If you’ll pardon the pun, how to stay warm camping is a hot topic for those of us venturing back into the cold outdoors. Fortunately, the outdoor industry has a slew of companies that make all-weather and cold-weather gear designed to kill the chill. Unfortunately, navigating that mass of gear and companies takes some effort, which is why I started Cold Outdoorsman. To “help me help you,” I’ll ask dozens of companies to provide their own tips and tricks for beating the cold. The first in this ongoing Q&A series is Teton Sports, a company that knows a thing or two about how to stay warm camping. Thanks to Shawn Parry, from Teton Sports’ Marketing/Product Development & Design team, for taking some time out to share his thoughts.
Q: Teton Sports isn’t a one-stop-shop for everything on your camping list, which seems to be somewhat of an anomaly these days. What compels you to focus on just a few product types? How do you keep your designers intrigued when they’re “playing” in just a couple of categories?
A: Great question! Being the Lead Designer and Developer and the one on social media for the company, I get motivation from talking with people about the product, their field reports, and adventures people are going on. We want to laser focus on a few lines and when we feel we have them so incredibly dialed in we’ll add new item. The company motto is “Get Outdoors and Enjoy Life,” so when designing we incorporate that into everything. We have items that are very much outside our normal product lines that we have been testing rigorously, we want to be extremely sure about their function, quality, and value to people before launching them.
Q: It seems Teton Sports’ focus on camping would make you especially attuned to the need to stay warm. When designing products, where does ‘heat’ rank in terms of overall considerations?
A: Heat (warmth / insulation), price, and weight all weigh-in as some of the first questions right after function, and is this really needed. Once we identify a product we want to produce, we look at the comfort the user will have in all facets of dealing with the product and us as well as the price to value of the product they purchase. Many of our sleeping bags now, for example, cover three areas: Canvas / hunting, family camping / luxury comfort, and technical high-end but affordable budget. We use heat as a part of comfort, and that’s what people love about our products: they are extremely comfortable — and comfort is in terms of warmth, roomy, and soft (lofty). Basically, it’s one of the top features we focus on, and that education comes as one big part of the development. We need to train people how to properly use a sleeping bag and what temperature works for what.
Q: Most consumers hate being cold, but there’s a segment with Raynaud’s syndrome that actually finds the cold painful and at times dangerous – even at temperatures many people wouldn’t consider cold. Does the Teton Sports design team ever aim for specific segments like Raynaud’s sufferers, or does it take more of a “broad swath” approach to staying warm?
A: We take more a broad swath at warmth. We actually go out in the coldest areas and times to test sleeping bags prior to the product going to market. So when we rate and build a sleeping bag, we go through that testing. We also use a CLO calculator, and from there we rate that sleeping bag based on those two options combined. From there we offer a survival rating on the product.
Q: How has Teton Sports tried to debunk the myth with its sleeping bags, sleeping pads and tents that you have to be cold if you’re outdoors? What about with your other products?
A: GREAT! The owner of TETON Sports actually started TETON Sports because he wasn’t overly excited with camping and the outdoors because the gear just wasn’t there. Since there, he started TETON to make getting outdoors in the coldest months a simple and comfortable thing. We also do tons of education on this matter. We try and teach people how ground pads help stop cold loss, and how sleeping bags keep in heat they don’t produce it. The Adventure Hub we curate has many details relating to this question. We produce videos, photos, and blog posts. One other thing: we also use #hikerchat as a tutorial basis to put all those details together.
Q: If you could buy just one Teton Sports item for warmth, where would you start? Why?
A: If you wanted to be incredibly warm in the winter, I’d point you to the Deer Hunter -35ºF sleeping bag. That’s a canvas sleeping bag. We’d also say complement that with a ground pad (foam filled). That way you’ll stay incredibly warm and will be off the ground, and padded with the foam pad, the foam will stop the cold ground from sucking all the heat out of your body. When you get into a sleeping bag you compress the bottom layer of fill; that’s where the pad comes into play as well.
Q: People who haven’t been camping in a while may not know that a sleeping bag’s temperature rating is a “survival rating,” not a “comfort rating.” What’s a good rule of thumb for determining a temperature rating for maximum comfort, especially for people who get cold easily?
A: There are a couple ways for the a user to determine the temp rating:
- EN Rating. Some, not all, sleeping bags in the market are tested with this rating, but this will give the high, low, and comfort level
- The industry norm for NON-EN rated sleeping bags they use a survival rating. It’s best to ask the manufacturer on this one, because we do the CLO calculator based on our fill, shell, and liner. That CLO calculator is based on the EN rating system called LEED comfort model. It allows us to get close to the EN rating without the testing.
Q: How much should people consider buying a really low-temp sleeping bag, versus buying a sleeping bag with a higher temperature rating but then adding a camping pad, liner or some other accessory to their list?
If you were to ask me if I had buy one sleeping bag to use all year round, or as much of the year as we can, I’d point you to a 0ºF sleeping bag with a 2″ camp pad. That’s only based on the user being in a shelter. That way you can open the sleeping bag in the summer, or keep it all warmed up in the winter (weather permitting – as you wouldn’t want to use a 0F in a -45F temp area).
Q: Does tent selection play a role in staying warm while camping? If so, how would someone determine how any given tent will keep them warmer than another? How do Teton Sports’ tents rank among the pack in terms of helping people stay warm?
A: Yes, a double-wall and single-wall play big differences. Also, the materials play a huge difference. For instance, a big wall canvas tent is warmer than a 3-season backpacking tent. A double-wall 4-season tent is different, though. Also look at the ventilation as well. A user breathes out 1 Liter of water each night. Without proper venting, then you, your sleeping bag and the tent all freeze. I’d say tent selection very much plays a big role in staying warm.
Q: Imagine someone’s avoided doing many outdoor activities for years because of fear of getting cold. What advice would you give to that person to overcome the cold and get outside again?
A: I’d give them a checklist instead of advice. I’ve had terrible nights in the cold, and I’ve had some of the best nights of my life outside in the winter. I absolutely love the idea of people getting out, so my checklist would be all the gear, foods, and regiments for staying warm.
Thanks again to Shawn from Teton Sports for sharing these insights about how to stay warm camping. Much appreciated!