Central War Gaming Blog

Central War Gaming Blog


Thursday, February 27, 2020

Sleeping in Comfort and Safety at Swift Fox 20

It's not always nice weather in Oklahoma in April. And, is awfully unpredictable, with pretty solid temperature changes just moving downhill a few hundred yards.

We want to make sure you are safe, comfortable, and effective through the entire time Swift Fox 20 (sign up today!) is running, so as for all our events we have some requirements around sleep systems to help you get there:

Sleep System

You must bring a complete sleep system, consisting of a sleeping bag suitable for use in below-freezing conditions, and a waterproof cover such as a bivy sack to keep it dry.
The bivy cover must be a military camouflage color or pattern, but does not need to match the uniform color.

There are a couple things going on here, so let's review in detail what a tactical, all weather sleep system consists of:

Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag keeps you warm in the cold, but like many things, they have limits that are tradeoffs. More weight and bulk will give you lower temps. Of course, money can also be traded for lower temperature ratings with less weight and bulk.

Warmth is a direct result of "loft" or the amount of air trapped in the bag. If it's not puffy, it's not warm. This all degrades over time, and I for one have been very cold because the lovely sleeping bag I have used hard for 10 years simply wore out. Surplus gear can be the same; don't assume it works, but check, and plan for the original rating being at least 10° off.

Some of the warmth can be recovered with cleaning, but that's a complex topic, so read up carefully and follow directions scrupulously or you can end up ruining a sleeping bag.

You also don't have to carry a sleeping bag at all. I for one now run a blanket, or quilt. For the military a woobie is a common name for these. The theory is that half of a sleeping bag is laid on, so can't keep you warm; don't carry the bottom half, just the top. Same warmth with less weight (and cost!) or much more warmth for the same size/weight.

If you roll around a lot, these may not be for you, and they have to integrate into the rest of your system, but are worth knowing about, and we officially don't care what you use as long as you have an effective warmth layer.

Ground Pad

You can't heat the earth, so maybe the most important thing in your system is a good insulating pad. There are a huge variety of these, inflated, rolling, or folding, with many options. Make sure it is comfortable, and insulates you well. The thinnest and cheapest ones won't work so well. Some even carry a second pad for very cold weather, ground insulation is so important.

This might be a good time to talk about color. One of the more common cheap pads is the bright roll up ones. They are hard to hide, in camp or when rolled up on your ruck. You will likely have to camp out where the enemy can see you, and don't forget there are drones; you need to stay camouflaged from every angle, at pretty much all times.

So think if maybe you want to invest in something smaller, lighter, more effective, and also not bright colored.

My foam pad is a very good, lightweight consumer camping one, so is bright red. But it lives permanently inside a camouflaged bivy, so you can't see it, ever. That's a fine plan to keep camouflaged also.


You really, really need to be able to not get wet when it rains or snows. Getting wet and then going to sleep is a sure fire way to be uncomfortable, and takes you a few steps closer to risking death. We don't like hypothermia, at all. 

Sleep systems are also less effective — or entirely ineffective, depending on the filling — when even a tiny bit damp. You have to keep yourself, and your sleeping bag dry. 

The classic, easiest, and probably best way is the bivy sack. It's just a tube a bit larger than your sleeping bag you put that, and maybe the ground pad, into. The bivy is waterproof, but usually Goretex or has vent panels, so you don't fill it with moisture as you breathe and sweat. They are usually sturdy enough to be laid directly on the ground, which is good for our purposes. 

If you want, though, it's also possible to simply use a tarp or other waterproof sheet. Lay it down, lay your sleep system on one half, and then flop the rest over you. As long as you sleep calmly, it's not too windy, etc. you will stay in place, and the gap in the tarp will let moisture out even if you are as closed up as  you can be. 

But back to color: your bivy really, really needs to be a muted or camouflage color or pattern. 


Sleep comfort, in the cold, is all about layers. You can add more layers easily. The bivy is one, even without moisture. You can also get sleeping bag liners, which also keep it clean if you are jumping in with all your clothes on.

Or you can bring sleep clothing. If there's time and space, this helps a lot. You put on fresh, dry and looser fitting warmth layers, then get in the sleeping bag.

And always wear a hat to bed.

You also may find yourself needing to sit, rest, or nap without being able to deploy your whole sleep system. OPs, guard posts, ambushes, halts in patrols, and so on may make you very cold as you are static. Popular recommendations are to carry a small or cut-down sleeping pad to sit (or kneel) on, and a woobie to wrap yourself in.

These can be used as add-ons for when sleeping as well. Aside from my full sleep system I have a folding german sleeping mat and a Jungle Blanket (a woobie) which I carry as much as I can for quick comfort and warmth. But when it's really cold, I also use the folding mat under my sleep system, and will lay the blanket over the top of  the bivy. It works.


You can also add additional layers to the system by bringing a shelter. Tents can be hard to move when entirely on foot, but if you expect your unit to have some fixed bases, then you can leave one in the Ready Bag. At least Kitoy and the GDL will have fixed bases — unless they get attacked and displaced! — so should bring tents if they wish.

Tarps and other small shelters are also useful. Tipis are popular now, and there are many other combo ponco/shelter systems that work well. I pretty much always carry the fly from the Army ICS tent, with some poles and stakes to allow it to be a free-standing 3 sided shelter. I have slept under this in deep snow, keeping my head and gear dry and out of  the wind, while the bivy sticks out and gets snowed on.

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