Staying Warm in the shoulder seasons?

Discussion in 'Gear Talk' started by SheilaP, Oct 4, 2011.

  1. SheilaP

    SheilaP Paddler

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    Me again with the perpetual questions. :mrgreen:

    I am heading out to the west coast for a total of 6 nights next week. I am quite worried I won't be warm enough. I have a minus 18 sleeping bag that has been carefully stored (two years old), a hubba tent, tarp, and warm woolen sleepwear. Do you have and tips/tricks for staying warm out there? Especially when it pours rain for day on end. I tend to go to bed chilled and shiver for most of the night. (Of course I wake up sweating in the morning.)
     
  2. kayakwriter

    kayakwriter Paddler

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    Hi Shelia,

    So you laughed when I mentioned my hot water bottle in a previous post, but trust me, if you haven't got your partner with you to pool heat with, it works great. You can improvise a hot water bottle from a Nalgene bottle wrapped in a towel.
    The other thing I've learned over the years is to do a bit of brisk activity before bed, to get the blood pumping (no smirks please) - I'm thinking of a walk or similar. The temptation when one is cold is to get into the sleeping bag ASAP, but the longer one stays still, the less heat one generates.
    Finally, a snack before bedtime with some carbs and fat (buttered banana bread anyone?) will give your body some fast acting and slow burning fuel to keep your warmer through the night.
     
  3. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    Also, if you have a tendency to have cold feet when sleeping -- give them a quick wash before going to bed. Clean feet stay warmer.
     
  4. KathyD

    KathyD Paddler

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    I used to have the same problem - freezing for the first few hours after I crawled in my sleeping bag, then sweating in the morning. The tips others have mentioned are what I've found work well. Now my routine is: a cup of hot chocolate (warm, hydration, sugar), jog around a little to get nice and warm just before jumping into the sleeping bag, put on dry socks (I have a pair I keep in the bag just for sleeping), and a polartec balaclava if it's really cold (keeps my head warm even if it comes out of the sleeping bag. This does it for me.

    Of course getting a new down bag and good sleeping pad this Spring has made it so I'm much warmer even without the routine, but that costs $$. Hot chocolate and jogging around are much cheaper!

    Stay warm,
    Kathy
     
  5. ken_vandeburgt

    ken_vandeburgt Paddler

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    Get rid of the warm woolen sleep wear. The sleeping pad should be enough to keep you from warming the planet. The -18 sleeping bag should be enough to keep you warm in a still air environment found in a wind proof tent. A light t-shirt and underwear should be enough, particularly as you find yourself sweating in the AM. Wear a light toque to keep the head warm. If you sweat a lot your clothing and bag get damp and damp means not dry.

    Sitting around inactive even in down suit is the best way to get cold. Physical activity outside the tent is the best way to keep warm. Don't go to bed chilled.
    I carry a saw and cut fire wood ... and if it is really cold I might even build a fire.

    If you carry limited clothing don't wear your dry camp stuff on a paddle just because your paddle stuff is wet and cold to put on. You need the dry camp stuff to put on at the end of a day of paddling.

    Stay away from alcohol. Alcohol thins the blood and you get chilled faster even if that alcohol feels fiery when you swallow it.

    Eat enough to provide the fuel your body needs.

    COLD rule:
    Wear
    -Clean
    -Overlapping Layers
    -Dry
     
  6. Pawistik

    Pawistik Paddler

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    Get yourself a tent like this, complete with stove:
    [​IMG]
    OK, so that might not fit very well into the kayak, but it means I go to bed warm even at -32°C (the fire is going out when in bed). Here is a related photo of our tent from another trip taken by a friend that is featured in the upcoming Weather Trivia Calendar: http://eclipsephoto.ca/index.php?showimage=170. Both snowshoe trips we had temperatures of -32°C and below.

    On a more serious note, here are a couple more tips (or the same tips with my comments) that help us cold weather campers sleep warm:
    • Activity before bedtime has been mentioned.
    • Food before bed has been mentioned, but make it high energy/high fat food that will keep the internal fires burning. I make hot chocolate using powdered coconut milk. It tastes amazing and is very rich.
    • Get into dry long underwear and socks just before bed. This is really important if you are a cool sleeper. Some of us sleep hot and can even dry the damp out of our clothes while sleeping, but most cannot and the slightest moisture will suck away precious energy.
    • Did I mention dry socks? Dry, warm, socks go a long way toward keeping my whole body warm. You may not need the long undies with that sleeping bag, but at least have the option of putting on some good dry socks.
    • You mentioned the sleeping bag, but also important is the sleeping pad. What's insulating you from the ground?

    Cheers,
    Bryan
     
  7. reanne

    reanne Paddler

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    I agree with most of what has been said above, and will add that it is important to stay well hydrated in order to be warm.
    Also, I find that most of the time I have to sleep in long underwear pants and top to be warm even in a winter bag with a winter pad. I like all of my skin to be cozy in pjs, and include thick merino socks, a toque, gloves, and often my down camping booties. I keep my sleeping clothes together with my sleeping bag and ONLY use them for sleeping. Keeps them dry and clean. Nalgenes as heating pads are fabulous.
     
  8. paddler

    paddler Paddler

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    Lots of good tips already. Here's a couple of add-ons that may also help:

    Food before bed is great. Sugary hot chocolate gives you an immediate burn, but I'd accompany it with a longer burning protein to keep you fueled into the wee hours. Nuts are awesome for this. Cup o' hot chocalte with some nut butter on bread, or skip the hot choc-ey and go for hot herbal tea with a handful of chocolate covered almonds or similar. 'Course, a smokie on a bun would do the same thing, but often that's a less enticing treat before bed.

    Getting the blood flowing is also a really good option to generate body heat. More body heat equals a quicker heating of the air in the sleeping bag which ultimately equals a warmer, happier you. I would suggest getting the larger muscles groups involved, especially the quads. A brisk walk if the terrain allows it is good, even better if you throw in some lunges or squats or step-ups. The nice thing is that even with a small beach and thick underbrush lunges and squats can still be done. Step-ups too, if you find a dry log, flat rock, or the right root-step. Flap your arms about at the same time (you can make this less silly seeming if you want :lol: ) and you'd be surprised at how quickly your body temperature rises, even if you're squats are more bends.

    And dry is key. Having just completed one of my wettest trips ever, matched only by a winter ski trip that halfway thru became a spring rain and slushfest, I can echo the others who've stressed the importance of clean and dry. Once the weather turns wet I keep a sleep-only, dry at all costs outfit on the go. I can stay warm and damp while awake with proper hydration, feeding and exercise, in addition to the right clothing, but my sleep is a whole lot better if my body can just shut down and recharge without fighting damp clothes (or a damp sleeping bag for that matter. I also pack my sleeping bag into it's drybag when I am not actually inside it to minimize picking up moisture from the environment). I also *try* to stay dry during the day, which is sometimes easier said than done.

    And finally - if you are lucky enough to do a trip that is dry (hooray!) but cold, then the key I have found is to never allow yourself to get chilled in the first place. Remember that keeping yourself warm is a huge energy suck, even if you aren't paddling hard. Eat and drink lots and never allow the internal furnace to go out. Put the toque and the extra layer on when you stop moving to keep that heat in. Sat still long enough to cook and eat? Time to get the blood flowing again - think of it as adding oxygen to the fire. Run (briskly walk) a relay race to the water with each separate dish as you clean up after dinner. The trick here is to keep moving enough to keep the muscles warmed up (and warming you up) without exhausting yourself. So now is not the time to put marathon training into action but is the time to maybe walk up and down the beach a few more times than is necessary with some deep knee bends or an aproximation thereof at either end.

    Good luck.
     
  9. Bluefoot

    Bluefoot Paddler

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    Somthing you might consider is a sleeping bag liner. It will help keep the bag dry and you a bit warmer. It will also help keep the bag cleaner over the long haul. At the end of the trip you just toss it into the washing machine.

    Happy Trails
     
  10. bigbear

    bigbear Paddler

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    Body heat is lost through ones extremities (head, feet, hands). Keep those insulated and you will be "toasty". I highly recommend, as others, thick warm high socks and one of my essential items in early spring/fall/winter is a "balaclava". If in Victoria you can find excellent Polartec balaclavas at Trotec on Dallas Road (excellent for all coastal gear). I sleep with the balaclava on and is great in those early mourning/late evening cool hours. Can be worn in many different ways depending on weather........

    [​IMG]
     
  11. reanne

    reanne Paddler

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    Thanks for the reminder, I forgot how versatile and useful a balaclava is.

     
  12. ken_vandeburgt

    ken_vandeburgt Paddler

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    Actually no. You lose most of your body heat from areas where major blood flows near the surface. Head armpits groin.

    If your hands and feet are cold try putting on a hat.

    Don't believe? Try holding a thermometer in your hand. Then stick it in your groin. See the difference.

    A scarf around the head works too. (I find a balaclava too confining)
     
  13. WaterMark

    WaterMark Paddler

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    I have lots of layers right beside my sleeping bag: thermal base layer, thin sweater, thicker fleece sweater, down vest, toque, long underwear, long pants, think warm dry socks.

    I sleep with a very thin polyester sleeping bag and a thin blue foam pad. I tend to be hot when I sleep, so my down bag stays home almost always.

    If I've been active and in the sun during the day, I usually feel hot when going to bed, but then cool down in the night. So I often go to sleep wearing only a t-shirt and boxers with my sleeping bag zipped wide open only 1/2 covering me. Of course I wake up in the night freezing, so I put on more layers (sometimes all of them) and zip my sleeping bag up so only my nose is sticking out.
     
  14. Kasey

    Kasey Paddler

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    Sheila - pick up a few of these reuseable heatpacks from Capitol Iron...cheap, quick - snap the little metal disc inside to activate, heats for a long time, boil in water to be ready to re-use, small enough to take a few. You can throw one in your sleeping bag a while before going to bed!
     

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  15. onbluesky

    onbluesky New Member

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    The "winter" rating on my sleeping bag is a little optimistic but I've found that draping a small fleece blanket over the lower part of the bag is often all that's needed to make it warm enough. A bonus of having it along is I can use for taking the chill off other times like when sitting around out in the cold in camp. It's lightweight so I try to bring it when I can.

    If I know it will be really cold I put a very lightweight summer bag I have inside the winter one and that works for anything I am willing to put up with.
     
  16. greg0rn

    greg0rn Paddler

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    I made a sleeve out of fleece blanket by installing a long zipper on one side and the bottom. In a sense I created a liner for my 0° sleeping bag. It has two functions: a liner for cold nights, or a sleeping bag for warm ones. This combination works really good for me.
     
  17. Chris_Hvid

    Chris_Hvid Paddler

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    Another thing you can do is put a steel thermos bottle with very hot water in it, wrapped in a couple of thick socks inside your bag, down at your toes.. The heat will be released slowly into the bag through the night. Water can hold a lot of calories.
     
  18. camper10469

    camper10469 Paddler

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    Staying dry is the best advice. Change everything you have to the bone for dry clothes.

    Also is your closed cell foam pad enough for where you are setting up camp? Alot of heat is lost to the ground. I see many people using self inflating pads as the only under pad, complaining they were cold all night. Air isn't an insulator.

    The cure for cold feet is wool socks with toe warmers inside em before bed. I also throw my down parka under my feet inside the bag, that really gets em off the ground adn adds extra insulation in the most vulnerable part of your body.

    Check your sleeping bag zipper at the bottom? I find alot of cold air comes in if the draft tube isn't just right and there is even the slightest breeze over the bag. I try to keep my zipper under the bag so regardless, it will seal n keep heat in.

    .
     
  19. SheilaP

    SheilaP Paddler

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    The ideas here were just great and I tried just about all of them on my last trip! :big_thumb

    What worked for me? Eating and exercise. Typically I don't like to eat after dinner and sit around like a lump after a long day. I would climb into my sleeping bag hoping to warm up skin that had been chilled to the muscles and bones. :shock: So I chomped down half a power bar and wandered about more. Plus, I slept in a triple layer of long underwear (synthetic, wool, synthetic). THEN I put my down jacket over top. Triple layer socks too. I do have a down Exped mat for ground insulation.

    Noticing my feet were SOAKED in the morning (even after cleaning them), I pulled a garbage bag over the bottom of my sleeping bag the next night. This DID help!! I could feel where the garbage bag ended!! (WHY do my feet always get so freakin soggy???)

    I did the hot water Nalgene thing and had a toque plus the down coat hood on.

    What didn't work for me?

    The balaclava! I woke up with it covering my face and all, umm errrr drooled on! YUCK! :oops: The hot drink didn't work too well either as I had to get up several times in the night and lost all my heat in the process.

    Next time I am going to try a different and bigger tent and MAYBE a camping buddy. I have heard that sharing a tent is warmer. (I need one of those friends that sleeps like a furnace. :hug ). I am also considering getting a bivvy sac to keep my sleeping bag drier in the tent and warmer - hey if a garbage bag worked, just imagine a whole cocoon.

    Of course, I am still open to suggestions. I will master winter camping yet!
     
  20. Pawistik

    Pawistik Paddler

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    If I did what you did, my feet would have been soaked from the sweat! And sweaty feet very quickly become cold feet. One of the tricks is always to retain heat without retaining moisture, it's a fine balance and the balance point will vary with the conditions, the person, the energy levels, etc. So, if your feet are ending the night soggy, then maybe start out with the socks when you get into the bag, but take them off once you are inside the bag and cozy, before you drop off to sleep. Or remove 2 of the 3 layers.
    Bryan