RAGBRAI LI Route Announced on Jan. 27!

The Need For a Sleeping Bag

If all goes well this Spring and Summer, I will be participating in my first RAGBRAI – 2022. I’m a non-camper who will be sleeping in PBV tent for this event. I’m putting together the necessary equipment.
Question: do I need a sleeping bag, or do you think the use of just a sleeping bag liner (and blanket?) will be all that need?

8 Replies

iatrikerider, April 1, 2022 at 7:31 pm

If this summer is as hot as the last one you will not need a sleeping bag.


iatrikerider, April 1, 2022 at 7:33 pm

If this summer is as hot as the last one you will not need a sleeping bag, just blankets. I highly recommend a tent fan if the week is hot, it’s amazing what a little breeze on your face can do for sleeping.


phxpsd@yahoo.com, April 1, 2022 at 11:08 pm

It depends. One year I did not bring a sleeping bag and it was in the low 50’s the first several nights. I think your idea of a liner and a blanket will be fine.


HelenP, April 1, 2022 at 11:46 pm

Also consider a camping “mattress” for some cushioning, such as:

A closed cell foam pad (6 foot long, about 2 foot wide, and maybe 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick — bulky, but light and easy to use),

Self inflating bed pad (some of which apparently require pumping to top them off),

Air mattress (requires the most work each night, but is also the most comfy).

The latter two might get a leak, so bring a patch or two, or strong tape.

Consider rain and/or very heavy dew, and maybe no good way to dry cloth.
Along that line of thought, put stuff inside sealed plastic bags, and try for at least good water resistance in your duffle bag — water *proof* is better, but can be expensive.

I found a couple of water proof roll top, 55 liter (14.5 gallon, 33″ x 8″ cylinder) capacity dry bags near the kayak section at a sporting goods store for $40 each. At another, I could have paid over $100 more for one duffle bag of about the same total capacity that was only water resistant.

It was similar pricing for bed pads/mats — so check the details in more than one place, whether online or in person.


Joseph Schlau, April 2, 2022 at 6:25 am

Going back to late December of 2021 there was a discussion on the need for carrying rain gear. The advice ranged from carrying little or none to yes, prepare for the worst. The long time riders, especially those riding on 2 particularly rainy cold days in 1981 and 2014 tended to to lean for preparedness. You may want to read this thread and consider if your planning would be adequate if you were riding on one of these days. My worst camping day on Ragbrai was in 2005 when a powerful storm struck at night. (Sheldon) It soaked a lot of campers. It remained cold, wet, windy the next day. It was nice to have been able to crawl into my mostly still dry sleeping bag and rest the next night.

Helen is correct on the advice for a closed cell pad or air mattress. Tents leak at some point or another. A pad or mattress keeps you off the tent floor. Having a small sponge with you to clean up standing water is helpful.

When sleeping, a majority of body heat is lost by contact with the ground not the air. If the ground is wet, heat loss is accelerated.

Everyone’s tolerance for heat and cold differs. Advice provided, including mine, is advice based on what works for me or them. On a given day, you may spend 6-8 hours peddling. You prepare for pedaling by training. You will also spend about 8 hours in the tent resting for the next day. You said you are a non camper. The best advice I can give is find a tent to use before Ragbrai, Maybe drive to a state campground. Bike during the day and sleep with what you think you will use and see if it works.

If the weather is warm you can always sleep on top of the bag or not use it. If it gets cold, wet, and windy and you didn’t bring the bag then your stuck.


JimCoonRapidsMN, April 2, 2022 at 10:57 am

This discussion of preparedness and the other thread that popped up today about rain reminded me about the “sun shower” in Jefferson in 2018. Beautiful late afternoon/evening with no sign of rain and it was warm so we opted to forgo the rain fly when setting up and went into town. Got a notice on the phone of a shower developing and moving in our direction so we took the next shuttle back (just barely made it to the shuttle) and got the rain fly on the tent just as the brief but heavy shower was starting. Close call – and a good lesson!


HelenP, April 2, 2022 at 3:58 pm

I read about how some cyclists swear by merino wool, so I clenched my teeth at the cost and bought a $40 merino balaclava (wool’s not cheap even when it’s regular clothing). It’s been excellent, though: ridiculously compact & lightweight, soft & comfy — and it can be washed & dried by machine or by hand & line, quite easily. It’s so thin that I only need to adjust my bike helmet by a single click.

So, yesterday, I looked at $75 merino short-sleeved T-shirts, but bought the better deal of an $85 merino long-sleeved T-shirt, which is a generous length, too. Again, it’s absurdly lightweight, and fits in just a double fistful of space like a softball, but is soft & warm.

I’ll be using the shirt and balaclava on bike rides this spring — and plan to pack them on my bike this summer (since they use so little space & weight) for cold, rainy days, or to sleep well on cool nights. Note that wool is warm even if wet, due to the trapped air spaces.

Does anyone have suggestions for where to buy a similarly thin & lightweight rain coat and long pants? I’d like to use them for walking on rainy spring days at the beach, too!


Chris, April 2, 2022 at 8:32 pm

“Question: do I need a sleeping bag, or do you think the use of just a sleeping bag liner (and blanket?) will be all that need?”
I’ll echo what Joseph said: bring a bag. If it’s cold, sleep in it. If it’s warm, sleep on it.

….we use +40 degree mummy sacks, as we found that even moderately cool nights (upper 50’s) feel even colder than you’d like after you’ve been in the sun all day. If it’s 70 overnight, then we just slept on top of the bags.

Between the bag and the ground: either an inflatable sleeping pad (there are tons of them on the market; just about any will do for RAGBRAI), or thick closed-cell pad, or the like. Anything to separate you from the ground. Not only for insulation, as you’ll get a cold back, but to keep the water off of you when it rains.

We tried the blanket-and-sleeping pad method; it didn’t work as well as the sleeping bag did, and a +40 degree backpacking bag stuffs up smaller than a blanket big enough to wrap yourself in.

Joseph said something that made us laugh. “That cold day in 2014…..” RAGBRAI’s weather does what it will; we deal with it. That’s part of the magic of it. Even on that day in 2014 where the last thing anyone needed was cold water. :)

See you in July.


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