If you’re a backpacker, chances are you’ve been in the cold, cramped space of a tent when temperatures drop below freezing. When it’s time to sleep and your body is telling you that it’s too darn cold to doze off comfortably in a sleeping bag, there are ways to stay warm outside of your shelter.
Most people think about adding more layers for warmth but this can be counterproductive if they need to keep moving around or have trouble breathing with an extra layer on top of them.
Here are some tips for staying warm without overheating while camping outdoors during the winter months:
- wear moisture wicking clothing instead of cotton which will retain water and lead to dampness;
- cover yourself with a light blanket at the outset and then add whatever insulation you can find
- make sure to stay dry since water will lead to dampness and you’ll become cold very quickly.
As well as being equipped with this information, it is also important to get a quality tent, sleeping bag, and a well-insulated sleeping pad. With these, you’re assured of staying cozy and warm during the camping period.
Below are some additional tips that will undoubtedly help you to keep out the cold during winter camping.
Take warm clothes
Long johns and flannels clearly take up plenty of space in your backpack, but they’re important.
When you think the temperature at night will drop below 60°, ensure that the clothes you pack can withstand the temperature. It is a good idea to pack heavy socks, long underwear, and wool clothes.
In case you’re planning on staying in a warmer climate, then pack some clothes that you will easily be able to layer over your existing clothes.
Don’t bring too many extra clothes since these might end up being cumbersome and take a lot of room in the backpack.
Take a sleeping bag liner
Sleeping bags aren’t always 100 % waterproof. The fabric can be soaked which will make it impossible for you to stay warm without proper protection.
This is where the sleeping bag liner comes in handy. It adds an extra layer of insulation, but more importantly, it can keep your sleeping bag clean and dry.
Also, most sleeping bag liners are lightweight and easy to pack; most models will fit inside your sleeping bag.
Take a thermo-reflective blanket
These are the ideal types of blankets to have in your backpack because you can use them both indoors and outdoors
If you need a little bit of extra warmth, these are the best types of blankets to seal in body heat so it will not be wasted
These are also great for protecting yourself from the harsh ground which will suck away any warmth that may have been generated from your body heat.
Check the weather forecast before leaving for your trip
Before you leave, it is important to check out what the weather forecast says
If there’s a possibility of snow and/or rain then remember that moisture and coldness go hand in hand. This can be very dangerous if you’re not prepared for such an event.
Before heading out for camping, do some research on what types of precipitation are possible in the area that you’re planning to visit.
Pick a suitable campsite
When selecting a campsite, you should consider a few things. Remember that cool air sinks and warm air rises.
You should try your best to avoid camping down a valley. Additionally, camping on top of a mountain isn’t a good idea because the mountain itself will keep your camp colder.
The most ideal choice is a location with a simple elevation that is also sheltered from the wind. If it is possible, put the tent on a moderate incline.
A tarp should be placed underneath it so cold moisture doesn’t trouble you. Don’t let your feet get wet
Your sleeping bag will hold a large amount of warmth, but if your feet are still cold then it will take away from the rest of your body.
Make sure that you wear warm socks and a foot covering before going to sleep. This way, any moisture that may have seeped into your shoes won’t be concentrated on your feet.
Take a double walled tent or an extra large single walled one
Although it is easy to choose warmth over comfort when speaking about tents, this isn’t necessary
Good insulation can be achieved with a double-walled tent while being able to enjoy some ventilation.
An example would be an oversized single-walled tent, which has the ability to fit 2 people while providing more warmth and comfort.
This is vital if you want to remain warm inside a tent. You should begin by getting a tent that is suitably sized and weather-appropriate.
To keep warm, a 4 or 3-person tent is absolutely essential.
You should do everything possible to fill the empty spaces inside your tent. These spaces aren’t really empty as they’re occupied by cold air. Fill the empty spaces inside the tent by bringing in most of your gear. However, an extra person or people could also work.
Never let condensation build up in your tent by opening all vents when it’s raining outside and closing them when the sun comes out.
Carry along the correct gear
Selecting the correct sleeping bag is a vital aspect of staying warm during the night. Even with this, on no account should you go winter camping with only a sleeping bag.
This will be a decision you’ll have to take along with the other gear that you decide to bring. You should be certain about what types of temperatures that you would normally encounter during the winter season before even buying a sleeping bag.
Remember, if it is too cold, don’t hesitate from wearing extra layers when going inside your sleeping bag. Especially when the temperature plummets and the ground becomes cold.
Make sure you take a properly insulated sleeping pad with you and place it under the sleeping bag.
You might even use more than one insulated pad depending on the weather or temperature. Don’t get sleeping pads that have been made with poor insulators (e.g. cotton).
You should also take one hot water bottle with you. The water to put in your bottle can be quickly heated with a camp stove. You can then keep it close to you in your sleeping bag.
The downside of this is that it will gradually cool down and you’ll have to reheat it again before going to bed.
Alternatively, you could use chemical warming pads instead. These are safer and can be used several times before they become useless.
Change your clothes before going to bed
It can be tempting to sleep in your hiking clothes for extra warmth, but it is actually counterproductive. You shouldn’t sleep with your hiking boots on either because they don’t allow air to circulate.
You should change into something more comfortable and relaxing before going to bed.
If you’re cold, it is even better if you change into a few thin layers so that the sleeping bag’s warmth can be felt more quickly.
After all that hiking, you’ll be sweating and the moisture from that sweat can reduce the warmth of your sleeping bag. For this reason, you should put on a base layer that will wick away moisture and keep you dry.
If you can’t get out of your sweaty clothes before going to bed, make sure you turn your bag inside-out.
You should also ensure you wear fresh clothes before sleeping so that you can have a good night’s rest.
Activate your sleeping bag before going to sleep
Another tip for staying warm in a tent is to activate the insulation of your sleeping bag by warming it up using an external source like a hot water bottle or some other form of heater. This will help keep you comfortably warm during the whole night.
The activation process is quick and simple, so you’ll enjoy the benefits of your sleeping bag straightaway.
After you’ve activated your sleeping bag using an external source, this same source can be used to reheat it again before going to bed. Turning on a camp stove or some other form of the heater is perfect for quickly heating up your bag.
When everything else fails and you’re still cold, get your head inside the sleeping bag to generate heat from within. This can be done without overheating or suffocating yourself because different parts of the body will be exposed.
The only thing you should remember is that after a while certain parts of your body might get colder than others so keep an eye out for those areas.
Once at the desired temperature, you can put all of your body inside the bag and sleep soundly through the night.
If you’re not an experienced camper and all of this sounds like a lot to do just to stay warm in a tent, then you should think about investing in some gear that will help. You don’t want to build up a resistance and then feel like you don’t even need it.
Any of the tips above will make things much easier and keep your mind at ease, especially if you’re a newbie.