Step 8: Sleep Tight.

Picture of Sleep Tight.
Crawl into your cozy bag and drift to sleep in the great outdoors. Keep an eye out for signs of trouble, though--when you first get in, you'll be warm, but when your body becomes sedentary it's likely to cool down a bit before your sleeping bag warms up. If you keep getting colder, you may need to add more clothes, but don't constrict yourself. Place your hands in your armpits to keep them warm. If you're shivering and stop but are still cold, congratulations! You've got hypothermia! Get moving. Make yourself more tea and a fresh hot water bottle. Use your head. Sleeping in the cold doesn't have to be dangerous, but it's always risky. Know how to deal with these situations.

Of course, if you've followed these instructions and aren't at a polar research station, that's not likely to happen. Most likely you'll awake in the morning, refreshed, ready for a new day, and contemplating whether or not you'll survive the shock of transition from the warmth of your bag to the frigid hellscape of the tent.

I hope this has been useful. Good luck!
gshaffer13 months ago

oh, yea, have a bloody good sense of humour, laughing keeps you warmer.

gshaffer13 months ago

okay, two points from a guy that has slept cold, not be choice, in bad gear and has since been with SAR and trained for 8 years to sleep in the cold and wet comfortably. Most of it is well covered in this instructable, awesome Job!! and what he missed is covered in the comments well, but my two cents are: Firstly and as a top priority, make sure you are not losing heat by conduction. protect yourself from the ground with the most insulating products around...tree litter, wood, packs...animal, friend. This is the most important item to consider is what you are sitting/lying on. Secondly, do not over heat. Sleeping too warm will create a huge sweat that will kill you in extreme situations. Wearing an adequate warmth is a skill that only practice can help with as it is so personal. for example, I need cool feet to start, followed by warm feet for continued comfort...not easy to accomodate! thankfully I have a well trained dog that can put my socks on while I sleep.

Now, Do not assume, even with all the reading in the world, that you can go and sleep cold no problem. You must practice. practice practice. Finally, as my last and worst case scenario, Ill share with you this life long helper, If you are really cold, and there is nothing more you can do to warm up, place your nose outside the bag and your mouth inside the bag, breathe deep through your nose and exhale warm the air through your mouth, trapping the warm air in your bag. There are so many reasons this shouldn't work and could be bad, and I have no arguement with that, but it works for me. I do not feel the obvious extra condensation one would assume would build up, I do not feel as if my insides are cooling down to compensate, but I do feel warmer almost imeadiatly and I breathe deeply, which helps with sleep. To be honest, I can never really remember breathing more than a few times prior to sleep. Interestingly, the body has a completely different set of heating parameters while we sleep, so thats another blog.

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 water...hot, sweet and easy to digest.
Wool blankets work well, just sayin.
cjs12984 years ago
I my BSA troop, we put hand warmers all within the interior of the bag.
That's a fantastic idea! Hand warmers can be had for 89c at my local gas station, and they put out a good deal of heat for a solid 6+ hours.
msl4904 years ago
Best investment I ever made was a Mountain Hardware Bivy Bag, the one I have zips into the sleeping bag zippers making entry/exit easier and it adds several degrees to the bags comfort rating. My tent is a Cabelas Predator Bivy that warms pretty quickly because of the small size. I also stick to light weight long underwear and a knit cap for sleeping in. This set up keeps me warm down to about 15-20 degrees. Happy Trails!
scoutysteve4 years ago
Hi, I've been a scout leader for over 15 years & a scout before that. I agree with the use of a mat or pad to keep you off the ground. But the best advice I had when I was a mear cub scout camping out in the cold, is simply double up with another sleeping bag. One inside the other. I've never been cold at night even with snow on the ground. I've past this gem onto my scouts & we've never had any scouts of the blue smurf variety!
Another trick: Stoke the fire. Take a tablespoon or two of peanut butter or similar high calorie food before hitting the sack. I find it keeps me warmer than without.
Stoking the fire is a good idea, if you have one, bu it does require you to get out of your bag. Who doesn't love peanut butter?
 I even made song about it in my land (The netherlands) we call it pindakaas (peanutcheese) we CCCCAlled it: why did they called it peanutcheese!
 ROasted peanuts?
OH! Sorry. You meant "stoke the fire" figuratively...add calories to your internal furnace and all that. I see.
Yep! Anything high calorie will keep your metabolism working throughout the night. Granted I have no scientific proof to back this, but I do have experiential along with several friends who do a brutal mid-February trip to the northern Adirondacks each year.
Herodotus6 years ago
I have slept in underweight sleeping bags (not by choice) over the years in cold conditions and on the deck of my yacht at night during overnight passages and though I agree with your instructable, there is one other point that should be considered. I have found that people have different 'must be warm' spots on their bodies.For some people it is their head or legs for example. Mine is the small of my back and my feet. If they are warm, the rest of my body can be very cold and yet I can sleep like a log, completely unaffected by the cold bits of me. I sail solo and am currently at Panama City, Panama about to cross the Pacific to New Zealand to complete my circumnavigation. If it is very cold I tie a woollen scarf around my middle and wear sheepskin boots and thick socks. I have a down sleeping bag which is impractical to get into and out of as I have to wake up every 20 minutes in shipping lanes to stand up and slowly circle the horizon for shipping as that is the time a ship can cross the visible horizon and run you down and it is surprising how often two vessels want to occupy the same bit of huge ocean. One of the problems of wearing a lot of clothes is condensation through water loss through the skin, even in very cold weather. This eventually makes your clothing damp, even thermal gear, and must be dried out in the morning. The best layer next to your skin is natural silk (better than all the thermals I have bought) as it wicks it away better and there is not the cold inducing feeling of damp clothing later in the night and in the morning.
Mother Natures Son (author)  Herodotus6 years ago
Excellent points--it never occurred to me that different people would have different ideal areas--I just assumed it would be the part through which the most heat is lost (head) and the part to which the least warmth is supplied (feet). I don't think I've ever had the small of my back feel cold while sleeping in any conditions. I definitely agree that condensation is the worst. It's really bad when you end up with your head inside the bag, though my synthetic bag doesn't seem to have as much trouble as down does in these situations. That's why I advocate light, synthetic clothing, preferably fleece. It dries virtually instantly and is still warm. The raw silk is a good tip. I've tried all manner of thermals and never found them to be worth it. I do wear silk a lot when I'm backpacking, but had never considered sleeping in it. Good luck on your voyage. It sounds amazing, and remember: All men's gains are the fruit of venturing.
my must be warm spot is my feet and arms. if they are cold, i cant sleep, i shiver, and i am miserable.
Well, you want to try sleeping or even just lying still for a while with warm socks or fur boots and scarves wrapped around your arms while the rest of your bofy is less clad. One good trick I learned years ago in Japan is to focus your mind on the warm spot on your body - it could be your stomach for example, and then mentally move the warmth slowly towards the cold parts that feel cold. It actually works. I sometimes still do it when sitting for hours in the cockpit of my boat or the times when you are travelling and have no more blankets or a thin sleeping bag. An alternate way is to focus on the cold spots such as your feet and warm them up that way. Ciao Peter - SV Herodotus
Stealth0076 years ago
I've got the perfect solution to combining steps 6 and 7 with one exception. If you think you might have to get up and pee at night, keep a plastic bottle (with the appropriate sized opening) close by in case you have the urge. You don't have to leave a warm bed, and you have an instant hot water bottle. The exception? I would not take a drink out of the hot water bottle if you use this method.
All this info about pee bottles is fascinating, but the assumption there only works for about 50% of the population. The other half of us are heading out into the snow to perch backwards on the downhill slope because an open bucket in a tiny tent is NOT the most genius idea... ;) Other than that little detail, I love the whole Instructable -- tons of essential info, a lot of humor, well-written, and all in practical to-do order. Great job -- thanks! P.S. On the clothes v. underwear question, I have to go with the clothes side: Not only do I personally find that I stay warmer that way (sometimes even when I'm sharing a small bed in a cold room!), but of all the arguments others have given, the ones for nakedness are basically opinion/experience, whereas the ones for clothes have not only experience, but factual info, stats, and scientific reasoning -- with links to experts, even! -- to back it up (like gmoon's comment above).
Mother Natures Son (author)  gizmology6 years ago
I thought about that too, and several people...helpfully...informed me that there are accouterments on the market designed to facilitate this process. I can't vouch for their efficacy, though, lacking the necessary anatomy to ever test one out. On one of my recent trips, we had a comrade of the female persuasion with us, and her boyfriend squatted every time he answered the call of nature in a gesture of solidarity. It was...sweet, in a kind of weird way.
You can find just what you are looking at most large truck stops. There are a lot of the FAIRER SEX who drive the big rigs and you can't stop every couple hours to relieve your self and make any money. We keep one in our van, just in case.
Boat shops have these as well - or try Westmarine or Defender Industries in the U.S. for on-line purchases.
I would also like to add that I am a fan of removing clothing before getting into the sleeping bag. I might sleep in other clothes, such as thermals or sweat pants if I had them though. It's not a matter of staying warmer through the night. It's a matter of being able to put on DRY clothing the following day. Inside of your sleeping bag with you, those clothes you are wearing are going to soak up your sweat. The next day, you are going to start off with wet clothes and a pack on your back. That's a recipe for disaster. My dad taught my brother and I this from his experiences while sleeping in tents in Germany while in the Army during the Korean War era. Some soldiers in his unit would sleep in their clothes while he and some of the others would remove theirs and sleep in their long underwear. In the mornings, the other guys would be freezing in their damp clothing at muster, while my dad and the rest would feel cold, but not shivering.
That's my feeling too--though I definitely advocate light insulation, such as a synthetic vest and pants. It dries quickly but keeps you much warmer than thermals alone. A hat, however, is imperative, and warm, loose socks should not be underestimated.
mrhermanson6 years ago
In my experience, if you wrap yourself up like a grilled steak burrito with a blanket while inside your sleeping bag, you trap a significant amount of heat. This has helped me sleep through a below freezing night a number of times.
I can second this suggestion. In really cold weather, I add one or two military issue poncho liners to my sleeping bag. I have the same Big Agnes and inflatable pad that the writer of this instructable does. You can find these poncho liners an most any military surplus store. I then use the poncho as a cover for my sleeping bag or as an additional wind block for the tent. I honestly think that in a life and death situation, the combo of sleeping bag, poncho liner and poncho would help save my life without a tent. I would do whatever I could to build a windbreak out of snow or other materials, too. Also, if you can build a fire, you can heat rocks up around it (if they are available) and bury them under where you are going to sleep. This step can save your life, even without a sleeping bag (it won't be comfortable, but it can stave off hypothermia.
The other combo that I've found surprisingly effective is space blanket and campfire. Now, after relying on one of those little emergency blankets during one profoundly unpleasant night in the rain forest, I'd dismissed them as useless. But with a fire in front and a space blanket behind, you can stay amazingly warm, even in truly awful conditions.
gizmology6 years ago
Wow. I read all the comments, then I went and checked out the SheWee link, and it's quite UNNERVING. I don't know about that thing, it's a little scary. I really think I might prefer the tree, but that's just me. Some people might love that thing. AND it comes in blue AND pink. Oh, the fashion possibilities are endless... but I prefer mine in green -- that is, it's still tree for me.
mrthumbtack6 years ago
If you have a fire (tips for a fire are worth another whole instructable) you can warm up rocks and put them in your sleeping bag.
Mother Natures Son (author)  mrthumbtack6 years ago
True, but since washing sleeping bags isn't very good for them, I'd prefer to keep them clean, and part of that means not putting ashy rocks in them. Definitely a good idea in a survival situation, but water's cleaner, and has just as high of a specific heat.
Good point about the mess, but especially if it's your last night, you could wrap the rocks in a towel or your filthy first pair of socks and it seems like they'd hold the heat longer than the water would.
Mother Natures Son (author)  gizmology6 years ago
That would be expected. But! As it turns out, Granite has a volumetric heat capacity of 2.17, where as water's is 4.186. (4.186 what, I don't know...Cp, probably. Whatever that is.) As i understand it, this means that a liter of water can hold nearly twice as much heat as an equivalently sized piece of stone.
I think.
Jasskin6 years ago
You could use a sleeping bag cover. Something made of gortex or the like that goes over your whole sleeping bag and you keeps out wind. Acts as another layer also it should be big enough that condensation isn't a problem.
Mother Natures Son (author)  Jasskin6 years ago
Good idea--like a bivvy, yeah?
yeah like a bivvy cover
antennas6 years ago
Hey nice work. Sleeping without clothes in the bag is essential though to stay warm. Let the bag do it's work and keep you warm with a layer of trapped warm air. Too many clothes and the bag never gets warm ..to keep you warm. I have slept outside many times in -30 and -40 below. (no BS) Also make sure you keep your coat OUTSIDE the tent as it will get damp from your breath and be cold the next day. It only takes a few seconds to get warm when you put it on. BRRRR..Mmmmmmm.
Mother Natures Son (author)  antennas6 years ago
Again, I'm not advocating wearing a parka to bed, and certainly nothing that traps moisture, but surely a light vest won't prevent your bag from warming up? Though I can't say I've experienced the extremes of temperature you describe, I've spent a few below-zero (F) nights outside, and always been happier for an extra layer of insulation.