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Your coldest night camping?
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Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Your coldest night camping? on 02/06/2014 15:51:48 MST Print View

Mine is -22 F. in a quinzhee in Pennsylvania.

For a tent it's -5 F. in both PA and W. Virginia.

All times were comfortable sleeps.


Your stories are very interesting. Nobody talked about a 3 AM pee trip (or pee bottle use). ;o) OR cold boots in the morning.

My quinzhee -22 F. night was relatively warm because those thick snow shelters retain heat very well (AND keep out sound).

Edited by Danepacker on 09/12/2014 23:03:38 MDT.

John Vance
(Servingko) - F

Locale: Intermountain West
Coldest Night on 02/06/2014 16:17:19 MST Print View

Mine was -27f inside the tent at floor level. About 35 miles north of Sawbill Lake Boundry Waters Canoe Area February 1974. It was on a week long ski trip and the only time I have had to zip bags together with my tentmate (older brother) just to keep from freezing. That was and still is the coldest I have ever been on a continuous basis. Still a great trip though.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
You guys on 02/06/2014 16:59:14 MST Print View

Your temps make my -5 Fahrenheit seem cozy!

. .
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 02/06/2014 17:05:11 MST Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 07/02/2015 11:02:41 MDT.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Your coldest night camping? on 02/06/2014 17:18:12 MST Print View

-13F in northern WI on top of a ridgerest pad and REI bluefoam pad in a bivvy with 30F sleeping bag (Marmot Arroyo) under a 30F myog quilt under a 5x8 tarp. Snowed 6 inches overnight. Slept warm but getting out in the morning was ... uncomfortable.

Is the only time I've ever witnessed people doing the chicken dance in snowshoes.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
50 below zero on 02/06/2014 17:55:36 MST Print View

No thermometer, 50 below was the low for nearby Bettles Alaska that day. (The high was 45 below.) I can honestly say I was prepared for it.

I had two sleeping pads, a sleeping bag and an overbag, and good warm arctic clothing. Getting up and packing in the morning wasn't that much fun though!

Edited by Colter on 02/06/2014 17:56:06 MST.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Your coldest night camping? on 02/06/2014 17:58:53 MST Print View

January 1979, and we were taking some beginner snow campers to Westfall Meadow in Yosemite. In advance, we told them to prepare for at least +10*F, and I carried in a big pyramid tent for four of them to share. That night it got cold. By dawn it was -10*F, so the frost was on the pumpkin, so to speak. The beginners never trusted us again after that.


Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Re: Your coldest night camping? on 02/06/2014 18:18:09 MST Print View

Funny, but I was just thinking about that as I ran errands today in temperatures hovering just above 0* F here in Boulder.

A long time ago, after a big fight with my girl friend, I decided that I would go off and be the macho manly dude and do some solo winter ski camping. The temps around Alamosa were going to be below zero--perfect setup, right? The first night I set up my tent next to my car. It was -20* F, but I was comfy in my REI +15* bag, with fishnet long underwear, polypro over that, hat/gloves, Levis and a burly Holubar hooded parka (anybody remember those?).

The next day I was feeling frisky, so after a big breakfast in Alamosa I drove to the top of the Molas Divide (elev. 10,880'), put on the skis and 50# pack in 3 feet of powder, and skied down a summer service road several miles until I couldn't see or hear the highway. I set up the tent, stockpiled a big pile of firewood (aspen), and ate dinner well after dark. This was during Christmas week, so things got dark at 5 PM. There was absolutely no breeze, but it seemed a little colder than the night before. After a couple of hours trying to get the aspen to properly burn, I crawled into my bag.

About 3 AM I woke myself up with fairly uncontrolled shivering. I realized that I must be going into stage I hypothermia, so I mustered all my energy to try to get my Optimus 8R lit. It probably took 10 minutes to light that stove, with cold shaking hands and a Bic that didn't want to light. I finally got some water boiling, and I pounded down 3-4 Cup-O-Soups, a couple of hot chocolates, and more hot drinks with snickers bars. The shaking went away, and I now had a sort of warm glow feeling. I had just enough awareness to realize that I was either going to be all right, or else I was entering stage II hypothermia. Since it was 3-4 miles and 500-600 vertical feet to get back to the car at the pass, and also the business of packing everything up, I decided to take my chances and try to sleep. One of two things would happen, right? I would either get some decent rest, or else I would die in my sleep. I was too tired to not chance it.

I woke up around 7 or so with the first light, had my coffee, and I decided that I would just pack up and get the hell out of there. It was a fair struggle to ski back up the road, with that pack load and the need to change ski wax for better grip, but I finally made it to the car. I drove into Silverton and bellied up to the counter of the diner for some steak and eggs. I asked the weathered old cowboy sitting next to me how cold it got last night. He said, "It was -31* F at my place, why do you ask?" I told him where/how I spent the night, and his reply was, "Well, yer a stupid son-of-a-bitch, 'cause it had to be -34* or below that up there. Yer lucky to be alive." I agreed with him. And I bought him his breakfast.

I try not to do that sort of stuff anymore. I mean, I'll still buy a cowboy a meal, but I hope to not choose to sleep outside when it's much below zero.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Your coldest night camping? on 02/06/2014 19:41:26 MST Print View

Mine's pretty mellow. 4 degrees in western Virginia. Slept in my hammock. Was quite toasty all night.

Tony Fleming
(TonyFleming) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Coldest night camping on 02/06/2014 19:56:06 MST Print View

Minus 5 degrees, cold enough for me. 2 friends hiked in to meet us, they were both shirtless when they showed up. It was pretty funny.


Charles Jennings
(vigilguy) - F - M

Locale: Northern Utah
-21 degree F on 02/06/2014 19:59:58 MST Print View

-21 below zero in March in Northern Utah. Temps were 30 degrees during the day before, then the skies cleared and the temps plummeted.

Three of us were in a Hilleberg Nallo 3 GT. We were prepared and stayed warm in the night.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Coldest night camping on 02/07/2014 06:32:32 MST Print View

The night Mrs Mags and I had an argument. Acid tongue and very cold shoulder. Brutally cold. :O

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: Coldest night camping on 02/07/2014 07:34:07 MST Print View

-13F in Michigan this time last year, forecast was for 10F

Noteable as was using a 20F bag with Down Hoody, Trosuers and booties as
my buddy had my winter bag. I was in Hilleberg Kaitum 3 with 2 buddies.

I am ging out tonight and packing a WM Puma ;-)

Edited by stephenm on 02/07/2014 07:38:13 MST.

. .
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 02/07/2014 10:10:28 MST Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 07/02/2015 11:04:24 MDT.

just Justin Whitson
Re: Minus on 02/07/2014 10:53:43 MST Print View

-1 or -2*F i think, but that's going by the forecast. That was in a tent though.

What felt colder was 6 degrees in a shelter with some wind.

@ Gary. Sounds like if you had better clothes and a warmer bag, you could have been ok?

Travis Bernard
(DispatchesfromtheNorth) - M

Locale: Ross River
Roger on 02/07/2014 12:10:45 MST Print View

You should have a read of Jack London's short story, 'To Build a Fire'.


"He was a newcomer in the land, a chechaquo, and this was his first winter. The trouble with him was that he was without imagination. He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances. Fifty degrees below zero meant eighty-odd degrees of frost. Such fact impressed him as being cold and uncomfortable, and that was all. It did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, and upon man's frailty in general, able only to live within certain narrow limits of heat and cold; and from there on it did not lead him to the conjectural field of immortality and man's place in the universe. Fifty degrees below zero stood for a bite of frost that hurt and that must be guarded against by the use of mittens, ear-flaps, warm moccasins, and thick socks. Fifty degrees below zero was to him just precisely fifty degrees below zero. That there should be anything more to it than that was a thought that never entered his head."

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Today's clothing and bags on 02/07/2014 12:40:16 MST Print View

Yes, Justin, I could maybe do -35* F with what gear I have now. In fact a couple of years ago my buddy and I purposely did a truck camp where it got down to -7* F, and we were completely fine. My gear included a Marmot CWM-EQ -40* F bag, down pants and a burly parka, plus body and hand warmers. We used propane and white gas stoves, and we kept the water inside the truck to keep it from freezing.

But remember, in the '70s there were no 850 FP down pants, no high tech base layers, and a proper sleeping bag would have been godawful heavy and expensive. But also know that we did plenty of bag nights with that same sort of clothing/bag setup, most often without a tent, in temps down to zero or a bit below. It was cheap lodging when we did weekend downhill ski trips, and we were young and invinceable. Also, naive and ignorant, just like the above Jack London exerpt describes.

Derrick White
(miku) - MLife

Locale: Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
Read This on 02/07/2014 12:47:11 MST Print View

For me: -24C (-16F) in Labrador Canada, under fly of Big Sky Evolution with no inner. No wind.

If you enjoy marveling at human survival in tents in extremely cold weather (-70F) I recommend Elliot Merrick's "True North." It chronicles a trip he took with the elite trappers of Labrador (the Height-of-Landers) in the 1930's. Merrick was a teacher and his wife a nurse. Both went along on the annual pilgrimage to the trap lines. It is well written, engaging and great soup for the soul of any outdoorsperson. The Innu (of the Algonquin family) were still nomadic in those days (they did not come off the land until 1965) spending winters in the interior in teepees and Merrick encountered many of them also.


Edited by miku on 02/07/2014 12:51:09 MST.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Today's clothing and bags on 02/07/2014 12:52:23 MST Print View

"But remember, in the '70s there were no 850 FP down pants, no high tech base layers, and a proper sleeping bag would have been godawful heavy and expensive."

Gary, Gary!

When Hillary climbed Mount Everest in 1953, what do you think he was using?

The down was probably 550 or 600 fill power, and the nylon fabric was probably kind of crinkly.


Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Re: Today's clothing and bags on 02/07/2014 14:19:48 MST Print View

Bobby, Bobby! I told you that we were naive and ignorant. I don't think I even saw a pair of down pants until the '80s. I probably should have hung out more with Gary Neptune back then, huh? I might have learned something. But then again, we were young and invinceable, and we seldom listened to smart guys.

Edited by Zia-Grill-Guy on 02/07/2014 22:05:56 MST.