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Got the chills?

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Well the coldest day in central Florida is upon us according to the local media. Gasp, we may hit the mid twenties and even snow flurries!So i figured it would be a good time to go over some cold weather tips that are relevant to our AO.
Right now would be a good time to put any gear and yourself to the test. Even if it is in a controlled environment , like your back yard. This way you are near the "warmth" and safety of home before running out to the woods to freeze to death!

Florida is not known for it's cold weather. However we do see temps well into the 20 and 30F range yearly. As of later for over a week now.This leads to a notion that it is "never" cold here by some. Since we are in a state that is plagued by the constant influx of "northern" folks, they seem to always be the ones who have the most issues adjusting to our ever changing climate.

Cold weather clothing.

Wet is dead. Some say cotton, I like to keep it simple. Wet is dead. Always remember this when setting up your gear( BOB,line 2 ,GHB or home kit) and your clothing choices for outdoor activities. Your 1st line of defense against the cold is the base layer. This is the wicking layer that you wear closest to your skin. In my opinion if your being active outdoors ( hunting,camping,backpacking etc) you should go with a silk weight synthetic or actual silk base layer. These can be purchased everywhere, even places like target,walmart and online.
Your next layer is your insulating layer. This layer will change per the weather. You dont want to wear a 300+ wt fleece if its only 55f out and your going trail running! Again wet is dead. You want to have either a synthetic,down or poly/fleece layer here.Last is your outer shell. This can be made of gore tex,nylon, or similar brand fabrics. This is the layer that keeps the wind,rain and snow off of you. The whole set up should look like this when set up as an example.
base layer - silk weight pants and LS shirt
insulating layer- 200/300 fleece jacket
outer shell- gore tex jacket
You can opt out now days and buy a complete 3-4 way system already made from most outdoor clothing vendors or military surplus.
Layering is key to this whole system. What is it I have said already? Wet is dead. As your activity level raises you will then peel away layers to maintain a level that keeps perspiration to a minimum.

Camping when it is cold

Besides building a fire that can heat Uranus, you can do quite a few things to stay warm once you settle in for the night when it is cold. First off, again do not underestimate mother nature. A night with temps into the 60's may very well be your coldest night if you haven't prepared for it. To have a nice "warm" nights rest you should have the following gear.
sleeping bag- This bag should be rated to at least the avg winter temp of your AO. For Florida a 20f to 30 f bag should work. I personally would lean more towards the 20f bag. The reason behind this is that a bags rating is the max comfort rating for that bag over a 4-6 hour time period while in a tent on a ground pad. That is how they obtain their "comfort" rating. My comfort is different than your comfort. Which is why i recommend going lower in the rating and to be quite honest manufacturers tend to rate lower than what their bag can handle.In other words that 30 f may only be a 40f! The bag can be of any design and weight, but chose one that fits you (yes some are sized to the user) and your outdoor applications best. I wouldn't suggest a 9 lb two person -20f bag to fit on your Bug Out Bag if you get the drift.

Ground pad/sleep pad- This is a must no matter where you will be camping. The ground will suck the warmth right out of you. This pad can be of closed cell. Which will be the cheapest and lightest or an air pad/self inflating pad. Now that i am not 18 anymore i like the thermarest brand of self inflating pads. They are well made, light weight and are pretty darn comfortable when compared to a closed cell. Both work well, but have one,either one. If not you'll freeze.

Large inflatable mattresses- You all know these ones. The king sized use an air pump to blow them up types. These will not insulate you from the ground. The cold air and ground temps will radiate up into the mattress and right into you. I suggest you use a foam pad between you and the mattress or some sort of thermal barrier under the mattress and the ground.

clothing- See it comes up again. Wet is Dead.
Before you crawl into your -65f bag to battle the 30f temps. Make sure you put on dry clothing. This doesn't have to be 2 layers of sweat pants and shorts. In reality a dry silk weight base layer,dry socks and a watch cap will help you stay alot warmer than putting on 20 layers then laying down to sleep. Doing so only traps in your body heat and doesn't allow it transfer to the bag. The bag itself is a layer of clothing. It is your "insulating" layer when you compare it to you clothing system we spoke of earlier. Make sure you change into dry clothes!

Outer shell- Yes,even your sleep system should have one. This pertains more to those camping outdoors,in small bivy tents or under a tarp. You will want a barrier between you and the elements. Just like your clothing layers this layer should keep rain,wind etc . off you and your insulating layer. These can be simple bivys made of treated nylons and similar fabrics to fully water proof gore tex ones.Make sure it is breathable either way. Trapping in moisture between this layer and your bag means a wet bag and a cold camper!

Liners/systems- some folks like to add second bags,liners or use a 3-4 part sleep system to match the season. This is a good way to match any type of weather year round. The only downfalls i see is the weight factor when using such systems for backpacking or a bug out bag. But you can tailor these systems. For example. My "cold" weather set up is. Zero F rated slumberjack bag,50+f ultra light bag and h20 proof bivy bag. In spring/early summer i run the 50f rated UL bag, the bivy. In summer i run a poncho liner and 1.5 oz ripstop nylon "blanket". The one item that doesn't change is my ground pad! Just like your clothing it is all in layers that you can shed if need be per the season.

So layer up, get out there and test yourself and your gear. Some of the best camping and outdoor activities our state has to offer can be had over the next few months. You know before its 100F out and the bugs carry you away!

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