How cold is cold?

7:45 a.m. on January 31, 2010 (EST)
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it was twelve degrees during this morning's walk. in suburban washington dc, that's about as cold as it gets. well-dressed for the most part, fingertips got a little tingly. Mittens might have been a better choice than gloves.

what's a really cold day where you are?

8:21 a.m. on January 31, 2010 (EST)
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I can hike comfortably in a single base layer and wind-blocking jacket down to about 30º F.

20 to 30 is a complicated range because insulation causes sweating and lots of noodling with layers.

Below 20º the need for an insulating layer stays pretty much permanent, though hard uphill slogs can still create sweat issues.

I don't think I've been out for extended periods below 15º because I've only winter hiked in temperate areas: S.F. Bay Area, Yosemite, N.-Central North Carolina.

Speaking of winter, we have about 6 to 8 inches of fresh snow here at the moment.

11:06 a.m. on January 31, 2010 (EST)
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Lately the morning dog walks in Minnesota have been in below zero temps. The nasty days are the -20F windchills.

11:19 a.m. on January 31, 2010 (EST)
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Single digits here last night. Just before midnight, a car slid on ice and took out a power pole 1/2 mile from my home. We came home to no heat for 6+ hours... camped on the living room floor in front to the fireplace. But still, it was cold.

11:40 a.m. on January 31, 2010 (EST)
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Charleston SC......

Currently (11:30 AM)

Clear / Sunny

Ambient Temp - 36F

Wind Chill - 26F

Wind - N 13 mph

Last night

Rainy / Overcast

Ambient Temp - 22F

Wind Chill - 10F

Wind (gusts) - N 11-23 mph


For me cold is below 20F, it's all relative I guess. I generally do not experience anything below 0F, even up in the mountains.

I agree with tommangan, the freeze thaw range is a real PITA. I would rather the temps stay well below freezing, or up around 40F. But we don't get to have our say do we, regardless I enjoy being out there!


12:17 p.m. on January 31, 2010 (EST)
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ive camped at 15 below with a zero degree sleeping bag several times.but da coldest i ever was was a xc ski race i did in soo canada.it wernt suppose to be dat cold it was da worst 22 k of my life.ya ever heard of da turtle affect(guys ya know what im talking about) when my main member of my family unthawed it was da most painfull day of my life.ouch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

3:59 p.m. on January 31, 2010 (EST)
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i like the 'camping at home' one where the power was out. we returned from a florida vacation last week to find the power had been out for a day. had to bundle up in the house and read my book via candlelight and a headlamp. in my living room.

10:36 p.m. on January 31, 2010 (EST)
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In Phoenix, AZ a really cold day is 20 degrees. Haven't had one of these for quite some time.

6:12 a.m. on February 1, 2010 (EST)
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Just back from a camping trip this weekend. It was -22 C when we got to our bivouac and -30 during the night. Our diesel clouded up and everything froze to everything. Without a doubt the toughest camping trip I've ever done and it was just 3 days.


We expected -10 or so, and were surprised by what was later revealed to be the coldest weekend since 1942 in this county. It was tough but totally worth doing, and very informative. Next time I'll be better prepared, better gloves, better long johns, better balaclava.


If anything it showed me cold is only cold if you aren't prepared. Swedes have a lovely saying, "There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes". It is so true. Good gear makes tough conditions enjoyable.

10:31 a.m. on February 1, 2010 (EST)
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25 degrees and you need long pants in Jackson Hole WY.

60 degrees and you need long pants in Monteverde Costa Rica.

10:37 a.m. on February 1, 2010 (EST)
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60 degrees and you need long pants in Monteverde Costa Rica.


This is an excellent point -- and I would add that anyplace with wide expanses of water/ice and constant winds will seem much colder than the surface temperature -- which is why places like San Francisco have such a notorious reputation for bone-chilling cold in the middle of July (you wouldn't get this cold if you simply dressed for 40-degree weather, but people expect warmth in California and it's typically in short supply in SF).

10:45 a.m. on February 1, 2010 (EST)
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50F in the fall and you put on a sweater; 50F in the spring and you run around in shorts and a t-shirt. Oddly enough you do get used to the cold. I notice I don't need gloves as much now as I did in December.

It is a real pain to camp in the freeze/thaw cycle. Damp cold is rough.

2:39 p.m. on February 1, 2010 (EST)
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In my book below 20F is cold. Below 10F is really cold. The range between 28F and 40F is just plain annoying- not cold enought to keep even one long layer on constantly, and not warm enough to wear short sleeves. If isn't warm out (above 40) then I want it to be 25F or lower. I am even happy if its really cold, and even happier if there is snow on the ground.

Just for context, we had a nice snow storm here (chattanooga, TN) over the weekend and the sledding at night was quite good, with temps in the 18F to 25F range. While standing still I was REALLY toasty wearing a light base layer (polypro bottoms, & synth Tshirt), hiking pants, a light fleece top, and a thin shell top. While hiking back up the steep 1/4 mile sled run, just the two layers on the bottom and the Tshirt on top were what I wore. I did wear the other layers while speeding down the hill, just so my skin didn't freeze!

12:20 a.m. on February 3, 2010 (EST)
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Boone North Carolina, a cold day here would start at about 8 degrees F With winds blowing at 15 to 25 mph and gusts at 45.

But some nights when I'm up late on campus, the building I study in is perpendicular to two other buildings arranged in such a fashion that if the wind is blowing North East it acts like a wind tunnel. I have watched people get blown over by gusts in excess of 70mph.

There is a saying, In boone getting blown across ice is a part of life but getting blown across ice uphill is worth bonus points!

6:00 p.m. on February 3, 2010 (EST)
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I read somewhere that the answer is 42.

What was the question?

6:30 p.m. on February 3, 2010 (EST)
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I read somewhere that the answer is 42.

What was the question?

How cold is cold?

Also....how cold is it when you can't taste a Peppermint Pattie?

7:00 p.m. on February 4, 2010 (EST)
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trouthunter wrote: how cold is it when you can't taste a Peppermint Pattie?

Well, I remember once when--er, no, probably better not tell that story--but there was this guy who said that--no, no, let's leave that one alone, too.....

As for the How cold is cold? query, well, I'm still saying the answer is 42.

(If you aren't getting it, try reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, aka THGTTG. You can skip the parts with the Vogons and anything to do with Ford Prefect's drinking habits or Marvin's complaints. You'll probably want to bring a towel, though.)

10:45 p.m. on March 3, 2010 (EST)
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I have ice fished in colder than -50 degree windchills and not been cold. I have been out in the same weather and been frostbit in less than 15 minutes. Everytime I go thru the ice it is always cold.

September 1, 2014
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