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    • Great information and advice, Paul!

      Coldest I've camped was 28 F with frost on the outside of my MSR Hubba Hubba old tent. I have a 38F reasonably good sleeping bag bought from REI ten years ago, and a silk bag liner. It's worth mentioning the actual effectiveness of degrees advertised on a sleeping bag vary wildly depending on individual's physical condition, state of rest, health, etc. They are just ballpark numbers for being able to survive - not be comfortable.. Thick wool socks, beanie and good thermal clothing. But I could not close an eye all night due to cold. It wasn't fun at all. being tired almost ruined my next day. If I knew I am going to be exposed to such camping conditions, I'd buy the best gear there is. For occasional / accidental use, I'd just follow our advice above, and suck it up with the cold best I can. But if there's an option to get a room, I would not hesitate skipping camping.

    • I am actually going to interview one of the well known execs at a camping gear company and he is going to detail a lot of specifics that get misunderstood about gear and whats its temp values really are, it'll be here soon

    • This topic interests me, as I am having a conversation with some folks about riding and camping in Death Valley in January, and to me it sounds like it may be quite cold in a tent during the nights there.

    • oh it will be, you can expects 20's to low 30's at night in january. you'll be amazed how quick the temps drop once the sun goes below the Panamint Range in the seriously prepared

    • I have camped in Death Valley and in Capital Reef in late November and the temps were frequently mid-teens at night. In South Africa it can be below freezing at night in June or July at higher elevations ( winter for them of course )

      There have been a lot of good suggestions here, but I have a couple that I haven't seen mentioned yet -

      Get a fleece or silk bag liner - they're small, not too expensive, and really will make your existing bag significantly warmer - fleece is warmer but silk sure feels nice. You can even use one of each if you so choose.

      Use a good insulated air mattress or other device to get you off the ground. Very important.

      Wear a hat and cover your head and neck with your sleeping bags hood - that's what its for!

      Lastly, don't use urine in your bag - yuck!! Do use some nice hot water heated over your campfire or stove - a hot water bottle will really warm up your bag a lot. Put them in your bag 15 minutes before retiring, and crawl into a nice warm comfy nest!

      Good safari companies put hot water bottles into your sleeping bags routinely in Africa when it is cold at night.

      Also, keep your thermos with you, inside your bag, with some nice warm liquid - hot toddy, or chicken noodle soup, to help you keep warm and comfortable through the night. Or you can eat the soup in the morning before getting out of your sleeping bag in the cold tent.

      Then you can wake up and shake all the snow off your tent before getting out of it in the morning.


    • The biggest bang for the buck I have found is to put a thin foam mat under my Big Agnes inflatable. Apparently my insulated inflatable isn’t that good. Adding a cheap foam mat adds 10–15 degrees easy. I am good to 25 degs now with my current gear. Thanks for the article. I am trying to extend my adventure riding season and getting more comfortable with sleeping outside in December is a big deal.

    • New Zealand has 2 winter motorcycle rallies, the Cold Kiwi in the North Island and the Brass Monkey in the South Island. I've done both and the temperature varies each year but the last few years I went to the Cold Kiwi it was usually around -8 Celsius at night which I think is about 17f.

      I use an Exped Downmat for my bed which has a R rating of 8 and takes up about half a saddle bag. @rtwPaul I also use an emergency thermal mylar blanket on the ground under my bed, it still seems to work and is much quieter.
      Having a good under layer made much more of a difference than putting on more top layers.

      For the sleeping bag I can't remember the brand but it's rated to something like -4 or -6C, but it rolls up huge, however given I am just on a weekend trip and not travelling RTW it's not a huge issue to throw it in a dry bag over the rear seat. Unfortunately my budget doesn't extend to $1400 for a sleeping bag.
      Combine those with wearing my thermals and a woolly hat to bed with a hot water bottle and I'm usually fairly cosy, the couple of bourbons around the bonfire probably help too.

      Don't breath into your sleeping bag thinking you will warm it up, the moisture can freeze and make you colder.