Staying warm should be your highest priority when sleeping outdoors. This could mean the difference between being miserable or having an enjoyable experience. It is important that you experiment and find what works best for you. There are several basic tips to follow to ensure a pleasant outdoor experience. Consider adding them the next time you go camping.
1: Layers of Sleeping Clothes
Staying warm in cold weather conditions outdoors, wearing layers of clothes are key. So much to the point that it can be the key factor that determines whether you have a miserable experience or a comfortable one.
We like to put on several layers before climbing into the sleeping bag. Example of this would be long johns underwear top and bottom, then fleece sweats top and bottom. This will ensure that there is no cold air between your body and the sleeping bag. This makes the world of difference when sleeping in below freezing conditions.
Wear a warm winter hat to bed. A good portion of heat that your body naturally creates, leaves your body through the head. Wearing a hat to bed will help you sleep a lot warmer. In cold weather conditions you may consider wearing a hat with a face mask, as well. So often when sleeping well below freezing, your nose and face will get cold. This really helps prevent that from happening.
2: Higher Ground Campsite Selection
One of the general rules of being outdoors, is that cold sinks and heat rises. So selection a campsite where the footprint of your tent (where you sleep), is going to be on higher ground, than the surrounding area. This will drastically increase how warm you sleep at night, and remove a lot of that drafty feeling you may experience while sleeping in a tent.
Sleeping on snow? For this same reason, this is why experienced winter campers, dig snow pits near their sleeping area. This helps trap the cold area in pockets around your tent and makes a huge difference for a warmer night in winter conditions.
Tent on the snow? Learn how to anchor your shelter on the snow.
3: Cold Weather Sleeping Bag, Sleeping Pad and Groundsheet
A good sleeping bag is one of the most important pieces of outdoor gear to invest in. There is nothing more more miserable, than trying to get sleep and the cold keeps you awake, this can be a camping nightmare. As a safe rule of thumb, you should bring a bag that is rated for 20 degrees colder, than the conditions you will be staying the night in. Staying out in extreme cold? A cheap work-around, is to bring a second sleeping bag and double them up. You will be glad you did!
Use at least 2 foam sleeping pads as an insurance policy in cold weather. A good portion of your body heat can escape through the ground while you sleep. The more layers that you have between you and the ground the better. We like to bring along several EVA based sleeping pads and add them to our bed. They are cheap and lightweight!
Bring along a tent groundsheet for a drastically warmer nights sleep. Groundsheets are used to provide an added barrier between you and the ground. They are made out of a compound that blocks moisture and heat from passing through the material. Using one will let you sleep much warmer and provide additional protection for the bottom of your tent as well. You can also use a groundsheet by itself, paired with a floorless tent and go camping without using a traditional floor.
4: Alternate Heat Source Without Electricity
Using an alternate heat source inside a tent, can be quite the luxury. There is no electricity when camping in the backcountry away from home. Some might use gas heaters or wood stoves. It is important that you consider what works best for you. One of the main considerations is the availability of fuel. Is there going to be a readily available fuel source nearby? Are you bringing in the fuel? These are some of the things to consider while planning your adventure.
It is important that you keep proper airflow at all times throughout the tent, when burning any kind of heat source inside a shelter. The gases that it creates, can kill you in your sleep. This is another reason why it is important to chose a campsite that is on higher ground than the surrounding area, because those toxic gases sink like the cold air. Be mindful at all times!
5: Eat Lots of Hearty Foods
Eating lots of food, is one of the best parts of the winter camping experience. Your body needs lots of calories to stay warm in cold weather. The process of breaking down food in your body, will make you warmer instantly.
Hearty food can be a big mental boost as well. It can be sometimes taxing on the mind to be outdoors when the weather is bad. That sensory connection to a comfort food, can be just what you need to give your brain and body an endorphin rush, in times of less pleasant winter conditions.
Pre-trip food planning can be a pain sometimes, but the payoff while you are in the woods is well worth the extra time that it takes to get food together at home. Like with most things to do with winter camping, preparation is key to comfort.