Sign up FAST! Login

The 7 Stages of Cold Weather ‘Sleeping’

Stashed in: Sleep!, Outdoors, Awesome, Snow!, Out of Doors, Hiking

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

Anyone who loves camping will recognize the details of this article only too well.

This sounds like misery:

rated to 17 degrees Fahrenheit, I should be able to sleep in that bag when it’s 22 degrees at 2:30 a.m. at this desert campsite, right?

Nope. Nope nope nope. But I will try, dammit. I try everything: I stick one hand out of my sleeping bag and feel around for my beanie, pulling it inside and sticking it in my armpit to warm it before I put it on my head. I remove my down jacket from the stuff sack that is my pillow, and wrap it around my legs. I take off my down sweater and put it underneath my torso.

I know what’s going wrong here. I have brought a knife to a gunfight, metaphorically. I have also chosen to bring a comfy, two-inch-thick air pad, which, despite its synthetic insulation, holds a giant volume of air that has very likely reached a temperature of something around 30 degrees.

There are several things I could have done: Brought a hard-sided plastic water bottle and filled it with boiling water just before I turned in for the night, and then put it in my sleeping bag between my legs. I could have put on the baselayer pants that are currently sitting in the bottom of my backpack just outside the tent door. I could have brought a sleeping bag liner, or a down blanket to throw over the top of my sleeping bag. I could also spoon my friend Forest and try to leech some of his body heat. Okay, it’s not really that cold.

I’m not even shivering yet. I just can’t quite get back to sleep.

Real camping is Boy Scouts back before they invented any of these materials or ratings or super chique camping materials and equipment.

Hahaha, I kind of agree with you Bolcer! Remember those heavy canvas tents that only held off the rain long enough to pool it into a big bucketful that dumped on your head?!?!

Joyce, that sounds miserable. 

Well, here we get to the crux of the difference between campers and non-campers. For me, the whole POINT of camping is to get away from as many modern conveniences as possible and more in touch with your atavistic impulses. Then when you come back, you SUPER APPRECIATE the most basic things -- a shower, a toilet, and a hot meal appear as the miracles they actually are. It's sort of like traveling back in time.

When you do this, it doesn't always go supremely smoothly because you're a lot closer to the edge in terms of comfort, safety, and basic survivability. You find out how you (and any companions) will react when you're cold, hungry, tired, lost, sick, scared, far from a toilet, etc. I always tell people not to go backpacking if your relationship is in a rocky patch, because you just have nowhere to hide and few props to work with when you're in a pup tent eating couscous and canned tuna with your erstwhile boo.

On the upside, you learn a lot about people and especially yourself under those circumstances. And honestly you learn the most when the circumstances are the hardest. Therefore your most memorable camping trips tend to be the objectively "worst".

The Appalachian Trail in January!

Or anyone who USED to love camping.

There are people who stop loving camping?


If you are lucky enough to be able to build a camp fire and get some rocks then you can put the rocks in or right next to the fire and get them toasty, dig  down enough so you can bury either the camp fire or the rocks and then put your tent on top, the ground will be nice and warm for several hours (much longer if you get the rocks hot than just the wood.

You May Also Like: