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Old 13 Sep 2010
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Stopping condensation in Roof tent in the Artic?

Hi all,

I have trawled through but not really found any threads or answers to my question of stopping condensation in a roof tent in extreme cold. Sorry if this has been asked before.

We are going to the Arctic Circle next February, planning a 3 week trip to try and see the lights.

I have a Hannibal Impi, my normally practise is I leave at least 1 window open when in Europe and N afirca ( summer and winter storms), but I am wondering if at -15 with possible blizzards if this might not be too cold inside the tent?

We were planning our on trusty 15 tog down duvet but condensation has been known to soak the bedding, nightmare to dry out, especially in those expected conditions.

I was also looking at the heated blankets ( devon 4x4) to leave on during the day to keep the roof tent warm.

Any one any ideas please? Do I go for an Artic sleeping bag system with the window open or is there another way ?

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Old 13 Sep 2010
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Ah, winter camping! In my experience you've got either too much ventilation (spindrift everywhere or at best merely cold drafts) or condensation. For better or worse, condensation will freeze immediately in cold temps, so you get frost building up which then melts at first opportunity, running down the tent walls and soaking stuff before re-freezing. Sometimes it just sifts down in the form of interior snowfall whenever a breath of wind flaps the tent fabric, or it breaks loose as little chunks....and *then* melts and refreezes. Sometimes it just crystalizes directly from the air, which can be quite pretty until it starts wetting your sleeping gear.

In the olde days (tm) winter tents had frostliners, which were a third layer of very permeable cotton designed to be hung inside your tent to provide a place for frost to form. These could then be taken outside every day and shaken free of accumulated ice or dried in the sun[sic]. Under ideal circumstances moisture would pass through the frostliner and condense on the inner tent walls; the liner would prevent it from falling on occupants and their sleeping bags. Of course, ideal circumstances never really seemed to last longer than a few hours.

I haven't seen a frostliner in a long time, but maybe they're still made (?) or can be special ordered.

Personally, I've mostly given up cold weather camping. Plus I've completely cured myself of down sleeping bags--I use synthetics, which are more comfortable when damp and easier to dry out once wet. This would be worth your careful consideration.

If you're planning to go cold-weather camping for the first time, you'd best have a fallback plan in place. It's possible to get thoroughly miserable very quickly...and sometimes the consequences of simple errors can be life-threatening. At best, you need to prepare for long nights in the tent--not just popping in there for eight hours of sleep, but rather for many dark hours tentbound dealing with your cooking, reading, conversation and staring glumly at the ceiling...following which you look at the clock and realize it's not even time for bed yet! Be prepared to bail if one of you doesn't like this.

The above applies to camping in arctic or sub-arctic winter conditions, where the minus 15 you describe might qualify as perfectly fine weather, or even be considered a warm snap. I'm not sure where you're planning to go (coastal Norway will be relatively very warm, for example, while interior Alaska or Canada might easily hit minus 40).

Hope that helps.

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Old 14 Sep 2010
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I was up near Alta (northern Norway) dog-sledding in early March a few years back and believe me it can be cold at night. We were in unheated cabins and everything froze solid, so in a tent any condensation will freeze easily and not be such an issue until morning.

One bit of advice, try sleeping with something (lightly) over your nose and mouth as the severe cold air can play havoc with your lungs. We used our balaclavas which were probably too tight for comfortable sleeping, but prevented bronchitis!
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Old 26 Sep 2010
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Hi Mark and Norfolkguy,

thanks for the advice, I am going to go with a synthetic sleeping system, and live with the window open and mask....;-)

. I have heard it is only -10 on average, so not too bad, but we do need to be prepared for a "cold snap"

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Old 26 Sep 2010
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Make an inner tent from old army blankets or some such?
Anything can happen in the next half hour
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Old 27 Sep 2010
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you wont be able to stop ice forming on the inside of your tent in proper sub-zero temperatures. you sweat, and you exhale water vapour. (no more than anyone else, I'm sure).
this vapour sticks to the tent walls, and to be honest, doesn't cause too many problems unless it thaws, biggest issue being the uncomfortable trickle of ice crystals down the back of your neck when you sit up. It's all part of the Artic experience.
below -10c (which it will be if you take the central scandanavian route), you will certainly be subzero within the tent over night. It is much more uncomftable at +5c to -5c, when things are damp. below -20c, things are dry.
you could always try a tent heater.
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Old 27 Sep 2010
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Yes, -10C and below is no problem as the condensation freezes and can be brushed away, should it fall on the sleeping bag. Your breath could still be a problem as you exhale directly on top of your sleeping bag. At least impregnate your bag on top, so the humidity will land on top of the bag and then freeze.

Another solution is to take a breathable bivvybag and use it inside the tent. Its waterproof and will also enable you to use a 3 season sleeping bag.
May you enjoy peace and good health !
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Old 27 Sep 2010
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3 season bag???
get the bestest 5 season synthetic bag, inside a goretex bivvy bag, inside a tent, if you want to stand any chance of being warm at night in mid scandavia in winter.
It got down to -38c when I was on the Grottli. I had the above kit, and was cosy, but only just.

I can heartily recommend a trip to the snugpak factory (brett harris, silsden)
they have loads of kit, some 2nds, which work fine. I got a BAS (british antartic survey) surplus bag, rated to -50c. bulky, but worth it for a good nights kip.

With a really good bag, you end up with a layer of solid ice rime on the outside overnight, which easily brushes off in the morning.
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Old 4 Oct 2010
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Just curious. How do you find the quality of the hannibal products? Was thinking of getting hannibal 1.4 for those trips without the bike.

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Old 5 Dec 2010
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Roof tents


Of the big 3, I found most problems with Hannibal. See my other post re roof tents.

Happy trails,

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Tours to Morocco, Tunisia, Arctic Circle, Alps, Pyrenees, Eastern Europe, Corsica, and UK weekend tours.
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Old 10 Dec 2010
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Bou G,

The most effective way to reduce condensation in sub-freezing temperatures is to use a tent with proper chimney ventilation, i.e. a low entrance for cold air and a high exit for moisture-laden air. Dome tents are usually poor at this, tunnel tents with a low foot and high head area much better. My old Marmot Taku was excellent at minimizing condensation despite being a single-wall Gore-Tex design. Stephenson's double-wall tents are also pretty efficient at it. If you can arrange the same sort of bilevel air movement in your roof tent it will help.

Last edited by JHanson; 12 Dec 2010 at 13:17.
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Old 11 Dec 2010
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Definately put your sleeping bag in a Goretex bivvi bag.

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