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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

21 Tips on Sleeping Warm

21 Tips on Sleeping Warm
I know it's spring and I was a little behind in getting the snow shelter posts out, but after all those posts on snow shelters, I thought it a good idea to write about sleeping warm before I start in on warmer weather shelters. Sleeping warm is a key any time of the year and just because it's springtime doesn't mean it can't get cold out there.

Sleeping warm is one of the key factors that can make or break an adventure. Remember the body cools down during sleep and the blood is drawn from the extremities (feet and hands) to the center or core of the body, so proper insulation must be provided to prevent heat loss. For a good nights sleep on your next adventure, you may choose to use some or all of the tips below.

1. Keep Hydrated
Hydration is key to proper thermal regulation for the body, so keep hydrated during the day (dehydration is more common in cold weather than hot weather). But, avoid drinking lots of fluids at night so you won't have to keep getting out of your sleeping bag and dropping your temperature to go to the bathroom.

2. Use a Pee Bottle
If you must go, use a pee bottle. It's better than exposing yourself to the elements by climbing out of your shelter and dropping your temperature even more. Besides, holding it in requires your body to waste energy (i.e. calories) trying to heat up water in your bladder to 98.6 degrees.

3. Eat a Big Dinner
Eat a big dinner with lots of calories, preferably fats and proteins. During the day carbohydrates are good for quick energy but they burn up to fast to last throughout the night. Remember, calories are a unit of heat and without them the furnace won't burn hot.

4. Keep Snacks
Keep a snack with you so if you wake up cold in the middle of the night, you can replenish those lost calories.

5. Go to Bed Warm
Warm up by taking a brief hike around camp or doing some jumping jacks. If you wrap a frozen salmon in a sleeping bag, it will stay frozen because your sleeping bag is an insulator for cold or heat, just like a thermos. So go to be warm and it will insulate the warmth.

6. Select a Protected Site
If you can select a protected site out of the wind and off the valley floor and other low areas where cold air settles. A good rule is to try and be 75 feet above the valley floor.

7. Fluff Up Your Sleeping Bag
If you have one fluff up your sleeping bag with vigor to gain maximum loft before you climb in for bed. Loft creates dead air space which is were the heat is captured.

8. Insulate Yourself from the Ground
Use a good insulating pad between you and the ground. Research shows that it's more important what you have under you, then what you have over you for warmth.

9. Wear a Stocking Cap
Where a stocking cap to bed, you lose most of your heat through your head.

10. Don't Breath Inside Your Sleeping Bag
Keep your nose and mouth outside your sleeping bag. Your breath contains a lot of moisture that will reduce your sleeping bags insulating value.

11. Cover Your Mouth at Night
One of the ways we lose heat is through respiration, along with moisture loss in cold dry air. That's why you see steam coming from your mouth when you breath in cold weather and we've already pointed out how hydration is important. So, wear a balaclava or wrap a scarf around your face and you will not only prevent some dehydration, but also conserve heat.

12. Roll the Moisture Out of Your Sleeping Bag
Roll moisture out of your sleeping bag each morning (roll from foot to head). Then leave it open until it cools to air temperature and if weather permits, set it out to dry in the sun.

13. Use a Layered Sleeping System
Use a layered sleeping system (i.e. sleeping bag, liner, half bag, and bivy sack). A layered system helps to remove the frost build-up that naturally occurs when your body heat meets the cold air on the outside of the bag.

14. Avoid Overheating
Avoid overheating at night and make sure you go to bed dry. Overheating produces perspiration, so vent your bag if needed or take off your stocking cap.

15. Make Sure Your Feet Are Dry
Make sure your feet are as dry as possible before going to bed. This can be done by having a pair of dry sleeping socks or polarguard booties in your bag for sleeping only.

16. Use a Sleeping Suit
Use a sleeping suit, which is clean and dry pair of long underwear stored in your sleeping bag for sleeping only.

17. Wear Loose Fitting Clothing
Wear loose fitting clothing to bed so it doesn't restrict circulation.

18. Stay Clean
Keep your sleeping gear clean. Dirt clogs air spaces in material and reduces insulation value.

19. Use a Hot Water Bottle
Fill a water bottle with boiling water before you go to bed and then strategically place it in any cold spots. Just make sure it has a screw on lid like the Nalgene bottles (one bonus is that you have some water ready to go in the morning, instead of having to melt snow first thing). A variation is to use disposable heater packs or hand warmers if you have them (I personally like to put them in my boots so their warm in the morning when I first put them on and us the water bottle for my bag). In the old days they would take a rock from around the fire and place it in an old sock. You can still do this, but with the modern synthetic fabrics, you need to be careful not to melt everything.

20. Use a Half Bag
If you have cold feet, sleep with your feet together in a half bag or a bag that pulls up over your feet and legs (you could also use a fleece jacket or sweater), inside the sleeping bag . A half bag uses the principle of the buddy system, where the feet share heat instead of being isolated, much like mittens are warmer than gloves because the fingers are together.

21. Use the Buddy System
Speaking of the buddy system in the last one, you can actually use the buddy system. Two people spooning (i.e. lying together side by side like spoons in a drawer) are far warmer than one by themselves. It's probably the oldest method of sleeping warm and in a true survival situation shyness loses is power.

See you on the trail and sleep warm,


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