Chat Rooms (0 Chatting)  |  Search  |   Login/Join
* For the benefit of the community, commercial posting is not allowed.
Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
   Winter Camping and Activities
      Surviving bitter cold without a hot tent     

Author

Text

ZaraSp00k
distinguished member(1400)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/01/2019 09:50AM
I’ve only camped out twice in -25F to -30F weather, it has been a learning experience. In addition, I’ve slept out at home for a night a few times at that temp to test out equipment. But when you can walk 6 feet into a warm home, it’s not the same thing.

The first time:
It was by mistake, on the spur of the moment I decided I’d go snow shoeing in the east BW and only checked the temps in Duluth and GM and of course inland the temps got much lower overnight. I had a bag rated at 0F, synthetic, but it was new and though not as good as the optimistic MFG rating, it probably wasn’t far off. I managed to survive, mostly because I was wearing thick elastic tights as thermal underwear with sweatpants over it, a stocking cap with wool socks and my fleece gloves.
I’d wake up every two hours cold and do sit-ups in my bag to warm up and go back to sleep. I had to do this from 7pm to 9am the next morning.
Two things learned: there is a reason they place an insulated flap on the inside over the zipper, and a lot of frost forms around the opening you have to leave in the bag to breathe.

Second time:
This time I slept in a bag rated at 32F inside the 0F bag with similar clothing. Worked well except during the night I woke up from a dream in which I thought a wolf or something was biting my face on the cheek. Turned out my head had rotated and the breathing hole was against my cheek. -25F air exposed to your cheek begins to burn after a while.
In addition I learned that breathing that cold air can give you a soar throat. I need to find a solution for that.
Last year I slept outside my home in the aforementioned 0F bag inside another 0F bag I had bought for car camping. It worked great because the large bag allowed good room to toss and turn inside my other bag. The previous bag within a bag were somewhat constrictive which no doubt also lowered the insulation value as well.

Though I haven’t solved the problem of what to do about breathing that super cold air, I am excited for this year because I bought another 0F bag, down filled, to replace the old synthetic one. But I still need a solution for directly breathing in that super cold air.
 
Reply    Reply with Quote    Print Top Bottom Previous Next
SevenofNine
distinguished member(2381)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/01/2019 10:29AM
Thanks for sharing your experience. I have had numerous gear failures in my quest to winter camp.
1. My first ever camp out a Slumber-jack bag I recently purchased would unzip at the very top as the Velcro patch could not keep the zipper closed. Bag rating (temps in the teens) really did not cut it even with expedition weight long underwear. Also, said bag was not long enough as it was a standard length bag and I fall on the long end of height when it comes to sleeping bags. State Forest hike in site (snowmobile campsite) 8 mile hike in/out.
2. Tried a bag I thought was rated to 20° inside a E-Vent bivy sack and was on the edge during temps in the teens overnight. Bag was not warm enough even with silk sleeping bag liner and bivy sack. Bivy sack did not breathe and frosted up inside. Maria State Park hike in ~1 mile.
3. Second camp out was at Split Rock light house state park ~1 mile hike in at -25° temp. Park ranger for some reason thought it would be smart to put us at a site right on shore. I think his thinking was we were close to the warming house. We needed to be away from the wind. Balaclava opening too large so my temple on the one side would start to freeze from the cold while standing around at night. Tent decided the amount of weight we put in it would not hold it down but blew into shore. The -30° synthetic bag is now rated to -20° and even with a cheap Target bag over it I was not as comfortable as I hoped to be.

I have camped 2 other times at -20 or lower BWCA & Wild River State park and what I find is you really need a winter dedicated bag (down) or two decent sleeping bags with one that will fit inside the other. Even then with the long nights of winter +8 hours or more in a bag I think you need to refuel (eat food stay hydrated) towards morning no matter what to keep your internal furnace cranking out heat. It is tough to keep warm at those temperatures so you really need to pay attention to your bag and your sleeping pad.

Pilgrimpaddler
distinguished member (137)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/01/2019 11:29AM
I'm interested in trying winter camping, but I'm unsure of how well I'm currently set up for it. I've got a 20-degree EE down quilt (long and extra wide so it's pretty roomy) as well as a 20-degree synthetic bag and an Exped Downmat 9 as a pad. I'm pretty sure that set-up will get me comforatbly to about 0, but is it unrealistic to think I can take that down to -20? I suppose I could try it in the back yard but -20 isn't very common in the Twin Cities, even in a hard winter.
brulu
member (23)member
 
11/01/2019 12:24PM
I have tried a few things over the years to help with breathing in cold air while sleeping.

I have found a few balaclavas and neck gaiters that are reasonably comfortable to breath through, once I accept and get over the fact that it will feel slightly gross due to the moisture from my breath. It can take some trial and error to find something comfortable (some are too tight-fitting, etc.).

Another thing that works reasonably well for me is a dust mask with strap removed, inserted under a thin, loose-fitting balaclava (the balaclava holds the mask in place). The balaclava can't be too tight or it will crush the mask, and it cant be too thick or it will be too hard to breath through both the mask and the balaclava. The utility of the mask is to keep the moisture from your breath off of your face.

I sleep with a bivi sack over my sleeping bag. Another method I've stumbled onto is to zip the bivi up to my shoulders, and then just lay the rest of the bivi material loosely over my head, leaving it open at the sides for ventilation. It works good for side sleeping especially. (You can only do this after you are done stargazing of course.) This often creates enough of a warm microclimate over my face that I don't need anything over my mouth. I might not need to have the sleeping bag cinched closely around my face then either, which keeps me from breathing into the bag and getting it wet. An alternate configuration (for back sleeping) is to pull the excess bivi material under my chin and down into my sleeping bag, which keeps me from breathing directly onto the sleeping bag even if I am snuggled down into it pretty far. Depending on the temperature, I might use these bivi configurations with or without the sleeping bag cinched around my face, and with or without a balaclava and/or mask over my mouth. Kind of hard to describe, I hope that made some sense.

Regardless of what I do, I usually wake up a couple times not entirely happy with my breathing comfort, and make an adjustment of some sort before dozing off again.
11/01/2019 01:19PM
Here's a face mask that may help.

Face Mask
MinnesotaJenny
member (21)member
 
11/01/2019 05:59PM
-20’ rated bag to sleep in 20’ temperature
DanCooke
distinguished member(1078)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/03/2019 11:58AM
I sleep with a fleece hat and a loose fitting neck gaiter out of windproof Polarfleece as it keeps it's shape somewhat off my face. I have used this successfully to -45° in Yellowstone park camping on top of the snow with no shelter. For me a neck gaiter pulled up to cover up to my fleece hat works the best for me. Doubled up sleeping bags on top of a downmat 9 deluxe pad with a 1/2" closed cell foam below that. My homemade bivy loosely covers that and holds my clothes next to me.
There will always be some discomfort with frost buildup somewhere in your system. you need to try things until the discomfort is only an annoyance.
billconner
distinguished member(7153)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
11/03/2019 08:26PM
A few weekends at -20. Two sleeping bags, DLX9, flannel pajamas, down booties, stocking cap, and a wool blanket. I'm a stomach sleeper and cross my arms under my head. Blanket is laid across top of pad, and then both ends folded over head and arms and pillow and all. Works for me.
11/03/2019 11:01PM
I have brushed 20 below in a 0 degree Pomer Hoit bag and an Eped 9 full length pad. Full merino undies single layer heavy wool socks and a hoodie/neck gaiter combo comfortably. I do have and will use a down quilt if needed. The hoodie is tight on my 7 3/4 size melon but not uncomfortable, I will get a frost layer on the surface of my nose/mouth but found that manageable. Maybe masochistic but I'll get out middle-O-nite for relief and it feels soooooo good to get back into the sleeping system!
Forgot to mention my down booties, a struggle to get in but very useful.

butthead
Duff
senior member (61)senior membersenior member
 
11/04/2019 07:41PM
Hand warmer packets will make any bag that is pushing its/your temp limit perform so much better. I toss a couple in the bag when when the need arises.
Double bags can get so cramped and claustrophobic.

They should be mandatory on any winter trip, but I use them mostly in the sleeping bag. And they seem to last into the getting up and getting ready for your day time period, so you have a source of warmth while getting dressed.

They can be too hot at times, but you will get used to moving them around in the bag, mostly to cool spots. Also nice on those sore muscles you tend to feel that first night.
:)

Bring plenty, don't rely on some old ones, there can be duds, whether new or old.
For a super brutal forecast, I'd probably bring some of the larger body warmer pads.
ZaraSp00k
distinguished member(1400)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/05/2019 08:17AM
Duff: "
Double bags can get so cramped and claustrophobic
"


yes, they can, that was my experience and why I went to the larger car camping style bag. It is a bit larger and roomier than your typical bag so it allows me to toss and turn, although I mainly sleep in a hammock which tends to minimize that. The air pocket is bigger and important to stay warm IMO

I forgot to mention, your hand warmers reminded me, I have a system that I believe accomplished the same thing: I have my dinner, sometimes just ramen, but always followed by a cup of hot chocolate and a cup of hot apple cider before going to bed, that way I am warm when I get in the sack. Oddly, I rarely have to get up to wiz when I do this, probably because I'm already dehydrated before taking this in and my body needs the water.

I don't see the face mask as helping to my specific problem and in fact have tried a few configurations, the problem is that you have to breathe, and you have to allow the moisture to escape, what works at 20F, or even 0F does not work at -25F, in fact it doesn't work at about -10 or -15F
AmarilloJim
distinguished member(2028)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/05/2019 09:59AM
You guys are NUTS!
SevenofNine
distinguished member(2381)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/05/2019 11:12AM
AmarilloJim: "You guys are NUTS!"

Sure...

Kawishiwashy
distinguished member (131)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/05/2019 11:14AM
Best thing I do when cold camping is to make a pot of boiling water just before bedtime. Pour the boiling hot water into a wide mouth Nalgene bottle. Be sure to securely screw the lid on. Place Nalgene bottle inside of a thick wool sock. Place the bottle inside my sleeping bag down by my feet. The wool sock over the Nalgene acts as an insulator to slowly emit some heat throughout the night. Added bonus is that you have a quart of purified water ready to drink the next day. Chemical hand and body warmers also work well.
nofish
distinguished member(2615)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/05/2019 03:52PM
I think I'm addicted to the Hot Hands adhesive body warmers. I use them a lot for cold weather bow hunting when you have to sit still for long hours. 2 on the lower back and 2 on the upper chest have kept me toasty warm on long sits in a frozen tree. The adhesive ones are nice because they stay where you put them. As you toss and turn in a sleeping bag the warmers will stay in place.
SevenofNine
distinguished member(2381)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/06/2019 01:55PM
Kawishiwashy: "Best thing I do when cold camping is to make a pot of boiling water just before bedtime. Pour the boiling hot water into a wide mouth Nalgene bottle. Be sure to securely screw the lid on. Place Nalgene bottle inside of a thick wool sock. Place the bottle inside my sleeping bag down by my feet. The wool sock over the Nalgene acts as an insulator to slowly emit some heat throughout the night. Added bonus is that you have a quart of purified water ready to drink the next day. Chemical hand and body warmers also work well."

I had a Nalgene bottle warp on me when I put freezing hot liquid in it on a below zero trip.
Mnpat
distinguished member (160)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/06/2019 10:33PM
most bags are not rated correctly. Make sure you use an en rated bag or measure the loft yourself and determine the rating. Marmot and western mountaineering are en rated. I use a 0 degree en rated bag with a fleece liner on a down mat pad for all temps. The fleece liner helps to keep your bag clean, dry on multi day trips and adds some insulation. I wear a hat and put a small micro fleece blanket over my head.
jillpine
distinguished member (408)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/07/2019 05:34AM
ZaraSp00k: " But I still need a solution for directly breathing in that super cold air.
"


Fur over the nose (and mouth if you're a mouth-breather), like a sled dog sleeping with nose tucked into tail. Fur protects bare skin, reduces the jarring sensation of the frigid air coming into the upper airway, and allows the passage of warm air coming out of the body. Fabric traps exhaled air (condensation forms). Fur allows airflow through and away (reducing condensation). I use a removable synthetic piece from the hood of the parka:

tonyyarusso
distinguished member(1346)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/07/2019 12:28PM
SevenofNine: "I had a Nalgene bottle warp on me when I put freezing hot liquid in it on a below zero trip."
The old polycarbonate bottles were totally fine with boiling water, or anything else for that matter. (On one occasion I thawed a frozen one by holding it over a fire.) The new "Tritan" ones not so much - I have a whole pile of them that melted in the dishwasher when I didn't realize they weren't dishwasher safe anymore. You can still put hot water in them, but keep it a bit cooler than boiling.
Birdknowsbest
distinguished member (267)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/26/2019 10:29AM
I hot tent but it gets cold when the fire goes out.

My first suggestion, especially if you are gonna cold camp, is to invest in a high quality winter bag. I have a Western Mountaineering Puma rated at -25. I love it. I bought my used on ebay and it saved me about $400 off retail. WM or Feathered Friends are just about the only 2 brands of bags I would trust in real cold weather.
Gadfly
distinguished member (393)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/26/2019 12:50PM
Birdknowsbest: "I hot tent but it gets cold when the fire goes out. "

Yeah I think there is a misconception that the fire is always going in a hot tent. The clothes and sleeping systems we use would be sufficient for cold camping. If it wasn't we would be up every hour stoking the stove.
bigmitch1
member (48)member
 
11/27/2019 08:30PM
Assemble a South Pole type bedding system described by Dan Cooke above and place it in an arctic bedding bag.

Lay the assembled bag with all of your insulated layers on top of your sled when you travel and transfer it to your tent.

The bag speeds up set up and take down time.

Check out the videos for “arctic bedding bag” on YouTube on how to use them.

They are available from Nordic Life in the UK.

Warm water bottles are best stored inside waterproof sacks when placed inside your sleeping bag to prevent leaks.
lindylair
distinguished member(2269)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/29/2019 07:30PM
My first winter camping experience: In January 1975 St. Johns University had an Interim term in which all students designed an independent study project. Me and 5 other buddies decided to do a Winter camping survival project. We actually stayed in a cabin for about 24 days, a Tipi shaped cabin on South Farm Lake. It had one barrel stove in it but it was woefully inefficient and never got the cabin above 35 degrees the entire time. Average temp was probably 15 degrees with plenty of mornings at zero or below. It did have a sauna which was a retreat for us some evenings. We also did a few actual camping excursions of a couple nights in the surrounding area.

Equipment was generally nowhere near what it is today back then. That includes tents, sleeping bags, mittens and boots most notably. Also snowshoes and skis. Being a poor college kid, I had a couple 30 degree sleeping bags that I used, one inside the other for a barely adequate place to sleep. Incredible experience, basically somewhat cold most of the time for 24 days but the body and mind adapt. One of my buddies was Greg Lais who along with Paul Schurke started Wilderness Inquiry a few years later and is now a world renowned non profit that takes folks with challenges and disabilities on wilderness and outdoor excursions. When I got home it took a few days to adjust to the "warm" temps of a normal home.

The next year in November, somebody (probably me) came up with the brilliant idea of doing something different over New Years - a wilderness camping trip in the BWCA. Again, a group of 6 guys, longtime friends skied in from the Little John entry point, heading towards John Lake. At some point, along the Royal River, one of the guys fell through the ice but thankfully landed on a rock, but was soaked from the waist down. We quickly made our way to the portage and had a blazing fire going in minutes. As he stripped off his wet clothes the amount of steam coming off of him was amazing.
Before going in we had stopped at a place in Hovland and they were very concerned about us, apparently the forecast was for near record cold. But we weren't going to back out so away we went. What we got was temps of 28 to 30 below at night and below zero to zero highs during the day. Brilliant sunny days with little wind thankfully, incredible views and silence, but damn it was cold. Equipment wise we had the normal stuff of the day which is nowhere near what it is today. My buddy and I slept in my 2 man Timberline and I again had two 30 degree bags with me. I slept fitfully, never being really warm but not freezing either. We spent long hours in the bags, probably 12 or so a night. We would chip a hole in the ice for water and it would freeze over in an hour or less. Brought a bottle of wine and toothpaste(ha) and they froze solid. New Years Eve we were huddled around a large fire heating a block of cheese over the fire and scraping it onto crackers for our New Years treat. We had built up a pretty good wall of snow and an opening of perhaps 20-30 feet around the fire which was our living area and gathered and chopped a LOT of wood.

Probably my most distinct memories from the trip include my buddy and I hiking up a hill with a vista over John Lake and seeing the unbroken expanse of snow on a bright sunny day...and the silence. Without a doubt it was the quietest place I have ever been.

Despite poor equipment including tents, sleeping bags, boots, mittens/gloves and general clothing(compared to today) we did okay, survived just fine and the memories are distinct. Wouldn't want to do it again. The coldest we got was upon return to the landing when one of the two vehicles would not start and we stood around waiting for charcoal to heat up the oil pan on an old Pinto wagon :(

Since then I have done a lot of winter camping over the years, but mostly in situations where the car is nearby in the event of an emergency. Rarely used. I have never used a hot tent although it seems like it would be fun. You can be comfortable in almost any conditions with the right equipment and the knowledge of how to handle weather extremes if they should occur.
lindylair
distinguished member(2269)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/29/2019 08:32PM
Funny story - camped at Banning State park in January many years ago with a couple friends. They were tent camping but I had a Chevy Astro Cargo van so being smart I decided to sleep in there to gain a little warmth. 15 below overnight but I ran the car for 25 minutes or so with the heat up full blast before going to bed. Woke up in the morning after a cold nights sleep, only to find that I had left the front passenger window open all night...duh.
WhiteWolf
distinguished member(4106)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
11/30/2019 04:31AM
lindylair: "My first winter camping experience: In January 1975 St. Johns University had an Interim term in which all students designed an independent study project. Me and 5 other buddies decided to do a Winter camping survival project. We actually stayed in a cabin for about 24 days, a Tipi shaped cabin on South Farm Lake. It had one barrel stove in it but it was woefully inefficient and never got the cabin above 35 degrees the entire time. Average temp was probably 15 degrees with plenty of mornings at zero or below. It did have a sauna which was a retreat for us some evenings. We also did a few actual camping excursions of a couple nights in the surrounding area.


Equipment was generally nowhere near what it is today back then. That includes tents, sleeping bags, mittens and boots most notably. Also snowshoes and skis. Being a poor college kid, I had a couple 30 degree sleeping bags that I used, one inside the other for a barely adequate place to sleep. Incredible experience, basically somewhat cold most of the time for 24 days but the body and mind adapt. One of my buddies was Greg Lais who along with Paul Schurke started Wilderness Inquiry a few years later and is now a world renowned non profit that takes folks with challenges and disabilities on wilderness and outdoor excursions. When I got home it took a few days to adjust to the "warm" temps of a normal home.


The next year in November, somebody (probably me) came up with the brilliant idea of doing something different over New Years - a wilderness camping trip in the BWCA. Again, a group of 6 guys, longtime friends skied in from the Little John entry point, heading towards John Lake. At some point, along the Royal River, one of the guys fell through the ice but thankfully landed on a rock, but was soaked from the waist down. We quickly made our way to the portage and had a blazing fire going in minutes. As he stripped off his wet clothes the amount of steam coming off of him was amazing.
Before going in we had stopped at a place in Hovland and they were very concerned about us, apparently the forecast was for near record cold. But we weren't going to back out so away we went. What we got was temps of 28 to 30 below at night and below zero to zero highs during the day. Brilliant sunny days with little wind thankfully, incredible views and silence, but damn it was cold. Equipment wise we had the normal stuff of the day which is nowhere near what it is today. My buddy and I slept in my 2 man Timberline and I again had two 30 degree bags with me. I slept fitfully, never being really warm but not freezing either. We spent long hours in the bags, probably 12 or so a night. We would chip a hole in the ice for water and it would freeze over in an hour or less. Brought a bottle of wine and toothpaste(ha) and they froze solid. New Years Eve we were huddled around a large fire heating a block of cheese over the fire and scraping it onto crackers for our New Years treat. We had built up a pretty good wall of snow and an opening of perhaps 20-30 feet around the fire which was our living area and gathered and chopped a LOT of wood.


Probably my most distinct memories from the trip include my buddy and I hiking up a hill with a vista over John Lake and seeing the unbroken expanse of snow on a bright sunny day...and the silence. Without a doubt it was the quietest place I have ever been.


Despite poor equipment including tents, sleeping bags, boots, mittens/gloves and general clothing(compared to today) we did okay, survived just fine and the memories are distinct. Wouldn't want to do it again. The coldest we got was upon return to the landing when one of the two vehicles would not start and we stood around waiting for charcoal to heat up the oil pan on an old Pinto wagon :(


Since then I have done a lot of winter camping over the years, but mostly in situations where the car is nearby in the event of an emergency. Rarely used. I have never used a hot tent although it seems like it would be fun. You can be comfortable in almost any conditions with the right equipment and the knowledge of how to handle weather extremes if they should occur. "


Different lakes- different strokes of winter style- but some general trend. not good gear-greenhorns to winter camping at best- luckily we survived- have heated up an oil pan FEB 95' same way. A little disheartning when you finally make the "car" and it doesn't start. But the damn oil pan trick does work. You do what you can do pretty damn quick.
bigmitch1
member (48)member
 
11/30/2019 08:27AM
A very informative primer on surviving winter solo in the Arctic is Mike Horn’s “Conquering The Impossible.”

This book describes his two year solo circumnavigation of the Arctic Circle.

The important take home points are:

1. Any simple mistake can be your last mistake

2. Be able to set up your tent in 20 seconds

3. Be able to make igloo in 25 minutes
TuscaroraBorealis
distinguished member(4522)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
12/28/2019 07:51PM
On my very first winter camping expedition into the BWCA we traveled to Pine Lake EP #68. We would only be spending 2 nights cold camping in the wilderness. Needless to say, I kept a close eye on the latest forecast before we left civilization. The predicted overnight lows were -8 and then only -2 the 2nd night.

The first night came and went and everyone had a good, comfortable night of sleep. We all figured the next night would be the same, since it was supposed to be warmer. And, in fact, everyone did sleep well that night as well. It wasn't until after we got up that we all began to notice a difference.

For purposes of enhancing the story, I should mention that we had had boiled some polish sausages for supper the previous night. And, as most people should know, when boiled polish leave plenty of grease in the pot after being boiled.

Fast forward to the next morning. My buddy Mark had brought along a little bottle of butterscotch flavored schnapps. In the time we were there he probably only finished about half of it. As we were packing up, (his bottled stuck upside down in a snowbank) he annoyingly exclaimed. "Very Funny! Who the hell dumped the polish grease in my bottle of schnapps!?" After a big group laugh we all began inquiring each other as to who actually did it. No one fessed up!

Upon returning to Grand Marais we stop at My Sisters Place to grab a beer & a burger. It was then we found out that it had been -41 below zero last night!!! There was no grease in the schnapps!

I guess I really don't have any advice on how to survive cold camping other than to say. ignorance is bliss. :)

sweerek
member (7)member
 
12/31/2019 07:17PM
Wrt breathing cold:

An alternative to 1-2 balaclavas...

If not snowing, a few offset layers of bug netting is enough to capture some heat & moisture.
sweerek
member (7)member
 
12/31/2019 07:37PM
Yes.

A couple decades ago in northern Michigan we’d drag our sleeping systems inside a bivy or atop a cheap plastic sled behind snow shoes. Come sleep time we’d just stop beneath a pine and climb in... no need for a tent.
 
Reply    Reply with Quote    Print Top Bottom Previous Next