BJC 2024 will be in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire!

How to keep warm at a juggling festival

Keeping warm for the most part is pretty easy at a juggling festival. Juggling and circus skills are physical activities so you are unlikely to be cold in the practice hall. You only have to think about keeping warm when you stop doing things and go outside or go to bed.

Yes, the British climate can be challenging at times. However, for perspective talk to a Canadian or Scandinavian about the cold. The Scandinavians have a saying. There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.

The common advice for keeping warm is: Layers! Layers! Layers! However, that is a little simplistic. When out in cold/wet weather you need to have the correct layers (yes, I am about to tell you how to dress yourself):

  1. Inner sweat transporting layer. This should be a synthetic material or silk, both of which will wick moisture away from your skin and help keep you dry. Avoid cotton which has almost no insulation value and is awful when wet.
  2. Central insulating layer. Wool is excellent, fleece is pretty good too. Go for something bulky and fluffy because the airpockets work to retain heat better.
  3. Outer shield layer. Doesn't need to be thick just needs to be water and draught proof to protect the inner layers. Thin tight weave synthetics are better than thick heavy materials that only appear to be water proof because it takes so long for water to seep all the way through.

Never wear synthetic fibres for fire juggling or spinning. Most synthetics burn very easily and can melt on to your skin. Cotton and wool are the best fibres to wear when using fire.

Wear a hat. The body can lose around 10% of its heat energy through the head (not 40% as is commonly thought, but still a lot), so make sure you insulate your head too. A good quality comfy beanie hat is one of the most important bits of camping kit you can buy.

Before the festival securely tie 6 inches or so of ribbon or diabolo string to the end of the zips of your tent. Small zips are not the easiest thing to operate if you are wearing bulky gloves. You don't want to stay outside in the cold longer than necessary while you fiddle with the zip, or worse have to take off your gloves so you can get a grip. Instead twirl the ribbon round your hand and pull. When erecting your tent make sure your tent is pegged tightly so the zip runs freely.

Inflatable airbeds may be comfy but they are extremely poor insulators. A foam roll mat will keep you warmer.

Try to pitch your tent in an area sheltered from the wind. If your tent is more aerodynamic one way than another angle your tent so that it points into the wind.

Keep everything dry. That means protecting yourself against the weather, make sure the outer layer of your tent is tightly pegged out to keep it from touching the inner layer. Remember that wet weather will cause fabric to sag, so be sure to repeg your tent regularly throughout the festival if it is damp. It also means protecting yourself from moisture generated by sweating and breathing. Huffing into your blanket may create a short term sensation of heat, but when it cools down it will stay cold.

Change or discard the socks you wear during the day before getting in your sleeping bag. Feet sweat a lot. Do not take that moisture inside your sleeping bag. No socks is better than wet socks.

Counter-intuitively DON'T fully close any airvents in your tent. Exhaling produces a lot of moisture, you need to let it escape. Close the vents enough to keep out the wind, but no more.

Don't go to bed until after you've gone to the toilet. You don't want to waste energy keeping the liquid in a full bladder warm, but most importantly you don't want to be forced out of bed in the middle of the night to answer the call of nature.

Don't go to bed sweaty and counter-intuitively don't wrap up so much that you sweat in bed. Sweat is the body's cooling mechanism. You don't want to activate it if the objective is to stay warm.

Eat a late meal before you go to bed. The digestion process produces heat and will help keep you warm. Eating fatty foods is better because fat is metabolised very slowly so will keep you warmer for longer.

Don't go to bed cold. Your clothes, sleeping bag, blankets etc. are only layers of insulation, they don't produce heat themselves. If you go to bed cold, you will stay cold. Hang around inside or ideally take a hot shower to warm yourself up before going to bed. If anyone suggests doing push ups ignore them, exercise makes you sweat.

Don't squash your sleeping bag. The insulating microfillings in duvets and sleeping bags work by trapping air creating air gaps that heat energy can't cross and therefore escape. Shake your sleeping bag before getting in it to puff it up a bit. Once you are in it don't wrap yourself tightly with other blankets otherwise you will squeeze all the air back out again. It is better to drape extra layers loosely over yourself than to wrap yourself up.

Share a tent with a friend. Your mutual body heat will keep you both warm.

Heat some water on a stove or beg the catering staff nicely for some hot water to fill an empty drinks bottle. Make sure the lid is on extremely securely. Wrap it in a towel to stop yourself from getting burnt. Cuddle the bottle to your chest or grip it between your thighs, don't waste heat trying to keep your feet warm. If you can keep your core warm, your extremities will be warm by default.

It's easier to stay warm than to get warm. If you feel the temperature dropping and find yourself debating whether to put on another layer now or wait a bit, the correct answer is always 'do it now'. Similarly if you find yourself getting too hot, take a layer off straight away.

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BJC 2024 will be in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire!