We’ve compiled a list of tips from what we’ve learnt over the years from our various cold weather experiences, including Artic Warfare Exercises in Norway, Chilean Mountain Warfare Course in the Andes, winter 6-month Operational Tours of Kosovo and Bosnia, and winter exercises in Latvia and Romania.
1. NEVER GET INTO YOUR SLEEPING BAG COLD If you’re feeling cold before bed go for a walk, warm up by the camp fire or do some press ups. If you go to bed cold, you’re not doing yourself any favours!
Sleeping bags reflect the heat you produce so if you aren’t producing any, they don’t work as designed. Get your heart pumping and only go to bed when you’re feeling comfortably warm. The earlier you go to bed the better as when the sun goes down and you’re static, you’ll become increasingly cold.
Your sleeping bag is most effective when you use all the drawstrings it comes with. Usually, there is one around the shoulders and one around the face. Use them to trap in warm air.
2. CLOTHING & LAYERS You’ll sweat into your clothes throughout the day, whether you feel it or not, and when up against your skin, this will keep you cold at night. At the end of the days’ activities where possible change into a dry set of kit and most importantly dry socks (extremities need protecting most). A form of wet and dry drill, this will give you the best chance of making sure your clothing provides insulation.
As mentioned in tip 1, a sleeping bag needs air and works by reflecting your body heat. If you wear all your clothes, then it won’t work as efficiently. It seems very counter-intuitive but no matter how cold it gets, don’t get into your sleeping bag wearing tons of layers. Thermal base layers to sleep in is a good rule of thumb and if you’re still struggling to stay warm maybe add a thin fleece etc.
An option is put your next days’ clothes (only if they’re dry) in the bottom of your sleeping bag. It means you’ll have warm clothing to change into in the morning.. 3. KEEP FACE OUTSIDE SLEEPING BAG You should never have your face inside the sleeping bag no matter how cold it gets as your breath will make the inside of the bag wet and ineffective. Sometimes it can be hard to sleep if your nose is out in the open and this is where a warm hat can help cover parts of your face.
4. NEVER A FULL BLADDER A full bladder makes you cold as the liquid absorbs your body heat that you’re trying to conserve. If you wake up in the night and get even a slight urge to go, then go straight away. There’s no point fighting it. You will lie there getting colder and colder before eventually giving in. Afterwards, you’ll feel glad and will likely get back into bed, warm up and wish you’d gone sooner.
5. USE YOUR WATER BOTTLE AS A HOT WATER BOTTLE If you have a metal water bottle you can fill it with hot water before bed. It will then act as a hot water bottle to keep you toasty warm. Remember to loosen the lid 10minutes after filling it up and shutting to release the pressure. Be particularly careful not to fill with 100% boiling water, and never do this with a plastic water bottle.
6. DECENT KIT A quality insulated roll matt, warm jacket and a sleeping bag is worth its weight in gold. Keeping your sleeping bag dry is priority number one and key to long term personal sustainability. A decent bivvy bag - a thin, normally GORTEX waterproof outer lining for your sleeping bag - is key. It will keep your sleeping bag dry from the outside elements such as rain, morning dew and condensation. A thick roll matt will stop a lot of your body heat being drained out into the cold ground. 7. JODIE’S BONUS TIP FOR WOMEN; ADD EXTRA INSULATION TO THE HIPS Women lose a lot of heat in their hip area. If you have an insulated jacket put it in the sleeping bag and lightly wrap it around your hip area. It makes a real difference!