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#120961 - 01/21/08 06:16 PM Cold weather camping advice
buzzard Offline

Registered: 04/17/06
Posts: 6

I need some advice and thought I would post here due to the respect I have for the members of the forum and the vast experience.

I will be camping (trailer, not backpacking) in Wisconsin in the chilly month of February with a Scout Troop.
I am specifically looking for real world experience with a sleeping setup. I have searched online and have found conflicting suggestions concerning using a cot. I have a cot and prefer it to the ground. I have read that using a cot will allow the cold air around you and can cause greater heat loss. I have also read that using a cot gets you of the cold ground.
Any thoughts on using a cot?

Back round: My sleeping bag is old and probably rated to 35 degrees F or so. I have a fleece bag that I put inside along with water bottles filled with water slightly below boiling. I used this setup down to 10 degrees F and it worked well. Underneath, I used an inexpensive blue form ground pad along with a carpet remnant and an army surplus wool blanket. I also changed into clean night clothes with wool/polyester socks along with a buff over my neck and with a wool/polyester hat.

Buying a new sleeping bag is off the table because I bought my son a nice bag so he can stay warm with little effort (compared to my setup).

Any other tips?

Thanks in advance for your time and input.

Assistant Scoutmaster and Cubmaster Dave

#120971 - 01/21/08 07:24 PM Re: Cold weather camping advice [Re: ]
hamilton Offline

Registered: 04/10/07
Posts: 81
I used a cot in the winter for one night up in the Adirondacks. It was unbelievably cold and miserable. The heat pulled right out from under me. I spent the rest of the trip sleeping on the ground. I would only consider a cot if I had a ton of insulation underneath me. Otherwise, you're likely to freeze.

#120972 - 01/21/08 07:41 PM Re: Cold weather camping advice [Re: hamilton]
KenK Offline
"Be Prepared"

Registered: 06/26/04
Posts: 2027
Loc: NE Illinois
My advice is to talk with your Scoutmaster. If he/she is taking the troop out camping in temperatures of 10 F, he/she - or some other adult leader in the troop - should be well trained/experienced in cold-weather camping.

Unfortunately sometimes the person doing the training & preparation in the troop focuses so much on the youth - for their own protection - that he/she forgets to also train the other adult leaders.

I've never heard of someone succesfully cold-weather camping on a cot, but given enough insulation between you and the cot, it should work OK. It sounds like your gear is reasonable (lots of ground insulation, sleeping gear insulation, dry non-cotton clothing, supplimental warmth from your bottles, etc ...

Have fun!!

#120979 - 01/21/08 08:22 PM Re: Cold weather camping advice [Re: KenK]
OldBaldGuy Offline

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 5695
Loc: Former AFB in CA, recouping fr...
I have never slept on a cot that had a lot of insulation on it, but I have to suspect that once you plop down on the thing, it would be real easy to roll off of it when you turn over...

#120985 - 01/21/08 09:05 PM Re: Cold weather camping advice [Re: OldBaldGuy]
sodak Offline

Registered: 03/20/05
Posts: 410
I've gone with and without a cot. For me, a good air mattress is *essential*. Also essential is a good wool blanket or two between your sleeping bag and the air mattress, the condensation is pretty bad when it's cold. I've never noticed whether the cot was colder or warmer, my down bag always kept me warm enough, put your clothes down by your feet, don't wear them. I've done this down to -14degF.

#120995 - 01/21/08 10:30 PM Re: Cold weather camping advice [Re: sodak]
KenK Offline
"Be Prepared"

Registered: 06/26/04
Posts: 2027
Loc: NE Illinois
For winter camping ground insulation, most of the Scouts around here (Chicago burbs) go buy the foam construction insulation from Home Depot, cut it to size, then cut it up widthwise to decent folding chunks, and then duct tape the chunks back together so that it can fold in a Z-fashion. Then the "comfort" pad goes on top of that.

Yeah I agree that sleeping on a cot with lots of insulation sounds kinda odd. My vote would be to sleep on the ground with a Home Depot construction foam on the floor of the tent (as large as possible/convenient) and then a really thick self-inflating foam pad on top of that for comfort. DON'T use an air matress!!! I use the large size Cabelas Ultimate Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad. Its 3.5" think and WONDERFUL!!! Not cheap, but wonderful!!

#121028 - 01/22/08 03:43 AM Re: Cold weather camping advice [Re: buzzard]
verber Offline

Registered: 11/02/07
Posts: 8
Cots get you off the cold ground, but let air circulate freely. You sleeping bag will compress below you, which means you will get quite cold.

I suppose you could use a cot in the winter, but you would also need to haul adaquate insulate to use with the cot. The cheapest option would be closed cell foam such as the basic "blue" pad sold pretty much everywhere. In really cold weather you might need 2-3 for adequate insulation. The other option would be to use an "under quilt" like used by winter time hammock users. Basically you suspend a quilt tightly against the bottom side of the cot fabric so the insulation doesn't get compressed.

#121032 - 01/22/08 03:51 AM Re: Cold weather camping advice [Re: KenK]
xavier01 Offline

Registered: 12/02/02
Posts: 86
Loc: Phx, AZ
Well, since controlling heat loss might not be easy in your case (little insulation underneath and tight budget), the trick is to generate enough heat for a long enough time to offset the loss. I use foot warmers or small hand warmers. Large hand warmers concentrate too much heat in one area. Be sure to put warmer inside of something else such as a sock. Try not to sleep on top of warmer. Try to keep them at the sides. Maybe, someday, sleeping bag manufacturers will build little net pockets for these to help with heat distribution. These packets are cheap. You can find these in the Walmart sporting goods section. I keep about a dozen in my truck. They come in different sizes that last different durations. I was just at Cabelas where they had a 24 hour bag. I prefer the bags that last just long enough for my sleep duration. The colder it is out, just add more bags. If you are like me and toss and turn, sooner or later, you will find that your bags will migrate to the same spot. Grab them and re-distribute through your bag. Keep extras handy by your side, in case it gets even colder. No worry - you'll be warm.

Xavier Phx, AZ

#121037 - 01/22/08 05:00 AM Re: Cold weather camping advice [Re: xavier01]
turbo Offline

Registered: 01/27/04
Posts: 133
Loc: Oregon
Having set up elk camp in the northeastern mountains of Oregon on a number of occations for some fairly old guys that could not get off the ground if they tried, I usually provide cots. In the fall, I pick up for a song new lounging cushions that are three to four inches thick. They come with ties that keep them from sliding off the cots. Coupled with a good sleeping bag, they have been comfortable down to way below zero temperatures. The cots give them room to store their belongings underneath and I can get more people into a twenty foot tent. The cot cushion combination is vary comfortable, much more so than sleeping on the ground.

#121042 - 01/22/08 08:31 AM Re: Cold weather camping advice [Re: turbo]
ame Offline

Registered: 10/15/05
Posts: 162
Loc: Korea
You might pick up some good advice at http://hammockforums.net. Cold weather camping is supposed to be better in a hammock, but regardless, keeping warm in a hammock and a cot has a lot in common. Especially the problem of your sleeping bag insulation being compressed underneath you by your own weight.

There is a down air mattress from a company called Exped, which might be worth investigating, and there is a cheap closed-cell foam pad from WalMart that keeps cropping up.



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