A lot of hikers, hunters and skiers often complain about being cold when sleeping outdoors. This occurs mostly in colder weather, usually in the mountains and often while sleeping in a tent. People don’t give their sleeping arrangements much thought until they are shivering in a cold sleeping bag under the stars! Than they start thinking about what they could have done differently. But a lot of people live in the cities and often are not exposed to situations where they must create a warmer environment for themselves outdoors. Here are some pointers from 40 years of snow camping in severe conditions in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
A Sleeping System
That’s right you need a system! A sleeping system consists AKSOUL sleeping pad of several items: dry expedition underwear, a warm cap, a warm-water resistant sleeping bag, a well insulated sleeping pad (s) and some type of stuff sac pillow (Thermarest™) that you can stuff your extra clothing. Put your money into your sleeping system. This is where your mental and physical energies recuperate for the next day. If you don’t sleep well, you don’t ski well.
While you can get away with a 20-degree Fahrenheit (-7 degrees Celsius) bag for hut touring, a -40 degree Fahrenheit (-40 degrees Celsius) bag is a must for winter tent and snow camping. Minus 40 deg is the only temperature where Fahrenheit and Celsius degrees are the same. Recently, the outdoor industry has come up with a way of testing sleeping bags termed the European Norm (EN™) testing system. Many outdoor companies now use independent labs to test how well sleeping bags respond to a standardized test a standardized test. The EN rating tag that comes with the bag will also recommend different bags for men and women since women typically sleep cooler than men.
Due to this new rating system the difference between one company’s -20 bag will be much closer to another firms -20 bag. Regardless, some people just sleep colder than others. If you’re the type of person who uses an electric blanket at home, buy a -20 bag! It might be heavier, but you’ll be warmer and happier in the long run. Get a long bag so that you can warm and dry your inner ski boots at the bottom of the sleeping bag while you sleep. Winter bags must have a good hood and draft tube running the length of the bag to keep out drafts. Get a bag with double zippers so you can vent your feet if you get too warm. Winter bags have a narrower cut to minimize internal convection currents, resulting in increased warmth. At the store, try the bag and see if zippers are free pulling and not snagging on excess material. Get a product with a lifetime warranty and a good return policy. A clean bag is a warm bag. Always store your down or synthetic bag in a cotton storage sack so that the bag can dry thoroughly. Follow manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. Tumble-drying a sleeping bag with a tennis shoe is an old idea and has been shown to ruin delicate down feathers in the bag. I usually take my bag out the drier and shake it to loosen up stubborn clumps of feathers.
Change Your Clothing
Avoid wearing your day clothes for sleep insulation. Whether you know it or not, your body is covered with a thin layer of sweat, no matter how dry you feel. For maximum warmth, always put on dry underwear. The first thing you should do when you get into your tent or into the hut is to change into dry socks and put on a dry hat. These items wear very little but give great comfort. They are also handy to have if someone in the group is really cold verging on the end of Hypothermia. They are just common sense. One strategy when snow camping or hut skiing is to rotate two sets of underwear and socks at bedtime (expedition- or medium-weight, depending on the season). The next morning, don’t change. The underwear just changes roles. Sleep with a polar fleece balaclava for increased warmth matched up with a polar fleece pillow cover stuffed with clothes.
A Few More Tricks
After dinner heat up some hot water and fill up a plastic water bottle. Now stick that into a sock and put it at the bottom of your sleeping bag. The sock prevents you from burning your feet on the hot bottle-because it will be hot! Your sleeping bags insulation will keep it hot for many hours and help you to get to sleep faster and stay asleep. Be sure to wear a wool-polyester stretch cap at first even if you are warm. It is easier to stay warm rather than going to sleep just comfortable and than trying to warm up after you are already cold.