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#272952 - 11/20/14 06:18 PM Eye-opening Cold Weather camping experience
Mark_F Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 06/24/09
Posts: 714
Loc: Kentucky
This past weekend, my son's Boy Scout troop went to the Kentucky Coal Association's Camporee in Knott County, Ky. The weather forecast called for a chilly Friday night, with a low of about 20 to 25 degrees F. Preparations for the cold included mummy bags rated 0 to 20 degrees F, with a fleece liner to go inside, and two of these stuffed in our bags ahead of time to warm up the sleeping bag. We slept on cots, with pads on top of the cot, added a blanket on top of the pad for extra insulation underneath, then the sleeping bag on top. Clothing consisted of a base layer of wicking polyester garments, layers of fleece, wool socks, gloves, hats etc. I brought my insulated coverall as well. Also took along some extra (warm) clothing including spare wool socks, gloves, hats and fleece layers.

The weather report I looked at was slightly off, and it ended up being about 10 degrees colder than anticipated Friday night. Saturday morning was a frosty (for us anyway) 15 degrees F, a cold night for us, and our coldest night of camping yet. Despite the cold weather preparations, my son and I ended up with EXTREMELY cold feet at about 3 in the morning. We did our best to warm up but we ended up looking for the warming station at around 5:30 AM, we ended up not being able to find it so instead we threw more logs on the fire and waited for the morning sun to warm us up. my son and i both slept in a change of dry clothing, including underwear, long john top and bottom (mine was a wool mix, my son's was polyester), fleece top and pants, wool socks, synthetic hats and gloves.

In hindsight, a few things we might have done to improve our cold feet situation:

- A second pair/layer of wool socks with a set of these in between (one of the other ASMs did this as well).

- A garbage bag pulled up around the outside of the foot area of the sleeping bag (a trick one of the older ASMs from another troop taught us last year on a cold campout, but i honestly didn't think we'd need it given the sleeping bags and multiple layers we were using).

- In line with the garbage bag outside the sleeping bag, I am wondering if one INSIDE the bag would also work, either in addition to or instead of the one on the outside of the sleeping bag

- Better cot pads with better insulation value, and add extra winter coats over the top of the cot pad for better insulation underneath. Maybe also add a reflective emergency blanket to that mix.

- Hot water in our water bottles to take into the sleeping bag with us.

- Instead of the fleece liner bag, stuffing another sleeping bag inside the main one. Several who came to the campout did this, one boy from another troop stuffed one 0 degree bag inside another 0 degree bag.

Is there anything else we might have done better? Or differently? We generally don't camp in the cold so any of your best suggestions would be most appreciated. As always, thanks in advance for your help, and hope this thread will help others who have a cold night of camping approaching.
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#272954 - 11/20/14 06:46 PM Re: Eye-opening Cold Weather camping experience [Re: Mark_F]
chaosmagnet Online   content
Sheriff
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/03/09
Posts: 3412
Loc: USA
I wouldn't put a garbage bag inside a sleeping bag; I'd be worried about sweat making you damp and wicking heat away. Outside the sleeping bag I have never tried but sounds like it might help. I have single-use toewarmers that fit on my socks inside my boots and I would have used those between socks -- they're a better shape for feet than handwarmers.

Did you have a tent? A tent, even uninsulated, can create a layer of still air that can make a big difference in staying warm.

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#272955 - 11/20/14 07:27 PM Re: Eye-opening Cold Weather camping experience [Re: chaosmagnet]
Mark_F Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 06/24/09
Posts: 714
Loc: Kentucky
oh yeah, forgot to mention the tent, it was a troop tent, but more of a warm weather tent.
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#272956 - 11/20/14 07:56 PM Re: Eye-opening Cold Weather camping experience [Re: Mark_F]
bws48 Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/18/07
Posts: 831
Loc: Anne Arundel County, Maryland
OK, I know this is going to sound silly. . .
when you were in the sleeping bags, did you have a wool or other warm cap on in addition to the mummy bag top?

The head radiates a lot of heat. If you are losing too much heat through your head, the body lets other parts cool down (e.g. the feet) in order to keep the brain working.

So, maybe warmer headgear would help, or, as Grandma said:
"put a lid on the teakettle."
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#272957 - 11/20/14 08:14 PM Re: Eye-opening Cold Weather camping experience [Re: Mark_F]
gonewiththewind Offline
Veteran

Registered: 10/14/08
Posts: 1517
I also would not recommend placing a plastic bag inside the sleeping bag. You can place extra clothing or blankets in the bottom of your sleeping bag to take up that excess room, especially for the kids who are smaller. That extra room requires body heat to warm it up. You can fold the excess under and place a plastic bag over that to remove that excess space.

You can get the military surplus sleeping systems for around $100, which includes two bags and a bivy bag that all snap together. It would easily have worked for those temperatures.

My scout troop was camping this last weekend also. We had low to mid 20s at night. I make sure that they all have a good insulating pad, not necessarily comfortable and soft, but good insulation. I also have a supply of military surplus wool blankets for those bags that may not be so warm.

Long underwear and warm socks do help inside the bag. For really cold feet, you can get a set of down booties to sleep in.

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#272958 - 11/20/14 10:00 PM Re: Eye-opening Cold Weather camping experience [Re: Mark_F]
Mark_F Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 06/24/09
Posts: 714
Loc: Kentucky
bws48, yes I had a hat on, but not sure if DS had one on. i should probs check on getting us some warmer headgear tho.

Montanero, i am starting to see a theme, so no garbage or other plastic bags inside the sleeping bag. someone else had suggested to me I should have taken one of the extra fleece tops we had and put my feet inside that inside the sleeping bag, i suppose that is right in line with stuffing extra clothing and blankets into the sleeping bag. DS is tall, like I am so not a lot of extra space at the bottom of his sleeping bag either. I'll have to check into those down booties, in addition to just being cold-blooded, my circulation isn't so great after being diabetic for nearly 40 years.

One more thing I realize we could have done the first time we woke up with cold feet at 3am, was put some water on to get hot and made something hot to eat, that might have helped keep us warmer through the rest of the night as well.
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#272960 - 11/20/14 10:43 PM Re: Eye-opening Cold Weather camping experience [Re: Mark_F]
wildman800 Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 11/09/06
Posts: 2828
Loc: La-USA
I use the wool socks inside of the wool booties. They are the layers that come with the USGI Arctic canvas boots. BTW: Those canvas Arctic Boots are the most comfortable footwear that I have ever worn. It's a shame that South Louisiana is way to warm to wear them during the winter months.
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#272961 - 11/21/14 12:13 AM Re: Eye-opening Cold Weather camping experience [Re: Mark_F]
Teslinhiker Offline
Veteran

Registered: 12/14/09
Posts: 1412
Loc: Cranbrook BC (Finally)
Agree with all the comments. Sleeping in the cold can be an enjoyable experience if you are prepared.

Typically for us, it starts with a good tent and fly. Unless the weather is really foul, the fly is kept loose especially at the top of the tent as there are air vents that help disperse condensation out.

For cold sleeping, I use; Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOlite sleeping pad, -10 rated synthetic sleeping bag, bag liner, synthetic medium weight long johns, undershirt, polar fleece pullover. 2 layers socks and a hat if needed.

Misc tips:

- Instead of doubling sleeping bags (unless they are warm rated types) consider using a liner. These are generally cheaper, much less bulky to carry and can add 5-10F of added warmth. The other positive is they much easier to clean then a sleeping bag as most can be washed in a household washing machine and either dried on low heat or hung to dry.

- Some people find a neck warmer helps keep a draft of the neck. A balaclava goes further by keeping the neck, face and head covered.

- Don't sleep with the sleeping bag over your head. All the moisture you exhale is going directly into the bag. If you want to keep your head and face warm, see above point.

- Don't sleep with just an air mattress under you as the cold is conducted right from the ground and up through the air mattress. Use a good quality closed cell sleeping pad such as the Ridgerest mentioned on top the air mattress.

- Before bed, fill your water bottle with hot water (or tea hot chocolate etc) for overnight warm drinks) and keep in the sleeping bag. Make sure the bottle is covered so that it does not burn you. A spare sock or extra shirt works great for this purpose. Chemical heat packs are another option instead of the water bottle.

- Eat bedtime snacks that have some fat and calorie content to keep your body warmer. You cannot beat Peanut butter sandwiches for this. I personally prefer some pepperoni sticks as they usually have a good fat content. Some old time explorers and modern day Expeditioneers carry and cook up bacon for their bedtime snacks in extreme cold conditions. Others carry and eat various nuts and trail mixes.

- If your camping area is subject to wind, try and setup the tent out of wind. If not possible, position the tent so that a window or the door is into the wind and open very slightly. Be doing this, the tent is pressurized so to speak and will stop that annoying flapping of the tent when the wind blows for hours.

- If you hang a plastic, woven or sil type tarp above your tent, weight it down with a piece of wood or something of similar weight. This helps to keep the tarp from flapping as much in the wind and less noise equals better sleeping.



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Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.

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#272962 - 11/21/14 12:21 AM Re: Eye-opening Cold Weather camping experience [Re: Mark_F]
wildman800 Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 11/09/06
Posts: 2828
Loc: La-USA
We used to weave windbrakes by weaving branches into a vertical wall upwind of our tent.
_________________________
QMC, USCG (Ret)
The best luck is what you make yourself!

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#272964 - 11/21/14 12:26 AM Re: Eye-opening Cold Weather camping experience [Re: Mark_F]
Denis Offline
Addict

Registered: 01/09/09
Posts: 631
Loc: Calgary, AB
A good chunk of this has been covered above I think, but this is how I approach cold weather camping.

A big thing I've found in winter is to have a tent with solid walls (i.e., not mesh). I have slept in tents with partial mesh walls and I found I really felt even a small breeze as it goes through the tent.

Between me & the ground (bottom up) I typically use:
  • Reflective layer (like an All Weather emergency blanket, shiny side up) to bounce some of my lost heat back to me
  • Closed cell foam (I've recently combined this and the previous component into a single piece of gear with a Therm-A-Rest Ridgerest Solite that has a reflective side)
  • Self-inflating pad (I us a 3.8 cm thick pad, MEC brand)

For a sleeping bag I use a -7 C (20 F) down bag and will also use a synthetic overbag that is rated for +15 C (60 F) on its own which adds 5 to 10 C (9 to 18 F) to the system. In addition to adding warmth, the condensation forms on the outer synthetic bag keeping the inner down bag dry. I also usually cinch things up so only my nose/mouth area is visible.

For clothing, I'll usually just do a dry pair of socks & a base layer. I won't necessarily wear a toque or anything on my head due to how I cover up with the sleeping bag.

Filling a Naglene with hot water & bringing that to bed with you is good too ... it also makes sure you have liquid water when you wake up! As an aside, if you have other bottles, store them upside down so that if they start to freeze, the unfrozen water will still be accessible.

Also, have a good high calorie snack before bed. I usually bring chocolate bars for this (Snickers, preferably smile ).

When I have found myself out with a bag that wasn't warm enough for the weather, layering up with whatever could provide warmth (like fleece mid-layers) helps. I used my camp blanket in my bag with me once too (not a winter camp, but I unwisely had my summer bag with me) but I found it was hard to keep in place. I also once used a puffy down jacket around my sleeping bag, partially zipping it, which provided some extra warmth.
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Victory awaits him who has everything in order luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck. Roald Amundsen

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