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Cold Weather Advice

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I need some advice.


Our Troop will be participating in an upcoming Winter Camp.


I've been camping in cold weather several times in the past and am having a problem on the overnight.


When the outside air temp gets below about 40 deg, my body goes into some kind of "heating" mode. First of all, I start having to use the restroom about every 30 minutes or so and you'd think I drank a gallon of tea immediately prior. As the evening wears on, I start shivering with increasing intensity. This cycle continues through the night. I have noticed that my mouth/throat get very dry - not surprising given the output rate.


I have a sleeping bag that's rated down to 0F of lower (can't recall if it's 0F or - something), but it's fairly new and I bought it to try to preclude the above.


I certainly don't want an open flame in the tent, but have run a Coleman Black Cat in the past. This eliminates the problem.


Any insight on how I can work around this? I don't get any sleep since I'm up every 30 minutes, and end up being miserable the next day.


Temps do not bother me during daytime.


Quandary I'm in... As an ASM for the Troop, I want to set a good example for the Scouts and sleep in the same conditions they will encounter. On the other hand, for a 4-night camp, I'll need to use the Black Cat so I can get some sleep.


I'd appreciate any advice or insight you all can offer.



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Have you tried some serious polypropylene long underwear? I'm not talking about the thin stuff, but thick almost fleece pants and shirt? Then layer with a fleece sweater and wool pants. Wear wool socks with good sorel-type boots with foot warmers, a good jacket, gloves, and of course a warm hat.


Perhaps your past negative experiences came from not being dressed warmly enough?


Once I learned how to dressed for winter camping I found even our campout last year at -9F was not bad as I was so well insulated. I layer so I can open up when I start to get hot and could potentially sweat, and then add layers back on as I cool off.


I would recommend a big bottle in your tent over a heater!


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Yah, hmmm....


Dat's interestin', bilgerat (sailor, are you?).


I can make some guesses, but it might be better havin' a bit more information.


1) How much coffee/caffeine do yeh drink in the evening?

2) Any other medications or conditions?

3) What kind of "winter camp" are we talkin' about? 40 degrees and chill rain or -40 degrees and 3 feet of snow?

4) What's your ground pad setup like? Thermarests? Foam?

5) What kind of tent? Rigged with how much ventilation?

6) What are yeh wearin' for clothes at night? Hat? Gloves?

7) That new sleeping bag rated to 0 degrees... do yeh still have a problem, or haven't you tried it yet?

8) What are yeh eatin' right before bed?



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Dude, your symptoms are right out of the Hypothermia & dehydration text book examples.




How Your Body Regulates Core Temperature


1. Vasodilation - increases surface blood flow, increases heat loss (when ambient temperature is less that body temperature). Maximal vasodilation can increase cutaneous blood flow to 3000 ml/minute (average flow is 300-500 ml/minute).


2. Vasoconstriction - decreases blood flow to periphery, decreases heat loss. Maximal vasoconstriction can decrease cutaneous blood flow to 30 ml/minute.


3. Sweating - cools body through evaporative cooling


4. Shivering - generates heat through increase in chemical reactions required for muscle activity. Visible shivering can maximally increase surface heat production by 500%. However, this is limited to a few hours because of depletion of muscle glucose and the onset of fatigue.


5. Increasing/Decreasing Activity will cause corresponding increases in heat production and decreases in heat production.


6. Behavioral Responses - putting on or taking off layers of clothing will result in heat regulation




Urination - people will have to urinate from cold diuresis. Vasoconstriction creates greater volume pressure in the blood stream. The kidneys pull off excess fluid to reduce the pressure. A full bladder results in body heat being used to keep urine warm rather than vital organs. Once the person has urinated, it precious body heat will be used to maintain the temperature of vital organs. So in the end urinating will help conserve heat. You will need to help the person urinate. Open up the Hypothermia Wrap enough to do this and then cover them back up. You will need to keep them hydrated with the dilute Jello solution described above.

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1) No caffeine - water throughout the day - don't drink coffee, sodas, etc.

2) Nothing that should affect heat regulation... I have some GI issues, so that might affect water retention in the long run

3) Camp - probably temps 20-40F with rain or light snow

4) Thermarest

5) Alpenlite XT Tent (1+1/2 man). Rain Fly and variable ventilation. Previously though - Eureka Equinox 6-man tent. Opened lower flap slightly and top vent slightly when using Black Cat

6) Blue Jeans with sweat pants under. T-Shirt, Sweat Shirt, and jacket. Gloves. Ball cap (if any)

7)Tried with new sleeping bag (Mummy-type). Temps got down to about 20F. Bag felt "warm" (once it warmed up), except small "air hole" let cold air in.

8) Usually don't eat anything much after dinner. last time had turkey and fixin's.


Honestly, I feel like a chump for even bringing this up, but I really want to be there for the Scouts, so thanks to all for your insight and suggestions.

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bilerat -


Get rid of all the cotton! Go with synthetic (polypropylene) or wool.


For winter camping: COTTON KILLS!!!


It absorbs sweat and moisture from the environment and holds it, keeping you COLD!!!


For winter camping jeans and cotton sweat pants with a cotton t-shirt & sweatshirt are a formula for a miserable time!

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Oh, also...


Do not sleep in the clothes you've been wearing during the day - you will have a miserable night. I strip and put on the long undies I'll be wearing the next day.


And eat cheese just before bed - this will keep you warm all night!

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Holey Moley Batman!


>>"Blue Jeans with sweat pants under. T-Shirt, Sweat Shirt, and jacket. Gloves. Ball cap (if any)"

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I've got other seemingly unrelated questions, but:


How's sleeping at home, when things are normally warm?


Do you sleep soundly?


Acid reflux while sleeping?

Problems with nighttime urination (nocturia)?

Daytime drowsiness?


Other cardiac problems (such as elevated CRP)?


I don't want to be an alarmist, but those are all classic symptoms of sleep apnea. I would hesitate to bring it up, but sleep apnea kills too. By all means it is worth talking to a sleep specialist about.



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the shivering is a serious problem, as others have already mentioned. And, as others have mentioned, you want fresh bed clothes.

a layer of foam under the thermarest (or thermarest plus an air mattress) may provide more insulation from the frigid ground. Stop drinking (water or liquids) after supper unless medically needed; no coffee at the nighttime bull session. A rough wool blanket inside your bag may provide more air pockets to retain warmth.

On my first winter camp, I was really worried about waking as a frozen icesicle. I wore quilted booties over a clean pair of gym socks, sweats over waffle-weave underwear, stocking cap, sweat shirt had a hood with drawstring, and I wore a disposable dust mask so I wouldn't need to breathe cold air. Dust mask was the first to be discarded, soon followed by half the rest. Wearing disposable ear plugs actually seemed to help with staying warm

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SMT224 is correct - cotton is not your friend in the winter!!


Our Troop uses a handout to help with planning and equipment for winter camping. It can be found at http://www.bouldertroop377.org/documents/safe_winter_outings.pdf.


We always make sure to have cracker barrel before bed - to put the boys in bed with some cheese and sausage in the bellies. The protein at bedtime helps them stay warm through the night.


I hope this helps - winter camping can be great fun, but the key to having fun is staying warm!

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Excellent advice on all counts especially the cotton. NO COTTON of any sort. Wool and poly all the way!


Nutrition is important and some simple guidelines have not been addressed.


Drink a lot of water, the air is dryer in cold weather and you loose body fluids faster.


Eat a balance of sugars, starches and proteins.


Sugars will generate internal heat for the first couple of hours, starches in the middle stage of the night and proteins in the early morning hours. It takes very little time to process sugars into heat, longer for starches and the longest for proteins.


Wear a wool stocking cap. Most of your heat loss is through your head because of the amount of blood traveling through it. Your brain is protected by extra blood flow, but it also works as a major radiator.


Be sure to take a moderate walk before retiring so your internal heat generation is elevated to heat your sleeping bag for the night.


40+ is not the same as -40, but the dynamics work the same.



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Yah, bilgrat, da cotton clothes are the problem.


Switch to a dry poly or wool "base layer" top and bottom (long-underwear style), and a light fleece layer if yeh feel you need it (you really shouldn't). And a wool or fleece hat, eh?


That should fix most of it. Yeh could probably add a bit of additional fat/food before bedtime too. A bit of cheese and such. Fats take a while to digest, so they provide fuel in the middle of the night when yeh need it.


Last thing is yeh don't mention what sort of Thermarest. They come in a bunch of different flavors. If you're usin' one of the thinner summer-weight ones, you're goin' to need to supplement it with a second pad of some sort for winter. In fact, for deeper winter than what you're describin', you almost always need a second pad. Your sleepin' bag doesn't help a lick at insulating you from the ground.



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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I agree with the no cotton!!! Dump it.


The eating suggestions are excellent.


Padding under the sleeping bag is also vital. I use a closed cell pad 5/8 inch on top of a thermal pad. This pad is made of material that is used to insulate heating/cooling ducts, it is a bubble wrap type of material that has been sealed in what looks like a silver mylar. Can be found in most hardware stores for about a buck a foot. Been using the same pad for 2 years and none of the bubbles have burst. When really cold I put the sleeping bag in a bivy sack (from Cabellas) seems to reduce the heat loss through the bag and adds very little weight.


Keep an emergency bottle (clearly marked) in the tent to help prevent those late night excursions that really chill you down. Old gaterade bottles work well. Can be emptied the next day.


Stocking cap and neck gaiter should take care of any heat loss from the head. The gaiter keeps the carotid arteries warmer. Keep your head out of the bag to prevent exhalation moisture from building up inside the bag. One nighters is not a real issue but multiple nights of collecting this moisture will really reduce the performance of the bag.


Hope this helps



red feather

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