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  1. #1
    Registered User jungleland1972's Avatar
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    Default Help with cold weather camping

    So I am planning on my first cold weather hike (Maryland section of the AT in December). I decided to test some of my gear last night by tenting in my backyard in 35 degree weather and I am glad I did. I left my gear in my backpack outside a few hours (didnt want to start artificially warm). I tried to simulate a hike, took a long walk at sunset then went straight to my gear in the yard and setup the tent, sleeping bag and pad. I also changed in the tent to thermal underwear and new socks. All was good the first hour and I went to sleep, even though it was only atound 7:30. By 10:00, I was really cold (mostly my feet and upper torso). The cold really surprised me as there was no wind. I had not heated a water bottle for my bag or used any of those hand warmer packets. I also slipped off my pad a few time. I think for my next attempt I will move my sleeping pad to inside of my bag and maybe use those hand warmers. Any other ideas?


    Kelty 2 person tent
    https://www.amazon.com/Kelty-Salida-...son+tent&psc=1

    Teton mummy bag (5 degrees)
    https://www.amazon.com/TETON-SPORTS-...n+sleeping+bag

    Klymit insulated sleeping pad:
    https://www.amazon.com/Klymit-Insula...static+v&psc=1

  2. #2
    Registered User egilbe's Avatar
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    SLEEP WARM: Survival rated sleeping bag; Comfort rated 20-30 degrees higher; As you know you will sleep warmer if you use a camp pad, wear a hat, stay hydrated, wear socks, and fluff your sleeping bag before you go to bed to restore its loft

    That's your problem. No wonder you were cold.

  3. #3
    Registered User egilbe's Avatar
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    It's a 30 degree bag.

  4. #4
    Registered User jungleland1972's Avatar
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    I had a 5 degree bag in 35 degree weather so I thought it would be enough. I deffinatly should have worn a hat.

  5. #5
    Registered User jungleland1972's Avatar
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    Crap, it is a 30 degree bag. For some reason it says 5 degrees on thw outside of it.

  6. #6
    Registered User jungleland1972's Avatar
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    Time to find a much better suited bag that wont break the bank.

  7. #7

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    Most bags are advertised with their lower limit rating, not comfort rating. If the bag is EN rated, you can find those numbers pretty easily in the description.

    I sleep cold, so I always use a bag with a comfort rating lower than what I need. For example, if it is expected to be 20, I want a 10 degree comfort rating.

    I would recommend not cutting corners on the sleeping bag if you can. A cold night's sleep isn't worth the little bit you save. I started with a Kelty Cosmic bag, which was a joke, it was nowhere near it's claimed ratings, comfort or otherwise. I then moved to an REI Igneo bag, which was pretty good, but still not truly rated. I finally ended up with Western Mountaineering. A lot more expensive, but I trust it to keep me warm. I will never look back now.

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    I wouldnt call 35 cold.
    Thats really fall AT, and summer sierra/colorado. Nothing special. Real rated bag/quilt and xlite pad is it. Good items here and you wont need any other crap. Nor should you want to deal with hot water bottle, etc unless your gear is unsuitable
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 11-11-2018 at 18:42.

  9. #9

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    down booties, core warmth(vest, etc)

  10. #10
    Registered User jungleland1972's Avatar
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    Anyone use Alps bags? They have 0 degree bags for a decent price but there are not alot of reviews on them.

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    First, kudos to you for doing backyard testing. It's really smart to do so, and I should do more of it than I do.

    Next, remember that the small print is never good news - as quoted in 2nd post above. : "SLEEP WARM: Survival rated sleeping bag; Comfort rated 20-30 degrees higher; As you know you will sleep warmer if you use a camp pad, wear a hat, stay hydrated, wear socks, and fluff your sleeping bag before you go to bed to restore its loft".
    Thus, it's a 25-35 degree bag for comfort rating. Even that 25-35F rating has many assumptions behind it - it's not clear what they are, but if you don't meet them, you still may be cold at 35F. One is surely a good insulating pad underneath, which, by the numbers, I would think you had.

    Many bags now use an EN rating, referring to EN 13537, a European standard that is pretty specific in terms of assumptions. It's a scientific approach, but the science is in its infancy. It probably needs much refinement. Anyway, there are 4 temp ratings, but two get most of the attention in the marketplace for bags. From Wikip:

    Lower Limit
    — the temperature at which a standard male can sleep for eight hours in a curled position without waking.
    and
    Comfort — the temperature at which a standard female can expect to sleep comfortably in a relaxed position.

    Now, it turns out, many of us aren't "standard" either by age, height, weight, etc. And some of us just plain sleep colder than others. That's what backyard testing is for. So even if these were EN-rated (and there's no indication they used the EN standard), it still might only help you determine relativities between bags. [BTW, my adjustment factor of low ratings is +20 degrees F. So a bag rated lower limit of 20F gets the nod for 40F-60F conditions.]

    Did you find the Klymit pad warm enough? I was thinking of getting one - R4.4, but that's another metric that is even less standardized than EN ratings! I had the uninsulated one briefly, but found it was up to 4" shorter than advertised! Not good, as I am 6'1". I didn't try another to see if it was an anomaly, but the insulated one appeals to me since it should be warm, not likely to be crinkly, and a lot less expensive than Neoairs. Currently I use CCF, which I actually rather like, except for the bulk.

    Last thought - I've done some digging in tech papers on this stuff, and while it's hard for a layperson to interpret this stuff with great confidence (I'm no Richard Nisley), I felt I could take away some general notions. One was that it appears, from their testing, your total insulating value is about 60% bag, 30% pad, and 10% clothes worn in the bag. That's a real general average across down and synthetic bags of varying insulating quality, pads going in half-inch increments from (none) to 2.5" (note, they used only self-inflators), and clothing (either none, thermal u/w, or thermal fleece).

    So clothing in the bag wasn't a huge part of the total, but it was significant. Within the clothing category, thermal fleece insulation contributed over 2.5x as much to insulating value as thermal u/w. I know I sleep well in fleece PJ pants at home, so I may try using those on the trail (they're not heavier, but they are bulkier, unfortunately). Another factor was that self-inflating pads made most of their contribution (to insulation, not necessarily comfort) in the first 1" of thickness. After that, insulating value still goes up with more thickness, but usually at a decreasing rate. Again, IDK if that applies to air pads or CCF.

    Didn't get a great sense of the differences between their good bags and weak ones, but at around a 60% contribution, it's probably wise to get the best bag you can afford and will carry/use. Next, get at least an average insulating pad, and try sleeping in thermal fleece. My experience at home suggests to me that fleece will make more of a difference to my overall comfort than the study suggests, but we'll see.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by jungleland1972 View Post
    Anyone use Alps bags? They have 0 degree bags for a decent price but there are not alot of reviews on them.
    REI Garage had a 0F rated (i.e., 20F-40F for me) Alps Zenith bag that looked like a deal, but IIRC it's listed as being only 80" long in regular. That's very likely to be too short for me, based on the lengths of other bags I know and how I fit in them. So depending on your height, you may need a long. I would probably need a long in THAT bag if I was over 5'10" but who knows.

    It's only 600fp down but 33 ounces of it makes up a fair bit for the modest lofting power.

  13. #13

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    Don't try to put the pad inside the bag. If you roll off, try letting a little air out so you make more of depression in the matt.

    If there is enough extra space in the bag that the pad could fit, that could be part of the problem. If the bag is real loose around you, there is extra dead air space to heat. This is where a liner can help. A two person tent isn't quite as warm as a one person tent for the same reason. Too much air trapped inside.

    The hand warmer packets can help. Have some snacks ready for the middle of the night (maybe in mouse proof plastic box, even in winter).

    Ideally you want a warmer sleeping bag, but you can fudge enough things to make the 30 degree work to it's lower limit. But 35 is still going to be about the limit if you want a reasonable amount of sleep through the night.
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    Get that hot water bottle, put it in a sock, and into the bag.

    Before you sleep close up everything, zip everything, (and put on warm and dry clothes before).

    For your conditions I would recommend a 15-20F bag, it gives a lot of versatility.

    When it is just way too F-N cold and one needs just some heat for sanity and a chance to get to sleep, and one has a dependable self igniting isobutain stove that is stable. Well I have ignited it inside the tent, for about a minute or so after which time the tent is much warmer, and then I put it out. The warmth 'shot' does give one the break one needs to get to sleep. Caution is needed in abundance here, but it did work for me.

  15. #15
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    Just a guess, but you may a bag EN comfort rated for 10F for Maryland in December. Even 0F for a lower limit may not be enough, if you're unlucky with a cold snap. I've seen 15F in NC's Piedmont in December so I'd guess Maryland could be just as tough. I believe that the conventional wisdom is that below 20F down is strongly advised for backpackers, the weight and bulk advantage over synthetic makes such a difference. I'm not sure if that's based on lower limit bag ratings or actual outside temps, but in some places it clearly referred to bag ratings. For your trip, I would think a quality down bag would be of great benefit, weight and bulk-wise.

    For other uses, however, the synth bag may work OK, such as car camping. For instance if you have a Costco down throw, you could drape it over the bag (even doubling it up by folding lengthwise). I've found it makes a nice difference, probably adds 5-10 degrees for me when used as a single layer. Does add a pound though, to an already beefy bag. But if you're car camping that does not matter much.

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    All of the above (except maybe the stove in the tent) plus:

    Some light exercise before you get in the sleeping bag to get blood moving
    Clothes inside the bag to take up space
    CCF and/or reflectix under inflatable pad to increase R value
    Buff or balaclava to warm neck
    Hiking jacket as second footbox

    I have a liner. I took it on a section hike at the end of October. I think it does provide some warmth but I’m not sure it’s worth the aggravation of getting into/out of it, especially in the middle of the night. The jury is still out on it. Works okay at home for watching tv.

    I took hand warmers but didn’t need them in the sleeping bag. I did use them in the AM inside my sleeve cuffs then in the palms of my gloves to warm my fingers. Handwarmers, gloves and rain mitts kept my fingers toasty in a cold rain.

    Protect what shouldn’t freeze - filter, iPhone, meds - the sleeping bag could get crowded.

    YMMV
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by jungleland1972 View Post
    Crap, it is a 30 degree bag. For some reason it says 5 degrees on thw outside of it.
    That's starting to make sense... because while I ALWAYS sleep in a hat any time temperatures fall below 50, 35 degrees in a 5 degree bag should have let you sleep comfortably in shorts and tshirt.

    However, to me, 35 degrees is NOT "cold weather" camping... that's just typical October weather in the higher elevations of GSMNP (lower elevations over a typical Veteran's Day weekend... but this year things got below freezing.
    In any case, my point is that if you plan to hike in December, you really need to be ready for below freezing conditions.

    So if you're looking for a

  18. #18
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    BTW, I have a couple Snugpak synthetic bags, and their EN comfort rating is only 9 degrees (F) above their EN lower limit rating.

    A comfort rating 20-30 degrees higher than the "top line number" used to market the bag strikes me as a comparison against either the EN extreme limit, or as being based on some unknown (and dubious) rating standard.

  19. #19
    Registered User LIhikers's Avatar
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    I've heard it said that for cold weather you should have a pad with an R rating of at least 5, yours is only 4.4.
    Add a foam pad underneath yours to provide extra insulation plus if your inflatable goes flat at least you'll have something.

  20. #20
    Registered User jungleland1972's Avatar
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    Thanks all. I am definately going to get a warmer bag and will dress warmer next time. I am worried about adding another pad as the real estate in my pack is getting tight but if my next test goes South I will probably have to go in that direction.

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