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The Big Four for cold sleepers
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Elisabeth Chaplin
(elisabitch.) - MLife
Coldness. on 03/04/2010 22:07:19 MST Print View

I've noticed that once I start to get tired, my metabolism comes to a grinding halt and I get chilled regardless of the ambient temperature. Drafts drive me crazy, and my feet and ears scream cold the loudest. Thanks for the info you've all shared.

Can anyone vouch for the effectiveness of the Black Rock hat that Lori linked? I just found that site last night, and it looks great! Wouldn't mind a little Elmer Fuddness over the ears, actually...

Pamela Wyant
(RiverRunner) - F - M
The Big Four for cold sleepers on 03/04/2010 23:58:05 MST Print View

Changing to a warmer sleeping pad will make a HUGE difference. Unfortunately the most warmth for the weight pads are closed cell foam, which is bulky. A thinlight pad over top of a Neo-Air has been a good choice for me, because as a side sleeper I like the thickness of the air mattress, and the thinlight adds a lot of warmth for the weight, plus I can fold it and use it as a sitpad (or use it unfolded for a lounging area). Having a warm sitpad will make a big difference in staying warm while sitting around camp.

I also really like the BPL Cocoon pants - they are as light as most mid-weight base layers, but incredibly warmer. I prefer the synthetic insulted pants over down, because pants can easily get wet from tall grass or leaves on bushes while I'm on a bathroom run. While some people seem to stay adequately warm in a jacket and shorts, I find it really helps me to keep my legs warm. If they get cold, I am cold all over.

As others have said, warm head wear makes a big difference too.

As far as wool versus synthetic, fleece is warmer per ounce than wool (and other synthetics), but I prefer wool base layers due to the odor resistance. I just can't stand the stench of synthetic base layers (even those only going on my stinky body for sleeping) after a day or two on the trail.

Alex Gilman
(Vertigo) - F

Locale: Washington
May sound simple on 03/05/2010 01:57:34 MST Print View

Are you rockin a cute warm beanie?

If not maybe look in to that.

jim jessop
(LuckyJim) - F
Re more questions on 03/05/2010 12:16:30 MST Print View

Hi Elizabeth,

Yes, I use a duomid for 3 seasons. It's great for the open views etc in pleasant weather, but for the 4th season conditions, it's the warmlite!

Why is the warmlite warmer? Yes, double wall makes a difference and the inner surface of one of the wall layers is aluminised (or something like) so it has a measure of heat reflection.

It is sealed all around so you are in control of ventilation through the adjustable vents, so less wind chill penetration. In some conditions it pays to seek out a breezy site to keep ventilation up and condensation down. Not a problem in the UK where the majority of 'wild camping' is on open moorland or above the treeline, rather than in woodland areas.

I haven't done any measurements, but subjectively I do notice a difference between inside and outside temps in excess of anything else I've tried. I've spoken to other users who say they get away with lighter bags with the warmlite too.

Edited by LuckyJim on 03/05/2010 12:17:10 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: May sound simple on 03/05/2010 14:29:03 MST Print View

> Are you rockin a cute warm beanie?
> If not maybe look in to that.

+1 !


vireoes S
(vireoes) - F - MLife

Locale: California
Re: Re - The Big Four for cold sleepers on 03/05/2010 18:38:49 MST Print View

Down booties rock my world. I am always the coldest one in any group I go out with. I have a great warm down sleeping bag and jacket. I use a warm primaloft beanie at night, but I was never really warm sleeping until I got the down booties. Once I got my feet nice and toasty, everything was better. I was considering going to a zero degree bag for summer use (Sierras) until I got the down booties, now I sleep warm in my 15 deg bag.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
staying warmer on 03/05/2010 20:22:55 MST Print View

As we have discussed, many women feel a little cold after they've arrived in camp on a cold trail. Some of that is from low blood pressure, which I see in a lot of adult females. That's kind of a healthy thing, and it is better than having high blood pressure, but it keeps the warm blood pumped slower to your extremities, so they get cold. You can do things to increase your blood pressure temporarily, such as drinking caffeine drinks. Of course you don't want to drink much coffee if you are heading to the sleeping bag within an hour.

When I am in camp, I virtually never sit down. I stay on my feet cooking or eating or handling other chores. Then instantly I transition into horizontal, the boots come off, I'm into the bag and asleep within an hour.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: staying warmer on 03/05/2010 20:26:23 MST Print View

> Then instantly I transition into horizontal, the boots come off, I'm into the bag and asleep within an hour.
It takes you that long to go to sleep?
:-) :-)


Joe L
(heyyou) - MLife

Locale: Cutting brush off of the Arizona Tr
GG 1/8 inch pad on 03/06/2010 14:24:24 MST Print View

To supplement your current pad, Gossamer Gear eighth inch pads (and maybe quarter inch ones) are so flexible that one can be wrapped around your torso under rain gear top and bottoms if you are stationary in camp. Doubles as a sit pad as mentioned earlier.

If getting cold towards morning, use the thin pad over you lenthwise. The risk of trapping moisture is mitigated by the short time until morning and that you are so cold that you aren't giving off much moisture.

JRB sells down hoods that can be worn over a fleece balaclava if the cost of a down balaclava is too steep. I prefer to buy parkas instead of jackets to reduce the amount of head gear pieces.

A base layer with a hood seems warmer to me. I'm guessing that it lets torso heat past my neck differently than a T-neck shirt and separate hood. Someone here once posted that Inuit parkas are designed to capture that heat.

Jeremy Greene
(tippymcstagger) - F

Locale: North Texas
wide pad to insulate arms on 03/06/2010 15:48:04 MST Print View

If your arms are getting too close to the ground they will leak heat.

I have just switched to a 25" wide pad (Ridgerest Deluxe Large) to keep my elbows off the ground in winter. I thought of tapering to save weight, but full size it makes an ample dining pad for 2.

To supplement inflatables, a really thin ccf pad 25" wide, or even tent width, is another option.

James Naphas
(naphas13) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Re: more questions on 03/06/2010 16:15:20 MST Print View

Given your existing setup, how I would prioritize gear changes:

1. Go for a balaclava. Maybe try a thick fleece one, and if that doesn't work, pop for a down one. The reason I say that is that your head can account for something like 20% of your heat loss, and the main symptom when sleeping is...cold feet.

2. Upgrade your sleeping pad(s). Maybe try out something like a neoair plus GG thinlite.

3. Switching to a duomid will increase warmth, and it will almost surely be more wind-worthy than a tarptent. I'd guess that it would be a bit too stifling for summer use, though, and you're giving up the built-in bug netting.

4. It's counter-intuitive, but I'd probably reduce the amount of stuff you're wearing on your feet. If you constrict the blood vessels in your feet it can actually cause them to get colder. If down booties in a sleeping bag aren't doing the trick adding two pairs of socks isn't going to make much difference anyway.

5. A driclime windshirt is too bulky for backpacking use in anything but winter. OTOH, using something along the lines of a patagonia houdini as a light throw-on layer when you take a quick break can really help reduce the flash cooling effect of your sweat evaporating too quickly. Not really a help in sleeping, but handy to keep from getting chilled on the trail and when you first pull into camp.

You might try doing some jumping jacks or something like that just before hitting your sleeping bag to bump up your metabolism and produce a bit of extra heat for your sleeping bag to capture.

BTW, I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of a lot of gear lists being oriented to places where you don't see the lows you can get in the Sierras anytime but midwinter. 40-50 degree summer bags, no puffy layer or reasonably heavy fleece...yeah, right.

Edited by naphas13 on 03/06/2010 16:21:00 MST.

Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
Re: The Big Four for cold sleepers on 03/07/2010 14:41:59 MST Print View

If you're cold at night, I would say that the most warmth per weight is a good down sleeping bag.

However, here's an alternative suggestion:
The more people in a tent, the warmer it is. So if there's a group of you, stash all your gear in one tent and squeeze everyone in the remaining tents to sleep. You'll be a snug as a bug in a rug...

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
The Big Four for cold sleepers on 03/07/2010 17:52:51 MST Print View

I use synthetic base layers instead of wool primarily because I use a vapor barrier when it's below freezing. Synthetic absorbs less body moisture than wool. Wool does feel warmer next to the skin, though!

I'm not quite sure whether your wool is just base layers and socks or whether you're using wool as an intermediate insulation layer too. Down (first) and synthetic puffy clothing (second) give far more insulation than wool for the weight involved. I tried using an extra wool base layer top to supplement my puffy jacket, and it didn't do nearly as much for me as the thin fleece vest I now have (same weight). I gather you already have a down jacket; maybe get a down or synthetic puffy vest to supplement it and a pair of down pants? Does your down jacket have a hood?

My polypro fleece balaclava can be pulled over my mouth and nose to warm the air I breathe, which is one reason I like it. You wouldn't want to do that with a down balaclava! Of course there are face masks and such which do the same thing. You of course don't want to be breathing into down. This might help preserve a little more body warmth on freezing nights.

I cringed a bit at the suggestion of the GG thinlight to supplement a NeoAir--I tried it last fall on that 18* trip and shivered all night! The NeoAir has no insulation, just those baffles which didn't help me below 40*F. I'd use an insulated air pad like mine plus a thicker Thinlight (1/4 to 3/8") or bite the $$ and weight bullets for a Downmat.

Do you have some kind of insulation under your feet? That's where my dog is extremely useful! If no dog, you need a full-length pad or at least a piece of thicker CCF pad under your lower legs and feet.

Tight socks might be an issue; my fleece sleeping socks are a size too big. I didn't send them back for a smaller on purpose so I could wear them over a pair of dry hiking socks. My feet feel more comfortable (not necessarily warmer) at night in loose socks.

Like other women here, I'm getting colder just thinking about this! :-)

Most important: you have to do whatever it takes to stay comfortable and get a good night's sleep, and if it takes another pound or so of weight, so be it! I know that's considered heresy on this board, but so what! I agree, most of these UL/SUL gear lists are from warm-blooded males, probably backpacking at lower altitudes.

Edited by hikinggranny on 03/07/2010 18:02:02 MST.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Outstanding responses so far on 03/07/2010 20:40:41 MST Print View

It's refreshing to be on a forum where so many people know what they're talking about.

I'd get myself a warm balaclava and a warmer pad first, then a warmer bag if that isn't helping enough. I've often said that a good balaclava might add the most warmth per ounce of any item of gear a person can add, likely because for most of us the head/neck/face is the largest area of uncovered skin on our bodies.

Juston Taul

Locale: Atlanta, GA
Questions Unanswered on 03/07/2010 21:59:15 MST Print View

I won't go into my routine for staying warm... as it would be a huge repeat of the above information. Lots of good advice here.

You asked if you could boil water and put it inside your Camelbak. I assume you are wondering if it will damage it or not. I was on a trip in Alaska back in the day when I used water filters for my hydration needs. It was my first trip to Alaska and I had no idea how much silt was in the water. My filter was clogging left and right. (Katadyn Mini) I was field cleaning it and long story short... I shattered the ceramic filter. Oops! No other filter between myself and brother. Luckily for us, we had brought an extra fuel canister for my recently sold JetBoil PCS. We used a bandana to filter out a lot of the silt, boiled the water and poured it directly into the Camelbak. We had no idea if it would melt or not. Luckily it did not. We would boil cup after cup and place it into our Camelbaks... then toss them into the frigid water to cool them back down to drinking temperature. It worked great and the trip was saved.

Three things I learned that trip... 1. Never rely on mechanical devices. I now use chemicals. 2. The Katadyn Mini is a horrible filter for dirty environments. 3. The Camelbak... although heavy, is darn tough.

Edited by Junction on 03/07/2010 21:59:58 MST.

Paul Stupkin
(samthedog) - F

Locale: Norway
tips for staying warm on 03/08/2010 04:25:35 MST Print View

I won't reiterate what others have said but will try to give some tips that I use.

1) Forget going ultra light in cold weather. I always take a thermos and cook a double portion of dinner. The thermos/food jar goes into the sleeping bag and I have a hot midnight meal if I get cold (wether I am hungry or not)

2) Food choice is important. You want high energy yield. Carbs burn first, followed by protein and then by fats. Having a good mix of all these foods in a meal will ensure you have continued metabolic heat production through the night.

3) Always take more food than you think you will need. If you compare a military ration pack to it's winter varient, the winter one is more than twice the size and much higher in caloric yield.

4) Snack regularly, even when on the trail and generating body heat through exercise. This is especially important a half hour to an hour before you will stop. You want to have digesting food in your belly when you stop to keep you warm in the transition period between setting up and climbing into your bag.

5) Try to do everything from your sleeping bag. I prepare all my food, root through my pack and organise my wet clothes etc... from my sleeping bag. This generated heat warms the bag and best of all warms up your extremeties too.

I guess other than my process the only piece of equipment I would say you could buy is a thermos. This of course is not an ultralight piece of kit but then I would rather be comfortable in winter / cold weather camping.


Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: tips for staying warm on 03/08/2010 12:36:06 MST Print View

I feel obliged to comment on the WarmLite. It was the coldest tent we ever owned!!! Condensation was very bad.

OTOH, we find the Nallo2 to be amongst the warmest of tents. I always carry a thermometer that has an outside probe, and on a frosty night (25F) it doesn't get below ~38F inside with two people. The key is that all the condensation goes through the inner layer, leaving you an shell of dry, still air. You can't/don't get this effect in a tarptent or non-breathable tent like the WarmLite.

Jacket-the Skaha hoody with front pockets is a keeper. Baffled down warmth for your head, torso and hands. Ask for an extra ounce of down to be added. Otherwise, a balaclava such as the ones sold by Down Works is a great investment.

Closed cell foam mats all the way, unless for comfort reasons you need more, in which case I can heartily recommend the Stephenson's down mat.

I also recommend you re-think your foot wear. Too many layers can impede circulation. better to wear less and let your down socks do their magic.

VBL-this can be a lifesaver, even if it is just breadbags for your feet.

And of course, sleeping bag. Sounds like you've got a good one. Quilts are dodgy unless you have someone to share the heat with (and who is not a blanket hog). Otherwise go with the full hooded/draft collar/footbox style. A critical factor is to make sure the bag is roomy enough that you don't restrict the loft when you're inside, even with all your layers on. A bag that can be used unzipped as a quilt is by far the most versatile choice you can make. Pretty much all WM bags can be used this way, and their temp ratings are closer to what I would consider reasonable for women.

Food-I have a bag of nuts by me when I go to bed, and when I get up in the night, I shove some in my gob. This keeps me churning out that extra bit more heat.

And finally, cayenne pepper. Use in emergencies only, rub it into your feet if they are so cold that you can't feel them. It takes a few minutes to work, but soon you will be having a real hotfoot attack. It weighs almost nothing, but it's for emergencies only because, a)it's hard to get it on your feet without getting it onto your hands, and if that happens, you will inevitably rub it into your eyes/mouth/nose etc...b) The pepper will also stick to your socks, so you may have to wash them to get rid of it. This is another area where breadbags can be helpful to keep it off your clothing and bag.

sheila o
(bumpass) - F

Locale: The Far Left Coast? : /
just to chime in also... on 03/08/2010 13:25:43 MST Print View

Ditto on many other comments depending on conditons: cap, down jacket, wind blockers. Hot water bottle and SD down booties for colder weather.

Changing my sleeping pad has been the #1 item that has made me into a comfortable sleeper. I had the BA Insulate Airmat with a -20 down bag in the Sierras and froze. (Probably would have been fine adding a CCF) I finally broke down and got a Exped 7 down mat. I also purchased a #2 MB UL SS 25 degree bag (which cut my bag weight in half). This gives my hips and shoulders the cushion I need with the insulation. Not UL, but this bag/pad combo worked well on the JMT last year and just recently in a snow cave in Lassen Park. Cheers!

Edited by bumpass on 03/08/2010 13:27:58 MST.

Coin Page
(Page0018) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern USA
Add a Down Hood. on 03/09/2010 15:34:25 MST Print View

Elizabeth, good luck staying warm. I too am very cold natured.
I'll say it again: A full neck coverage down hood is the best warmth to weight I've found. Why would you cover your torso and feet in down and not your head? You can buy a dedicated down balaclava. But many of us have an old down parka with a detachable hood. Unsnap or unzip the hood. I put this on first thing in camp, or while walking in cold weather. Pack straps don't hurt it. I can turn my head and it turns with me. (It does muffle sound.) I wear a light polyester balaclava under it. I wear the down hood to bed inside my bag if I need the boost.
I have a wonderful old dark green Chinese made Eastern Mountain Sport parka I got from REI in the early 80s. The parka is pretty well shot, but the hood is still puffy, and is my first go to cold weather piece of gear. Add a down vest or sweater if needed. I find the wind just blows through any kind of fleece or knit hat. A wind shirt or wind hood helps, but a down parka hood has the wind repelling nylon shell built right in.
In summer I'll carry a lighter bag, but usually bring along my down hood, "just to be sure". I always use it. And I'm amazed, sitting in the cold night air on top of a mountain watching the stars, that I even considered not bringing it. Find that old parka today, find someone who has one hanging in their winter clothes closet. Mine is the warmest 5.6 oz I carry.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: More info on 03/09/2010 22:58:54 MST Print View

Elizabeth - I hav a few comments based on your questions in the original post and your other comments:
1) I agree with several other posters that a warmer pad is a cheap way (in both the weight and prices senses) to add warmth. Site selection is also important here. I have often slept on bare rock slabs in the Sierra that were warm to the touch when I laid down and still warm in the morning when I took my stuff off of the rock - those slabs absorb lot of heat during the day and you can take advantage of it.
2) It sounds as though you do not use most of your layers during the day when on the trail. If that is the case, then a single warmer down jacket will give you more warmth per unit of weight than your multiple layers will. Figure out which layers you use on the trail, and dump everything else and replace with a warm jacket WITH A HOOD.
3) second the motion on a WARM hat. I use a double layered fleece hat, homemade, looks goofy but way warm. Few things offer the warmth per weight of a hat. Wear the hat under a down hood and you're really cookin' with gas.
4) Now that you've got the big warm jacket, drape it over your bag in the torso region for extra warmth at night - it adds more that way than if you wear it inside the bag, since it isn't compressed.
5) Is your current bag a women's-specific model, and does it fit you well? a bag that is too large is not as warm, since you have to heat that additional volume.
6) Tents are the least weight efficient way to add warmth, unless your current shelter allows a lot of drafts to come through. Once a tent has blocked the wind, it has done about all it can do to keep you warm. So if your current shelter does not keep the wind out, I'd look for one that does - that breeze is carrying off a lot of heat. But if your current shelter does keep the wind out, then changing it won't do much to keep you warmer.
7) In my experience, wool is not as warm per unit of weight as synthetics are. As a light baselayer, this makes little difference since you're dealing with a very light fabric either way. But for mid-layers I think the synthetics win out. I've had good luck with Expedition weight long underwear as a mid-layer, and also powerstretch fleece. As one of those heat generators you mentioned (and still young - I'm only 50) I use the exped. wt fleece as my warmest layer for the Sierra Summer, with a base layer underneath and light shell over the top. I'm betting that if you had that setup for the trail, plus the warm, HOODED down jacket for camp wear (and maybe some light down pants - Montbell or WM Flash), you'd have a system that would do the trick and probably be lighter than what you have now.