A 3 Pound Bikepacking Sleep System

by Andy Amick on August 22, 2013

in Bikepacking, Camping, Gear

The sleep system is the one set of gear that allows for turning long bike rides into bikepacking trips.  It’s also one of the areas with the most options, configurations, and price points.

My first bikepacking (in the backyard) trip utilized a 5 pound tent, a 5 pound sleeping bag, and 2 pound sleeping pad.  Since that time, I’ve worked to slim down my sleep kit piece by piece.  It now consists of a tarp/bivy combo with a lightweight quilt without sacrificing any comfort.

Contents And Weights

sleep system without tarp setup

So the 3 system is actually 3 lbs 2 oz, but who’s really counting an extra 4 ounces. :)  Ok, I am and most other bikepackers are looking at ounces too.

  1. ZPacks Hexamid cuben fiber tarp with guy lines, stakes, and carbon fiber pole (6.74 oz)
  2. Tyvek bivy (8.99 oz)
  3. Ray Way quilt (22.24 oz)
  4. Kooka Bay 3/4 length sleeping pad (9.00 oz)
  5. Kooka Bay pillow (1.30 oz)
  6. HikeBikeDale pillow case with monkey graphics (1.66 oz)

Total Weight (49.93)

This sleep system combined with the down jacket from my clothing system will keep me comfortable if the temperature stays above the mid 40s.  When it will be colder than than, I add an insulated Ray Way hat (0.98 oz) and Goose Feet down booties (2.13 oz) to the system.

The system could easily get down to the 3 pound weight by removing the pillow and pillow case (total weight of 2.96 oz), but those extra ounces provide comfort I need for a good night’s rest.

An alternative to save those extra 2 ounces would be a slightly lighter bivy.  There are a number of cottage gear makers that offer basic bivy sacks in the 5-7 ounce range.

A third option would be removing the tarp from the system and going with a bivy only shelter system.  This would definitely get the system below three pounds, but in my opinion, it’s not worth it.  I prefer the option of having full shelter in a storm for me and my gear.

A Versatile System

Setup the system as a tarp, a bivy, or both

Pack the sleep system in the seatbag and have multiple ways to setup.

With a bivy and tarp system, there are a variety of ways to setup the sleep system.

Simple Setup – On a warm clear night, there is the option to cowboy camp by using the bivy as a groundsheet and laying the sleeping pad and quilt on top of it.  Granted, this is based on camping in dry Colorado where there are normally very few bugs.

Full Storm Setup – Cowboy camping is nice on the best of nights, but there are those nights where shelter become more important.  For those nights, the full system can be used to protect myself and my gear.  When pitched properly, the tarp itself will provide cover from most precipitation.  The bivy sack provides the remainder and keeps the quilt from getting wet.

In between these extreme cases are other options such as using the bivy as a groundsheet along with pitching the tarp in case there is rain.  Another option is to place the quilt inside the bivy and camp next to trees or rocks to provide coverage if there is a little bit of precipitation.

Final Thoughts

This iteration of my bikepacking sleep system has proven to be both lightweight and comfortable.  It did come at a slighter higher cost due to the cuben fiber tarp.  At 3 pounds, there is not much that can be done for weight reduction without spending a lot of money for an super ultralight down bag or a cuben fiber bivy sack.  At this time, that is not something that’s really on my radar because I feel a 3 pound system is light enough.

So, there is my sleep system.  Do other bikepackers use something similar or do you have a much different approach to your sleep system?  We all have different ideas on lightweight and comfort so I’d like to hear your thoughts.

About Andy Amick
A little bit nutty in general, a lotta bit nutty about bikes. Each of his boys received a bike helmet for their first birthday and the three of them have been biking together ever since.

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