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  1. #1
    Senior Member BillyBob58's Avatar
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    most miserable outdoors night in the cold?

    Okay, let me see if I can get this thread started while my sweet wife is cooking me some eggs and sausage and biscuits! Looks like we have a current record established for the max thermometer low reading (not counting windchill and multiple other variables).

    Now, how about just your most miserable outdoor experience related to being colder? Not counting breaking a leg, or being attacked by a bear, or waking up to find yourself sleeping in a whole bunch of poison ivy, or even being struck by lightning. Although, I suppose that would make a good thread in and of itself. Miserable outdoor experiences regardless of cause! But for right now, will just limited to experiences that could lead to hypothermia.

    I'll start. Old hands at Hammock Forums just skip this. ( except to post your own experiences)I have related these stories here several times before over the years so you've probably already read it more than once. But I'm going to go ahead and include it here just to get the thread started and for the newbies.

    I have had two bad cold experiences outdoors. The first one was over 25 years ago, and had it not been for venturing into hammocks I could say that I never again had a BAD cold experience trying to sleep outside. I was on a 30 day NOLS trip in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. We had already been out for three weeks starting June 3. We had been blessed for the weather for all of those weeks, with very few cold nights around maybe freezing, but no significant precipitation. Now for about a week the main thing contributing to misery were the mosquitoes. Monstrous swarms of man eating mosquitoes. I went to bed that night in the middle section of our three-man tarp. One guy sleeping to my left, another guy planning on sleeping out under the stars. The mosquitoes made it sound like the Indy 500. Thank goodness for the head net. It was drizzling rain when I went to sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I had got over to the right side of the tarp, because my face was covered with nylon. I was wondering how I had rolled over my tarp mate after he came in when the drizzling rain started. It was also very quiet, no mosquitoes buzzing. (So far so good) I quickly realized that the weight of snow had forced the tarp down so that it was laying on top of me in the middle, as well as covering the guys on my right and left. I pushed it up and I heard the snow sliding off. I was a happy man – the mosquitoes were freezing to death out there! Starting the next morning we hiked a few hours in the blowing snow. Came to the East Fork River which was raging Whitewater from all the snow melt. Rigged up our Tyrolean traverse and crossed the river. During this river crossing, some people already started getting hypothermic (slurred speech etc.) waiting around for their turn. The snow was coming down pretty hard in the wind was blowing. We got them warmed up by breaking out the stoves and making hot chocolate while encouraging everybody to do side straddle hops(worked good!). Once everybody was across, we continued our hike until about sunset, made camp. Ate a hot supper. Went to bed. I was wearing every piece of clothing I had inside my sleeping bag (everything synthetic). Despite "waterproof" stuff sacks, everything was either damp or somewhat wet (damp clothing no doubt due to sweat and condensation inside non-breathable rain gear). I had a bag of sunflower seeds open at the side my sleeping bag, which I snacked on through the night, as well as doing situps and leg lifts periodically to try to generate body heat. I literally shivered all night. Worst part of the nightmare was: I had to pee 4 times during the night. Which means I had to get out of my sleeping bag and go outside the tarp about four different times (normally I would sleep through the whole night). The last couple of times my boots, even though I had them under my head/sleeping bag hood, had frozen solid. I could only get my foot about halfway into the boots in order to slog out into the one foot plus of snow on the ground.

    My memory is dim on this last part, but I think as it got a couple of hours from dawn, I managed to quit shivering and even get some sleep. It may be that by this time my body heat had dried out all of my insulation. The recorded low that morning was 24°. This was the only night in the entire 30 days that I was cold enough to notice. I always blamed it at least partially on having an in inadequate bag. The NOLS instructors insisted that leave my -5 rated North face down bag behind. I rented a NOLS issue Slumberjack synthetic bag that weighed ~ 4 pounds, I believe it was Hollofil or Quallofil. It was probably originally rated for between zero and 10°. But after tons of use and stuffing by NOLS students, lots of washing etc. it had obviously lost a lot of its original thickness. My tarp mates did not seem to suffer as much as I did that night, and their bags looked significantly thicker to me, even though all were the same weight. Then again, considering we were three weeks into the wilderness and considering how damp or wet everything was by the end of that day, I was probably better off with the old beat up synthetic bag than with my down bag.

    I guess considering all the experiences I've had, that was my most miserable single night camping in the woods. That was June 27, 1985. Roughly a week later, I believe it was on July 4, as I was driving across the plains headed for home near the foot of the mountains, not far from where I had the cold night, it was 103°. In a little while I will (again for the newbies – nothing new here to read for the old-timers at Hammock Forums) post about my second most miserable night. Which happen over 20 years later, and this time in a hammock.


    Last edited by BillyBob58; 01-26-2011 at 10:13.
    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us....that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
    Romans 8:18,21-22

  2. #2
    Senior Member BillyBob58's Avatar
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    Here is one from JustJeff:
    Quote Originally Posted by Just Jeff View Post
    My wettest hang was '93 or '94 on Mt Yonah, sleeping in a net hammock with a normal cotton house blanket and the BDUs I was wearing as my only insulation. No tarp, and it started raining...I got so wet the water was dripping off my butt, and it was pretty cold that night. Shivering pretty hard.

    That was the 2nd coldest I'd ever been. The coldest was during some military training, making sugar cookies on the beach. (Sugar cookies are where you swim, then roll yourself around in the sand until you're coated like sugar cookies...hardcore, miserable calisthenics in the sand, and it gets everywhere.) It was March in Lake Lanier, and the water was frigid...I was still shivering after drying off and sitting in the sun for about an hour.

    But since I had been colder that first time, I realized on Mt Yonah that it wasn't as miserable as it could be...as soon as that hit me, I immediately relaxed and got some sleep. That's when I realized the value of realistic training. The harder you train, the harder you become.
    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us....that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
    Romans 8:18,21-22

  3. #3
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    8 of us out on a river for a 3 day trip, my canoe and my buddys that went down the rapids after us both flipped. End over end cartwheels!! We lost 2 coolers of food, my friends entire drybag and the other 3 found out that our drybags werent sealed properly.. All of our sleeping bags got completley soaked as well as our dry clothes. We spent the next 2 hours standing under a tarp in a thunderstorm trying to start a fire with wet lighters, wet kindling and wet wood... We paddled to the next road, thumbed a ride, got the cars and bailed.. Our only failed trip in 8 years of spring and fall group trips. Still manage to have good memories from it though

  4. #4
    Senior Member BillyBob58's Avatar
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    Okay then, how about in a hammock? (again, HF old timers skip this) Three or four years ago, I'm trying to get ready for my Wind River Mountains hiking trip in the first week of September. But I live in Mississippi and it's over 90-100° every day last week of Aug! I had just got my brand-new Hennessy hammock Explorer ultralight with super shelter. Never even laid in a hammock before! I tried to set it up a couple of times in the backyard between my only two trees which are too far apart. But I'm already sweating profusely before I even try to get in the hammock. And I'm having a lot of trouble with keeping the hammock off of the ground. Just forget about figuring out how to use the hammock much less how to use the super shelter. My one other hammock hanging friend promises me he will help me figure it all out once we get there.

    So after flying to Utah and driving some hours, I wake up the next morning in Pinedale, Wyoming (7000 elevation) and realize I have a splitting headache.(that was a sign!) Take some ibuprofen and get a big breakfast and everything seems good. We drive to the trailhead at 9600 feet and start our first days hike. We arrive at Dad's Lake after 6 or 8 miles of hiking and maybe an hour before sunset. I tried to figure out how to hang the hammock and how to set up the super shelter, with help from my friend. At least in my case, I am absolutely stupid from altitude sickness. It all just seems like a great unsolvable mystery to me. Though actually, it turns out I set the super shelter up reasonably close to how it is supposed to be set up. But I messed it up by putting pads down in the undercover, which you are not supposed to do per Hennessy. But the biggest problem was: I could not figure out how to get inside of my North face mummy bag (Cats Meow) inside of the hammock. After a long struggle, I gave up. I had the bag kind of up around my chest. I had on a hat and a fleece jacket and fleece pants. I fell asleep from exhaustion.

    Maybe about two o'clock in the morning, I woke up shivering violently. It was 22F. I turned on my headlamp and realized that somehow I had managed to rotate the hammock around the ridge line while thrashing wildly in the dark trying to get into my bag! I was partially or completely laying in the net! Worse yet, I started to get a little panicky, because I could not get out of the hammock. And I was too embarrassed to call out for help – although I would have at some point. I was so mad! So all of my under insulation is kind of up to my right side or even above me. I was absolutely freezing. And madder than heck. I was really hating hammocks at that point. Considering I had never been cold outdoors since that night 20+ years ago.

    I finally managed to get a foot through the opening of the Hennessy hammock, and get things rotated enough where I could get out. I pulled my pads out of the undercover, and walked downhill to the only very small flat space available next to the tent where my son and his friend were sleeping. They popped out of their tent and shined their headlights on me, saying they were afraid that I was a bear! I laid my pad out beside their tent on the ground, and slept out under the stars, warm enough anyway, and swearing to myself I would never sleep in a hammock again.

    But the next night we got the camp a little earlier, and I decided to try again. I was still suffering miserably from altitude sickness and now had a touch of diarrhea on top of everything else. But I figured out how to get inside my bag, and get out fast, and slept warm and Uber comfortably for the rest of the trip. Ended the trip obviously in love with hammocks. Although I did spend the rest of the trip paranoid about how that tiny tarp (which I never figured out how to pitch correctly until after the trip) was going to keep me dry in a blowing rain. But I now realize that combined with the HHSS it's actually pretty weatherproof.

    Anyway, that was my most miserable night in a hammock. Actually it was the last time I have been severely cold in hammock. Just that one night.

    Quote Originally Posted by nox2825 View Post
    8 of us out on a river for a 3 day trip, my canoe and my buddys that went down the rapids after us both flipped. End over end cartwheels!! We lost 2 coolers of food, my friends entire drybag and the other 3 found out that our drybags werent sealed properly.. All of our sleeping bags got completley soaked as well as our dry clothes. We spent the next 2 hours standing under a tarp in a thunderstorm trying to start a fire with wet lighters, wet kindling and wet wood... We paddled to the next road, thumbed a ride, got the cars and bailed.. Our only failed trip in 8 years of spring and fall group trips. Still manage to have good memories from it though

    That is worse than mine!
    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us....that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
    Romans 8:18,21-22

  5. #5
    Senior Member myles to go's Avatar
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    The most miserably night in my hammock was on a trip on the AT in Maine this past september . Three of use hiked in pouring rain(soaked to the bone) all day to a back woods campsite on the grafton loop trail and after spending a cold , wet night there we changed our plan of continuing the loop trail and opted to hike into speck pond for the next night. After a long hike In, with sunshine to warm us we set up camp, had supper and got into the hammock as the sun went behind the mountains. The wind picked up and the temps that night got down to just above freezing and I was not equipped to handle temps that low. I had only tested my gear to The 50's so this was way to low with the gear I was carring. I was wearing all clothing that was in my pack and all I was using for insulation was a DIY synthetic UQ and TQ. I slept with my head inside my topquilt all night so my breathing would help keep me warner. It was so cold that a few times in the night I warmed my hand by lighting my bic lighter inside my top quilt(crazy,I know) . I'v learned a few things from this trip so It was not a totally miserably trip.

    Night one on the Grafton loop trail in maine


    Night two at Speck pond shelter on the AT in maine
    Last edited by myles to go; 01-26-2011 at 11:34.

  6. #6
    New Member graciious's Avatar
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    Since I haven't camped over night in hammock my only experiences were with tents or the lack there of...

    In 97,98,99 I hitch hiked Canada and the US. So I have slept in tents, and woken up too cold to pack my stuff up... so cold where I walked a mile the wrong direction just so I could get feeling in my hands and feet again, then returning and packing up my gear so I could keep trying to get somewhere warm.

    One night after I left a shelter, I stopped to setup my stuff, and realized my tent had been stolen from inside my bag, in it's place... a bunch of towels from the shelter.

    I fell asleep that night under an over pass on a highway, with all of the warm clothing on wrapped in a sleeping bag that was rated for +4 (Celcius). I didn't sleep so well, and I woke up with a 10' high snow drift hanging over me. I wouldn't have been found until spring if it had fallen.

    One night in BC just leaving Vancouver and heading east I was wearing my winter coat, jeans and some running shoes... I decided to just sneak off into the bush beside the trans-Canada highway and catch a few hours sleep. I guess someone saw me sleeping on the side of the road, and thought I had been hit by a car, so they called the cops.

    The cops reduced the highway to a single lane, and I woke to Ambulance, Cops, Firetrucks and bystanders standing around on the road. Of course nobody tried to check on me (for a pulse) before all this...

    But I just wandered off without incident.

    I have slept in abandon buildings, under bridges, in abandon houses and cars, I have slept in too many homeless shelters to count and am really looking forward to getting off the ground on my first hang.

  7. #7
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    I haven't had anything like these adventures but I do know what the onset of hypothermia feels like.

    I was a teenager on a weekend ski trip with the Church group where we stayed at a Holiday Inn about 45 minutes from the ski slopes. No idea why we were so far away but it must have been for the cheaper rates.

    We had never skied before and didnt take lessons, and wore jeans. So we fell down a LOT and it must have been towards the spring because the snow was slushy in many places. My buddy and I were soaking wet by the end of the day. The older kids in the bus seat in front of us had their window open and we did not know them so we were afrid to ask them to close it. The wind blew through that window the entire ride back to the hotel and I was shivering the whole way. Tired, thirsty, hunger, wet, and cold.

    We got back and I changed to dry clothes. Not sure how far along I was but I remember feeling just awful and 'out of sorts' for a next few hours.

    I didn't even know that hypothermia existed and, it was only decades later while reading a book on winter camping that I realized what had happended.
    Love my JRB BMB

  8. #8
    Senior Member BillyBob58's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by graciious View Post
    Since I haven't camped over night in hammock my only experiences were with tents or the lack there of...

    In 97,98,99 I hitch hiked Canada and the US................................
    I have slept in abandon buildings, under bridges, in abandon houses and cars, I have slept in too many homeless shelters to count and am really looking forward to getting off the ground on my first hang.
    graciious, you may have all of us beat!
    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us....that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
    Romans 8:18,21-22

  9. #9
    Senior Member Doctari's Avatar
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    My stories aren't at night (Sorry), & NEVER in "real" cold weather for me, mostly because (I think) it's obviously cold, so I take more precautions: I eat more, stop sooner, make a larger effort to stay dry, etc.

    My 2 "Miserable" experiences were during warm(er) weather, as in it never got below 45 either time & the 2nd / worst time it didn't drop below 50 at all.

    Bad trip #1: Started with no breakfast the day before, Climbed the AT NOBO out of NOC, had a little lunch (a candy bar & some Gatorade at the 1st shelter) & 400 calories for dinner (Yep, I counted em ). AM of "The Day" candy bar for breakfast, up & on the trail by 0700, The rain started at precisely 0730, Oh well, it's only water. The plan for the day was 14 miles & as it was day 8 of my section hike, I should have knocked that out fairly easy. At mile 5 I felt like I had done 40 miles, snagged a quick lunch (Yep, a candy bar) & trudged on, going slower & slower as I went. Finally got to the turn off for Brown fork shelter & decided to take a break. As soon as I stopped I realized I was a bit chilly, so got in my dry(er) clothes & my sleeping bag. Now, when I had bought the bag 8 years before, it was rated at 32, and trust me, that rating was VERY generous! Now 8 years later, well, it helped me warm up enough to realize I was in trouble. So with a watchful eye of a lunchtime shelter mate, I lit the stove & fixed dinner, it was 1100, it had taken me 4 hrs to go 7 miles. After dinner I warmed up considerably, but realized that going back out would be stupid, so I took a nap. 2 hrs later I fixed another dinner, ate & went back to sleep. My evening meal was the rest of my food except for 3 candy bars & a pack of oatmeal for lunch & breakfast. My analysis: Due to having a inadequate rain coat & not eating enough I got Hypothermia in "warm" weather. The rest of the trip (to Newfound gap) was uneventful.

    Bad trip #2, 2 years later: Climbing NOBO out of Erwin in mid June, it had been raining all day the previous day, but I stayed mostly dry & once I got into town was able to dry my clothing at the laundromat during a 4 hr lull in the rain. Slept warm & dry all night & headed out. 30 minutes after crossing the French broad river it began to POUR the rain! "So what, it's only rain & it's still warm" BUT I learned from my last time, or so I though: I found a sheltered place & had a 2nd breakfast (my 1st was, yep you guessed it, a candy bar) of 2 packs of jerky & 3 candy bars & off I went. After all, I've already had Hypothermia so know what to look for! Right? Wrong! Again, 7 miles seemed like 40 (I still didn't get it!) I was increasingly depressed, more so than last time (No, still didn't get it!) I just knew that I had totally missed my turn to the shelter* & now I was going to die (Yep, it didn't occur to me to set up my tent* & stop.) yet I kept on going. Then I saw a sign ahead, O joy, Rapture now I'll know ow far past the shelter I am. Yea,,,, 3 more miles to the shelter, I was devastated, "Now what do I do???" I needed water & there was a spring a few yards further on the AT, so I got that, sort of a "Im at lest doing something constructive before I die!" mind set. A few yards later I saw some people camping so I said "HI" & was going to move on, after all, I HAD to make it to the shelter. The 5 of them casually surrounded me as ONE guy talked to me & kept me focused: "Do you have a tent?" says he. "Yes, but I'm going to the next shelter, it'sonly3moremiles&icanmakeit" Is what I think I said. He said "No, I think you should stop for the night, then he asked "Where is your tent & can you set your tent up?" I was proud I knew where my tent was, then realized I couldn't remember how to set it up, , , AT ALL! "can you tell us how to do it?" Yea, that I could do, so I nodded. "get your tent out & we will set it up for you" so they got my tent up & me in my sleeping bag (the one from story #1) I think they made me eat a candy bar or something, I don't know for sure, things were rapidly getting fuzzier mentally for me. Anyway, 5 minutes or 2 hrs later, I got warmed up enough to realize what had happened & that they had likely saved my life. I fixed dinner & went back to sleep. I felt a million times better by daybreak, and it had stopped raining. I was up before my saviors, but I didn't want to wake them, although I really wanted to thank them. now for the first smart thing I did: I only hike the 3 miles to the shelter, stopped & fixed a GREAT lunch, took a few naps & ate all my "reserve" food. I finally got to meet my rescue team & thanked them all! The ONE who talked to me said "Yea, you were in pretty bad shape!"

    So, those are my stories of the only weather related, truly miserable times I have had while hiking. In fact, I can't think of any time while hiking other than those two that I have had an actual bad time while hiking.

    Both of those experiences have changed my hiking! Yes, I'll hike in the rain, BUT when it starts to rain hard, regardless of the ambient temp: I stop, set up a shelter & take stock of what I need to survive this rain: Get the rain gear handy or put it on, eat something, check that all insulation is protected from the rain (in #2 the foot of my sleeping bag got just a little wet) & consider adjusting my planned hike for the day as I now know, for me at least, what I set for a goal early on, is what I will try for when Hypothermia hits, REGARDLESS of how I feel! So, making a few alternate plans means I don't need the mental agility to stop, I just go to one of my alternate stopping points & either stop, or re-group. My next bad storm, also in warm weather" I did an "easy" 17 miles in 4 "Pushes", stopping 3 times to check for signs of hypothermia & to eat & rest. One of the best days of hiking I have ever had, but conditions were no different than before, I was just finally prepared for them & did the right thing.



    *Yea, I slept in shelters & a tent back then.
    Last edited by Doctari; 01-26-2011 at 13:21.
    When you have a backpack on, no matter where you are, you’re home.
    PAIN is INEVITABLE. MISERY is OPTIONAL.

  10. #10
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    My most miserable night in the cold was 20 some odd years ago. I was a young Infantry Officer in the Canadian Army Reserve. Our Company was doing a four day patrolling exercise in January down at Fort Lewis, WA. Our enemy force was being provided by a USMC Amphibious Combat Team, with elements of Force Recon (our CO was well connected form his reg force days and had loads of friends).

    I was commanding th eadvance party and had to secure the landing zone so that the helos could land without incident. My party and I (2 Sargents, a Master Corporal, and 7 Privates) deployed about 3AM on a wet, mixed rain and snow Saturday morning to secure the LZ, and put out the marking panels. Sure enough, about 7AM, and about 10 minutes before touch down, we got bumped.

    We survived that, and the company re-organized and moved off on our extended patrol. What fun, moving cross country, full ruck, ammo, water, rats, and weapon, in close country (read through the trees, not round em), with rain, sleet, wet snow, and wind. Temp was about 1.5 Deg C.

    By 10PM we had moved about 15km and reached the patrol base on the approach to our target, Ramstein, a German Village on the Lewis training are. Our object was to slowly move two platoons into position, and hopefully around their defensive lines and into the village, all before dawn. Our H-Hour was 3AM.

    In our Patrol base we all scoffed back cold food, and tried to get some kip in, soaked through to the skin, wet boots, and nothing but a poncho and poncho liner to keep warm.

    That was fun. HUAH!

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