Microclimates and canopy beds

Mike G

Austere Provisions
Staff member
Microclimates is a term I heard at some point while I was spending a fair amount of time in caves. Caves are generally cool and moist due to being underground and not experiencing big shifts in temps or air flow and as such you can get pretty chilly after exercising and then sitting still covered in sweat or water. We used the term microclimates to describe the concept of getting inside of a bag or tarp and lighting a candle or using some other form of heat to warm ourselves up more efficiently than our heat source trying to warm an entire cave room.

Due to my location and the associated climate I have concerns about heat and warmth in the winter should energy delivery be disrupted. One of the concepts I have worked on is coming up with plans and securing the materials to section off a portion of my house in order to minimize my heat requirements and make the most out of the heat that our daily activities create (body heat, etc). In addition to that I started thinking about how to apply the microclimate concept to the indoors and a couple things came to mind. One is to simply setup a tent inside and utilize that as a microclimate to retain body heat that escapes blankets/sleeping bags, etc. That idea made me think of canopy beds because if I can sleep in my comfy bed vs on the floor with a pad/cot I would prefer that.

While researching canopy beds I wasn't surprised to see that historically they came about with this same concept in mind in addition to offering privacy. The timing of my thought process was pretty poor and came shortly after I bought a fairly nice bed frame that wasn't a canopy frame. After thinking about whether it was worth it to replace my bed frame I came up with the idea to simply create a structure around the bed with PVC that would support fabric to create my microclimate. These materials can be stored until needed and assembled pretty easily then torn down when/if the crisis that created the necessity resolves. The more "involved" portion is finding a solution for the actual canopy material and sewing it up.

A couple thoughts on design and material. I would lean away from making the structure very tall, the more volume you create the more volume you have to heat. Your personal tolerance for claustrophobia can be a guide or simply make it just a bit taller than sitting straight up in bed, keeping in mind that the material may drape or sag depending on how you support it overhead. Then choose a material that will be somewhat breathable or at least absorb some moisture so that you don't suffocate yourself inside of a sealed plastic tent. You want to retain heat but not wake up drenched or oxygen deprived. Creating the drapes to allow easy entry and exit will make it more convenient and designing it so that it's not one massive piece of fabric will make it easier to wash when necessary. A local consideration for me will be that I will try to find some no-see-um sized netting material since we get small bugs that can squeeze through our screens and if the power is out during the summer I can open windows and have a bug free sleeping area.

May the odds be ever in your favor...
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Must be pretty cold where you live?

I recall watching a show about Sami reindeer herders in Russian arctic, they would throw up a yurt, then for the really cold nights they would put a small tent like canopy over the sleeping cot. They would add a small oil candle. According to what i recall, this produced enough heat so that sleeping naked was comfortable. The outside temperature was far below zero.

I also have read about Canopy beds made for the same reason, as you said, a micro-climate. In your canopy set up, it may be prudent to add a sconce for a small candle. For keeping it dark, i believe a terracotta tea light pot may work depending on the style. Certainly you could use some type of non-flammable shell that you could move up and down as well. It would give a small amount of light when needed and add supplementary heat for truly cold nights. If it is good enough for the Sami people of the Russian arctic, it should be good just about anywhere.



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