-bulb moments—at least for me.


This article was sponsored by Hotcore

At Hotcore Products, our mission is to provide great products to keep you dry, warm, and protected no matter where you are in the world. From a long weekend family camp to the wildest bucket-list excursion, we have you covered ― literally! Our adventure tents come complete with full-length waterproof rainflies for weather protection, and efficient geometry for more livable space and storage. Hotcore sleeping bags are some of the most lightweight, compact, and affordable bags available anywhere. Getting outdoors with affordable and functional gear is possible.