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bilgerat

Cold Weather Advice

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Last February was my first winter camp experience. For undergarments I had two brands: Under-Armor type poly (but off name brand found at Walmart). Those were about $6 per piece. Then I had $18 per unit PolarMax brand undies. Both were adequate, comfort/warmth never being an issue. My tent was an tall 9x9 that I shared with another adult, which was actually a little too "airy". Nighttime temp was about 20f, daytime 40f. The jacket came off on the 2 mile uphill hike out as the snow turned into rain

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Based on the description of how you're dressing, you're dressing to retain the heat you've already generated for comfort as soon as you hit the sack. Unfortunately, all you're doing is retaining heat - you're not generating heat. Sleeping bags keep people warm throughout the night because the body generates heat which infuses itself in the air pockets of the sleeping bag filling, which then increases the insulation properties of the sleeping bags (the same principle works with the insulation in a home, thats why insulation is installed with the paper backing out rather than in, so the heat of the house can penetrate into the insulation).

 

Clean, fresh clothes at night - polypro or flannel long underwear is usually enough. I put a fleece sweatshirt in my bag with me (but don't wear it) which I may end up putting on later in the evening as the sleeping bag starts to lose it's insulating properties, which will carry me through the night and into the morning (as long as the brain believes the core of the body is protected and warm, it will stay nice and calm - once the brain decides the core is in danger, it will try to warm it up rapidly which it does by shunting less blood to the extremities and forcing the nervous system to start the shivering process - shivering is the bodies way of trying to warm itself up). It's pretty rare to go into a full blown shiver without a little prior warning - a few pre-shivers that seem to just start to loosen the muscles to prepare them for what's coming - I usually wake up with this, toss on the sweatshirt, and everything settles back down - I keep the sweatshirt in bed with me so that it's already warm when I put it on - then I don't need to generate a lot of heat to get it warm.

 

Double pad is definitely suggested, but don't use a blow-up air mattress - a thermarest and a closed cell pad is the way to go - air is a wonderful conductor of cold, and a blow up air mattress will just conduct the cold in the ground right up through the tent floor - may as well just sleep on the ground with no padding.

 

Are you car camping? If so, you might try using flannel sheets and a couple of good wool blankets instead of a sleeping bag. Has the advantage of having more layers for insulating, and an advantage of less restrictive movement. Mummy bags and sleeping bags tend to restrict our movements, and movement does provide a bit of heat - I tend to curl up a bit on my side when I sleep, which also adds to the heat protection of the core.

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I have a tough time keeping a stocking cap on when I sleep so I wear an Army surplus pile cap, its a green hood like thing made for wearing under the helmet, has large velcro tabs to keep fastened to your head and is warm too. I have pulled the stocking had down over my eyes and that does seem to help rentention some.

 

If the bag feels cold take a hot water bottle to bed with you, a quart of hot water has a lot of heat to offer, pick one you know WILL NOT LEAK! Test sleep it at home first. If it feels too hot wrap it up in some clothing, it will provide less heat then, but for a longer time.

 

I fact my basic recomondation is what ever you choose try it out for a night in the back yard first in similar weather conditions.

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Very interesting combination of symptoms. Missing data -- especially on the thickness of the Thrmorest and the results with the new sleeping bag. A Thermorest or similar pad for spring/sumemr/fall backpacking may we inadequate for "cold" weather camping(whatever that means where you are).

 

++ on the bottle suggestion.

 

Most say that the inside liner and outside cover of sleeping bags should both breath to allow excess moisture to escape. If it's cold enough, there will be condensation - even ice --on the outside of the bag. Even colder, and the condensation can occur inside the cover. I have had ice inside the cover of a bag when it was -20F.

 

If you end up with dampness against your skin, you will greatly accelerate heat loss.

 

Is your sleeping bag and sleeping clothing dry when you get up in the morning?

 

No PM's at this forum. Hmm.

 

"the same principle works with the insulation in a home, thats why insulation is installed with the paper backing out rather than in, so the heat of the house can penetrate into the insulation)."

The paper on backed fiberglass insulation is a vapor barrier. At least around here, the bats are to be installed with the paper toward the inside of the building (that's why there are flaps to allow stapling to the studs)to prevent moisture from entering the insulation and condensing inside the insulation, thus reducing its effectiveness. In a related fashion, there was a boomlet in the 1980's for vapor barrier liners ("Pleasure Packing" was one book that advocated it.) to increase sleeping bag efficiency. Few liked the claminess that resulted from sleeping on a plastic bag -- unless you got a perfect balance of ventilation.

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OK... I realize I have violated almost every cold-weather camping rule under the sun!

 

Thanks to everyone for the great advice. I can clearly see that much of what I have experienced has been from unintentionally poor preparation.

 

Biggest lessons I see... NO COTTON, layer, insulate the sleeping bag from the ground (preferably with closed-cell pads, but no air mattress), "relief" bottle, eat before bed, limit/no drinking after dinner, head cover, head outside the sleeping bag, change before bed.

 

Again, Thanks!

 

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Almost forgot. After camping in cold weather be sure to air out/dry your bag completely before storing it for the next campout. Moisture retained by your bag {despite your best efforts) will be trapped in the bag if you don't. Can lead to strange smells and reduction of the insulating properties of your bag.

 

yis

red feather

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forgot to add: put down a plastic/vapor barrier ground cover under your bag & mat. that way water frozen in the ground won't give you rising damp when it thaws from body heat

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One last question or two on this...

 

Do you all have brand-name recommendations for the poly/wool underwear and the 2nd closed-cell pad (already have a Thermarest pad)?

 

Thanks!

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I like the Thermax brand long johns, lightweight and so fr durable, not sure they are made anymore. Found them a couple of years ago in the bargan cave at Cabellas and got all they had.

 

The military closed cell pad is good as a second pad, Cabellas also has a closed cell pad for around 15.00 or so.

 

yis

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Right - go to Cabela's Bargain Cave and search for "Performance Underwear", then sort the search list by price, low to high, and you will find all kinds of great deals on last year's colors and styles (as if you'll care when wearing it under your clothes!). I just did a search and found some nice Polartec stuff for a great price. I usually take some medium-weight and some heavy-weight long underwear that can be worn under wool pants or snow pants or bib. Check Campmor sale prices as well for good deals. Don't worry so much about brands, just make sure it's synthetic - polyproplyene or polartec

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Follow-up...

 

We did our first campout with temps down into upper teens/low 20's.

 

Did the following:

 

- 2 pads: 1 Thermarest closed cell + 1 Thermarest foam/air pad

- Summer Sleeping bag (fleece-lined) inside Slumberjack 0F mummy bag

- Wool Army blanket on top

- Duofold Varitherm Wool/poly base layer (top/bottom)

- Fleece mid-weight cycling jacket

- Smartwool Medium cushion socks

- Pearl Izumi Cycling Baraclava

- Eureka ALPENLITE 2XT tent

 

Stayed very comfortable throughout the night.

 

I tried the hot water bottle. It did work, but I abandoned it on night 2 just for the hassle-factor. Didn't notice any appreciable difference.

 

Also, night 2 at about 2 am, felt a slight chill, but my bag/body seemed nicely warmed. Felt that it might be from the cold air intake. Tried an experiment and put a small tripod over my head and hung an afghan on it to form a "mini-tent" over my head/neck area. Took care of the problem. Afghan was a little moist, but sleeping bag was not affected.

 

Also, another interesting thing I noticed - when I had the baraclava over my nose and mouth, plus had both arms inside inner bag, kept waking up with "panic" feeling (claustraphobic). Pulled baraclava off the nose and placed arms outside inner bag, but within outer bag. No problems after that.

 

Thanks again for all the help!

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Wow - I thought I was the only person who woke up with a panic feeling from sleeping in a mummy bag. Good advice all around.

 

One point about the properties of air as an insulator - it is a good insulator (bad conductor) of cold if it is trapped small closed cells and not allowed to circulate. A blow-up air mattress has large cells which allow the air to circulate and transfer the heat by natural convection from the ground to your bag. Still, an air mattress is better than sleeping directly on the ground, where your body weight compresses the batting of the bag, which reduces it's insulative properties.

 

Also, one more trick to keeping warm - rub on skin moisturizer before going to sleep. Your skin will repel your sweat better into the wicking layer.

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bilgerat,

The best poly long u/w I have found is at wickers.com. I wear their mid-weight stuff most of the time, but when it gets down in the 20's and I'm going to be pretty stationary, I go with the Expedition weight. Without getting too personal, I also wear their boxers daily, and it is the most comfortable I have ever worn. Even after 5 years of wear, they look just as good as the day I bought them.

 

Drawback? It isn't cheap. Good news is they now offer seconds in their Outlet section. I just bought some long u/w for my son that are seconds, and I can't find anything wrong with them. Midweight top seconds are $14 and bottoms are the same, to give you an idea on price. I don't think I will ever have to buy long u/w again, if it continues to hold up so well.

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put a small tripod over my head and hung an afghan on it to form a "mini-tent" over my head/neck area

 

Your comment about a little tent over your head and neck area reminded me of an old sleeping bag my granddad used in hunting in Canada and Alaska in the 1950s. It was fleece lined and heavy and I also remembered some extra material where you could rig up a small shelter over your head area. There were pictured instructions on how to rig it up with a tree branch bowed over and hooked. Being a kid I thought you could use it if you didnt have a tent. But I suppose it would be good for setting up a similar rig like you mentioned.

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2 more tips:

 

1- Wear LOOSE FITTING clothes, if any, inside your sleeping bag. If your clothing is tight, it restricts the blood flow to your extremities. Just reading about your sweatpants under jeans made my toes cold!

 

2- Wear a wool sweater or poly pullover as a BAFFLE around your neck. (ie- Don't put your arms in the sleeves.)

When you're lying in your mummy bag, raise your arms and you'll feel the cold air rush in through the breathing hole. Lower your arms and you'll feel the now warm air ooze out. As you shift positions during a cold night, you're pumping the mummy bag like a bellows. A sweater baffle around your neck helps keep the warm air in.

 

I second the above suggestions to wear a loose fitting stocking cap and double the sleeping pads.

 

Side Note:

Don't wear your boots too tight during the day. During JackFrost '77 in Alaska I'd lace my boots up nice and tight, as usual, to prevent turning an ankle while parachuting. My feet stayed freezing, even while marching. Next outing I crammed two pairs of socks inside my boots, and my feet still froze. 1st Sgt suggested that I loosen the laces, which I did to the point of not having the tops holes laced at all. Hot blood flooded to my toes and my feet stayed toasty for the rest of winter-warfare trainning.

 

JoeBob

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