View Full Version : Camping: staying warm
10-03-2000, 07:48 PM
This past weekend I was camping in the mountains of W. Va. Hi temp in the upper 70's, the low, mid-to-low 50's. (This is a guesstimate, after checking the web for today's temps for that area.) Saturday night, around 10:30 pm I settled into my cot, my 100% polyester sleeping bag (but didn't zip it up), put two wool blankets on top of that, felt comfortable, and dozed off. I woke up about two hours later freezing my arse off. It was very damp, and I felt chilled to the bone. The wool blankets had slipped off, I pulled them back on, zipped up the sleeping bag as best I could, and after about half an hour, dozed off again. Woke again, cold to the bone. S.o. finally awoke, I complained, and he invited me into his -- well, we tried, but two people on one cot and one sleeping bag just doesn't cut it. His sleeping bag had more filling in it, and a cotton lining and felt warm. I finally got in the car and slept fitfully for a few hours there. Later, it occurred to me that on another camping trip in the mountains of W. Va. I had laid on top of the sleeping bag (not in it) and had the two wool blankets over me, and I wasn't cold. So, was it the poly sleeping bag? Better to sleep atop it with the wool blankets covering me? Other suggestions for staying warm at night while camping?
10-03-2000, 08:01 PM
Momma in her kerchief and I in my cap...
Try wearing a cap. I forget the numbers but you lose a substantial amount of body heat through your head.In my opinion a sleeping bag is a bag you sleep in. You did nothing wrong.Next time you might take one of those blankets in the bag with you.BTW did you change clothes before bed.Sometimes you are sweaty and don't know it.
10-03-2000, 08:03 PM
If you were up in the hills, it might have been colder where you were than the web info might suggest. The damp only makes it feel worse.
Did you put a thermal pad under your sleeping bag? Whether you sleep on the ground or on a cot, a thermal pad (usually made of some sort of flexible foam) will do wonders for keeping you warm, because it will keep your body heat from leaching away. You can pick up a decent one for about $20-25 at any camping store.
Also, for some reason, sleeping bags never quite seem to live up to their ratings - if rated to 15 deg. F, say, you'll probably start feeling cold at 30 deg. F. You didn't mention what your sleeping bag is filled with, but that might be part of the problem. Halofill is a decent synthetic fill if you don't want to spring big bucks for down filling.
For myself, if I'm going to be camping when the nighttime temp may dip below 50 deg. F, I'll wear a knit hat, fingerless gloves and an extra pair of socks to bed, too. That usually does the trick in keeping me warm.
10-03-2000, 08:04 PM
I'll bet the dampness is what did it. You might try a Gore-Tex bivvy sack over the bag. Also, check the "comfort rating" of the bag (but I still think having a damp bag is what caused the chill). Were you in a tent? That will keep the dew off. It will also help to hold in some warmer air.
You could also try putting a wool blanket inside of the bag. This will keep you away from damp surfaces, and wool is warm even when wet. But if you get the right bag you shouldn't have to "rig" something.
If you should eschew the cot, be sure to use a sleeping pad to insulate you from the cold ground.
What were you wearing? A layer of clothes (such as some thermal underwear) will help keep you warm.
10-03-2000, 08:06 PM
Dang! Two responses while I was typing! [b]justwannano[/b[ reminded me of an old adage: "If your feet are cold, put on a hat." And s/he (sorry, I don't know your genter, J.) and I agree about taking the blanket into the bag.
10-03-2000, 08:13 PM
As a teenaged scout years ago, we went on an all-day hike in the mountains of VA. The month was Dec. and it only got in the 30's at best. We spent that night in an "Adirondack" three sided open shelter, in sleeping bags. My leader told me to not sleep in my clothes, especially socks. I, of course wore my socks to bed. The next morning my feet were blocks of ice. I vote for the perspiration/dampness of clothes effect.
10-03-2000, 08:21 PM
I'm a big fan of Capolone. It's thin. Find a set of Capolene long underwear, and socks. Also, a balaclav to insulate the head.
The capolene is a wicking fabric. It will draw moisture off of your skin. Works like a DREAM when I am shooting outside in the winter. I'm warm and dry, in my capolene undies and PolarTec fleece overies ( new word? ).Capolene is a trademarked name, and I can't for the life of me remember WHO makes it. Try any reputable outdoor store. Where I live, I can get to Campmoor AND EMS within a few miles of each other.
10-03-2000, 08:56 PM
Yes, I was in a tent, on a cot. As for clothes, I wore what I'd worn on other camping trips -- a cotton shift (sort of a nightie)and heavy socks (I can't sleep if my feet are cold.) The sleeping bag was 100% polyester, the filling too. It belonged to the s.o. and he'd had it awhile, so I don't think he'd remember what it's rating is. I have thermal underwear, which I'll be sure to take next time -- and a knit cap too! Thanks.
10-03-2000, 09:03 PM
Please don't tell anyone but I once was so cold I put my clean shorts oh my head as a cap.Couldn't find anything else in the dark.
10-03-2000, 09:07 PM
You could have unzipped your bag all of the way, put it on the ground or on top of the two bunks/cots pushed together. Had him open his all of the way and spread it out on top, with the extra blankets. Presto! Twin bed. I've slept with blankets on top of my sleeping bag before and been nice and warm.
There was one time I got caught in an unexpected sharp drop in temperature not prepared at all, trying out a 'cheap' way of camping I'd read about. (Laying newspapers down on the tent floor, sleeping on them with a light blanket.) I almost froze. So, I got up, went out, built up my fire, found an old piece of plywood and set it up as a reflector and slept between it and the flames. I had to stir myself now and then to toss more wood on as the fire burned down, but I was reasonably comfortable.
BTW the newspaper 'bed' doesn't work all that well.
10-03-2000, 09:20 PM
I think it was the cot. See, a lot of heat is lost UNDER you. When you sleep on a sleeping bag, most of the insulation is crushed uner your wieght, and is rendered useless. Then you had a thin layer of cotfabric- no help- and then a lot of cold air circulating underneath. That is why a closed cell pad is so good, it does not compress. However, on a cot, you can replace the pad with a 'space blanket" (the heavy-duty kind), and it will work almost as well. You might have put one of those blankets under you,(doubled up) almost as good.
10-03-2000, 09:20 PM
Please don't tell anyone but I once was so cold...
I used to work with a guy who was a rather macho ex-air force MP. He went on a weekend trip to run around on quad-runners. Well, they got a little too far from camp and had to spend the night on a hill. He said he had to huddle together with his buddies for warmth.
Okay, it was the logical thing to do. But since he was so macho, and was making such a protest that is was a "survival situation", that we couldn't help but rib him about it. Called him "Cuddles", and whatnot. :D
Anyone ever see Jeremiah Johnson? There's a scene where.. who was it? Peter Fonda? ...and an Indian build fires in pits, cover them up, and sleep on them. JJ's cover was too thin and he got burned. Has here ever tried that?
10-03-2000, 09:22 PM
Originally posted by samclem
My leader told me to not sleep in my clothes, especially socks. I, of course wore my socks to bed. The next morning my feet were blocks of ice. I vote for the perspiration/dampness of clothes effect.
I'm with Samclem.
As a veteran camper of every climate, even in the Artic, I can tell you that sleeping in your bag with no socks or clothes is the best thing to keep warm.
While sleeping, you exhale allot of moisture, allot of this ends up in the bag, especially if you are cold. Because it is cold, you tend to pull your whole body into the bag while you are sleeping. Your clothes end up getting damp by the moisture. Another reason for not wearing clothes is that some bags work all to well and you up sweating inside your bag.
Place your clothes between the ground cover and your bag, using them as a pillow. They will be nice and warm when you put them on, but never put them in the bag with you. If you can, put on fresh clothes because you will be much warmer. Dirty clothes loose some of their insulating properties.
10-03-2000, 09:32 PM
Call me paranoid or whatever, though your sleeping without cloths is probably right, but I never have. I have this opinion that if anything happens, I don't want to have to jump up in my skivvies and fumble for my clothing. When camping, I even sleep with my glasses on most of the time. Only my shoes come off.
10-03-2000, 09:34 PM
What I suggest is a nice room at the Marriott, as close to the hills as possible. Nice and comfy all night, then dress warm for your hike the next morning. As soon as it warms up a little. After a nice hot shower and breakfast. They'll give you a lunch and a thermos of coffee to take with you.
Suffering is way over-rated. ;)
10-03-2000, 09:42 PM
Johnny L.A. said Anyone ever see Jeremiah Johnson? There's a scene where.. who was it? Peter Fonda
10-03-2000, 10:12 PM
Mangeorge - believe me, I'm not big on camping - I like my creature comforts - but this camping is at civil war reenacting events, and it's only for one or two nights. We usually stay at a motel Friday night, get into our cw era clothes there, then get to the event and sleep in the tent Saturday night.
10-03-2000, 10:30 PM
One thing you might want to try is putting a tarp underneath
your tent ( before you set it up ;) ). Plastic is a pretty good insulator from the cold ground plus it keeps moisture from wicking through your tent. This is especially helpful if you've got an older/cheaper tent.
Fillet also makes a good point about foam padding under your sleeping bag, anything you put between you and the cold ground helps.
Myron Van Horowitzski
10-05-2000, 09:22 AM
Syc--ixnay on the cot. Sleep in a real bed.
Get yourself one of those flocked airbeds. Coleman makes them. They fold up much smaller than the cot but inflated are the size of a real mattress. The flocking keeps you from sliding around.
You can get an inflating pump that hooks up to the cig lighter of your car.
10-05-2000, 09:27 AM
Dig a hole about 3-4 feet deep and put a layer of dry wood in it. Set it on fire and let it burn out, but don't let the embers cool. Fill the hole back up. After a couple of hours, the heat will make it up to surface level, making a warm spot to sleep.
10-05-2000, 10:05 AM
25 years since I've gone camping. Got roped into it for next weekend. Stay warm tricks I remember include every thing stated before plus having a small meal before retiring. Digesting the food keeps you warm? Soup before sleeping, fresh night clothing, headwear, socks/booties. I'll tell you when I get back.MTS
10-05-2000, 02:00 PM
Some more tips: If you double the sleeping bags to sleep together, see if they can zip together, too. Many sleeping bags use compatible zippers. Also, if the two bags are of different thickness, put the thicker one on top.
If it's really cold, you might want to get a bale or two of straw, too. Pull it all loose, and pile it on top of the bags. Wear extra layers under the sleeping bag, but only if it's cold enough that you won't sweat.
Also, always have something between you and the cold ground, but not a cot. As mentioned earlier, air will circulate around and under a cot, stealing your precious warmth.
If you're really serious about winter camping, get one of those mummy sleeping bags. They have a drawstring around the top, and seal around your face such that everything else is covered.
Using these methods (without even the mummy bag), I've slept out in a tent in weather as cold as 30 below. Always make sure, though, that you can get to central heating, if necessary. Hypothermia can kill.
10-05-2000, 03:06 PM
When you are getting into serious cold you should wear a balaclava helmet too, to reduce the heat loss.I'd suggest wearing thin cotton gloves just in case you happen to reach for something and find something metallic - saves becoming too well attatched to it.
You can get sleeping bags with foil inserts which help but my recommendation is to get either an air-bed, which is rather too bulky for the true backpacker, or an inflatable carrimat which rolls up smaller than the foam type.
Its worth taking some chemical heater packs with you.
I'm not sure of the trade name but they come in a plastic pouch which you bend to break an internal seal which allows two chemicals to mix which react and create heat.
10-05-2000, 07:14 PM
Hmmm...a flocked airbed? Sounds interesting - and more comfortable than a cot! Trouble is, as I mentioned, we're doing civil war reenacting and (1) we have so much crap to haul, we're trying to travel light, and (2) cots are more "authentic" (though truth be told, NO cot and NO tent would be the most authentic). The guy in the tent next to us said he'd slept in his underwear, ON the sleeping bag, with just a wool blanket over him. He had also put straw on the ground (At these events they even provide the straw, but, duh, we didn't think about it.) So I think the cold, damp air beneath the cot was the culprit. At an earlier cw event, we slept on one of those foam eggcrate mattresses with wool blankets and I was fine. But at the same event, I got bit on the arm by some noxious insect and it swelled up and hurt a lot, so I didn't want to sleep on the ground anymore, and so got the cot. Anyways, all your suggestions are welcome and I'll certainly be prepared next time. Thanks much everyone.
10-05-2000, 08:11 PM
Gee if they supply bales of straw why not sleep on them?Beats the hell out of the ground and a cot both.
10-05-2000, 09:43 PM
I think that the old timers slept on a straw tic.A big bag like thing stuffed with straw.Newer versions were stuffed with feathers.Make sure you stuff enough in so you don't end up crushing it and end up on the ground.
I believe that a log cabin with a real bunk was the exception rather than the rule at first. They had to sleep on something and I'll bet that it was a straw tic.
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