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camping in really cold weather

Discussion in 'Hunting, Fishing & Camping' started by bubbaturbo, Oct 27, 2004.

  1. bubbaturbo

    bubbaturbo

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    When camping in really cold weather - say 10-15F with 15-20 knots of wind, how do you keep the air you breathe in from chilling you bad enough to keep you awake? Huddling down in your sleeping bag works for a few minutes until you can't breathe. Covering up everything except a little tunnel to your nose means you can't move your head. Any suggestions other than don't camp in cold weather?
     
  2. TexAg

    TexAg

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    Well one, you should find some shelter so that you're not feeling the effects of the wind. Next, a good sleeping bag, good thermal underwear, and some kind of head gear (VERY important for body warmth!!!), knit cap or otherwise. Hopefully you can get in a small enough tent or shelter that yours and other's body heat will raise the heat up a little so that you're not breathing in 10 degree air. If you are out in the elements in your sleeping bag, or the shelter just gets downright cold, I would cinch my sleeping bag up so that there is only a small hole and I breathe out of it. Hopefully you're sleeping atire and bag is warm enough that your body should be warm and the air you breathe in won't affect you too much.
    Remember, if your feet are cold, but a hat on. You lose alot of heat out of your head.
     

  3. lomfs24

    lomfs24

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    I always get inside my sleeping bag. I don't have a problem with not being able to breath in there. My bad is no where near airtight.
     
  4. mpol777

    mpol777 Feral Member

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    Thermal clothes are important, but make sure they are breathable. Especially your socks. I wear two pairs. One thin pair of Wick-Dry and an warm pair. If your feet get hot and sweat then get cold it makes for a bad time unless the moisture is off your skin.

    I have an ultralight bag that's rated down to 35. With a liner it's rating goes down to 25 and it's still under 3lbs. The liners can be added to an bag, cost about $30 and that 10 degrees is a big difference.

    You should also stay off the ground. If it's 10deg that means it's been below freezing for a while and the ground is cold. A foam pad, self inflating pad or even pine boughs in a pinch. Anything so the bag only has to insulate you from the air instead of frozen earth.

    In cold weather I don't use a bivy. I feel a lot warmer with a tarp lean-to. It can reflect the heat of a small fire whereas a bivy blocks it out. Even though it's breathable, the moisture soon freezes on the outside and it all goes to crap. If you live somewhere with snow, you won't find any better insulator against the wind than a snow drift. Let it pile up against your lean-to and nothing is getting through.

    Stay off the ground, stay dry and stay out of the wind.
     
  5. podwich

    podwich

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    I've built a little "tent" over my head with a sweatshirt or something. It holds the warmer air in and doesn't freeze too badly.
     
  6. 4TS&W

    4TS&W 2A RKBA 4EVER

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    No way I would do this short of no other way to survive.

    If I'm campin', it better be overnight low of 50 or warmer!!!

    Where's the "freezin' my *** off smilie"?? ^4
     
  7. lomfs24

    lomfs24

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    The best thing about cold weather camping is there are no bugs.
     
  8. mpol777

    mpol777 Feral Member

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    I much prefer the cold. I can always build a fire. Air conditioners are a bit harder to make out in the sticks. When the low temp at night is in the 90's, it's hard to get a good night's sleep.
     
  9. protozo1

    protozo1

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    I've done a ton of cold weather camping. There were several suggestion in previous posts which were right on the mark. Wear long underwear in your bag and make sure it is breathable. Sleeping in the cold in just like hiking in the cold. You've got to keep your temp just right. If you get inside your bag with ten tons of cloths on and you over heat you'll sweat make yourself wet and then freeze later. If you breath inside your bag this will also create a lot of moisture inside the bag which is not good. As said before make sure you're insulated from the ground and you have shelter to block the wind (tent, tarp, snow cave, etc.) If you don't like you head in a mummy bag wear a good hat which covers your ears. If you get hot you can take the hat off for a minute or two and become comfortable again. The biggest thing is to be well fed, plenty of water and warm and dry if you have these things breathing cold air won't chill you. Food and water are VERY important. People don't relize how much water you lose just from breathing in extremely cold conditions. Also, food is the fuel your body is going to use to create heat for you. These two alone will help you stay warm. I've been out in a tent in 20 to 40 below with wind and stayed nice and toasty. Getting up in the morning sucks but we would keep what we were going to wear the next day in a breathable bag inside our sleeping bags at the bottom under our feet. This would keep them warm and dry and give you something comfortable (relatively) to put on in themorning when you first got up. It was also good for late night trips to the restroom.
     
  10. Tvov

    Tvov

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    THAT is the worst part of cold weather camping!!! Getting your tent, sleeping bag, clothes, whatnot all setup for a good sleep then needing to go! Also, I swear the coldest part of any day is the 5:00AM wake up call to go use the privy.
     
  11. pdxbubba

    pdxbubba

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    Thermo clothing is great for when you are awake. I don't suggest wearing them when you sleep. Just like wearing socks to bed - - it's a bad idea.

    We bought sleeping bags that are made for those temps and never looked back. It is harder to get out of bed in the morning since you are so nice and toasty warm!

    We 4x4 camp and are not able to 'pack' camp, so for us, the weight isn't so much of an issue. We use the Slumber Jack Big Timber which is rated to -20f. We have used in in every season (including snow) not a single complaint. The flannel is a great comfort in the woods. The rectangular bags can zip together to make a mega bag. We leave ours zipped together. These are not backpacker bags. The one we bought is over sized which mean my feet aren't crammed into the sides! big plus!
     
  12. bp_cowboy

    bp_cowboy

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    I found out that a high dollar sleeping bag is the best investment, along with some good breathable polyproplene long handles, and good wool socks, and stocking cap. Last year we camped out every other weekend and it got into mid 20's frequently. I slept very good, but like mentioned getting out of your bag was a chore, so I put clothes in bottom of bag and was able to put pants on while inside of it.
     
  13. lomfs24

    lomfs24

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    So many people think that you have to wear threraml clothing to sleep in. But I would have to agree with pdxbubba. I got a cold weather mumy bag from an army navy surplus store. (Gotta inspect them to make sure they are good.) Then I strip down to my tiddy whities crawl in. Never had a problem yet. If I wear clothes, I get colder than a well diggers belt buckle.
     
  14. TexAg

    TexAg

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    It depends on what "clothes" you sleep in. A good polypro. lightweight long under wear wicks the moisture away from your body. If you wear something that doesnt do that, then you will get cold. Of course in a good sleeping bag you can wear nothing if you want if the bag is rated for a low temperature, but if it is not a low enough rated bag, then a good way to stay warm in that bag is good long underwear (not cotton). I like wearing it when its cold becasue its less to put on in the morning and if you do have to get up in the middle of the night at least you have that on.
    And yeah, when its REAL cold I always put some clothes in the bottom of the bag so they'll be somewhat warm when I get up and I can partially dress in the bag.
     
  15. FullClip

    FullClip NRA Benefactor CLM

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    Did a few winter camping trips when I was younger (and stupid!!) One night was 20 below and was pretty miserable. Used two bags, one inside the other and best move was taking a hot water bottle to pre-warm the bag. Worse part was getting up and 'going' in the morning. Nothing like having a frozen "Fudgecicle" knocking at the back door when it's that cold!!;g Gave up the idea now, but make sure to take more gear than you think you'll need, and twice as many socks. Not much is worse than cold damp feet.
     
  16. lomfs24

    lomfs24

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    Another trick is to take a large rock and set it by your campfire for a while before throwing it in the bottom of your bag. Make sure you don't get it too hot though, it will burn a hole in your bag. (My sister learned that the hard way!)
     
  17. akbound

    akbound

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    Also be careful about heating rocks that may contain moisture, (they can literally explode), which can be dangerous. Another good use for warm rocks is placed inside of damp or wet boots (with liners removed). This will not only help dry them but even help make them a little more comfortable in the morning.

    I've camped in Alaskan winters, both in the military and as a civilian. My wife, children (even as pre-schoolers), and I have camped in the Alps of Europe in early winter. If you have the proper equipment and attitude cold weather camping can be very enjoyable, rewarding, and comfortable. I, like some of the others here actually enjoy cold weather camping more than "hot weather" camping.

    Sleeping with your head in the bag is not necessarily a good idea. The moisture will collect inside the bag nearly insuring you will be miserable. Particularly if you have more nights out and can not dry the bag. It is much easier to let your face peek out of the bag, or even wear a "sleeping cap" (like the one included with the military extreme cold weather bag) with your entire head out of the bag. In extreme cold temperatures I will allow my face to protrude from the bag and then cover the face of the bag (and myself) with another blanket or flannel wrap. I have found this to be effective and comfortable even to ambient temperatures of -35 degrees.

    I personally do not like wearing clothing in my bag. I will put underwear and socks in the bottom of the bag to keep them warm. My outer clothing (if not soaked or muddy) I will place on top of my sleeping pad and under my sleeping bag. This will keep them considerably warmer than just placing them any where in the shelter but it will not drag any dirt into the bag itself.

    One other quick item, if you ever decide to use a space or emergency blanket for extra heat do not cover your sleeping bag with it. It will hold in all the moisture and your bag will be soaked. Place the space blanket under you (especially if you don't have a sleeping pad) and it will reflect your body heat back up toward you and your bag, but the moisture will escape. You can continue to do that without ill effect. If you cover up your sleeping bag with the emergency blanket your bag will be next to unusable the next night.

    If you haven't cold weather camped and you'd like to work the kinks out of your equipment and camping method practice in your own back yard (in the winter) prior to making the trip. If you have a major equipment malfunction while in your yard it's an easy fix and won't turn life threatening. Otherwise prepare.........and enjoy!

    Dave
     
  18. MBR

    MBR

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    I just reach above my bed and turn up the thermostat! I highly suggest a camp trailer(RV).

    Seriously, you my try a wall tent. You can have a wood burning stove or propane heat in a wall tent. problem solved.
     
  19. lomfs24

    lomfs24

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    Dave, those are probably some of the best suggestions yet. Anyone reading your post could tell that you have been there and done it. Not just reciting what you have read in a magazine.
     
  20. akbound

    akbound

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    Hi lomfs24,

    Thanks for the comments! Unfortunately I learned many of those lessons the "hard way". If nothing else twenty some years in the Infantry taught me not to be miserable if it was at all avoidable. I spent a "few" nights in Germany-Norway-and a couple of other places that I wouldn't want to wish on my enemies. Well, at least not most of them. ;)

    But in truth I really enjoy cold weather camping. So much so that some of my family and friends think there is something "wrong with me". And like I told them, the secret to enjoying it is preparing correctly and doing it properly. It eliminates the bugs, the heat and humidity, and in places like Alaska opens an entire world that few others happen to be sharing. For that matter even places like here in Pennsylvania winter camping eliminates most of the crowds.

    Few things in life beat waking up on a crisp, clear, morning in a snow covered landscape and having a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Oftentimes it's like waking up to a Currier and Ives print of a winter scene. :)

    Dave

    P.S. I've driven through Montana twice, spending several nights there, what a beautiful state! I'm hoping to make it out there again to spend some more time actually enjoying your wonderful state. What a great place to live if you love the outdoors.