Picture of Sleep Warm Anywhere
Let me emphasize something: The picture of me sleeping outside in the snow is not a good idea. I did not sleep well. But I did survive, and since then I've learned some tricks that would've kept me plenty toasty. Many of these seem like common sense when you read them, but you'd be surprised how few people think of them. I didn't, without a lot of trial and error. Here's what I learned so that you don't have to make the mistakes I did.

Keep in mind that most of these techniques assume dry weather. If it's raining or snowing, the steps are the same, but you'll have to do them inside your tent or vestibule. It is also assumed that you have a sleeping bag rated for around the same temperatures you're likely to be experiencing, but the techniques demonstrated here can give you some wiggle-room with that. Remember: being prepared is always step one.

As always, anyone see something I'm doing wrong, could be doing better, or should be doing that I'm not, let me know!

Also, with the exception of the two intro pics, they're all staged on a closed course by professionals, but rest assured that these techniques do work. Hopefully, they'll help you get a better night's sleep, and in doing so help you better enjoy the great outdoors.
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Step 1: Put on Your Fly.

Picture of Put on Your Fly.
Warm 008.jpg
This seems like a no-brainer, especially with a mesh-canopy tent like mine, but it's very, very important in frigid conditions. Not only does your fly block wind, keep in heat and keep off rain or snow, many tents are actually designed so that the fly helps prevent condensation, and a dry sleeper is a warm sleeper.
The fly also provides a vestibule, which is an extremely useful thing to have, especially in windy or rainy situations.

On the downside, it does block your view of the stars, but I can forgo marveling at the majesty of the cosmos if it means not freezing to death.
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whitepinoy5 years ago
Too many years in Boy Scouts with military leaders led me to give this explanation. When sleeping outdoors the key to staying warm isn’t so much as the pad that you use. The key is layering. The earth sets off heat all year long. No matter what the outside temperate is the earth is going to be warmer or cooler depending on the season. So what we want to do is use that temperature to regulate the heat in our bed. The best lesson that i have every received for camping was from and Master Sergeant Army Ranger who told me that when you sleep it is key to place 2 layers below you for every 1 layer on top. With this technique I have camped in -20 degrees weather and stayed toasty. And yes I only wore a hat. If you wear clothing it is more likely that you will sweet at night and not be comfortable. The other thing is not so much the bag or whether or not you wear clothing to sleep in it is whether or not you have the right size tent. If your tent is too big you will never be able to warm the air in your tent and you will be cold. But, also if you are cramming 3 men into a 2 man tent you are going to get extremely hot (I have done this thinking I would freeze on night). There is more to say but I think you get the idea.

I can attest to your statements about clothing. While in the army in Korea I slept warm and comfortable in a vinyl covered humvee (we were pre-armor) while the night time temps dipped down so cold that padlock hasps would shatter if you were too rough with them. We would get in our mummy bags, strip down to our underoos and put our clothes underneath us. This allows the bag to do what it was designed to do and reflect your body heat back to you, warming the air layer inside of the sleeping bag and keeping you warm. Wearing clothes while being in a bag will not keep you as warm and in the morning you have the warm clothes you slept on to put on, which is a morale booster.

I must disagree with something you stated - though the earth gives off heat - it absorbs it as well, as in the case of body heat. - this is well known through out the camping/outdoor world. You layer or pad the earth side first and formost - to prevent body heat absobtion. Then cover.

I do like your layering idea rule of thumb - interesting. Your Sargent knew of the absorbtion of body heat by the ground. hence he told you about layering.  ie; padding on the ground side.

- Air pads do not do as well as a foam pad for insulating you from the ground from what i found.
Bjorno -chase-3 years ago
Air is the best insulator from heat... period. IF you inflate it properly, an air pad is far superior.

You're absolutely right. The reason a huge down jacket is so warm is not because of the down, it's because the down expands and creates a large air gap. The same could be said for the military's white "mickey mouse" boots that are made for the arctic. They have a large air bladder in them to insulate you from the frigid air. If you look on them you can see the valve stem just like on a tire. I've slept on air pads at -25 f and slept quite warm with of course a down sleeping bag. Chase is welcome to his opinion but he is only partially right.

@ SheldonC1, I'm not sure where you got your facts from but likewise, you are entitled to your opinion. However you incorrect.
Air is a poor conductor. And a good insulator, true. However there are other factors you must consider. Convection being one of them.
The reason a down jacket and sleeping bag for that matter is so warm is directly due to the down and it's properties. It doesn't expand, it actually compacts. Hence, you are suppose to "fluff" down.

It properties are of hollow tube like structures. It's a poor conductor, and good insulator due to the fact it prevents convention by creating dead air space. Minute ones. The greater the air space the greater the convection.

An air mattress, like the one referred to in this post, has a large air pocket. Zero damping between cold and heat due to convention. The air inside will get cold on the bottom, hot on top and convection will result. Cooling the air inside if the area colder is greater and other factors. You need something inbetween to prevent one side from overcoming the other side and causing the temps to equalize. A dampener. Ie insulation. Which traps minute pockets of air. And is not dense. The denser the material, atoms closer together, the more conductive it is. Down is not a dense material.

Aerogel works on this same principle. So does the insulation between the walls in your house.Which by your theory, we can do away with the insulation because air is all that is needed.

If... and I'll repeat that... If you slept on a simple floaty air mattress with a simple down sleeping bag out in the open on a calm night or even in a simple nylon tent with no other heat source and no additional layers at -25F ... you'd freeze to death... quickly.

A military down sleeping bag with a - 25F rating has three layers, and consists of three bags. And the outer layer may even have a pocket for an air mattress, the kind with foam or other damping agent inside of it.

The military "bunny boots" you refer to do not use air pumped into a valve to keep you warm. The "valve" is used to release air pressure when flying due to the change in air pressure which can cause the boots to explode or burst.

The latest version type II, bunny boot (white) mickey (black) linerless bulbous boots retain warmth by sandwiching up to one inch of wool and felt insulation between two layers of rubber and are typically worn with one heavy wool sock.

Check your facts before telling these kids or anyone else to jump out there in - 25F weather with only a air mattress and down sleeping bag to protect them against the cold.

And btw, those boots you fill with air, are only rated to -20F. Toes just might get a little frosty beyond that especially if your filling yours with air, hot or not.

- chase
-chase- -chase-1 month ago
Another note while I'm at it and correction in my last post.

Correction: convection will occur more so when you have a higher temp under a cooler temp.

Additional note(s) keep in mind for a nice night out with decent temps the air mattress should do fine. But it gives you little if any protection if the ground temp drops. You may find yourself "chilly".

On hot days, you might want that effect.

Primarily what you are getting is a soft cushion to sleep on with them.

They do not have a dead air space. The air is constantly moving between the chambers as you move. Even if there were a separate valve per chamber, as you move, the air moves.

You can do what you want, but imo for severe or cold or even cooler weather. It's not I'd personally use, and I've tried them before. They get cold and stay cold. But they are comfy.

I've seen people insulate under them first, then put the air mattress and add another layer of insulation, then the sleeping bag. But that's a lot of gear to bring. You'd be better off using an insulating layer of Refectix which it's super light. Has smaller air pockets. Then on top or below it, your foam pad.

You cut your weight and boosted your R value while padding yourself from the ground.

Just my 2 cents.

Ps it's snowing outside! I love the look of the snow cover before anyone steps in it.
Looks great outside right now.
I will never ever use an inflatable matteress/pad of any kind.

I have had too many experiences where the matteress/pad sprung a leak.

Now what I use is closed cell foam for insulation between me & the ground & open cell on top of that for comfort(softness).

Closed cell foam thickness = 4 inches
open cell foam thickness = 6 inches

I forgot to mention that between the 2 foam pads, I have a piece of plastic sheeting 10mm thick.

I never ever freeze. not even in a blizzard.
Mother Natures Son (author)  SIRJAMES093 years ago
That's 10 inches of foam...and 10mm of plastic isn't a sheet, it's a slab! how do you carry all that?
on a dog sled.
seldom do I carry anything in the winter, my dogs pull the sled that carries all my gear...usually about 75 to 80 pounds of it.

that's about 250-300 pounds the dogs are pulling....that's my gear, me & the sled combined.

I have 15 mutts, all about the size of a mastiff. I say "mutts" because they are all cross breed dogs
Hope you don't mind if i jump in here for a sec... but first a quick shout to  Mother Natures Son - Hey long time since i been here - over 330 coments !!! you may be keeping warm in the winter but you sure posted one hot topic! ;0)

And you've got some real real heavy wieghts in the cold weather camping departement chiming in too! Lots of knowlege flowing here!

@ James0124 - you run dogs - may i ask what part of the country are you in with your dogs - i just watched a trail dvd and some guy from up in Alaska was running his dogs - (they followed him via camera on a two day trip) Point being - he was saying there are not that many people running dogs these days unlike what the hype has people thinking - you're a pretty rare breed  - well - from what he was saying about Alaska anyway. Perhaps there's a lot more people running dogs where you are - don't know.

Either way - @ MNS - this guy wouldfior sure know cold weather... and how to keep warm in it for sure. Lucky him though - he can pak 250-300 pounds of gear... so  James0124 if you were treking it on an overnighter with out the dogs hauling your own gear - what would you suggest?

- chase -
the last time I traveled without my dogs was over 10 years ago...
I don't run my dogs in races, my dogs are for me only. I come & go as I please, & stay out as long as I want. Since my wife passed away, I seldom stay home for any length of time...I am always headed off somewhere in the brush.

as far as going anywhere over night without my dogs, it never happens any more. if I'm going over night, the dogs will always come with me.

I can't really say how much weight I could carry for sure...I'm thinkin 40 - 45 pounds maybe....but like I said, I don't go overnight without my dogs.

I live in Maryland right along the Virginny border....there are bears around here, so that's why I do not go without my dogs.
Ahh i see... sorry to hear about your wife. My condolences.

I was thinking you were in Alaska - didn't know they had dog sleding in Maryland. Learn something new every day! ;0)

I was actually thinking you might be - if in Alaska - the same guy that did the video documentary - he wasn't racing his in the video - just taking a photographer freind of his to document the last of this town as they moved on and the town became a ghost town.

As far as recommending - i was meaning what would you recomend if you were treking with out your dogs to keep warm since you wouldn't have the dogs to carry the extra gear. It sounds like to me you have alot experience in cold weather camping. - not how much you could carry over all. Just what would you use or recommend to those of us that don't have dogs or sleds to carry our gear.

I can see if I had even a snow mobile to drag a sled - what you are using would definitly keep you warm and most importantly insulated from the ground.

and thanx for the reply for sure - i see a lot of people with more experience than i have posted and given insight to fighting the cold off. Some great ideas so far.

Most agree - the air mattress is not the answer.
again thanx
and again hello to Mother Natures Son.

Happy trails to both of you,
TY Sir.

As far as sleds in Maryland, as far as I know, I'm the only one with a sled. it's just something I enjoy doing. it is not uncommon to get some really weird looks from people when they see me. I like to be different & I march to the beat of a different drummer. I often dress like something that stepped out of the 1830's... it looks strange to the people around here, but in the winter, I never get cold.
-chase- Bjorno3 years ago
Sorry Bjorno - but you would in-correct in saying so.  the reason is....

air doesn't conduct or insulate heat or cold very well. you need a conductor. or insulator. to either retain or dispurse heat or cold. Air acts only to be heated or cooled by the conductor/insulator 

Inslulation with too much air doesn't work - though in the same token - insulation with out air doesn't work that well either. you need both. to keep it light weight and to act as a conductor / insulator of heat/cold.

there are many scientific explanations on the web about this and you will find many newer type air pads have an insulator / conductor added - they are the more costly air pads. The insulator not only helps conduct /insulate but also acts as a self inflator for the air pad when it expands - drawing air into the pad as it does so.

hope this helps you.

to prove it - grab a pool float - go lay on the snow - you'll freeze your butt off.
Add an insulator condutor to both sides -  you stay warmer - add an insulator /conductor with certain size air pockets between the conductor /insultor you'll stay even warmer or be more insulated from the cold ground/snow.

but hey don't take my word or others about this - jsut use a air pad - if we find you frozen solid in the morning - we'll all know for certain
- what you say, perhaps isn't the best way.
Maybe i wasnt clear so hopefully this helps

"The earth sets off heat all year long. No matter what the outside temperate is the earth is going to be warmer or cooler depending on the season. "

Also, that is why you use the multiple layers below you. The multiple layers below you are designed to trap the heat from you and the heat that the earth is giving off without you losing much temperature to the earth.

And as for air pads I never use them because I always get cold when using them because it takes so long for your body to heat up the air. The foam pad however heats up nicely and quickly.

Thanks for your comment Chase.
Stay Warm. :)

No problem whitepinoy - good to hear from you again.

Here's a couple good reads on this subject:

- Decreasing Heat Loss - The four routes of heat loss

- Cold Weather Camping - a surval guide

and a book on the subject here in case anyone is interested:

Amc Guide to Winter Camping: Wilderness Travel and Adventure in the Cold-Weather Months

Take care whitepinoy
and Happy trails to you - winters a coming!


Luke401 -chase-4 years ago
Although I am new to the camping field, from what I have learned from the Discovery Channel air is the best insulator. It is their main insulation for the man made ski hill in Dubai where their temperatures from what I have been able to gather range from lows of +20 to +50 Celsius/+68 to +122 Fahrenheit.

I welcome your feedback, in case you feel I have overlooked something that may change the results.
-chase- Luke4014 years ago
Luke401 -

Air can be a part of the insulator type

- Trapped air to be more specific. Small trapped air pockets - very small as in the trapped air in fiberglass insulation - which is not allowed to move yes is key - if using air in the insulator.

For more info on Thermal Insulation though very broad wiki has some info HERE

an even better discription found HERE on the use of (air)

quote - "Thus, things like fiberglass and foam board insulation work well because they interfere with the convective flow essential to that mechanism. The tiny air- or gas-filled spaces in the insulator frustrate heat flow because they greatly extend the time necessary for convective and conductive flow to occur." - end quote
Luke401 -chase-4 years ago

   Your initial post mentions an "air pad", my interpretation was something like an air mattress.  In which case the thermal insulation value of a foam mattress, which is more dense would be low and heat transfer would occur through conduction.

   With a air mattress you would have minimal heat loss (especially through the ground) due to the poor heat transfer of gasses.  You could also reduce the heat transfer cause by the material it is made from by simply have to use a sheet, blanket or my preference, a sleeping bag.

quote - "Gasses like air do no transfer heat very well because the molecules are so far apart from each other. " - end quote
-chase- Luke4014 years ago

Luke401 -

The Air mattress i mentioned - yes - i meant the air mattress type that you float on.

These do not work as well - due to the fact they do not transfer or absorb heat - including body heat - hence the vast cavity of ambient air in the air mattress remains as cold as the ambient tempature. There is no insulator or condutor to raise or lower it nor sheild your body fromm the difference in body to ground tempatures . Through some cold weather - nto as cold as the author camps in - i don't recommend the air mattress.

You would want at least an inch of insulation if not more - foam would work as the air /gas pockets are tiny. There ambient temp would rise closer to your body and be cooler closer to the ground.

Don't let the science diswade you - simply take a dollor air mattress out in the snow and try it - even during the day - it will give some relief from the ground temp and some protection and will prevent some body heat absorbstion - but the ambient tempature of the air in the matress - which if it is 20 degrees - stays about 20 degrees will lower your body temp.

Unless - you can add in a thermal insulator - it will remain so. One side would remain cold and the other next ot your body would warm due to the smaller air pockets being warmed by your body temp.
Insulating you from the ground - a solid - which would quickly not only absorb your body temp - but disperse it in such a fashion as to cause a drop in body tempature - which in cold weather - you're attempting to prevent.

Hence layering - is best. - even if the ground is hot - you would do the same.

though i'm not a scientist nor the formost authority on thermal insulation etc etc, nor can I give the full scientific explaination as to the reasons or logic behind all this - someof my experience would dictate my findings.

I'm sure there is a optimum air /gas pocket size for insulation as a ground /body insulator ie: camping. Though i don't konw it - I do hope what i present or bring to the table on this helps.

- chase -
 What I do when i go camping in the mountains i get some rocks about the size of your head. about 5 or so of those. put them on the fire for a few hours. i dont pack a tent, its to much to carry. i take a swag. dig a hole about the size of ur shoulders to your knees long. and bout a foot deep. when ur ready to go to bed get a big thick stick and roll the rocks off the fire and into the hole. refil the hole and i wack my swag on that. the rocks keep me warm and they last for hours.
Mother Natures Son (author)  hoihoi1514 years ago
What do you use to dig? I'm yet to find a shovel lighter than my tent.
I found out the hard way (at a camp in Nepal, -16 outside) that sleeping with lots of clothes on actually stops the sleeping bag from warming you up.
To add to this:
If your sleeping arrangement is warm enough, strip down to your shorts and stash your clothes in the outermost layer or even separate from your sleeping spot.
If you sleep in your clothes moisture will build up in the clothing overnight. If you are dealing with extreme temperatures you don't want to be going out into subzero temps with damp clothing. The potential for hypothermia increases drastically.

I am a fan of layers however usually when it gets cold I get into my RV and strip down rather than doing it in a sleeping bag.

Sask72 years ago
This is a terrible article and you should probably just delete it. You basically stated that one trying to survive outdoors should stay in a tent... thanks tips. I do Winter camping in Canada where air temp (without feels like/windchill/humidity factors included) can get down to -40 C (-27 F) and this is definitely the worst article on Winter survival I have ever read.
KingCodeTV Sask72 months ago

Hey Sask7, this year I would like to go on a hunting trip till I get a deer or up-to 5 days. I was wondering if sleeping above ground in a hammock solution would help. Where should I blankets/sleeping bags to stay warm in the great white north. Of course at day break I would get basics done, base camp setup, firewood gather wind blocks.etc.

Thanks, Austin.

Mother Natures Son (author)  Sask72 years ago
Well thanks for your feedback. However, I'm not going to delete it, because I have read much worse resources on cold-weather camping--a good example would be wherever you read that -40 C is equal to -27 F. Winter camping in Canada takes a lot of skill and knowledge, and having backpacked in northern Sweden and slept out in an Icelandic blizzard, I can appreciate that. However, what may be hard to remember is that not everyone comes pre-endowed with the knowledge of how to stay the night comfortably in adverse conditions. After spending a lot of time working with Californian Boy Scouts, I can tell you that things like "set your tent up properly, get dry, take a leak, dress warmly" are not concepts that are instinctive for everyone. Look through some of the comments here and I think you'll find that a lot of these basic ideas are far from intuitive for a lot of people.

Maybe these tips don't help you, but this is a guide for less advanced campers. Please bear that in mind before casting aspersions.
I did about eight years in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, finally making Eagle shortly before my 18th birthday. In eight years, I did plenty of winter camping, in Ohio, which sees a lot of snow, freezing rain, and temperatures well below freezing. Every method discussed in this article is by the book-- and not just for Scouting, but for military, as well. The only point that might merit further discussion is the clothing section, but even that has addressed various concerns to an extent far exceeding sufficiency. "The worst article." Right. If you went winter camping in Canada without the practices discussed in this article, your first night would be your last.
Beenay25 Sask72 years ago
Well... I liked the article :P
archertom11 months ago

Great suggestions and how To's thanks

gen814652 years ago
What I've found to help keep warm is to put one of those thermal "space blankets" between my ground pad and my sleeping bag. By putting it shiny side up, it reflects the body heat back on to me. Do not put it inside your sleeping bag, as too much heat reflection will cause you to sweat, and that defeats the entire purpose. The space blanket should be available at just about any place that sells sporting equipment, and may be listed as an "emergency blanket". They are reusable if folded and cared for, and when worn out, can be discarded (or used for something else) and go buy another. They're usually just a couple bucks.
the_nthian2 years ago
My personal take on staying warm? Change your socks before bed..and again in the morning.
The 'warming drink' before bed? Try Jello with half the, sweet and easy to digest.
badwooki2 years ago
a full bladder need to be kept warm and uses the heat the body could be using
strods2 years ago

The water bottle trick is a solid one. Two weeks ago I led my scout group on a survival camp with 31 degree overnight low. I filled my canteen with boiling water at night, tight lid, and threw it at the bottom of my bag as a footwarmer.
The next morning, our camp water was frozen but the water I kept in my bag was my body temp, eaisly made ito coffee. It wams you to sleep, you then keep it warm at night, and then it warms you up again.
ever use a pee bottle?
I haven't, but plenty of people have suggested it. I might try it on my next trip.
no point in giving up the warmth we've conserved half the night..just make sure the designated bottle is CLEARLY marked with tape or use one that is very different so you can feel it in the dark and not mistake it for a water bottle (need i say more?)
Any one want mountain dew?
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