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Old 02-13-2015, 10:04 AM   #1
nickchevy
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So I did some sleeping bag testing last night...

I have slowly getting together my winter backpacking gear. I still do not have a proper tent but I was anxious to try out my new sleeping bag kit. CF Army winter sleeping bag. I shovelled the back yard, set up my summer tent(all screen and a fly) and piled in for the night...Now I have spent alot of time outside, day hikes, snowboarding, ice fishing(no hut) and I have never had issues but last night was something else! It was -40 celcius with windchill last night.
The bag was warm, the self inflating blow up pad was awful but I can deal with being stiff and sore but it was the cold freezing air I was breathing in that gave me some distress.
I had a facemask with some webbing on the front to allow for easier breathing but that iced up pretty bad and then my breathing felt very constricted, downright painful.
So with no way to really warm up my breathing at this point I jumped back in the house around 0200. At work for the day(office) and still feel the chest tightness, it does not seem that serious but some discomfort for sure.
My question for you overnighters, what do you use to combat the dry frigid air from impacting your breathing/core temp?
Obviously an actual winter tent would help, maybe a tent heater but I was trying to recreate the the conditions I might face backpacking up to 1000 feet elevation.
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Old 02-13-2015, 03:29 PM   #2
DSettahr
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There are 3 aspects that differentiate a 4 season tent from a 3 season:
  • 4 season tents are stronger and can withstand higher winds
  • 4 season tents tend to be double walled, so that condensation occurs in between the two walls, rather than inside the compartment of the tent (this does provide some added insulation as well)
  • 4 season tents are designed to continue providing adequate ventilation even in the event of heavy snowfall

The general consensus among many in the outdoors community is that, due to the price and added weight, 4 season tents are overkill/unnecessary if you're not going above treeline on a trip. As options for legal camping above treeline in the Adirondacks are fairly limited, this means that the need for a 4 season tent is minimal. If you're willing to pay for one and don't mind the extra weight, though, then by all means go for it.

A 3 season tent will often suffice for winter backcountry trips in the Adirondacks. The most important thing to keep in mind is that ventilation in many 3 season tents can be cut off by even a few inches of snow- so if you're camped in a snowstorm, you need to make sure to clear out the snow from around the base of your tent during the night.

I personally don't even use a tent in winter- my preferred sleeping shelter is a tarp. I'll use a bivy sack beneath the tarp if I need added protection from the elements. For longer trips (3+ nights), I also use a vapor barrier liner to prevent moisture buildup inside my sleeping bag over time.

You might try finding a thicker cover for your face, such as a fleece balaclava. The ice build up around your face is something that really isn't preventable, and you learn to live with it. The temptation is always to burrow down into your sleeping bag, which can make things even worse as the condensation from your breath freezes in the insulation of your sleeping bag, rather than around the opening.

Also, eating a good hearty dinner can make a huge difference. Adding copious amounts of butter to that dinner helps too- your body will turn into a furnace in your sleeping bag as it begins to burn off those calories to stay warm. I will also often use hot water bottles in my sleeping bag- I keep them inside the coozies so that the heat is slowly released throughout the night. And I'll sometimes make a thermos of hot chocolate (with powdered milk and butter) so that I can have a calorie laden warm drink in the middle of the night.

-40F/C is also much colder temperatures than you're ever likely to encounter in the backcountry of the Adirondacks. Temperatures will drop below -30F maybe a couple of times a season, and the odds of you being out at those times is slim (plus the rarity of these temperatures makes it easy to justify putting your trip off for another weekend if the forecast indicates that it will be this cold).

Last edited by DSettahr; 02-13-2015 at 06:18 PM..
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Old 02-15-2015, 06:48 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nickchevy View Post

My question for you overnighters, what do you use to combat the dry frigid air from impacting your breathing/core temp?
elevation.
Mostly, just keep your core as warm as possible. Let your core get cold, your body starts diverting blood flow from the extremities. Not knowing the temp rating of the bag you were in, the one place you may want to improve is the sleeping pad. It's not only about cushion comfort, especially in the winter, it is insulation from the ground & one pad, especially most of the inflatables, really doesn't cut it. I always use a second, closed cell foam pad with my inflatable in winter. Since you are laying on and compressing the sleeping bag, it doesn't give much insulation at those points, the right pads are an essential part of the kit.
I wouldn't put anything completely over my face, as Dsettahr said, it just does what it did, catches the condensation and freezes. When it's nasty cold, you tighten the mummy bag down to have a blow hole to breath through and just deal with it. If your core is warm enough, you should be fine. I sometimes put a wool hat or mitt over my nose, across my face, but not to cover my nostrils, just to keep my nose warm. You have to pay the piper somewhere for this kind of fun.
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Old 12-20-2016, 08:25 PM   #4
nickchevy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSettahr View Post
There are 3 aspects that differentiate a 4 season tent from a 3 season:
  • 4 season tents are stronger and can withstand higher winds
  • 4 season tents tend to be double walled, so that condensation occurs in between the two walls, rather than inside the compartment of the tent (this does provide some added insulation as well)
  • 4 season tents are designed to continue providing adequate ventilation even in the event of heavy snowfall

The general consensus among many in the outdoors community is that, due to the price and added weight, 4 season tents are overkill/unnecessary if you're not going above treeline on a trip. As options for legal camping above treeline in the Adirondacks are fairly limited, this means that the need for a 4 season tent is minimal. If you're willing to pay for one and don't mind the extra weight, though, then by all means go for it.

A 3 season tent will often suffice for winter backcountry trips in the Adirondacks. The most important thing to keep in mind is that ventilation in many 3 season tents can be cut off by even a few inches of snow- so if you're camped in a snowstorm, you need to make sure to clear out the snow from around the base of your tent during the night.

I personally don't even use a tent in winter- my preferred sleeping shelter is a tarp. I'll use a bivy sack beneath the tarp if I need added protection from the elements. For longer trips (3+ nights), I also use a vapor barrier liner to prevent moisture buildup inside my sleeping bag over time.

You might try finding a thicker cover for your face, such as a fleece balaclava. The ice build up around your face is something that really isn't preventable, and you learn to live with it. The temptation is always to burrow down into your sleeping bag, which can make things even worse as the condensation from your breath freezes in the insulation of your sleeping bag, rather than around the opening.

Also, eating a good hearty dinner can make a huge difference. Adding copious amounts of butter to that dinner helps too- your body will turn into a furnace in your sleeping bag as it begins to burn off those calories to stay warm. I will also often use hot water bottles in my sleeping bag- I keep them inside the coozies so that the heat is slowly released throughout the night. And I'll sometimes make a thermos of hot chocolate (with powdered milk and butter) so that I can have a calorie laden warm drink in the middle of the night.

-40F/C is also much colder temperatures than you're ever likely to encounter in the backcountry of the Adirondacks. Temperatures will drop below -30F maybe a couple of times a season, and the odds of you being out at those times is slim (plus the rarity of these temperatures makes it easy to justify putting your trip off for another weekend if the forecast indicates that it will be this cold).
I just wanted to bump this as I did some overnight camping again and applied some of the tips in this thread, i had a group of 4 other people who had never done it before and happy to report that I was snug as can be, had a great time. Also it was not -40 this time around haha. Makes a big difference.
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Old 12-20-2016, 08:40 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nickchevy View Post
I just wanted to bump this as I did some overnight camping again and applied some of the tips in this thread, i had a group of 4 other people who had never done it before and happy to report that I was snug as can be, had a great time. Also it was not -40 this time around haha. Makes a big difference.
Awesome! Staying safe and comfortable while winter camping does demand a lot of extra effort, but being well prepared does make a huge difference. There's nothing quite like being out on a cold night and snuggling into a nice warm sleeping bag and feeling completely protected from the elements.

If you don't mind my asking, which of the advice above was most helpful to you?
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Old 12-22-2016, 05:59 PM   #6
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My 12oz canvas tarp wrapped around a -30-degree bag in below-freezing temps with an Army sleeping pad kept me warm and cozy all night without any wake-up calls. The Nalgene bottle I left outside on the lean-to floor with water in it was frozen solid though in the morning. The bag was a Cabela's, heavy but worth the haul in.
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Old 01-27-2017, 07:29 AM   #7
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I wouldn't put anything completely over my face, as Dsettahr said, it just does what it did, catches the condensation and freezes. When it's nasty cold, you tighten the mummy bag down to have a blow hole to breath through and just deal with it.......... I sometimes put a wool hat or mitt over my nose, across my face, but not to cover my nostrils, just to keep my nose warm. You have to pay the piper somewhere for this kind of fun

I had a good chuckle over this one...had to make it my sig!!!!
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I sometimes put a wool hat or mitt over my nose, across my face, but not to cover my nostrils, just to keep my nose warm. You have to pay the piper somewhere for this kind of fun
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Old 01-30-2017, 07:40 PM   #8
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Everything other guys mentioned plus...

I used a Klymit insulated air mattress plus a thermarest in the winter. Just an air mattress means your body has to heat up the air as the ground is cooling it.

I unfold the roll in a watch cap so it comes down to the tip of my nose and bring neck gaiter up over my chin. Mouth still clear. My zero degree synthetic mummy has a draft tube across the chest. So occasionally I will pull hood tight and have mouth slightly inside the bag pointed at blow hole. Just this space seems to allow air to warm a bit and the draft tube keeps condensation out of main part of bag.

At Scout winter camping training a guy had a home made elephant nose. Sort of a mask with short tube. I was not sure I could get to work, wouldn't it just fold in like a sock?

And some people like breather masks like these: http://coldavenger.com/.

I used to use a 3 season tent but am switching over to hammocks. The sock that goes over my hammock does increase the temp in the hammock slightly. And a winter tarp keeps wind off but is more vented than a tent. But you absolutely need good under insulation. We just did 15F, which ain't -40C. There are some guys that go that low but it gets pricey.

I've done -10F in a tent and was fine but am not sure about -40 to far into the woods. Really thins out the safety margin unless of course you work your way up to it.
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Old 02-02-2017, 08:55 AM   #9
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Everything other guys mentioned plus...

I used a Klymit insulated air mattress plus a thermarest in the winter. Just an air mattress means your body has to heat up the air as the ground is cooling it.
The Thermarest ProLite Plus (formerly the ProLite 4) is advertised as a 4-season sleeping pad but it has a remarkably low R-Value for winter use (3.4). I've never had any issues using one by itself in the winter, although I know people who have (I'm admittedly a warm sleeper).

The Klymit Insulated Static-V is a bit heavier, but it does have a more decent R-Value (4.4). It's probably the best winter pad available for the price.

If you can afford it, the Thermarest NeoAir XTherm has an even higher R-Value (5.7) and is lighter than even the ProLite Plus. If cost isn't an issue, then this is probably one of the best winter pads on the market.

A relatively cheap but generally effective solution would be to combine a Thermarest ProLite with a closed-cell foam pad.
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