Posted by Jamie Canterbury on October 19, 2022
Camping is a gratifying way to enjoy the great outdoors. In all weather, it’s also a popular activity for de-stressing, so people love camping in both the summer and winter seasons.
When you're camping during summer, staying warm isn’t a problem. But winter camping can be more challenging because temperatures can drop dangerously low.
When you’re out there in the wilderness, the weather can change quickly. And if you run into a surprise snowstorm or high winds, you could find yourself in trouble.
Camping in the winter is extremely rewarding, but you do have to take measures to protect yourself from the cold air. In cold weather, blood flow slows down, and your body temperature decreases, exposing you to the risk of hypothermia.
To avoid these dangers, you need to have the right outdoor gear and the knowledge to put that gear to good use. So we’ve put together our top cold-weather camping tips that you can use to enjoy an incredible winter camping adventure. These tips can help you stay comfortably warm on cold nights in the wilderness.
10 Ways to Keep Warm When Camping
Before you go on your trip, do some research so you understand how to set up a tent and start a fire during a cold night. You also need to know how to organize the tent floor for cold-weather sleeping. These essential details can be the difference between being at risk of hypothermia or getting good night's rest.
To make sure you are well-versed in all the cold-weather adventure essentials, remember these ten camping hacks.
1. Set Up Camp in the Right Location
You could have the best sleeping bags and tents in the world, but if you're camping in the wrong place, quality equipment won't matter. When planning your trip, study the maps and environment carefully so you can choose the best camping location.
This location should offer some shelter from the weather. For example, it could be under trees or near the leeward side of any ridge. Camping in areas with natural protection from the elements will reduce your chances of being exposed to heavy rain, snow, or cold wind.
2. Choose the Right Tent
The next thing you need to think about when gathering your camping gear is shelter. A tent with wind-resistant stakes can help you avoid the wind during chilly nights and protect you from rain or snow.
Tent camping is one of the most popular options, so using the right one for your camping style makes all the difference. There are a variety of tents on the market, but for wilderness camping, you should look for either three or four-season tents.
A three-season tent is great if you're camping in mildly cold weather with some wind, rain, and light snow. A four-season tent is best for extreme conditions since it will have thicker walls and a rigid exoskeleton to shelter you from heavy snow and rain.
The bottom line: choose a four-season tent for camping trips in the coldest months of the year. A three-season one is fine as long as you avoid camping in subfreezing temperatures.
3. Have a High-Quality Sleeping Kit
With the right tent protecting you from the elements, your next investment is a quality sleeping kit, primarily to protect you from contact with the ground. Physical content with the ground floor within your tent can make you lose your own body heat faster during cold weather conditions, leading to hypothermia.
Many people think that having an air mattress between themselves and the cold ground is the best way to stay warm while sleeping in the cold weather.
Instead, opt for an insulated sleeping pad or sleeping mat. The sleeping pad will make lying down more comfortable and shield you from the cold. On top of the pad, add an additional closed-cell foam pad for extra warmth, so you'll be completely protected from the cold earth.
4. Use the Right Sleeping Bag
After creating your sleeping surface, it's time to put down sleeping bag materials. You can bring your own sleeping bag or invest in a new cozier bag that protects you from the cold air and keeps your body warm.
When camping, you don't want to go to bed cold. Although your body produces sweat to keep you warm, you can still get too cold and become hypothermic while asleep.
Most sleeping bags are manufactured using the updated 2017 European (EN/ISO) testing standards. Following these standards can help you select the right sleeping bag for the temperature you will be camping in. For example, if you are camping in frigid temperatures, choose a sleeping bag with a -25℉ to a +5℉ range.
Whichever bag you choose, make sure it never gets wet. Anyone sleeping in a wet bag loses significant body heat. This can damage your organs if you’re cold for too long.
Before getting into your sleeping bag, try doing a few jumping jacks to warm yourself up. Afterward, if you still feel cold in your sleeping bag, you can strip down naked, roll around in the bag to disperse body heat, and then put your clothes back on before jumping in again.
Do not try sleeping without clothing the entire night. If you do, you’ll likely freeze.
5. Layer with Insulated Outdoor Clothing
When camping during the winter, it's crucial to have the proper clothing. Layering that clothing is the best way to stay warm and get a good night's rest.
Choose insulated clothing that offers heat retention. Wear a base layer made of merino wool with moisture-wicking properties, an additional insulating layer made of fleece, and a waterproof top layer. Avoid wearing wet clothes because the damp cold can restrict blood flow and make you hypothermic.
Bring multiple clothing sets with you in case your clothes get wet. Also, make sure you pack dedicated sleeping outfits that stay warm inside your sleeping bag during the day.
6. Keep Your Feet Warm
When you're packing clothing, add warm socks to your bag too. Your focus may be on keeping the core of your body warm and forgetting about your hands and feet. But maintaining warm extremities is vital to keeping the rest of your body at a suitable temperature and conserving energy.
In addition to packing multiple sets of warm wool socks, which you will wear while outdoors and as sleeping socks, you should invest in a good pair of winter hiking boots. Your socks should have moisture-wicking and odor management properties, and your boots should be waterproof.
All this extra effort will keep your feet and toes warm so you can enjoy your winter camping experience.
7. Sleep with a Warm Water Bottle
To avoid becoming a cold sleeper, fill an insulated water bottle with hot water and keep it with you in the sleeping bag when you go to bed. A hot water bottle will radiate heat and keep you nice and warm.
Depending on where you feel the coldest, you can place the bottle against your core, thighs, or neck. You can wrap it in a sock if it feels too hot against your skin. This hot water bottle trick is excellent with any type of bottle, but an insulated 100% stainless steel bottle works best.
8. Stay Hydrated...But Not Before Bed
Drinking enough water during your camping trip is extremely important for staying hydrated and warm. But you should avoid drinking water before bed. Drinking too much will make you need to use the bathroom, which means you'll have to get out of your sleeping bag and risk getting cold again.
Instead, stop drinking any types of fluids, especially hot chocolate and other caffeinated beverages, around an hour before bed. For times when you do have to go to the bathroom at night, have a designated pee bottle that you can use while inside your sleeping bag or within your tent.
9. Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol might warm you up temporarily, but in reality, it decreases your body temperature and is yet one more thing that increases the risk of hypothermia. Although you can have some alcohol during the day, avoid drinking it at night and never get drunk at a campsite during the night.
When you are drunk, your cognitive functions are impaired, and you might think that it's a great idea to pass out in the snow or doze off next to the fire instead of setting up a warm, dry sleeping bag in your tent. That can be dangerous, so try to drink as little alcohol as possible while you're camping at night.
10. Eat More Calories
When the temperature outside is low, your metabolism expends a lot of energy to keep your body temperature within a reasonable range. Because of this quick metabolism, your body will need more fat and carbs to keep you warm.
You should bring a lot of high-calorie foods with you during your cold-weather camping trip and eat larger amounts of food than you usually do.
Cold weather camping can be an exciting adventure when done correctly. You can hike in the snow, ski, and explore as much as you want.
But it can be challenging to keep warm in freezing weather. To avoid feeling cold and slipping into hypothermia, you should have the right tent, sleeping kit and bag, insulated clothing, and more.
At Self Reliance Outfitters, we have some of the best outdoor gear for outdoor people, and you will find all the high-quality supplies you need at affordable prices. Shop our store and get the cold-weather camping gear you need to stay safe on all your winter camping adventures.