March 5, 2016

Bedding considerations in cooler climates...

Since most of my experience is boating in cooler climates, [ignoring one multi-year coconut-milk-run...] I am sometimes asked about special considerations and adaptations I found useful over time. 

In this post I'll discuss my take on bedding [sheets and blankets if you like] and ways of reducing/preventing condensation under and around mattresses. 

I [now we...] have been making our boat beds a bit differently for the last few decades. (Those of you in warmer climes may wish to experiment with non-fleece variations of what I am about to describe...)

I always hated the fitted sheet wrestling match [as does the Admiral...] so I experimented on myself one winter 30+ years ago and made a fleece bedroll the shape of the V-Berth on my boat at that time. [I'm positive I'm not the first, and I'll bet there are even better ideas out there, but this works great for me, now us...]

Wonderful! I had one item to wash, and making the bed was as easy as standing at the head of the berth and unrolling the fleece on top [with a flourish!] 

The bedroll facilitated easy access to the stowage below the berth as I had no fitted sheets to wrestle with. And it cost [much] less that a set of custom fitted sheets- which are only part of the solution anyway...

My original bedroll design was more complicated than it needed to be [as I am wont to do...] But hey, it was the middle of winter and I needed another project...

It had the full length matching two-way zippers that met in the middle of the bottom, so the top and bottom could be separated [each half then became a single person bed roll] and one of both sides of the bottom could be unzipped for ventilation for the hot footed sleeper...

I eliminated the zippers in subsequent models [which typically failed after a few years, and weren't all that comfortable to lay upon...] The new models were sew together across the bottom and up the sides to about knee level. [Don't go higher otherwise it is more like exiting a sleeping bag instead of a bed- especially if the berth orientation requires you to enter/exit toward the foot or side of the berth vs. crawling out head first...] 

This modified design is ideal for us; easy to get out of if you have to exit the foot of the berth as we do, and no tangling or burrito effect...

Other variations over time included using a heavy [thicker] fleece on one side [e.g., 300 weight- which is what I recommend] and a lighter fleeced on the other. [e.g., 200]  This way I could flip the bedroll over to accommodate my sleeping needs during the seasons... 

I have always used high quality Polar Fleece from Malden Mills.

Fast forward to our current boat with a custom shaped, quasi-queen sized mattress. It has a cloth hinge down the middle so the mattress folds in half lengthwise for accessing the storage and steering system underneath. And the hinge facilitates attaching a lee cloth to split the bert in two- making two pilot berths [we sail a monohull...] when needed... 

The bedroll eliminates the need to remake the berth whenever you fold the mattress over to access stowage beneath the berth. [Which isn't really that often, however the convenience is not to be overrated...]

We keep a few fleece blankets on hand if we need them, and of course we have super cold weather sleeping bags on board. [And a 4 season tent I can use as the dog house... All are in a supplemental ditch bag in case we ever have to abandon ship close to shore. Remember we are exploring the Alaskan coastlines these days...]

Other considerations:
Since we have a smaller front-loading clothes washing machine on our current boat, we have made some micro-fleece sheet liners that fit inside the fleece bedroll so we can wash those on the boat. [The one piece fleece bedroll is just a tad too big for our 1.8 cu ft washer... A two piece bedroll with zippers may work better for us now so we could wash the fleece halves separately onboard...]

What about condensation under the mattresses and cushions on a boat?

I have been using Hypervent on the last 3 boats in cooler climates [occasionally living aboard in -20°F temps and colder during some winters...] over the last 30+ years or so and it is great. 

One trick I learned is to also extend the Hypervent up the side(s) and end(s) of the mattress [just to the top of the mattress... this stuff is stiff and scratchy...] anywhere the mattress is against the hull, bulkhead, furniture, etc. This greatly improves airflow, and keeps the mattress/foam pads from sliding around.

The Froli sleep system looks like it would also work well, and has the added advantage of letting you individually customize your mattress comfort level(s). It is also the most expensive of the lot.

Dri-Dek also works [somewhat] but is not as thick so air flow is reduced. 

I prefer Hypervent because it is thicker [better air flow] and it costs less.

And when you have shore power, don't forget to run a dehumidifier. This will really help keep everything dry...

Additional Resources:


  1. That reminds me of our zipped sleeping bags aboard our Cal 34, Moonrise. We got the ones that could zip together and then I didn't have to worry about sheets in the Vberth. It was too much for me even then!

  2. That is an excellent analogy... And I agree, unless we are in a tent in cold Wx, our sleeping bags are way too much...


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