The question in the title and its various variants can be seen at many places on the Internet. So, is it better to sleep without clothes in a sleeping bag or with clothes? My answer is simple, you should sleep the way that makes you feel comfortable.
The mentioned variants include questions like ‘Are you supposed to wear clothes in a sleeping bag?’, and ‘Should you sleep in sleeping bag without clothes? ‘
I put in bold those two words because they seem to be inappropriate, and this is not the right approach. I think this is a personal matter because we all react differently on cold, and this is also highly dependent on circumstances.
What science says: How much heat per hour do humans dissipate?
In a source I read that 80% of a typical human’s body power is given off as heat. This is an amazing number, and what a waste of energy. So we are not really well-built. When you sleep outside, most of it is lost to the ground, this is where a sleeping pad is essential.
In yet another source I fund that this is roughly equal to energy given off by a 100 Watt light bulb.
I find further in a reference that human brain produces around 0.6 joules per brain-gram per minute. So the more brain you have, the more heat loses you can expect. Now you know why you would want to use a cap when you are in a sleeping bag, or have a bag with a hood.
How is this related to the question of clothes?
The question in the title is important. If you are cold, your body will work harder to compensate this. This means you will be wasting energy and in the morning you may be exhausted.
You would want to preserve at least some part of this body energy, as you will need it next day for your hiking or mountaineering adventure.
Science aside, what do people think about using clothes?
From what I have seen after searching around, most people think that it is better to sleep with clothes. However, some claim it is better to sleep without clothes.
So who is right? I feel that the truth is on both sides. This is a personal choice, and if one or another way works better for you then this is the right way, so keep doing it your way. Nobody can tell you what is better for you.
What do I do?
I can share my own experience, and it is as follows. I normally rather sleep naked and this holds in general, not only when I am outdoors. So whenever I feel comfortable, I am without clothes. But if I feel cold, I shall put some clothes on.
In my particular case, having clothes is not so great because I turn a lot, and the bag becomes twisted and it rolls around me because of friction between the clothes and the inner layer of the bag. I also feel claustrophobic in a sleeping bag and clothes only increase this feeling.
So when I sleep in the car, to avoid clothes, I rather add one extra blanket. In most cases this does the trick, and I am fine. But if I am in a refuge high in the mountains, and if it is cold, of course I sleep in my clothes.
But the question in the title is about if it is better or not to sleep without clothes. I would say, when needed, it is better in the following sense:
- A layer of clothes will act as a first barrier against cold. As you may have experienced, even the best bags may have cold spots, so such first layer of protection definitely helps. The same is with cold drafts in a house, you would not walk around naked in winter time.
- This layer of clothes will not prevent body heat to escape, but you are in the bag, so the body heat will still largely remain trapped inside, at least for a while. Eventual heat losses will be compensated by the heat that your body continuously produces.
- If you feel comfortable, your body will not produce unnecessary heat and this is the matter of saving energy.
But if you have too much clothes, you may be sweating. This may have several negative effects. For example, you will need more precious water to compensate for sweat loses.
Note also that heat loss goes mostly to the ground, this is why it is essential to have a good sleeping pad. In my view, this question is more important than the clothes in the sleeping bag.
So, what do you wear inside a sleeping bag?
In most cases you might be fine with one thin layer. But if you are cold, you will know what to do. No doubt you will put on everything you have to stay warm. This is not a rocket-science.
I would conclude this answer to the question from the title by stressing again that this is about comfort. But this is a very individual feeling and nobody should teach you what is comfortable for you.
Discomfort may imply either that you are cold, or that you are too warm. As described above, none of these two states are good for you. So the best advise is – listen to your body and act accordingly.
You might want to look around and read more, this site is all about outdoors-related questions. Check my text about best things to sleep on when camping, it is related to the topic of this post. Would you want to know differences between men’s and women’s backpacks? Read my text about this.
Thank you for reading. Let me know what you think about this topic, there is a comment box below. Have a nice day.