Being cold is a miserable experience when you are camping. I know this because I really feel the cold a LOT, and I have been unprepared for some temperatures when in our tent.
A camping trip in winter on one our camping trips, resulted in one of the longest nights of my life as I desperately tried to get warm (and not wake all the others who were sleeping peacefully and snugly). I don’t think I warmed up to mid-morning, when the sun hit our campsite and started to melt the frozen surrounds, and me.
There are things you can do, to keep yourself from not being a frozen block of ice during the night. Some of these take a bit of thinking before you head out on your trip. The rest are achievable when at the campsite.
Bedding for the right conditions
We have mentioned this before: the importance of buying the best you can afford. When it comes to bedding, this is so important.
Some of the really cheap bags might be OK in mild conditions, but when it really gets cold, you might find they are not sufficient for your needs.
With sleeping bags, ensure you get one that will meet the conditions you are needing it for, and keep in mind that the temperature rating is a guide only – and a lot of factors need to be considered when choosing what sort of sleeping bag will keep you warm.
Don’t go crazy and get one for Arctic conditions if you are not sleeping in the Arctic, but do your homework.
I feel the cold, so a sleeping bag rated at 0 degrees (which means it will generally keep me warm as long as it doesn’t get colder than 10 degrees) is not going to work for me on really cold nights! I need to go to a –10 degrees bag, for when the temps get down to 0.
You can read a blog post here on being too cold and without the right gear.
You can also add a sleeping bag liner to increase warmth (though I am not 100% sure how effective my liner has been in increasing my warmth but others swear by them), or add extra sleeping bags or blankets over the top of you. Have the thickest sleeping pad you can manage/afford.
What you have under you is more important than what you have on top of you.
Need more info on what sleeping bag could work for you?
Then you must read how to choose a sleeping bag. It gives you all the key info you need.
This is a big decision, and loads of infomation is out there to help you make the best choice. Narrow down your sleeping bag of choice in the shop, then read up on it, online.
Be an informed shopper.
Get your sleeping bag and sleeping pad right for YOU and the conditions, and one of the biggest issues about winter camping is solved.
PS. Once you have a sleeping bag, you need to look after it! Here is how to care for your sleeping bag.
Warm yourself up
This is one of my fave ways to get myself warm in the tent. Filling a Nalgene bottle with hot water and putting it in my sleeping bag before I get in.
These bottles are sturdy, great lid so no leakages, and don’t melt with the heat of the water. I put the bottle at my feet or hug it.
Other suggestions to warm up are:
- Ensure you have had a nice hot meal for dinner (and on a cold night in the outdoors, this is a highlight for many campers). This food will be used as fuel by your body during the night, helping with the warmth.
- Another way to warm yourself prior to getting into bed is to eat something like a high-energy snack, as your body warms itself as it burns up the calories. Do avoid chomping down on a big steak before bed, though, as your digestion processes will be working on that, and not helping you sleep!
- Avoid too much liquid before bedtime, as it is painful having to get up in the middle of the night for a wee.
- If you are up to it before you go into the tent, jump around the campsite, or do a quick walk – you are trying to get your metabolism going to help with keeping you warm. It's not meant to be like a big workout at a gym, but this little exercise will help.
- Standing around the campfire is lovely, but the warmth only stays with you whilst you are next to it, so think about these other warm up methods too.
The correct clothing is going to make a big difference for any outdoor adventure.
When it's time to get into your bed….do you climb in wearing what you had on, or do you change?
The correct answer is to change into clean, non-sweaty clothes (plus this will help keep your bag clean).
Layering your clothing is the best option, avoiding cotton. Wear your thermals, and build layers upon them. Do this before you are icy cold and it's bedtime.
Wear socks and a hat (you lose a lot of body temperature through your head, so don’t forget this one important item).
In the sleeping bag, now what?
So, you have done all the above – you are fed and watered appropriately, you are in the right clothes and have done a quick workout, and now you are in the sleeping bag that you spent hours deliberating over its purchase to get the right one.
What is next?
If you think that is the end of keeping warm, just a couple more points to digest:
- Even when it gets cold in the tent, don’t burrow your head in the sleeping bag. As tempting as it is to put your head under the covers, condensation could build up in the bag, making it damp and therefore cold. Even though I know I shouldn’t do it, I often do.
- Use the drawstrings around the top of the sleeping bag to trap the air in. That’s what they are there for.
- If air is still getting in, use a scarf or jacket to pad around your neck.
- Don't make the bag so hot that you end up perspiring.
- If your bag is bigger than you, and there is a lot of empty space, you can fill it up with the clean clothes you are wearing tomorrow
Hopefully, this might help you stay a little bit warmer in the winter months. And if it all seems too hard, then, spring is not that far away either.
And if it is raining, then you need to know these tips about camping in the rain.
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