The most popular question on outdoors.SE is

Is it warmer to sleep naked in a sleeping bag?

Now, all the answers over there are not properly researched and it was suggested in one of the comments that this question might be more appropriate for skeptics.SE with which I wholeheartedly agree. For that reason I am reposting the same question here with the explicit focus on properly supported and researched answers (as are the norm on skeptics.SE), rather than personal anecdotes or claims based on experience.

A Google search will mostly show results debunking it as a 'myth', but both on outdoors.SE and on other sites there are people who do swear by this principle (I have heard it being claimed by people with experience as well).

  • 3
    For clarity: The alternative being offered is to sleep in one's clothes.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 19, 2014 at 18:06
  • 2
    Sleeping alone or with a companion? Jul 21, 2014 at 13:46
  • One thing I heard is that it's best to sleep naked put crumple up your clothes and stuff them in the sleeping bag with you. This always seemed probable to me. So maybe you have to define if you actually mean sleep naked with nothing else in the bag and also what the alternative is (sleep with full clothes on in the bag?)
    – Josef
    Aug 27, 2019 at 14:25

1 Answer 1



It's a system

Consider the clothes and the sleeping bag to comprise a "sleeping system"...

The functional demand on a sleeping system is to enable the user to obtain a specified period of sleep in a given thermal environment. The required insulation bears a linear relationship to the environmental temperature ( ~ 4 clo/20 °C decrease in environmental temperature).

What's a "clo"?

The insulation of clothes are often measured in the unit "clo", where

  • clo = 0 - corresponds to a naked person
  • clo = 1 - corresponds to the insulating value of clothing needed to maintain a person in comfort sitting at rest in a room at 21 ℃ (70 ℉) with air movement of 0.1 m/s and humidity less than 50% - typically a person wearing a business suit.

(i.e., 0.155 m²K/W)



One clo unit of insulation can be defined as that insulation which not only allows, but requires the transfer of 10 kcal/hr for an average man (1.8 m²) for each °C difference between his mean skin temperature (Ts, which can be defined for comfort at 32 °C) and ambient temperature. Therefore, at an ambient air temperature of 0 °C the non-evaporative heat loss will be 320 kcal/hr with a 1 clo sleeping system; it will be 160 kcal/hr with a 2 clo sleeping system, etc.

How much heat?

Consider a soldier of average size; i.e., weight of 70 kg and height of 173 cm, which corresponds to a total body surface area of 1.8 m². Such an individual produces about 72 kcal/hr while sleeping (i.e., 0.8 MET) and loses about 25% of this amount from the body by respiration and evaporation of the body water diffusing through the skin, which typically maintains a minimum 6% wettedness; i.e., a skin relative humidity of .06. This leaves 54 kcal/hr to be lost by the body by non-evaporative heat loss through the sleeping system to the ambient environment if body heat content is to remain unchanged.

What's the target measure?

Two definitions can be used for "adequacy" of a cold-weather sleeping system: (1) "comfort", which implies that the sleeping soldier loses just the 54 kcal/hr by non-evaporative avenues, i.e., can maintain heat balance without shivering or sweating; or (2) "six hours of restful sleep", which allows him to incur a total body heat debt of 80 kcal during a six-hour sleeping period and, therefore, to lose 67.3 kcal/hr, i.e., 54 + 80/6.

Lowest Ambient Air Temperatures for Comfort or 6 Hours Rest while Asleep

More insulation is more

[T]he highest insulation values obtained to date for a sleeping system, ca. 8 clo (for the U.S. Army's Extreme Cold LINCLOE, sleeping system when used by a man sleeping in clean long underwear and socks with the insulated air mattress), can be extended by adding additional clothing items to achieve a 9 clo level. It was possible to approach a 10 clo level of sleeping system insulation when the most sensitive and heat loss prone areas of the body, i.e, the hands and feet, were provided with supplementary warm sleeping gloves and bootees. Conversely, much lower values of insulation were obtained when just the long underwear and socks were worn and the extreme cold LINCLOE sleeping bag was used on bare ground, without the insulated air mattress which is part of the sleeping system; on a bare cement floor, the insulation dropped from about 8 clo to less than 6 clo.

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