“It’s a bag!”
It all started one night as I stood outside in about 50 degree weather with just a Sea to Summit Expander sleeping bag liner wrapped around me for warmth. Some of the walkers in my favorite Camino forums and blogs recommended swapping sleeping bags for bag liners to supplement albergue bedding because they are lighter and far more compact.
That sounded reasonable, so I got one and tried it out. After about 10 minutes, I was not very impressed. It wasn’t very cold, but I still didn’t feel much warmer than without it. Now the one I had wasn’t supposed to be very warm, so it wasn’t a failure (the warmest one I found is supposed to add 25 degrees – but only inside a sleeping bag). Mostly the liner’s purpose is to add protection from dirt and a few degrees of warmth to one’s sleeping bag. On the Camino the idea seems to be more to keep you from contact with your bedding (bed bugs are apparently an issue in albergues because there are so many travelers).
That leaves sleeping bags.
Camino walkers have also said liners were not warm enough at night. Many albergues cut power at night to save money – so unless it’s summer, it can get pretty chilly. Further complicating the problem, additional bedding is not always available (or, in some locations, even desirable).
I really don’t want to add another budget item to my Camino prep, and good sleeping bags are a considerable expense. Fortunately, I already have a sleeping bag for backpacking. As I discovered, the bag weighs 3 lbs, which is not terrible (for reference, the best “lightweight” bags come in under 2 lbs with an average around 20 oz.).
The problem is it does not stuff very well in my pack. In fact, it takes up more than half the main storage space. If I can get the bag compressed down to a reasonable size, it might work. (I have a dedicated compartment in my full sized backpack for sleeping bags, so I might not have the compression sack anymore.) I could also carry it on the outside of the pack – but that isn’t optimal, and it may mean needing another waterproof stuff sack if the pack’s rain cover doesn’t fit over it.
As with waterproof footwear, the jury is still out. If I knew for sure what the temps inside the albergues would be like, I could perform a simple test one night to see what my needs would be. Without that, it’s going to be a difficult decision, and one that makes a big difference in packing plans.