Log Lounging Logistics
January 3, 2015 1:47 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever slept in a hollow log? I am thinking about spending the night in a downed hollow log soon. What do I need to do to be comfortable?

Today in the woods I discovered that a fallen tree that had been suspended is now resting on the ground and is completely hollow as far back as I could see. I instantly knew that I wanted to try sleeping in there sometime this winter. The tree is about 3 1/2 feet in diameter. No creatures appear to living in it. Help me figure out how to make it my home for one night.
posted by Xurando to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds fun!

A sleeping bag and pillow you don't mind getting dirty.
posted by ian1977 at 1:56 PM on January 3, 2015

A tarp over the top of the log, covering you like a tent, will (might?) help keep you dry. As well as some kind of bottom layer, another tarp perhaps, to keep you dry from the other direction. I can't help but feel that there has to be some kind of insect at least living in the log, so some kind of insect repellent might also be a good idea.
posted by sacrifix at 2:17 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Move the log so that it offers you protection from the wind. You'll want the sides to be facing the wind or you'll be sleeping in a wind tunnel. Next, grab a torch and see how far down it actually goes, to make sure you can get enough of yourself inside it to make this worthwhile.

How much do you want this to be "sleeping comfortably, just happens to be in a log" vs "sleeping in a log with nothing between you and the elements"? A tarp, fitted up like this, low enough that it's effective at keeping the rain off, and a heavy duty sleeping bag would be a nice compromise.

Next, you'll need to be careful about the weather. What temperature is it going to fall to outside at night? You're going to need materials that will insulate your body to maintain your body temperature. That's going to be much easier at 30 degrees centigrade than it will at 0 degrees centigrade. You'll also need to ensure that these materials can withstand being inside a log and are waterproof at a minimum. If you're only going to use these materials once, maybe look for something that's second hand.

I would be inclined to take a brush with reasonably stiff bristles and give the inside a good going over, especially the bits where your face is going to be. Waking up with a mouth full of rotten wood will not be pleasant. Thinking about it more, I'd be inclined to sleep with my head sticking out of the log. There'll be less chance of something invading your mouth overnight and less chance of condensation freezing up around your face too.

Get your site set up during daylight. Things get exponentially more difficult when you can't see what you're doing. Don't turn up tired and expect this plan to go well. Have a few dummy runs to work out any kinks. Take a torch and some food/water, and maybe a cellphone too. Let someone know the exact lat/long coordinates of the log in case something goes wrong and you need help.

Make sure that there is no local wildlife that can harm you. Ants, snakes, scorpions, bears, stuff like that. It would help to know where you are.

This sounds like a really fun thing to do, and I'm jealous. Please post some pics.
posted by Solomon at 2:36 PM on January 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh my, that sounds delightful. Do be sure you'll be warm enough. Some sleeping bags are rated for particular temperatures (note: these are the temperatures above which they will keep you from freezing to death, not the temperatures above which they will keep you warm and snug). Those shakeable iron-oxidizing packets all say that you shouldn't sleep with them, because it's dangerous, but I've happily taken that risk when sleeping in the woods at this time of year. Weirdly, spicy food seems to help, even when eaten cold from the packet. Hot beverages are good, too: maybe bring a thermos of hot tea, or a tiny cheap stove -- I'm fond of the Esbit.

No creatures appear to living in it.

Sometimes when I clamber over downed trees, bugs teem, either on the surface, or within the woody pulp that gets scraped away by my hands and feet. Lately this hasn't happened to me, because it's winter (I see you are in New England). But maybe the bugs are still there, hibernating or something? And could be woken up by prolonged contact with body heat? If bugs skeeve you out or find you delicious, perhaps you'll want to deploy a tarp or heavy sheet of plastic wrap. And keep a flashlight at hand for identification purposes. (Advance research project, if you like to be prepared: what kind of tree is it? What local bugs live inside downed trees of this age? How might these bugs interact with you? Consult Wikipedia, your local librarians and/or nature specialists, etc.)

This sounds like a really fun thing to do, and I'm jealous. Please post some pics.
Hear hear!
posted by feral_goldfish at 2:44 PM on January 3, 2015

Because you don't see anything in there during the day, don't assume it isn't used by creatures at night.
posted by HuronBob at 2:53 PM on January 3, 2015 [24 favorites]

Rudy Hummel slept outdoors for a year. From a weather.com article about him: " layering was the key to staying warm: Hummel slept under a fleece liner inside a mummy bag inside two other sleeping bags, with two or three quilts over that. He'd wear up to three layers of pants and up to seven shirts."
posted by vespabelle at 3:50 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Vespabelle is right about layering. That example is a bit extreme. I've camped in the winter often, the key is DRY clothes, good sleeping bag, and make sure that the insulation under you is sufficient, wicking the cold from the ground is the quickest way to become uncomfortable....
posted by HuronBob at 3:54 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm thinking you might want to grab one of those foam ground pads and put it between you and the log for insulation. Also, +1 to insects as a concern. I've slept on the ground plenty, but sleeping in a hollow log seems one step closer to "beetles walking across my face all night." I suppose it depends on the wood, the location, its state of decay, etc. Let us know how it goes!
posted by salvia at 4:46 PM on January 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I will not be able to do this until next weekend. I'm in Vermont in midwinter so bugs are not a problem. My only concerns are body comfort and claustrophobia. Look for pics next week.
posted by Xurando at 6:04 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would suggest a good warm fleece hat or two to keep your noggin warm, and a thermos bottle of something warm (that will not freeze) to keep your warm, the air will be very dry and it can dehydrate you very fast.
posted by nickggully at 6:12 PM on January 3, 2015

One last thing... You'll be better off if the temp is below freezing... above 32 degrees brings dampness, much harder to stay warm....
posted by HuronBob at 6:54 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Besides the whole hat and layering thing, and the hot water bottle, another winter camping trick is to eat something right before bed that makes you hot so that you fall asleep. Wherever I heard this recommended chocolate, but the caffeine gets me, so I use one of those teas that gets your heat up (ginger being best known in the category but chamomile impacting me more).

But speaking of pre-bedtime diuretics, do you have any concerns about getting up in the middle of the night? Is this tree tricky to climb in and out of? Do you have a picture you could share?
posted by salvia at 9:36 PM on January 3, 2015

I'm an experienced wilderness backpacker and less experienced expedition kayaker. I'm from the East Coast and know Vermont winters.

I would not do this for fear of freezing to death. Freezing to death feels like being sleepy. I would not do it, even with what I thought was the right gear.

posted by jbenben at 11:47 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is awesome and I want to find this log and also sleep in it.

Just some thoughts, based on many years winter backpacking in New Hampshire:

First, be smart from the very beginning...

You won't die if you're smart. You'll wake up cold before you freeze to death. I slept in a tent once at -22 in a 5 degree bag and didn't die. This was in New Hampshire in the winter. I also slept in a snow trench covered with a tarp, also in NH. I slept in a tent in the winter more times than I can remember, never with a bag rated lower than 5 degrees F. I am alive and still have all my digits.

Be smart.

Some would argue that there is no "smart" way to sleep out in the winter. I guess there is no smart way to ride a motorcycle, fly an airplane, surf, spend 40 years sitting in a chair in an office cubicle, or do anything that has even the slightest chance of killing you before you die in your sleep at 110 years old.

It will be warmer if the log is covered with a foot or so of snow to help insulate you.

You'll want a good winter bag, or at least one rated for zero degrees. You can rent these, along with sleeping pads.

You'll want insulation under you, at least a standard therma-rest (about 1 1/2 inches of foam), preferably this and another 1/2 inch of closed cell foam. You'll want plenty of loft in your sleeping bag. Down is best but you have to keep it dry. Your body moisture and heat will dampen it a bit over night but not enough to totally ruin its effectiveness. Down is fine for an overnight in New England. Keep it dry. Synthetic is fine too, especially if you don't have to carry it as far, but doesn't have as much insulation per inch of loft as down.

I would probably put a tarp down under you.

Boil two quarts of water before you go to bed. Nalgean are best. Keep these in a sock so you don't burn yourself. Put them in your sleeping bag to help keep you warm. Drink them during the night if you need to.

Keep hydrated. Yes, this will mean needing to pee during the night. You can either suck it up, get out of your bag to pee, or keep another empty Nalgean bottle in your bag. This is to pee in. Don't mix it with the other bottles.

Before you go to bed make sure you know where you're gonna pee in the middle of the night. Make a path so you don't have to trudge through deep snow. In the winter, the place to pee is usually 6 inches out the tent door, away from where you dig your snow to melt for water.

When you feel the urge to pee, pee. It's not going to go away and you'll just lay there for 30 minutes before you can't hold it anymore. Think of it this way: this is a good quart or so of liquid that your body no longer has to expend energy to keep warm. Getting out of a tent (or log) to pee in the winter in the middle of the night is never as bad as you think it's gonna be. Do it quickly and get back in quickly. Don't waste too much time getting too bundled up.

Right before you go to bed, suck down a pint of hot water with a package of your favorite Jell-o mixed in it. Hot Jello! This will help keep you warm during the night.

Keep a Snickers bar or something equally good nearby in case you wake up cold and hungry. Something with sugar.

Keep your headlamp or flashlight in your bag with you to keep the batteries warm. Lithium is best in cold weather.

Wear a layer of thick polypro or equivalent long underwear, tops and bottoms. Dry, thick socks. Wear a hat and a neck gaiter. Resist the urge to wear too much clothing to bed because it will just constrict the sleeping bag and not keep you as warm. I never wore anything but Polypro, a hat and a balaclava to bed. I'm not dead.

The key to winter comfort is keeping dry. If you have any sort of a hike to get to this log, don't overheat getting there. Not overheating on a winter hike is tougher than one would think.

Avoid alcohol, coffee, or anything of the sort.

Change your plans if the weather is extreme. 33 and raining is much more dangerous than -10.

Oh man. Have so much fun. Take pictures!
posted by bondcliff at 6:53 PM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Can't wait to hear how it went! I really liked bondcliff's comment, but I have to add a minor dissent on one point, the "don't wear too many clothes" point. That's what the hiking books say, and it may be true if your sleeping bag is truly sufficient, but in my experiences in situations where I barely had enough insulation, it's not that true. Give the long johns a try, as they're certainly nicer to sleep in than jeans, and as sleeping bags can be amazing, but if you don't warm up after ten minutes or so, don't worry about this and think more clothes could somehow make you colder or interfere with the sleeping bag's ability to keep you warm. Up to the point that you start to sweat, more clothes = more warmth, in my experience. Depending on how much extra room you have in your footbox you might even bring some extra clothes in there, so you don't have to put on clothes covered with frost in the morning and so that you have a pre-warmed jacket ready if you wake up shivering.
posted by salvia at 11:11 PM on January 9, 2015

Response by poster: Still hasn't been mild enough to sleep in yet, but I did ski up there today and took this pic.
posted by Xurando at 3:19 PM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

« Older Do you know anything about TV production companies...   |   Insurance filter: Can a medical condition make a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.