The double sleeping bag sounded like a good idea at the time.
The dream: We’ll zip our bags together and spoon all night. In the morning, we’ll wake up refreshed and run through a meadow of wildflowers.
The reality: One person, typically the deeper sleeper, will be unceremoniously rag-dolled every time their partner rolls over. The cold spots will settle in and around one partner only. In the morning, the person who slept well will be a bit too cheery for their partner to handle. There will be scowls. There may be tears.
I’m an optimist by nature. But life teaches us a few things that dampen the blind enthusiasm with a bright-eyed dose of reality. Fire is hot and will melt shoes. If it smells bad, a taste test is not necessary. Double sleeping bags are not all they’re cracked up to be.
The beautiful thing about life and optimism is that we don’t always learn our lessons the first time. We get do-overs. So next time you’re swept away by the romance of a backcountry double bed, keep a few hacks in your back pocket. No one loves a morning grump.
Create Defensible Space
You might start out as snug as a cat in a window full of sunshine. But when your partner moves for the first time, it’ll feel like someone tossed a brick through your window and let the frigid air pour in. Have something lofty, like a down jacket or fleecy top, to shove into the newly opened space between you.
Know Thy Zippers
It’s a law of sleeping bag cohabitation that one person will sleep hot and the other will sleep cold. Your greatest ally in comfort is proper ventilation. To wit, know where the sleeping bag zipper toggles are at all times and fight, if necessary, to keep control of them.
Pack a Sheet
Backpackers may balk at the extra weight, but some might argue that stinky backpacking is hardly the time to be sharing a double bag anyway. To each his own! The sheet is pure friction. Staying centered on your sleeping pad is hard enough solo. Double the bag, double the rollovers, double the trouble. Placing a simple cotton sheet over your pad and under your bag helps you stay put.
Pack two small straps, strings, or a few lengths of duct tape to connect your sleeping pads together. Several gear brands make dedicated “couplers” to do just this. Nothing says grumpy more than sleeping next to your sleeping pad.
Remember the Basics
No advice is more pedantic than sporting a hat and socks to stay warm in your sleeping bag. Yet somehow, double sleeping bags have a magical barrier against logic and experience. Do not back down on this. Having a hat and socks at the ready is a non-negotiable.
Be a Champ-Make the Coffee
You know the old line that if you don’t know who the jerk is by the third day of trip, it’s you? In the context of a double bag, if you wake up fresh as the morning dew, make the assumption your beloved did not enjoy the same restful night. Don’t fight it. Under no circumstance should you ever wake them if they’re still asleep. Gently extricate yourself from the double bag web and prime the stove so they can greet their day with your smiling face and hot cup of coffee. That, my friends, is the ultimate expression of romance.
These are our fave double bags, assuming this article didn’t scare you away
We love all Nemo bags and their Tango Duo Slim is a cozy option for backpackers and car campers who just can’t bear to sleep apart. $400
For a truly luxurious, bordering on clamping option, the Sierra Designs Backcountry Duo 20 is a zipperless down wonder bag with an integrated comforter. $450
The Therm-a-Rest Vela Double Sleeping Bag is a lightweight, super packable option for duo sleeping many miles from the trailhead. $300
Photo by BLM Oregon.