Hi I've just bought a lightweight 4 season tent and want to go winter camping with it this winter. I asked my brother to come along and he's not for it. He says it will be too cold in the tent having to stay in your sleeping bag all the time, wearing gloves and a hat too. He fancies staying in a bothy, taking coal being warmer. Should I/we camp or stay in a bothy ? Is a headtorch okay for light in the tent? Any tips for winter camping much appreciated.
p.s. I do have a down & feather mix sleeping bag good to about -5C (well it was when I bought it 15yrs ago - has lost some feathers since then). My brother has a down bag to -10C. I have a 4 season Karymat. If the tent arrives this weekend I'll try sleeping in the garden (we still have snow) and check out my sleeping bag and everything else for comfort first. Also I have a simple stove - camping gas type cyclinder with valve which I screw the stove attachment into. I know these are not ideal at low temperatures, but its all I've got at the moment .
The bothy will be colder (once the fire goes out) than the tent... A compromise maybe to camp outside the bothy and use the fire in the evening.
tents can actually be quite cosy compared to the outside temp, the main thing is to make sure the floor is well insulated as thats where alot of the cold can get you when your asleep.
you can get gas canisters with a better butane mix for colder weather, just go to a good outdoor shop and they should have stock. Lots of hot drinks at night also keep you toasty, you could also put a bit of whisky in them...
Heads torch is all you need, afew candles can take the edge off the temp but you have to be very careful where you put them. night lights are a good option as they cant fall over but the bases can get hot so watch what they are sat on.
if the walk in isn't too far just take extra clothing on the first couple of trips until you know what you gear is capable of and then thin it out.
I don't worry about avoiding temptation - as I grow older, it starts avoiding me
For the gas stove if you go into tesco if i remember right they do re-usable gel hand warmer pads great for putting under gas cylinders in extreme cold.
The pads are similar to these Gel warmer
I'm knew to winter camping too, though I've been doing it in my head for quite a while. I think it's better to be safe than sorry when you're first starting. Sounds like you have the right idea by checking out your equipment first.
Actually, I tried it last year with too little equipment, and got very cold. This time I went with a sleeping bag (well quilt) that was good down to -7C. I also had a light down jacket and hood. I had a pair of thick merino socks just for sleeping in, and some thermal leggings. I started out the night with everything and being too hot. The temp was probably just above freezing, but it was an exposed, fairly windy spot, which probably took the temperature lower. I took things off through the night, but I was glad that I had more than enough while I'm learning.Oh, I was also sleeping in a bivy, not a tent. Don't know how much difference that makes.
The biggest thing to deal with was the length of the night. I was solo, it was dark at 4.30 (beginning of January), and so I was stuck with my own company for 15 hours. If I hadn't walked a hilly 18 miles and wasn't still building up my fitness, I probably would/should have kept walking into the night, which would have made the night shorter.
Although I plan to do more solo camps in the winter just for the challenge, I think that, for me at least, some company would be a better idea at this time of year. So keep twisting your brother's arm!
I agree with the ramrk of TReveor that your mat isn't sufficient. You have to upgrade it. You can upgrade it with a 3/4 sized mat though to save some weight.
About an extra Bivy bag, yes it helps if your bag is too cold but beware it doesn't help to keep your bag dry cause damp gets more trapped this way. I doubt your outershell of your bag is DWR (water reppelent).
About reflecting foils on your tent floor. I think they do someting on floor insulation because it creates an air layer between foil and tentfloor. It doens't work in places where the foil is totally pressed against the tentfloor. The reflective effect is virtually zero.
The most important two things to keep you warm are your mat and your bag. The rest is just fiddling in the margin IMHO.
About candles yes thy are nice but dangerous. I personaly sometimes use a grave candle (white standing candles in a plastic container with brass top). But I use them just for the cosyness during talking not for warmth.
You keep also warm by moving. So do not set up camp too early. Or find a spot where you can keep warm befiore you go to sleep (camping beside a bothy or in the garden of a pub....)
Thanks for all your advise. I think I'll leave candles out - I would find it too difficult to forgive myself if I damaged the tent with one. Though, I do have a flat round candle that fits inside an alluminum tube with orange windows its about 12cm long. But I seem to rember it didn't give much light, though may be enough to allow the tent to feel cosier.
I could buy a footprint with the tent which may help insulate us againt the cold.
I dont have a bivvy bag, I do have a survival bag.
Thanks for the tip about winter butane - I didn't know that and will almost defintely buy this if we go.
gel warmers - nice tip and I'll keep this in mind- thanks.
more insulation. Several of you have mentioned this and well I suspect you must be correct. So I'll have a look into these, though not sure my budget can stretch to this at the moment. Thermarest seems a make everyone likes ? If I bought one of these, would I also need my karrimat too ?
a change of clothes for sleeping in a good idea ?
thanks for all your advice, Alastair
I personally never encountered a Thremarest used by hikers which in itself alone was enough insulated for winter conditions. Ofcourse it is possible but the you must have a very warm sleepingbag. With a good mat system or 1 good mat such as an exped you still need a warm bag but just a what lesser warm than without good mat insulation.
It might be the difference for a example in 900 gramms down or 1100 gramms down bag in a certain cold.
There are Karrimats and there are Karrimats. The serious ones (4 season) are actually quite up to winter camping, based on having done it back in the days before I could even think about affording a T-rest. Not to say you can't do better, but a proper 4 season should be fine.
As to camping or bothy, take the tent and pitch next to a bothy and you can bail from one to the other if necessary, and both of you can have thir preferred accommodation.
If it's cold where you are right now (a good chance of that...) and you have a garden start by camping in that, just to give you an idea of whether your stuff is up to the mark.
Thanks everyone for your comments.
I think camping next to a bothy is a good idea.
As for sleeping mat - sounds like I might be able to get away with my 4 season Karrimat. If I understand correctly, I could use bubble wrap e.g. between Karrimat and sleeuping bag to provide additional insulation? If so that would be good as can't afford a thermarest now, though would hope to get one for a birthday present.
Yes we do have a garden so can check things out there 1st, though the bothy we are hoping to go to is Corrour near the Cairngorms and it's probably at least 5C colder there than it is in my garden just outside Aberdeen. It also has about a 10mile walkin and with snow falling for the last week would be difficult to get to.
For cheap insulation, look out for 3mm expanded polythene (yes polythene, not polystyrene), sheet, aka JiffyFoam. It's intended as a protective packaging material, but it gives very good insulation. A sheet under the groundsheet will make the entire tent floor warmer, and reduce floor condensation and protect the tent from dirt and damage.
It's light, but can be rather bulky.
You can find very thin stuff (~1mm) used to protect electrical goods; I salvaged a lot from our works recycling skip when we had a lot of large plasma screens installed recently.
Forget the bubble wrap, it's noisy sleeping and helps virtually nothing because between the bubbles there are large cold bridges...
I didn't know a karrimat 4 season, but i gather through google it's a closed cell foam mat. They do fine in wintertime if they are as thick as 2cm, However when it's colder than -5C I personaly like an extra mat, preferably a 3/4 selfinflatable with no measures like pieces of foam cut-out to lessen the weight (the ultra light thermarests do this, the standard don't)
I always slept on a 18mm closed cell foam mat, but in winter I added a 3/4 selfinflating full foam mat. It added a whopping R-value of 3,5 to my closed cell foam mat (dont know the R-value of my closed cell foam mat but I guess an R of 2, something or so).
I switched to a 3/4 Exped with an extra foldable piece of closed cell foam in the winter for my feet and under legs
thanks Captian paranoia - that sounds like a good plan and will save me , in the short term anyway,buying a footprint for the tent. JiffyFoam - is this just bubble wrap ( the protective packagaging with lots of individual air bubbles about 3mm in diameter ?
Alastair, Glas-Alt-Shiel bothy on Loch Muick near Lochnagar is a much more benign walk in, and assuming you can get to the Spittal of Glenmuick car park will probably be easier to get to from Aberdeen in any case.
It's a nice bothy, now it even has a proper toilet at the back of the hunting lodge. Only real downsides is the fire can be a bit smokey and it's a bitgloomy downstairs.
Thanks Peter, I shall think of this as a serious alternative. Only I want to visit the Cairgorms as I've never been close to Ben Macdui, The devils Point, Braereich etc, I've only ever been to Bynack More and approached it from Loch Morlich.
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