When you’re sleeping outdoors, there’s that “magical” time between 3am and 6am when you learn whether you’ve brought enough insulation.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re cold before 3am you already know the answer. In my experience I’ve found that the first few hours you get a warmth buffer from all the effort you’ve exerted from camp activities and the act of getting into your sleep system. A lot of my recent experience comes from sleeping in hammocks, which also means I’ll be getting back up to pee after a few hours. Never fails for me when I sleep in a hammock. I’m not going to get into the ways to get around having to get up to pee, but I can say that whole process gives me a chance to warm me up again as I get settled back in for sleep. After that the cradling effect of the hammock kicks in and I don’t move much. At the same time outside temps seem to bottom out, so it’s the coldest part of the night and your internal furnace has slowed down. That’s where my 3am estimation comes from, it’s cold outside and you’ve cooled down as well.
This isn’t a problem if you plan correctly. If you brought the right gear to handle a 10-degree variance from the weather forecast you’ve got nothing to worry about most of the time. I on the other hand have this silly game I play where I try to guess the amount of insulation I need and bring just what’s needed. That game becomes even trickier because I make a lot of my gear and knowing max/min temps isn’t as easy as looking at the label from the manufacturer. Suffice to say I guess wrong from time to time. When I feel like I’m gambling with the temp ranges of the gear I’m bringing I like to bring some type of insurance policy with me, in case I lose the bet. For the last couple of years that insurance policy has been the SOL Escape Bivvy that I’ve modified to work like a top quilt. This is a fairly light option (my modded version comes in at 6oz) and can easily add up to 10-15 degrees in warmth depending on the wind.
The SOL Escape Bivvy starts out as a mummy sleeping bag format. That makes sense for it’s intended purpose as an emergency sleep system. Once I learned about backpacking quilts I was sold on that format, and after using the Escape Bivvy a couple of times decided I would like it better in a quilt format. A few quick modifications and you can convert the Escape Bivvy into the Escape Top quilt.
First step was to seam rip the zipper and remove it from the bag. It’s only a quarter length zipper, so after I removed it I seam ripped the main seam to roughly 44” from the draw cord. A quick stitch to close it up and you’re almost done. I added a triangle at the bottom of the seam to take any stress I might put on the seam to prevent it from ripping. These few modifications changed it from a traditional mummy bag format to something that resembles a backpacking quilt setup.
I don’t know how many times I’ve used this backpacking. Often I’ll bring a really lightweight topquilt for the hammock and will put this over it for a little extra warmth. I also like sleeping without my tarp deployed, and like having this over my setup for the morning dew or in case some rain comes in. I’ve used it in the summer months as well as my primary topquilt. I still like a long sleeve shirt and long underwear/tights when using it.