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Old 01-22-2016, 11:23 AM   #1
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Coldest night's sleep ever

Several years ago, pre-campervan, I would camp with my GF. We would take her Toyota Sienna Mini-van to the desert, the racetrack, etc. Not the best camping rig I've owned, no the worst, either. It came with a V6 and factory tow package, I added a brake controller and class III hitch, rear air bags inside the coil springs, it was a decent light duty rig. On this trip, we were flat towing my Suzuki Samurai Tin-Top behind on a towbar.

After a 6 days of December exploring Mojave National Monument, Death Valley National Park, jeep trails by day in the Sami, sleeping inside the Sienna on an airbed, cooking outside, it was time to head back to reality. Temps were a very comfortable dry 70's during the day, 40's at night in the desert. A great trip!

Heading home to the SF Bay Area, we took the scenic route, out through the west side of DV, through Lone Pine and hwy 395 north. I got tired, real tired around Monmouth Lake ski area about 11pm, pulled off to find a semi-secluded place for the night.

I checked the weather app on my phone, 19 deg predicted for the area over night. Our sleeping bags were not all that great, rated down to 35 I think, but I've slept in my bag in colder temps, on a thermorest pad on the ground in a tent. Surely the 12" thick air bed inside the van would be much more comfortable.

About 3am, I got so cold, I couldn't get back to sleep. I added more blankets to the top of our bags, started up the van and ran the heater for 10min, but our bed was just so darn cold, all I could do was cat nap for 10minute intervals, and wake up shivering. My GF was having the same problem.

After tossing and turning 'til 5:30am, her too, we decided to dress, turn on the heated seats and hit the road in search a 2 HUGE cups of coffee, breakfast, and maybe a wood stove to back up against.

During the 8hr drive back home, my brain was chewing on this puzzle "why was our bed so dam cold?" I've backpacked, goose hunted on frozen fields, camped a fair amount in winter, even storms. I couldn't figure out what I had missed.

Then it hit me, an 'ah-ha moment', upside my thick head like a frozen cod.

It was that airbed. Then air inside the airbed we were sleeping on, slowly dropped to some equalizing temperature with the air inside the van, maybe 20deg. Unlike a thermorest pad or 2" camp air mattress, our bodies don't put out enough heat to warm such a huge volume as a 12" thick, queen size, blow up air bed. The mattress side of our sleeping bags offered little insulation, since our bodies push out most of the air, and mat down the fiber fill. Lesson learned.

A few months later, I owned a 4x4 camper
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Old 01-22-2016, 11:48 AM   #2
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great story!

we discovered that air mattress issue when we still tent camped. solved it by laying an additional sleepingbag (regular ole 35 degree junker handmedown bag) down under the bag we were sleeping in and it helped a ton. we are still using an airbed in the van until we build out everything. kinda sucks, but its better than the ground.

over thanksgiving, we decided to sleep in the van and the outside temp was 15 degrees the first night, the second night was -4. we dont have any heat source inside our van yet. we had just picked up a new 0 degree bag we wanted to test out....with an easy out if it wasnt warm enough (out in front of sisters house ). getting up and out the bag at 15 degrees outside was np since the bag was so warm. however, getting out that bag at -4 was a completely different story. was funny too, cause it sounded like you were getting in and out of a doritos bag it was so cold, lol.
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Old 01-22-2016, 12:21 PM   #3
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Call me an what you want but I watched a buddy of mine do the same. That air bag got so cold on him in his tent that he had to wake are restart the fire. I told him if he's coming with me that room is premium and he can't bring a ton of blankets and extra bags.
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Old 01-22-2016, 02:51 PM   #4
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Air beds for camping sure sound great but as you say thget really cold and suck the heat fit out of you. Been there and will not do it again.

They do make air mats for camping, Big Agnes, that are insulated and comfortable to sleep on.
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Old 01-22-2016, 03:29 PM   #5
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I've had a few nights like that Tom. No fun. Air mattresses....no good.

I've heard some of the hammock guys say the same thing. You're body weight presses against that thin hammock material and with the air all around you you lose heat fast. I've always wondered what would stop it.

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Old 01-22-2016, 03:55 PM   #6
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We were camping in Moab a few years back for Thanksgiving and it got real cold. I checked the weather after we got home and the highs were in the 40s and lows of -15. I have a really nice zero degree bag and down jackets but that still didn't cut it. The absolute worse part about it was the 3am pee I always seemed to have to take. I will never forget peeing in the early morning in boxers and -15 temps. It was so cold the corks in the wine bottles were blowing out.
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Old 01-23-2016, 02:36 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 86Scotty View Post

I've heard some of the hammock guys say the same thing. You're body weight presses against that thin hammock material and with the air all around you you lose heat fast. I've always wondered what would stop it.

I toured Lassen NP when I was 16 and took a net type hammock. It basically compressed all the bags down feathering taking a -15 bag and turning it to a 40* bag. Even though I lined the hammock with an insulite pad, my feet got really cold. I got frostbite and lost any feeling below my knees for a couple of years and still have issues today. I think it would depend on the hammock design and the type of bag. Some hammocks are slightly insulated and/or are designed for holding some kind of insulating pad.
I think a air bed suffers more because the amount of cold air you have to warm up but if you have a good insulator between you and the air bed they work. I used a therm-a-rest while packing but always had a lightweight closed cell foam pad as backup or to support colder weather camping like when in snow or temps drop toward 0*.

I still laugh when I hear my buddy pumping air into that bed in the middle of the night cause it's leaking. Cruel but my espar keeps it warm inside my van and I have no want to return to tent camping. I guy I off road with also uses a tent but has a modern Therm-A-Rest and has slept on snow with no issues except hearing me complain it's too hot in the van
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Old 01-23-2016, 09:55 PM   #8
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The only good air mattresses are the Exped's and the Big Agnes style ones that internally insulated.

I've slept in -30C in open air (no tent/van/anything) using my Exped, my -30 Mountain Hardware bag and my Canadian Forces goretex bivy bag and been totally comfortable. Winter camping is an awesome experience, when you're prepared for it
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Old 01-24-2016, 11:22 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ert01 View Post
...Winter camping is an awesome experience, when you're prepared for it
Amen, brother!
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Old 01-24-2016, 11:54 AM   #10
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Except for the nose breath that condenses on your moustache and then freezes. The first time you wake up with it you feel like a popsicle grew under your nose as you slept.


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