Author Topic: The problems of cold  (Read 1310 times)

gunwharfman

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The problems of cold
« on: 15:57:56, 11/11/19 »
I consider myself a fairly experienced hiker, for the warmer months anyway, but I encountered a problem on Remembrance day, both before and after and realised that I am a novice about colder months.

I drove up and then camped on 9th November at Chapel Farm in the Lakes. I changed my clothes to sleep in. I lay on my Neoair mattress, my sleeping quilt over me and a blanket over the top. I wore my bamboo long sleeve top and long johns (no socks) and fell asleep. At about 1.00 am I woke up feeling really cold (I didn't feel cold came through the Neoair) so I put on my synthetic Alpkit jacket. I still felt cold, just couldn't improve my situation. My feet didn't feel cold.

In the end, I thought I would transfer to sleep in my car about 20 yds away. My rear seats fold down to make an area the size of a double bed. So I took my NeoAir, quilt, and blanket into my car and fell asleep again. I awoke just after 4.45 am again feeling really cold. My feet were fine. I had a second blanket so threw that over me as well, plus my beenie and my fleece. I managed to fall asleep again. I next woke up at 6.30 am again feeling cold so as I had set my alarm clock to 6.45 am I just got up, looked at the stars, no clouds in sight, wandered onto the road and ran up and down, jumped about a bit and I warmed up.

It made me realise that I do not understand how to stay warm in really cold weather. I heard later that the temperature in that area had dropped to -5 degrees. I felt that both in the tent and in my car the cold was not coming up through my mattress, it felt as though it was a top-down kind of cold and it mostly affected my torso, my legs and feet felt OK.

So for those who do camp in the cold, any tips to offer me?

gunwharfman

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Re: The problems of cold
« Reply #1 on: 16:17:31, 11/11/19 »
Then it became daylight and at 7 am I hiked off to climb Great Gable to be on the summit at 11 am. I wore my Berghaus leather boots, with Bridgestone liner socks and Bridgestone hiking socks over them. All went well until I was halfway up to the top, then I started to experience pain around my toes and ball of the feet area. Difficult to describe but it felt as if my toes were stiff and the front area of my feet felt like they were 'burning?' I soon forgot about them because as I climbed it became colder. It was very sunny, a bit windy in places and there was some light snow everywhere. I arrived at 10.30 am and by now my feet were numb with cold, bearable but cold.

I wore my 7.99 Decathlon trousers, plus my long johns underneath worked very well and most comfortable. I wore my Marmot Precip as my wind jacket and had my Bergause underneath and by bamboo baselayer next to the skin. Again this all worked well and my torso and legs did not feel cold. My hands, once I took off my gloves, were cold within a couple of minutes but all in all, I was fine.

After The Last Post I started, with many others in front and behind me, to go back downhill. I soon noticed that my feet and ball of my feet felt like they were burning again. When I reached the stretcher at the base of Great Gable I took off my liner socks just wore my ordinary hiking socks. I felt a bit desperate, I was in so much pain. By the time I'd walked on 100yds I realised that the pain had now stopped! I have concluded that when I was walking up and then walking down the mountain the two socks were rubbing against each other and were generating a 'friction heat' between the two layers of material?

When I first started to use two socks on each foot my walks were generally on the flat or just on grassy or muddly downs footpaths, i'd never tried them out on a mountain before. Has anyone else experienced this type of 'burning sensation' before?

forgotmyoldpassword

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Re: The problems of cold
« Reply #2 on: 17:02:15, 11/11/19 »
Prevention is the best cure in this case I think.  If you were in that situation at -20C you'd probably end up being in very bad shape, so it is worth learning the lessons at a more modest temperature when it's a horrible feeling but you have a few more opportunities to make mistakes. 


Remember that when you are near fells that air will move throughout the night as cold air is more dense and will switch places with the air from the top of the peaks.  Since you lose around 7C per 1000m of height, if you're around the Scafell area you can expect a lot of that cold air moving into the valley and chilling you (so take note of mountain forecasts for that day even if you are going to be in the valley).  In order to prevent this I'd make sure not to pitch in any 'low point' in a valley where the coldest air would accumulate, you're actually going to be warmer somewhat up the side of a hill in many cases.  Also make sure you don't camp right next to water (even if it is convenient for camp chores) as the increased humidity in the air will mean you lose warmth more quickly (as heat transfers more rapidly in high humidity environments). 


Understand your gear and that once you are cold, extra clothing does rather little to actually warm you up quickly.  Insulation works by creating an 'air gap' which allows you to keep a warm layer of air around your body in order to stop you losing warmth from your skin, the clothing itself does not provide 'warmth' but it provides 'insulation' for the warmth you already have.  The distinction is that once you are already cold, extra clothing is not immediately effective because your body warmth has been depleted, so you are far better to put this on whilst you are still warm since it will slow down how fast you become cold.


In winter months you always want a stove with you - boil some water, get some sugar into you (via hot chocolate is always a fav, but effectively anything like chocolate is mint cake is good) and drinking warm fluids will be far far more effective.  Make sure it is warm and not hot, however, and alcohol to 'warm you up' is a bad idea and can be harmful, as is coffee, but if  coffee is all you have it is better than not having it.  If you're camping near your car, start the engine and run the heating for a few minutes to warm you through - ideally in winter months you will have a warm rug in the boot so pulling this out to add to your sleep system will help.  Bringing a blizzard bag is one of the best decisions you can make for minimal cost - it's a bivvy bag at around 200g which reflects the radiating heat you're losing and is far more useful than a plastic 'emergency bag', plus if you manage to fall over and injure yourself you're really going to be glad you packed it when it's freezing or below on the tops.


As to the 2nd post, it sounds like your feet were cold and you were being rubbed by the seam of the socks and not noticed until it had broken the skin?  Perhaps when you warmed them up this started the 'burning sensation'?  As for hands - you need dexterity in winter months so I'd suggest a light set of liner gloves (if it has a touch screen compatible finger, even better) and throw a set of dachsteins in your bag if you know you're going to be stopped or expect to need to warm them through.  I expect you were far from the only one at the top of Great Gable who was cold, but well done getting up there after such a bad night.

vghikers

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Re: The problems of cold
« Reply #3 on: 17:49:09, 11/11/19 »
I'm sure you know that generally speaking, other things being equal, you feel the cold more as you get older. We certainly do - a lot more.  :(

Wearing just a base layer and long johns and using a quilt, I'm not surprised you were cold (and no socks?).
Why change clothes to sleep in?. Going by our feedback, that's something novice backpackers do simply because they do it at home, they soon abandon it because it's pointless (unless they are very wet, of course).

Even in our younger hardier days in winter sleeping bags we wore at minimum a cold-weather base layer and winter weight fleece, along with Powerstretch tights and walking trousers (and our walking socks). These were the clothes we had been walking in that day, minus any shell layer. On the very coldest summit nights (around -14) we wore a lightweight down jacket on top.

What model of NeoAir was it?. If it was the standard Xlite, that wouldn't help matters, in those temperatures the Xtherm is in order. Even if you didn't directly feel cold from below, that might be just a perception and it's still a weak point in the heat retention system.

Quilts might be ok for the summer months, but in cold weather it's a bag every time and a good one at that. It ensures you are completely encased no matter how you move in the night, and insulation works better when it gently hugs the body all over. Your head should also be well insulated by the bag hood.

Our experience tells us that if you reach the point where you feel cold around the torso in the night, it's very difficult to get warm again without some input of heat, most conveniently a hot drink. Some rapid energy input could help, we always carry Dextrose lozenges for a quick boost.


fernman

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Re: The problems of cold
« Reply #4 on: 18:22:31, 11/11/19 »
Some great tips already, and I am hopeful of reading more.

FMOP, thanks for mention of the blizzard bag, something I wasn't aware of. 200g/7oz isn't too much to add to your kit.

VGH, your mention of not changing clothes is reminiscent of my younger nights spent on beaches, in parks, etc. when you slept in what you were wearing, in a cheap old sleeping bag but with the addition of an ex-army blanket wrapped around you as you were getting into it, and snug as a bug I used to be.

My down bag has ratings of Comfort -3C, Limit -10C, Extreme -28C and I sleep in baselayers plus liner socks. but on cold, still nights in the hills last September my body was only just warm enough. I could put my arm down in the bag and the fabric on my legs felt cold.

forgotmyoldpassword

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Re: The problems of cold
« Reply #5 on: 19:10:32, 11/11/19 »
Some great tips already, and I am hopeful of reading more.

FMOP, thanks for mention of the blizzard bag, something I wasn't aware of. 200g/7oz isn't too much to add to your kit.

VGH, your mention of not changing clothes is reminiscent of my younger nights spent on beaches, in parks, etc. when you slept in what you were wearing, in a cheap old sleeping bag but with the addition of an ex-army blanket wrapped around you as you were getting into it, and snug as a bug I used to be.

My down bag has ratings of Comfort -3C, Limit -10C, Extreme -28C and I sleep in baselayers plus liner socks. but on cold, still nights in the hills last September my body was only just warm enough. I could put my arm down in the bag and the fabric on my legs felt cold.


No worries, I think we all think 'oh that's useless it's a foil bag' or 'it won't happen to me', but since joining SAR (where blizzard bags are mandatory for every member of the team) they've been proven time and time again.  The most portable type come vaccum packed for emergency use so don't take up much space.


I differ somewhat on the changing clothes thing - agree there is little wrong with wearing clothes to bed, but you don't want to be going to bed in wet clothing in cold weather.  Yes, in the summer months you can 'get your body to dry it out', but all that does is degrade your down sleeping bag's efficiency through getting moisture into the baffles.   A better option would to bring 'sleep clothes' of dry long johns and thermal top to wear to bed, especially important if you've been dealing with precip during the day and need something to change in to for the night.

forgotmyoldpassword

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Re: The problems of cold
« Reply #6 on: 19:23:37, 11/11/19 »
What model of NeoAir was it?. If it was the standard Xlite, that wouldn't help matters, in those temperatures the Xtherm is in order. Even if you didn't directly feel cold from below, that might be just a perception and it's still a weak point in the heat retention system.


Good point, and from reading the OP again he was talking about losing warmth from his core but not his legs.  It's possible the inflatable pad was losing volume (since colder air is denser this will cause your mat to feel like it's sagging a bit, you want to slightly over inflate your pad before bed and may need to do this again during the night) which may mean the torso makes contact with the ground and begins to lose temperature very rapidly.  Remember how you can lose heat: evaporation (don't go to bed with wet clothing, convection (insulate yourself from the ground), convection (wear wind proof clothing and don't use mesh tents in winter which let drafts though) and radiation (insulate your body with a sleeping bag and clothing).


Xtherm is the gold standard but you don't need to drop another 120 readies for one, you can use an additional insulating mat beneath your Xlite since the insulation provided is additive. 
« Last Edit: 20:19:48, 11/11/19 by forgotmyoldpassword »

Owen

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Re: The problems of cold
« Reply #7 on: 19:41:11, 11/11/19 »
Personally I tend to take off most of my layers even when it's very cold. Then I'll have something to put on when I get out of my warm bag in the morning.


Wear a hat and try not to put your face inside your sleeping bag as your breath can make the bag moist.


For my mat in Scandinavian cold camping I use a five seasons karrimat under an old style full length thermarest.


A five seasons mat is a double thickness one 14mm.

Hillhiker1

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Re: The problems of cold
« Reply #8 on: 19:56:39, 11/11/19 »
Great thread this guys, very interesting cheers. O0  I've just ordered a couple of Blizzard bags on the back of this.


VgHiker - Interesting that you mention the cold torso thing. I was also up on GG on Sunday. Once on the summit I quickly removed my Outer fleecy coat (the zip had broken) and my next layer which was wet from perspiration. I kept my base layer shirt on and quickly donned a micro fleece and an outer Goretex, and buff. Although my comfort level increased immediately, it was probably 20 mins before I felt warmed up again.

sussamb

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Re: The problems of cold
« Reply #9 on: 21:03:05, 11/11/19 »
I carry one of these just in case, you warm up very quickly in one  O0


https://www.outdoorgb.com/p/SOL_Emergency_Bivvy/
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Slowcoach

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Re: The problems of cold
« Reply #10 on: 07:28:15, 12/11/19 »
Sussamb, have you ever had to use?
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alan de enfield

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Re: The problems of cold
« Reply #11 on: 09:28:00, 12/11/19 »
I carry one of these just in case, you warm up very quickly in one  O0


https://www.outdoorgb.com/p/SOL_Emergency_Bivvy/

I think this is not the same as the Blizzard Bag version.

That emergency bivi is only 1 mil (1/1000" of an inch) thick foil whist the blizzard bag has a triple layer construction (with air trapped in 'cells' in each layer) and has a rating similar to a 'mid-weight' sleeping bag


sussamb

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Re: The problems of cold
« Reply #12 on: 09:30:20, 12/11/19 »
Sussamb, have you ever had to use?

Only in training  :)
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sussamb

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Re: The problems of cold
« Reply #13 on: 09:31:40, 12/11/19 »
I think this is not the same as the Blizzard Bag version.

That emergency bivi is only 1 mil (1/1000" of an inch) thick foil whist the blizzard bag has a triple layer construction (with air trapped in 'cells' in each layer) and has a rating similar to a 'mid-weight' sleeping bag



No it's not, didn't mean to imply it was, sorry if I caused confusion.  Just a very handy and small sized package for emergencies.
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alan de enfield

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Re: The problems of cold
« Reply #14 on: 09:55:47, 12/11/19 »
A couple of interesting articles on choosing a 'pad'.

https://www.gearx.com/blog/knowledge/hikingcamping/how-to-choose-a-sleeping-pad/

https://www.cleverhiker.com/best-sleeping-pads

It is interesting to note that 'experts' suggest that using a double skinned tent reduces the 'non-ground' cooling effect by up to 5*C compared to just using (say) a Tarp.

Over the last few years I have started to move away from 'lightweight stuff' (eg an air mattress, tarp etc) to things that actually add to comfort albeit at the expense of weight. There is always things carried that are never used and I have actually increased comfort and the weight of some individual items but reduced the overall pack weight by several lbs.
« Last Edit: 10:05:02, 12/11/19 by alan de enfield »