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Old 02-07-08, 09:30 PM   #1
fox1
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Is a groundsheet really necessary?

Hey,

I'm about to go touring in Greece and Turkey, possibly. (Athens is not that cold but Turkey, well, Kayseri was -21C yesterday!)

Do you think it's really necessary to use a groundsheet when camping? Any other cold weather camping tips?

Thanks.
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Old 02-07-08, 10:52 PM   #2
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I would definitely get one and use it. It serves several purposes that come to mind: keeps moisture off of you from below. It prevents damage to your tent bottom from rocks, twigs, thorns etc. It makes your tent last longer. It keeps your tent bottom cleaner.

I'm sure there are more. Just my 2 cents.
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Old 02-07-08, 10:54 PM   #3
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Protects your tent, and provides an extra moisture barrier as well as helping with sleeping on the cold ground. Can also be used as a tarp.
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Old 02-07-08, 10:57 PM   #4
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A groundsheet just saves wear and tear on your tent floor. It's not a necessity, but I've always done it when backpacking- they're pretty light weight. Check on 6 mil poly sold for paint drop cloths.

Personally, I would be very hesitant to go cold-weather camping in some far off place without trying it at home first. The comfort ratings on sleeping bags and ground pads are highly variable and you really have no way of knowing what works until you try. It helps to try close to home, not across the world.

Check your local library or outdoor store for books on cold weather camping (may be included in snowshoeing or skiing books as well). There's lots of information out there.

The first time I tried some cold-weather camping, I had a spot in mind, hiked up to it, and found about 6" of snow on the ground. So I camped on the snow. I had two of those 1/2" foam pads plus my zero-degree (F) mummy sleeping bag. I never did get quite warm enough that night. I did discover that when sleeping on snow, if you have a lump, you can just pound it out...kind of handy that way.

I went backpacking in Guadalupe Mtns NP one time around Thanksgiving. It was coldish, but that wasn't a problem. However, at that time of year, it got dark about 6:00 or so. You can't build camp fires in the park, and it was windy up high. So you had about 12 hours where you really couldn't do anything but lay in your tent.

Consider how you'll keep water from freezing when you carry it.

Propane and similar stoves work poorly in cold weather.

Good luck and have fun with the trip.
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Old 02-08-08, 12:44 AM   #5
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To add to what Stephen said, you also don't know how your own airways are going to feel or react in really cold weather in a tent while you sleep, and a practice night out near home will help determine how you fare.

I find I have quite a lot of irritation through the nasal passages and throat the next morning after sub-zero nights in the tent. Also, be brave and let air circulate through the tent to help reduce icing on the inside -- that is, leave some flaps open to let your transpired moisture have an avenue to escape.

As to your original question, a groundsheet isn't necessary, but for all the reasons listed above and more, it's advisable to carry one.
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Old 02-08-08, 12:49 AM   #6
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Go to the experts when it comes to cold camping, Appalachian trail thru-hikers......
http://www.whiteblaze.net and enter the forum.

You can keep water from freezing by putting a bottle in your sleeping blanket. Also if you got room, keep the clothes you will be wearing the sleeping bag with you also, nice to have warm clothes when waking up.

Cover your bicycle in really cold weather, especially the seat, frost on a bike seat sucks. Also cables can actually freeze up making it hard to change gears when it's real frigid.

The worse thing about camping in cold weather is getting up in the middle of the night for a pee.... ARRRGH!!!!!!!
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Old 02-08-08, 01:00 AM   #7
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The worse thing about camping in cold weather is getting up in the middle of the night for a pee.... ARRRGH!!!!!!!
Easy if you are male -- take an empty pop bottle to bed with you! The Mountain Dew bottles with the wide top favoured by Sheldon Brown for cleaning chains can do triple duty.

As to the clothes, why not just wear them!
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Old 02-08-08, 03:08 AM   #8
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Cold weather camping is really not that difficult. There is an art, as much as a science, to the whole affair. Make sure your bag is warm enough for you - everyone's thermostat is really different. For good info on products check out REI. You can get some great deals from Northern Mountain Supply and other discount dealers, but you need to know what you want and why.

My experience - Use a ground sheet!

If you want to do extend the comfort range of any bag you can add a liner to make it warmer and wear thermal tops and bottoms and socks to bed. Also be sure and wear something on your head when you sleep, you loose a lot of heat from your head. Use the next day's clothing, if they are clean, as a pillow and put your shoes along with a water bottle in the bottom of your bag to keep everything warm.

The most important thing - STAY DRY! That means venting your tent to keep moisture from breathing from collecting on the roof and raining down on you as frost. If you want to be miserable or worse yet suffer from hypothermia then don't get wet from rain, perspiration or snow. Dress in layers and adjust by taking off or adding layers as you get warm or cold. You can really get in trouble if you allow your clothing to get soaked by perspiration and then stop to setup camp. Also, drink a lot of water - even in the cold. You loose a lot of hydration in cold dry temps. Monitor yourself all the time.

I have spent many comfortable nights in temperatures far lower than what you expect to encounter. The right gear and good planning and execution will make it enjoyable. I lived in a tent in Alaska for a month and a half - 55 to 60 below zero Fahrenheit without wind chill. I have five different sleeping bags and three different pads that can be mixed and matched to the conditions I expect to encounter. Why? Because I hate trying to sleep when I'm cold. It's so nice to crawl into a comfy down or synthetic mummy bag (warmer than rectangle bags due to head covered and less volume for your body to try and heat up) and zoning out. It is good for the soul!
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Old 02-08-08, 06:59 AM   #9
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Here is a no brainer that got me into trouble more than once with a groundsheet: Keep an eye out for the groundsheet sticking out from under the tent floor, condensation or rain can drip onto the groundsheet and drain in between the tent floor and the groundsheet, resulting in a puddle inside your tent. Best if you cut out the exact shape of your tent floor out of a sheet of polyethylene

Mostly you want a groundsheet to protect the tent floor, but a tent will last some trips without a groundsheet if you are careful were and how you set it. So it really depends how long you want to keep your tent. A new tent will keep the humitidy out without a sheet, but as soon as the waterproffing wears out you can get humidity in without it. If you want your tent around for 25 years like mine, take a groundsheet.
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Old 02-08-08, 09:03 PM   #10
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To me a groundsheet is a waste of time and money. If you buy a good tent, the bottom is designed to be moisture and puncture resistant. I've slept in my 5 year old tent hundreds of times in everything from the dessert to the rainforrest without any problems an without a ground sheet. It is just another gimmick to get your money, sort of like Nalgene bottles.
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Old 02-08-08, 09:28 PM   #11
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To me a groundsheet is a waste of time and money. If you buy a good tent, the bottom is designed to be moisture and puncture resistant. I've slept in my 5 year old tent hundreds of times in everything from the dessert to the rainforrest without any problems an without a ground sheet. It is just another gimmick to get your money, sort of like Nalgene bottles.
Except a piece of reasonably thick plastic can be obtained from a hardware shop for few dollars... and my next one will be cut from the nice thick plastic bag covering my new mattress for home... for nothing.

That's the beauty of bicycle touring -- you can as resourceful as you like in acquiring stuff. A groundsheet for next to nothing goes quite well with a tent of less quality than your obviously used to... and many of us can only afford cheap and in your estimation, nasty. I'd rather get on the road with a $150 tent and a zero-dollar groundsheet than some fancy-pants $600 tent. Especially if we aren't going to be spending hundreds of nights in five years camping out.

As to the time and motion side of things, well, 30 seconds to get the ground sheet down on boggy ground, and you can set the tent up on a dry, clean base; then break camp and wrap the crap up in the ground sheet rather than on the bottom of the tent -- you might even get away without having to wait around for quite a while as the bottom of the tent dries.

Unfortunately, you can't rip out the bottom of your tent to provide a picnic groundsheet, or to wrap around yourself in deteriorating weather, or to cover your bike, or other gear, or with opaque groundsheets, shade, or...
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Old 02-08-08, 10:46 PM   #12
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Easy if you are male -- take an empty pop bottle to bed with you! The Mountain Dew bottles with the wide top favoured by Sheldon Brown for cleaning chains can do triple dut

I don't even want to think about what the inside of your tent smells like by the end of a long tour...
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Old 02-08-08, 11:36 PM   #13
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Except a piece of reasonably thick plastic can be obtained from a hardware shop for few dollars... and my next one will be cut from the nice thick plastic bag covering my new mattress for home... for nothing.
Or just find some plastic on the side of the road, you'll see enough of it. But if it's dry, a groundsheet can still be used for things like covering your bike up so dew doesn't collect on it... Myself, I just use two large trash bags for my groundsheet which you can get for nearly nothing or free if you ask.

And like the previous poster said, using a groundsheet will allow you to fold and pack your tent without the dampness or dirt getting mixed in the bag. Easy enough to shake out a groundcloth.
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Old 02-09-08, 12:07 AM   #14
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Totally unecesarry unless the ground you are lying on is unusually abrasive or filthy. Used to be scoffed at, then they came out with all these nice fitted ones and the punters just can't bear to be without them, Kaching.

The colder the less I would be bothered. Particularly snow is very comfortable to lie on with a foam mat over the tent floor. Polarguard or other synthetic fill is also nice on cold ground because it doesn't compress as much, though it is bulky where cold weather bags are concerned.

If you were really on the verge of freezing to death you would be better off sewing your groundsheet into a bag and putting that in your sleeping bag, that is good for an extra 10 degrees.
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Old 02-09-08, 12:13 AM   #15
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I don't even want to think about what the inside of your tent smells like by the end of a long tour...
What? Good aim, and a cap on the bottle. Other than that, I don't know what you are talking about.
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Old 02-10-08, 08:29 AM   #16
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One thing I have read about and also done in a very few cold weather situations - heat up water and store it in your sleeping bag for a heat source during the night. First you MUST have a high quality, no leak, water bottle. I used to carry wide mouth Nalgene bottles while hiking, I don't carry them on bike tours. I mainly did this to comfort friends, while I was hiking in wet snow and whose cold feet wouldn't warm. Almost boil the water, pour it into the bottle, seal the top firmly, place that in a plastice bag if you have one, wrap that in a heavy shirt then thow that into the bottom of the sleeping bag, where it will be available when you crawl in. You can nestle your toes up to a heated bottle during the night. The bottle will stay warm for a good portion of the night. This is something that would not be necessary, I hope, except for rare situations. The idea of water source in your sleeping bag might be enough to keep you awake rather than asleep. Just an idea to store away in the camping repertoire. Be well - great luck.
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Old 02-10-08, 06:52 PM   #17
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I've repeatedly been told that Tyvek House Wrap makes an excellent ground cover. I personally can't wait to give it a shot with my old Walrus Arch Rival. Tyvek is cheap and easy to scrounge, makes a good moisture barrier, actually adds a very tiny amount of "cushion" to the floor, and is virtually tear proof. The Walrus is my only lightweight 2 man and has seen better days. With the numerous campfire pinhole burns, the one hoop sleeve worn through during a Moab sandstorm, and one of the two zipper pulls broken and stuck in one place, it's only a matter of time before I end up with a good 2" or longer tear in the floor.
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