I have a hot tent setup that I'm eager to start using. I did use the tent this fall grouse hunting, but chickened out and didn't bring the wood stove with. I hadn't had time to test out the homemade stove.
Anyway, I got cold with my summer bag (don't know the temp rating) and the Mr. Heater buddy didn't last long on the 1# cylinders.
I have a few summer weight, synthetic fill bags. I am trying to decide if it would be better to go out and buy a dedicated winter bag or put two summer bags together.
So I thought I'd just ask what other people are using? What do you use for your winter camping trips.
I'm assuming a hot tent and letting the fire die out during the night.
Another question, ground cloth, what are you using?
I have a -20 rated bag I bought from Cabelas in the late 80's. Done about a dozen winter trips in a cold tent without a problem and I'm sure it's lost a lot it's R-value over the years since they all do. I use it in spring and fall too, just unzip and it becomes more like a blanket than a SB.
I've learned the hard way, that the more critical item in winter camping is the ground mat. Even in a warm weather bag, you can wear warm dry clothing, thermal underwear, wool socks etc. but with all that, even in the best sub zero bag, you're gonna chill if you don't have a good winter ground mat under you. I'm not exactly a state of the art tech head enough to tell you what is the best, but in my own experience, I've learned that the inflatables are junk. Closed cell foam mats, even though they're bulkier, are worth the extra weight and space in you're Winter pack.
The wisdom I've been working from so far is a single sleeping bag down to a 0F rating, then doubling below that. I considered buying a -20 bag like bruceye, but was advised that putting a 0 and a 15 together would be more flexible, warmer, and in some senses cheaper given that I need those anyway. Both are down, by Marmot. The pad definitely matters, so get something with insulation, whether it be closed-cell foam or something like the Exped DownMat.
Personally, I'm a solo cold tent camper (stoves in a tent scare me...). As such, if you're willing to carry the weight a nice luxury is a wool blanket in addition to the sleeping bag. Lay it out on the tent floor like an "innie" sheet, with the pad under the blanket and sleeping bag over. Putting it between the two will make you slide around less, and sounds quieter as you move around. If you get cold at night, just flip the floor part next to you over on top of you. When you get up in the morning, flip it back onto the ground, and you have a comfy warm surface between your feet and the snow for less of a morning shock.
i consider myself a "state of the art tech head" :) and i agree with bruce that a sleeping pad/mat is very important. but not all inflatables are junk. compare the R value of an exped downmat to closed cell foam and you will see. they are also quite durable and pack down quite small versus a cumbersome roll of closed cell foam. but they are way expensive by comparison.
as far as sleeping bags go-i opted for a single winter rated -25 degree down bag but 2 bag systems can work excellent as well and might consist of a roomy summer bag over a shoulder season 15 degree bag. manufacturer temp ratings vary quite a bit and some people "sleep cold" or "sleep warm" so its hard to say what combination will work best for you. i spent a few nights in the backyard last winter testing gear out close to home.
As said before the best bags made are worthless without a good sleeping pad. I've tried almost everything for sleeping pads, just get an exped and be done with it. If you want to pinch a few pennies get the synmat. I use a 0 degree down bag with a microfleece liner and I'm good to go at any temp. Most people get cold because they are to hot and sweat into there bag and then get cold. I've found the fleece liner to really help out with that problem. I always where a lightweight balaclava and when really cold a hat also. Was never cold last year and at least 6 nights were -25 or colder.
I can't overstate this enough if you want to winter camp get a good sleeping pad before a good sleeping bag.
I agree that some people like to sleep cold, and others warm, so test whatever you use at home. I don't use a heater. I use a Thermarest self inflating pad, works like a champ. Bag is 0F. This setup works well to about 10-15F. For colder temps I have a lighter bag I use inside of it that I have slept out in 25-30 below weather. Well sort of, at that temp I woke up every 2-2.5 hours cold and had to do sit-ups to warm up and repeat every 2-2.5 hours until morning :) I survived. Really that system is only good to about -10 or so if you want a good night sleep.
The biggest problem I have not solved is that at extreme temps frost develops around the breathing hole in the bag. At -25 the weak point in whatever system you use will make itself known, count on it.
quote ZaraSp00k: "The biggest problem I have not solved is that at extreme temps frost develops around the breathing hole in the bag. At -25 the weak point in whatever system you use will make itself known, count on it."
Try placing a quick-dry synthetic camp towel over the area where frost develops (using safety pins or velcro). For me, this stops the moisture from getting into my top quilt.
"I go because it irons out the wrinkles in my soul" -- Sigurd Olson
I use a 10 degree down bag inside of a 30 degree syn bag with two foam thermorests. This seems to be good down to about -10 any colder I wear socks, long underwear and a stocking cap, toasty. I've used cheap bags rated to -20 and froze my arse off. Two quality bags that nest up just right can be realy warm but it just takes some use to figure out what your going to be comfortable in.
I think that people need to experiement with different methods and find what works for them. I do take a heated tent on many of my trips and like it as a gathering area for the group and a place to make meals and relax. I prefer to sleep in a cold tent where you don't have to worry about moisture.
Currently I am using the "Ultimate Thule" made by Wiggies as my sleeping bag. It is a dual sleeping bag system rated down to -60 ( Wiggies
It is obviously a fairly expensive bag, but worth it when you spend lots of time in the BWCA in the winter (at least I did when I bought it). What makes it work is the two bag system. One bag is a 30 degree bag and one is a 0 degree bag. They zip together to form one bag, but you could get by with stuffing two bags inside each other. The space between the two bags is a great place to dry out damp clothing while you sleep.
The second thing that you might consider adding would be the "finbar hood" ( Finbar Hood ). This allows you to keep your breathing out of the sleeping bag and prevents it from getting damp from breathing.
To me the biggest key in sleeping well at night in the winter is two fold: Go to bed dry (new long johns, top, and hat) is the first. The second is go pee when you need to. Otherwise, your body will divert heat from the core area to keep your urine warm. No mater how cold it is, get up and go pee!
I think one of the cool things about winter camping is that everyone eventually finds a system that works for them. I would agree with the warm liquids before bed, but for me I have them an hour or so before crawling into bed, so that they have time to exit the system before I crawl in to bed. But I have camped with plenty of others who do it like you. My advice is find what works and stick with it!
Heres my winter sleep system. first I use a marmot 0 degre extra wide and tall (I am 5.11 and 160 pounds) this is my outer bag. the reason I use an over sized bag is becouse A. On the inside I use a thermarest down blanket on top of me (basicaly it is half a sleeping bag). B. Also inside I use a silk bag liner. C. I store my dry clothing in the bottom and pair of down booties. d. loft is critical when you are using down. I sleep in only my thermasilk long underware. for sleeping mats I use 2 cheap closed cell foam mats 1 thick and 1 thin. this set up has kept me warm down to -37! That is as cold as it has gotten when I have been out.
things to know about my camping style. I am a hot tent camper. I use a cot. I set up my tent on the ice 90% of the time. I tend to be a very warm sleeper.
Somthing else I should mention. Before I had my system figured out. I would boil some water before going to bed. then I would fill my nalgene bottle. I would wrap the bottle up in a shirt and put the bottle in my bag before I got in. Depending on what part of me was cold through out the nite, I would keep it close to my abdoman or down by my feet. this kept me super warm all nite.Somtimes too warm! If you are ever out camping and you find your self getting up becouse you are cold. try this it works and you will sleep the nite through.
Here are the components I have used. ~ My ground cloth is a footprint from an old tent I don't use much anymore. ~ on top of that is the large closed cell Thermarest Z-lite pad ~ I may throw down a fleece over that where my feet go. ~ My bag is the Marmot CWM Membrain . I got this bag at Thrifty Outfitters at 50% off. Throw in an additional 20% coupon and a $10 birthday coupon & wallah! I could "almost" afford it! ;-) ~ Just before going to bed I boil some water and fill my water cannisters. I then remove the liners from my boots and put them in there. Then put the liners with the cannisters inside of my bag down where my feet go. This serves a double purpose. It instantly heats up my bag & I have warm boots to put on in the morning. ~ I pile up the clothing I don't sleep in by my head. Then put my goose down pillow on top of that. ~ To bed I wear my Under Armour top & bottom, wool socks, & a balaclava. ~ Like butthead, I usually put a cloth of some sort in the neck area to capture the condensation from my breath.
As previously stated, everyone needs to find their perfect system. I have used a -60 extreme cold military artic issue bag for years anytime it is around 0 or below (above and you will sweat). The bag is very heave - about 10 lbs. Always used a military closed cell pad underneath w/ 3/4" thermarest pad on top. I am making more of my own gear now, trying to customize items and save weight. This year I made a quilt (kit from Ray Jardine) and it is incredible. 2" of loft and lets you wear clothes underneath without feeling cramped. Used it on a upper teens outing with just thin long johns on and was tosty warm. I have a 20* North Face Crysalysis down bag that is about 20 yrs old. Heading to the Border Route Trail in a few weeks and will use the quilt with the NF over top and should take me below 0*. It is great wearing clothes as you are already partially dressed when you get up in the morning. The quilt approach give you plenty of room underneath - just tuck the edges under you. I use a Exped 7LW pad that has insulation - incredibly warm and comfortable pad. I put a reflective blanket down as my ground cloth to maximize heat reflection. You can also add all of your extra clothes under the pad to increase warmth. Even down to 0*, I can't put water bottles in as I get too hot, so i put them in my boots, put my socks on top and then lace up and put under my knees. This keeps the boots warm so they are easy to put on in the morning and also allows the blood circulating to my feet to pass over the heated water bottles and keep my toes warm.
Make sure you sleep with your head outside of the bag and wear a good hood - I wear my waterproof/insulated duck hunting coat hood. You don't want to breathe moisture into your bag/quilt as this will soak it and you'll get cold.
I also use a DIY Ray Jardine tarp vs tent to allow the moisture to escape - even though it is open, you say warmer since the moisture escapes vs condenses and wets your insulation. Lots of people don't believe it, but look at how much condensation is inside your tent if you have it all sealed up vs an open tarp where the moisture can escape.
Be Prepared - when that fails, adapt and overcome!
4-Part Modular Military Sleep System for bag Thin closed cell foam mat Tarp (sometimes)
I prefer as for now to sleep cold. I build a A-frame style shelter out of debris. I will sometimes add a tarp to the top under the debris depending on weather. I lay a think bedding of cedar boughs for the flooring.
This year I will be trying a warm style, building a classic lean-to shelter. Lining the inner wall with a Mylar blanket to reflect the heat from a full length fire in front. Supposedly it’s a very warm option.
We sleep with a two bag system...we each have a "summer bag" then our zero degree bag. Both our Mountain Hardwear and synthetic. Mine is a 20 degree summer, Chris' is a 35 degree summer bag. The other bags are zero degree. We use a closed foam cell pad and a thermarest on top. Seems to do the trick! :)
There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.