Keeping my sleeping bag WARM

12:32 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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I am REALLY interested to hear some of the tricks you guys use to stay warm in your sleeping bag on those cold nights.  Also, what's the coldest temp you have slept outside in?  Here are my tips... what would you add?



12:42 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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boil up some water, put it in your canteen and throw it in your sleeping bag.

1:18 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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I am planning to have some of those hand warmer thingies totoss in the bottom if I need more warmth.

2:15 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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Most every sleeping bag, actually every sleeping bag I have ever owned has kept me warm enough to the recommended temp rating. If you sleep in your birthdaysuit I find you will be warmest, clothing can hold evaporated moisture from your body and make you feel colder inside the bag. A good pad beneath you helps add warmth.

 The coldest temps I have ever camped in were in the minus 30s. I had a -30 degree EMS down bag, that was in 1980 in the High Sierra of Yosemite.

I have used 20-25 degree sleeping bags since 1980 and have never been cold, I have slept in the winters in NW Wyoming, SW Utah and in the depths of the Grand Canyon, also in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico.

The only time I have taken a water bottle to bed was to keep it warm enough not to freeze. And I don't crawl out of my warm bag at night to pee, I use a old wide mouthed water bottle and empty it the next day. Guess this method would not work for you females?

I have used a woolen blanket a few times in the winter months in cold climates over my bag when I am not using a tent or bivy bag. I take the blanket folded long ways, sewn together along the foot end and the open side, then pull it over my sleeping bag for extra warmth.

6:48 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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I've taken extra clothes and my coat to bed with me...not wearing them but using them to fill extra space in the bag to cut down on the amount of dead space I need to heat.  I have a Big Agnes Lost Ranger and it's cut a bit bigger so this may not work for slimmer bags.  The bonus is my clothes are warm in the morning.  Anyone that's put on a cold jacket or pair of pants in the morning chill knows how nice that is.

I have also used the hot water bottle technique.  I've found I get about 5 hours of warmth out of a bottle.  (32 oz Lexan wide mouth filled with near boiling water.)  My one wish is that at about 5am when you need the heat the most is when the bottle is done.   (I'd like to see a study of Lexan vs metal water bottles with regards to temperature and duration of heat output of each.)

I also wear clean socks and a wool cap to bed. 

9:14 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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I assume your question about "coldest temperature you have slept outside in" means really outside and not in a tent or other shelter. Coldest that I have recorded was on Denali at the 11,000 ft camp on our way down from the summit the previous day. It looked like it was going to be a clear night with no storm, and we were reasonably sheltered from the wind. So we just leveled a spot for each of us a little larger than the sleeping pad. The low for the night was about -30F or so (night in June on Denali meaning the sun is behind the hill on the northern horizon, not really dark). I have the exact reading recorded by my Kestrel written down somewhere.

If you mean in a tent, I have slept in temperatures in the -40 to -50 range (-40C=-40F) on Denali at the 17,000 ft camp a number of nights (including in multiday storms) and similar temperatures in Antarctica, most recently in 2010 during a 6-day storm that featured 30-50 knot winds. 

How do I stay warm? My FF sleeping bag is rated to -40, and I sleep in whatever long johns are suitable for the next day's activities. Most important thing is the sleeping pad. When on ice or snow, I use a "blue foam" closed cell pad (full length) with a 3/4 length "standard" Thermarest most of the time, with my outer clothes and boot liners folded in the foot of the bag to keep them somewhat warm (the 8000 meter jacket and pants are loose in a stuff sack  as a pillow). I wear a "Peruvian" hat (a lot of heat is lost through the head if you don't wear an insulating hat of some sort). Since I received a NeoAir AllSeason, I have been using it (full length version). It is astoundingly warm, which I expected, since we have the Hunter Douglas "blackout honeycomb" window coverings in our family room on the south side of the house - similar multilayer construction with the inner chambers being the similar highly reflective aluminized mylar, which keeps the room very cool in the direct summer sun and retains the room's temperature in the winter (though this winter has barely seen frost a few times). I do often put a Nalgene inside an OR cozy in the foot of the bag to keep the water from freezing. If I start with boiling water in the Nalgene (yeah, I know, it leaches the BPA into the water faster), it is still warm the next morning. And I take a pee bottle into the bag so I don't have to get up during the night to go tripping lightly over the snow and ice. Having a good meal not long before hitting the sack and staying hydrated helps a lot, too.

12:06 a.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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giftogab said:

I am planning to have some of those hand warmer thingies totoss in the bottom if I need more warmth.

 Be careful as these can get too hot

12:35 a.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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Callahan said:

giftogab said:

I am planning to have some of those hand warmer thingies totoss in the bottom if I need more warmth.

 Be careful as these can get too hot

 I was hoping for a weigh in on this...tooo hot as in uncomfortable or too hot as in KA-BOOOM, Flames, and Gifto turns to ash....

1:44 a.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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I keep warm by wearing my base layer, plus booties, gloves and a beanie, if needed. No Nalgene, no pee bottle. My MacPac bag is rated -5C and I have an MEC overbag for a few extra degrees, plus a BD Winter Bivy. I have a big winter parka -TNF Baltoro (predecessor of the Himalaya) I can toss over the whole thing, if that isn't enough. I have two pads- a Ridgerest and Thermorest, both full length that I stack.

I just bought a Marmot Alba, a down bag rated to -10F (-23C), so that should replace the overbag/bag combo for colder weather than my MacPac. Haven't tried it yet.

So, my answer to keeping warm in colder weather is to get a warmer bag.  If I was going to be out in anything colder than about -10F, I'd want a WM Puma or may be a -40F bag, but I have no plans for that.

7:07 p.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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Dunno (?) what to tell you ... other than heeding the suggestions above.

Mainly, acquire sleeping bag(s) rated BELOW any temps you think you'll experience.

I have a couple vintage Eddie Bauer Kara Koram down bags.   I think they're good to around minus 30 (F), or so.  

Have NEVER felt cold.   Probably minus 28 (F) once.  Several recent sub-zero nights in The Black Hills of South Dakota and "The Badlands".

I have broken-down while traveling (in VW Vanagon), and was caught once WITHOUT a sleeping-bag when it was about minus 5 (F).    Huddled under an old wool US Army blanket, while fully-clothed, including a heavy wool Filson jacket, and a wool Navy watch-cap, and down-lined mittens, along with heavy ragg-wool socks.   THAT was a cold night.

Last time my Vanagon(s) will NOT have a sleeping-bag in them !

                             pax vobiscum

                                  ~ r2 ~

                              

7:27 p.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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Keep in mind that a sleeping bag insulates; it does not produce heat. 

Someone referred to this subject on a bag review here that I read sometime back and I thought that it was a good, simple explanation of how a bag works.

A sleeping bag is like a house. Your home is insulated to trap heat. Now if you do not have a source producing the heat your home is going to be cold. 

A house doesn't heat itself.

This is the same in theory to a sleeping bag. Whether it be down, synthetic, or a hybrid a sleeping bag is designed to provide insulation by trapping your body heat within it. 

If you do some of the recommended practices above like place a pre-heated water bottle in the bag prior to climbing in(which will pre-heat the inner of your bag,) eat, etc. this will help dramatically in regards to elevating/maintaining your core temp. 

At this point and time the bag will begin to do its job more efficiently as opposed to just climbing on into a cold bag which will drop you core temp and take alot longer for your body to produce the heat needed to get your bag toasty.

Btdt, and its the pits...

Another thing that I do in the cold is a set or 2 of jumping jacks before i climb on in. This helps as well from my experience because it increases your blood flow, which will increase your body's ability to produce heat at a more rapid rate. 

A good sleeping pad is crucial as mentioned above.

Temp wise, I have been in -17F maybe quite a bit colder when the windchill was taken into account. 

I personally use bags that are rated at 20F colder than what I am going to experience. I also use liners(STS Reactor) if needed. 

You can always unzip the footbox end of a bag a bit to vent if you are too hot but if you are too cold... well that can just be a miserable and dangerous place to be. 

Hope this helps. 

On a side note I embedded the link to the video you posted so the video should be seen on your initial post. 

Happy hiking. 

7:46 p.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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giftogab said:

Callahan said:

giftogab said:

I am planning to have some of those hand warmer thingies totoss in the bottom if I need more warmth.

 Be careful as these can get too hot

 I was hoping for a weigh in on this...tooo hot as in uncomfortable or too hot as in KA-BOOOM, Flames, and Gifto turns to ash....

 Hand/foot/toe/etc warmers can get hot enough to burn your skin, which is why the packages say on them to NOT allow direct skin contact. You can put them inside your boots outside your socks - full length foot warmers on the sole of the boot (Superfeet makes insoles with a pocket for full length and for toe warmers, some sold under the name of the footwarmer manufacturer), toe warmers on either/both top and bottom of the socks, handwarmers outside of liner gloves or in the handwarmer pocket that some gloves have (back of the hand is best since that's where the main blood vessels are, or inside of the wrist).

Some problems to watch out for: stuffing extra things in boots and socks like the warmers can put pressure that slows or cuts off your blood circulation, just like stuffing too many socks in your boots can; the warmers require oxygen to work properly, and sometimes down in a boot or glove, there is not enough oxygen, so the warmer is barely warm, and as I have experienced many times, at altitude, the air is thinner, so the warmers may not get enough oxygen to get warm enough (I have experienced this many times when attaching the warmers to the camera to keep the batteries and electronics warm).

So - hot enough to be very uncomfortable and produce burns, but not so hot that "KA-BOOOM, Flames, and Gifto turns to ash".

7:47 p.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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I have never slept in very cold weather.  Probably 40F is the coldest.  Getting a good bag, using a self-inflating sleeping pad and appropriate head gear are the best things you can do.  I have used a Coleman air mattress with a 30F Walmart bag. Froze at 45F. 

I now use a 20F Alps Mountaineering Clearwater Wide bag and an Alps Mountaineering Lightweight Long (77x25x2) self-inflating pad. These are not the greatest or highest quality but they do an excellent job for me and I couldn't beat the price.  If I needed to sleep in really cold weather I would probably use my daughters regular bag inside of my wide. 

Remember, some people are cold sleepers and some are warm.  I can never remember which is which but one needs a warmer bag than the other at the same temperature to be comfortable. 

11:21 p.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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giftogab said:

Callahan said:

giftogab said:

I am planning to have some of those hand warmer thingies totoss in the bottom if I need more warmth.

 Be careful as these can get too hot

 I was hoping for a weigh in on this...tooo hot as in uncomfortable or too hot as in KA-BOOOM, Flames, and Gifto turns to ash....

My thought on this was several days supplies of these thingys will add up to significant weight and bulk.  Perhaps a better bag offsets that factor, plus will stay warm throughout the entire night.

Ed

11:43 p.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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Assure you are hydrated and eat immediately before hitting the sack.  The digestive activity with generate heat, and you need fluids to facilitate digestion.

  • Make sure your bag is fully fluffed out before climbing in
  • I am not a fan of liners and over bags to keep warm.  They are heavy, relative to the lofting materials used in sleeping bags.  I suggest don’t be cheap, and instead get a bag that covers the coldest climate you want to camp in the first place.
  • I stack two ½” thick, full length blue foam pads when it gets below 10°F.  Seems sufficient for me.
  • One trick mentioned is using a pad with a reflective surface.  If your pad of choice lacks such feature, you can use a space blanket on top of the pad for this purpose.  In fact if you are still cold after all other tricks, loosely drape that space blanket around your bag.  (You should be carrying something like a space blanket as part of your survival kit, so this tip adds no weight to your kit.)
  • Lay your insulating clothes on top of your bag.  Similar to placing inside the bag, except you don’t run the risk of moisture in your day clothes migrating to your bag’s loft materials, causing a loss of loft.
  • Wear dry skin layers, including underwear and socks, to bed.  The clothes you wear all day have residual moisture.  You may not feel it, but it is there.  That moisture will chill you as it evaporates inside the bag.  I carry a skin layer that is used exclusively to sleep in.  It also keeps the bag cleaner.
  • Wear a balaclava to bed.  Yea, mummy bags have a hood, but the cap significantly improves your warm comfort.
  • If camping on snow, a cave or igloo is significantly warmer than a tent.


Ed

11:46 p.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

giftogab said:

Callahan said:

giftogab said:

I am planning to have some of those hand warmer thingies totoss in the bottom if I need more warmth.

 Be careful as these can get too hot

 I was hoping for a weigh in on this...tooo hot as in uncomfortable or too hot as in KA-BOOOM, Flames, and Gifto turns to ash....

My thought on this was several days supplies of these thingys will add up to significant weight and bulk.  Perhaps a better bag offsets that factor, plus will stay warm throughout the entire night.

Ed

 Ed - I have a Yak named Elvis and a sherpa....so not tooo worried about the weight.

12:54 a.m. on February 22, 2012 (EST)
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giftogab said:

I have a Yak named Elvis and a sherpa....so not tooo worried about the weight.

Well heck!  In that case a small generator, jerry can of fuel, and an electric blanket should help quell any chill!

Ed

1:13 a.m. on February 22, 2012 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

giftogab said:

I have a Yak named Elvis and a sherpa....so not tooo worried about the weight.

Well heck!  In that case a small generator, jerry can of fuel, and an electric blanket should help quell any chill!

Ed

 AND a four poster bed!

1:46 a.m. on February 22, 2012 (EST)
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This is all good stuff-- I have used several of the techniques myself.  I have in fact also used an overlarge plastic bag on a couple of night when I just could not get warm...if you do that, make sure to take the bag off; as Ed said, you produce more moisture than you realize.

Be sure to air your bag out once in a while for that same reason. 

One new trick I tried last summer is I too piece of foam that came off of a piece of furniture, that stuff that looks like underlayment, and used that UNDER my bag.  That worked really well too, and I had a warm sit pad.

Sounds like you are getting all those rough edges worked off the details of your trip :)

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