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Sleepout Concern: Won't It Be Cold?

When we talk with folks about joining us for the Sleepout, they sometimes have some concerns they need addressed before committing to the event. A common one is "won't it be really cold?"


As a veteran sleeper who has done every sleepout since the event began in 2016, I can honestly tell you that the "sleeping outside on a cold night in February" is more of a marketing message than anything. Here are a few reasons why:

  • There are plenty of campfires throughout the sleeping site to gather around and keep warm. Folks bring instruments, snacks, beverages, and it's much more like your winter singalong in front of the fireplace at home than it is battling the elements.

  • Speaking of snacks and beverages, we've got a lot of them. There's an official s'mores break, and hot chocolate and hot coffee all night long - so you're constantly getting warmed from the inside out.

  • The event organizers also have tons of hand and foot warmers to warm you from the outside it, as well.

  • If that's not enough, remember that we're also pitching out tents on the front lawn of our program building - which you'll also have full access to. Heated bathroom breaks are amazing, but you could also move your sleeping back to the floor of our heated dining hall - or stretch out on the padded pews in the heated attached church if you'd rather "Sleep in" for part or all of the night. Take advantage of those options - the Sleepout is a No Judgement Zone!

And speaking of sleeping in, there are also great Sleep at Home or Stay Just Through S'Mores options.

If you are going to stay overnight, know that there are also six layers of protection in place to keep you warm. We learned these tips from our friends who have spent entire winters in tents in Chicago:

  • When our volunteers set up your tent, the first thing they do is to lay down a plastic tarp. That creates a water barrier that will prevent any snow or moisture from the ground from coming up into your sleeping area.

  • It's then covered with cardboard, which provdes an insulating barrier of air to keep the ground's coldness in the ground.

  • Next comes the tent itself. It creates a nice coccoon-like bubble to capture body heat. Once 3 or 4 people are in a tent, there's a lot of heat to be captured!

  • Inside the tent, you then lay down an egg-crate pad, which further separates you from the ground - and also provides mattress-like softness.

  • Your sleeping bag on top of the pad does a great job of reflecting your own personal body heat back on you while you sleep

  • And then any layers of clothes you've worn provide a final level of comfort and warmth.

Having done this a number of years, I actually encourage people to take off their outer layers of clothes when they get into their sleeping bag (you can store them in your bag though so you'll have something warm to put on in the morning). I generally wear just a tshirt and jeans to go to bed, and find myself waking up warm-to-sweating - even the year that it was 17 degrees outside.


Have other questions or concerns? Check out the rest of our Pro Tips.


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