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Keeping a family warm for Christmas

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  • Keeping a family warm for Christmas

    My family (wife and three kids under 5) bought an Esker 12X12 and a big stove to do winter camping up here by Lake of the Woods in Minnesota. We have dreams of doing Christmas in the hot tent. Plan is cots with closed cell foam pads and then a sleeping bag for each of us. The question is what temperature rating should I get to keep all of us warm for when the stove shuts off? Does it have to be a $1200 down sleeping bag or are there lower priced options? Are cots the best option for a large family? I would like to get to the point of being able to camp when it’s -20 degrees Fahrenheit. But we won’t do that as a family for a few years I’m sure.

  • #2
    No, you don’t need expensive down bags. I would recommend stacking two or even three bags inside each other. Borrow old sleeping bags from friends and practice in the back yard to figure it out. And then consider purchasing what you’ve determined will work. Each of my kids has a decent three season bag. For their one winter trip a year we put that inside my old sleeping bags. If the forecast is brutal cold we adjust the trip and expectations. If they end up loving winter camping as much as me then I’ll consider helping them buy their own deep winter bag.

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    • #3
      I would not break the bank for your first trip! almost all of the youth in the various groups I taught started by using multiple summer/ 3 season bags and were fine, even down to -25C (-13F) Amount of loft is more important than type of loft- it's all about the still air spaces inside and while quality goose down has the most loft per lb, there are lots of performance synthetic fills that perform almost as well at 1/4 of the cost, but both have tradeoffs, down bags are almost infinitesimally compressible, but subject to insulation loss from moisture and that compressibility means little insulation under you, while most synthetics retain more insulation under you, that means they don't pack down as well, the insulation also breaks down faster (maybe 10 years vs 50 or more for down).
      Of more importance is what's under you- a cot means having essentially a big refrigerator under you because convection currents will keep replacing any warmth with cold air, and most pads aren't sufficient to combat that chill on their own, I add a sheet of reflectix insulation UNDER my pad (add dots of silicone to both sides, that stuff is slippery) to help reflect that cold and add a little more insulation. For ultimate comfort, fold a wool blanket on top of your pad to provide 5 layers or more under you, the blanket can then be unfolded and draped over you too if you have a cold spot. cold feet can be easily combatted by putting your parka over them...
      I personally detest down because I sweat when I sleep and wet it out too fast, but to each their own.

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      • #4
        Snowbound and scoutergriz. You have confirmed what I was thinking. We are experienced 3 season campers and have plenty of sleeping bags and pads. I think all I need to add to our current sleep system is a waterproof layer and wool. Lots of wool. What are your thought on military wool blankets? I see people selling vintage 100% wool blankets on eBay for $25.

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