Winter Camping – Managing Condensation

Condensation sucks. It gets your tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and everything else wet. And wet in the winter means cold.

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The extent we go to, to dry our gear.

Unfortunately your bound to encounter condensation, and lots of it. Two people breathing in a tent all night is enough to get your gear soaked. The best thing you can do is manage the condensation your inevitably going to get, and prevent excess condensation. Moisture in the air collects on cold surfaces, such as the inside of your tent.

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How to limit condensation:

  • Venting your tent is the most effective strategy. But depending on the temperature you need to find a balance between letting too much cold air in, and not venting enough.
  • Don’t boil water or cook in your tent. Steam is water vapor.
  • Wet gear needs to be dealt with. You are pretty much faced with the choice of putting your wet stuff outside to stay frozen knowing that it will be frozen again after another day in the snow, or putting wet stuff in a dry bag and into your tent or sleeping bag to keep it warm but it will be wet. But putting it in a dry bag will keep the moisture in to keep the dry stuff in your tent dry.
  • A lot of people say don’t breath into your sleeping bag. But in reality your going to breath all night, in your bag, out of your bag, and the amount of water vapor in your breath isn’t going to change. So I wouldn’t worry about that one. And breathing into your bag is pretty minimal compared to the moisture lost from the entire surface area of your skin through sweat and transpiration.

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Two innovations I tried on our last trip:

  • A small candle lantern will keep the tent warmer, and provides nice light. The idea is that if the tent surface is warmer it will cause less water vapor to condense on the surface.
  • A sham-wow or camping towel in the overhead pocket. In our tent there is a pocket above our heads, where the condensation tends to accumulate. By putting something absorbent in the tent where the condensation builds, it will absorb the condensed moisture and keep it off your gear.

If you have a strategy or system that works for you post it in the comments. Manage your condensation, and wake up dry.

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