One's health and comfort in camp depend very much upon what kind of bed he has. In nothing does a tenderfoot show off more discreditably than in his disregard of the essentials of a good night's rest. He comes into camp after a hard day's tramp, sweating and tired, eats heartily, and then throws himself down in his blanket on the bare ground. For a time he rests in supreme ease, drowsily satisfied that this is the proper way to show that he can " rough it," and that no hardships of the field can daunt his spirit. Presently, as his eyes grow heavy and he cuddles up for the night, he discovers that a sharp stone is boring into his flesh. He shifts about, and rolls upon a sharper stub or projecting root. Cursing a little, he arises and clears the ground of his tormentors. Lying down again, he drops off peacefully and is soon snoring. An hour passes, and he rolls over on the other side; a half hour, and he rolls back again into his former position ; ten minutes, and he rolls again; then he tosses,, fidgets, groans, wakes up, and finds that his hips and shoulders ache from serving as piers for the arches of his back and sides.
He gets up, muttering, scoops out hollows to receive the projecting portions of his frame, and again lies down. An hour later he reawakens, this time with shivering flesh and teeth a-chatter. How cold the ground is! The blanket over him is sufficient cover, but the same thickness beneath, compacted by his weight and in contact with the cold earth, is not half enough to keep out the bone-searching chill that comes up from the damp ground. This will never do. Pneumonia or rheumatism may follow. He arises, this time for good, passes a wretched night before the fire, and dawn finds him a haggard, worn-out type of misery, disgusted with camp life and eager to hit the back trail for home.
The moral is plain. This sort of roughing it is bad enough when one is compelled to submit to it. It kills twice as many soldiers as bullets do. When it is endured merely to show off one's fancied toughness and hardihood it is rank folly. Even the dumb beasts know better, and they are particular about making their beds.
This matter of a good portable bed is the most serious problem in outfitting. A man can stand almost any hardship by day, and be none the worse for it, provided he gets a comfortable night's rest; but without sound sleep he will soon go to pieces, no matter how gritty he may be.
In selecting camp bedding we look for the most warmth with the least weight and bulk, for durability under hard usage, and for stuff that will not hold moisture long, but will dry out easily.
Warmth depends upon insulation. The best insulation is given by dry air confined in the interstices of the covering, this covering being thick enough to keep one's animal heat from escaping too readily.
Of course, materials vary in conductivity — cotton and other vegetable fibers being coldest, silk and wool warmer, fur and feathers warmest of all — but, irrespective of materials, the degree of insulation afforded by a covering depends upon its fluffi-ness, or looseness of texture, and its thickness of body. This means bulk; there is no way of getting around it; there must be room for confined air.
Innumerable expedients have been tried to keep down bulk by using impermeable insulators, such as Daper, oiled cottcn or silk, and rubber or rubberia6 Camping AND WOODCRAFT* ized fabric, but all such " skins to keep heat in " are total failures. The vapor from one's body must have an outlet or a man will chill, to say nothing of other unpleasant consequences.
The degree of insulation afforded by confined air may be judged roughly by a few comparisons. Here is a pack cloth of close-woven cotton duck; there is a cotton bed comforter of the same spread and weight, but thicker, of course. Size, weights, and materials are the same, yet what a difference in warmth! Well, it is just the enclosed air that makes the comforter "comfy," and lack of it that leaves the canvas cold as a covering. Similarly, a three-pound comforter filled with lamb's wool batting is as warm as a five-pound all-wool blanket, because it holds more dead air. Down filling is still warmer than wool, being fluffier, and its elasticity keeps it so — it does not mat from pressure.
After a cotton comforter has been used a long time, or kept tightly rolled up, its batting becomes matted down and then the cover is no warmer than a quilt of equal weight. Quilts — ugh! In the dank bedroom of a backwoods cabin, where the " kivvers" were heirlooms, but seldom had been aired, I have heaped those quilts on me till their very weight made my bones ache, and still shivered miserably through the long winter night.
Batting of any sort (but cotton the worst) will also mat from wet, and then its elasticity is gone. Water, moreover, is a good conductor of heat, and so a bed covering of any kind is cold when it is wet.
Note this, also, that the weight of one's body presses out a good deal of air from the bedding under him. Moreover, earth, being a good con ductor, draws off one's animal heat faster than th^ air does. So, when sleeping on the ground, one needs more bedding underneath than over him — a cold, hard fact that some designers of sleeping bags have unaccountably overlooked. A bag with two thicknesses of blanket over the sleeper and only one under him is built upside-down. The man will have at least part of his back only half protected; and one's vertebral region is the very part of him that is most vulnerable to cold.
The warmest blanket for its weight is not a close-woven one but one that is loose-woven and fluffy. An army blanket is made for hard service, and so must be of firm weave, but a third of its Weight is added for that purpose only, not for warmth. For use in a sleeping bag, where they are protected from wear, blankets or more open texture are better. Two three-pound blankets arc tvarmer than a six-pound one of the same grade, owing to the thin stratum of air between them. Hence the best bags are made up of several layers of light, fluffy blanketing, instead of a thick, felted bag.