Really, the chilly nights, early mornings and even days are never a desirable camping companion. Hence this comprehensive guide on how to stay warm when camping, whether in the tent or RV. Get ready to learn the most ingenious snuggling tips that will include:
And much much more...
To many campers, the exit of summer signals a time to pack up the tent and rev up the RV engine to head back home. The cold days and nights are just too much of a hassle for most. But hold up, what if there was a fool-proof way to help you counter this?
There are numerous tips and tricks that you can use to stay warm for uninterrupted year-round camping. Some little tweaks around the tent, campsite, gear and on your clothing will allow you to enjoy the splendor of nature the time of the year notwithstanding.
Perhaps, you may even dodge those unceasing distractions prevalent in crowded campsites during summer.
That said, you must keep warm at all times – whether camping or not – to prevent dangers such as the increased risk of heart attacks, hypothermia, frostbites and so many more.
Scary stuff aside, here’s our top-of-the-line, tried-and-tested tricks to keep you warm and camping for longer.
The immediate environment of your campsite and the type of tent you choose will play a huge role in keeping you warm or otherwise. Not even the fluffiest of jackets can alleviate the many drawbacks that would befall you if you set up camp in low grounds or valleys.
We have shared some nuggets of wisdom below to help you lay a foundation that is combatant to cold.
Before anything else, you need to get your tent right. That means going for a 3- or 4-season rated one as it will insulate you from freezing conditions thanks to its well-matched features. An included rainfly, apart from keeping the rainwater out, also helps to minimize the rate at which chilly air or wind creeps into the tent.
Mesh panels on the tent are also a good add-on for your tent as they provide dual-layer protection against wind and cold.
Interestingly, body moisture and breath lead to the formation of condensation within the tent. Some vents will come in handy here, particularly, those that can be opened to let out the moisture and closed in case of incremental weather.
After all, you don’t want an icy water dribble ruining your night due to excessive condensation in the tent. A double-walled tent will also be ideal as the trapped air between the two layers provide insulation and consequently lowers condensation as compared to single-walled tents.
Additionally, the tent should be appropriately-sized to fit you, your crew, and your camping gear. If too big, a lot of heat will be wasted and body heat will be harder to retain.
With our awesome tent, next we have to identify an area that is ideal to pitch or set up the camp base.
A sheltered spot is a good place to start and if not possible, then pitching your tent with its back to the wind is also acceptable. This ensures that the wind won’t blow right into your temporary abode or even worse blow it away.
A windbreak should also be set up for quicker lighting of fires and coziness. Natural windbreaks like trees, bushes, rocky outcroppings and walls are very much welcome spots for pitching a tent.
Cold air befalls valleys and other low-lying areas like the rat plague. So, do keep away from the bottoms of valleys as you might even get swept away by flash floods in such areas.
A campfire is a great way to stay warm around the campsite as long as it’s allowed and you can build campfires efficiently. Some lighter fluid or knowledge of methods of starting a fire, even primitive ones, will be very useful in this scenario.
Even with this heat source, the warmth may not get to one side of your body and that’s why you need a reflector fire system. Use a screen or a wall of rocks or logs to direct the heat back towards the “cool” side.
Inside the tent, there are even more measures you can take to stay warm. Some might seem like no-brainers for sure while others you may not have been aware of. Primarily, we will focus on the ideal sleeping system for warmth and some must-have accessories to help you stay nice and toasty.
Items as simple as rugs and tent carpets can mean all the difference when it comes to keeping you warm in the tent.
Your ideal sleeping system should be a few inches/feet off the ground to allow for aeration and to keep the cold from the ground away. Heat rises from the ground and thus sleeping closer to or on the ground will only hasten the loss of body heat.
The elevation from the ground will also help keep you dry in chilly weather.
That said, your camping cot or bed of choice should be long and wide enough to help insulate you from cold nights and weather. Camping cots are available in compact, portable, and collapsible options in modest heights of 4 inches to 12 inches.
If you dread the very idea of having to stand up from low-profile cots, worry not as there are also bi-fold, accordion and military camping cots with heights of 16 to slightly over 25 inches for your picking. However, be weary that the added versatility and height bring along cumbersomeness during transportation.
Additionally, you will need to deck out your tent space with rugs and carpets for extra insulation. We can all agree that stepping on a cold groundsheet or tarp is no way to start your morning.
Staying off the ground also applies to when you want to sit. If there’s no camping chair in sight, then one of those sleeping pad/convertible chairs should do the trick. Just make sure to not directly sit on the tent floor.
Right off the bat, stay away from air mattresses as most of them leak air overnight and are terrible at retaining heat. There’s just no use of having the extra comfort without matched insulation.
The R-value refers to how efficiently a given type of insulation can resist heat flow. A sleeping pad with a high R-value equals better insulative abilities. Adding a second closed-cell foam mat can also greatly increase the R-value of your sleeping system.
Disposable self-heating gel packs are godsent for every winter camper as they offer a direct heat source to keep oneself nice and toasty all through the night. You can keep some in your pockets, hoodie or sleeping bag.
Secondly, portable heaters can be used in the tent for warmth but with extreme caution. NEVER use gas heaters in enclosed spaces like a sleeping space and ALWAYS ensure you have lots of ventilation wherever you use the heaters.
An electric heater, also known as an electric hook-up (EHU), is a good option.
If you use a gas heater, remember to always have a carbon monoxide (CO) detector with you at all times. Despite its odorless and colorless characteristics, CO kills over 400 people yearly in America so you better take all the precautions needed to avoid falling victim to it.
Luckily, you can find features like accidental tip-over and low-oxygen shut-offs in most modern heaters.
You must follow all safety advice from the manufacturer and some common sense when dealing with portable heaters. To avoid leaving your heater unattended, try preheating the tent just before heading to bed and switch off the heater before falling into sleep.
Hand warmers are also great accessories that you can add to your weaponry against the biting cold.
Some key things to look out for when getting a sleeping bag include; season rating, material, R-value, and other relevant features. The biggest takeaway with regards to sleeping bags is that you need to use a suitable kind for the given weather or camping conditions for the best results.
If camping in summer or early autumn, you will need season 1- or season 2-rated sleeping bags. On the other hand, colder times of the year like winter will demand for season 2- or season 4-rated bags.
Typically, down sleeping bags are excellent in keeping you warm as compared to synthetic options that are filled with poly-fibers. You will be quick to note that synthetic-filled bags are cheaper and bulkier than the down ones.
Despite the praises for down sleeping bags, be wary that they do not retain heat when wet or damp and may require special cleaning.
The design of the sleeping bag also matters when it comes to heat retention and overall insulation. We will be more biased towards the mummy-type style as it does so more effectively than the regular rectangular-shaped sleeping bags.
Most of our body heat will be lost via the head when sleeping, therefore a sleeping bag with a hoodie is more than a welcome necessity.
Sleeping bag liners, especially those made of fleece, also add an extra layer of warmth and insulation by trapping heat within the bag.
With your tent set up, preheated and well-insulated, now it’s time to look closer home. How and what you wear greatly affects how well your body heat is retained as the clothing is your number one insulating layer.
Here, we delve deep into some specialized wears available in the market as well as do’s and don’ts to help you keep warm.
You can’t go wrong with classic pajamas. Particularly, fleece ones with a zip-up hoodie on top coupled with your favorite pair of thick wool socks will do the trick. One thing you have to keep in mind is that you’re going for practicality as opposed to fashion and style when picking what to wear in bed.
However, don’t add on too many layers as it would lead to heat compression which can lower the sleeping bag’s effectiveness in keeping you warm. You may also sweat a lot which is known to lower one’s body temperature.
Always dress like an onion; layer your clothing. The layering creates air pockets that act as insulation and warm up from your body heat keeping you cozy for longer. Back to our onion metaphor, we have three main layers; the base, the middle and the outer layer.
The base layer is mostly your underwear layering and should be effective in wicking off any sweat from the skin. The middle layer is the main insulating layer which helps in body heat retention while the outer layer, also known as the shell layer, is the one that keeps off the rain and wind.
Even the slightest whoosh of cool wind can cause a chill if not well blocked out. Ensure that your outer layers are windproof to help counter this problem. These outer shells will mostly be made of nylon or polyester with varying degrees of breathability and water resistance.
You can peel off or add on any layer at any time if the temperatures allow.
Thermals like jeggings, long-johns and long-sleeved clothing are an absolute must-have when camping in cold seasons. So what if you get teased about looking like your grandma? Staying warm is all that counts!
Headgear is also a sure way to stay warm and involves wearing hats, buffs and hooded jackets. The gear will stop the cold from sneaking down your neck and avoid any heat loss from your head. Headgear featuring wool lined with fleece will work wonders in keeping you warm.
As for the footwear, you can never go wrong with good quality, season-appropriate hiking boots. While it may be tempting to kick off your shoes having set up camp, you’re better off leaving them on to reduce the risk of body heat loss through your feet.
Every good pair of boots works best with suitable warm socks so be sure to have with you some cozy wool/merino blend ones. The wool material helps wick away any sweat and is very comfortable to wear.
Some big mittens with gloves underneath will be ideal for keeping your hands nice and warm. It is also a practical solution since you can flick off the mittens to use your hands properly.
Down wear works best in dry conditions in keeping you warm and comfortable. The magic to look out for when shopping for fleece clothing is its fill power with 600 to 900 being very efficient in heat retention and insulation.
Merino clothing is also well-praised by camping aficionados for its moisture-wicking qualities and warmness.
Avoid cotton if possible as the material gets heavy in damp environments and can lower your body temperature rapidly. It soaks up moisture very well but fails at wicking it away.
Camping in the cold is a perfect time for your cheat days as you can eat as much as you possibly can to keep warm. Your metabolism system generates heat and uses up food and drinks as the main sources of fuel.
To stay warm for longer means that you have to constantly provide your body with fuel – food and drinks. High-calorie foods are a welcome part of the menu here as you will see below.
Staying hydrated even when it’s chilly helps your body to work more efficiently in humidifying the cold. So, drink up to fight the effects of frostbite and hypothermia that would creep in due to dehydration.
A good companion to have when camping out in the great outdoors is a kettle to prepare hot drinks. Having a hot beverage will warm you from the inside and have you in a good mood instantly. So make sure your kettle is well topped up and bubbly in your campfire.
Take sips of your hot beverage of choice from a metal mug to help warm your mitted hands a bit more. Ginger tea or hot chocolate with spices like nutmeg and cinnamon has been known to speed up metabolism and produce heat.
High-calorie foods have the same warming effect and provide new energy to bring your body temperature up. Go for carbohydrates, fats, and sugars. Ensure you prepare hot meals with mild spices for even better results.
Additionally, consume high-fat foods just before bed to stay warm in bed for longer. The meal generates energy and the fat is broken down slowly thus providing you warmth throughout the night.
However, imbibing alcohol when camping is not recommended.
Alcohol confines the body from naturally fighting the cold through measures like shivering and constriction of blood vessels.
As avid campers, we have tried and tested numerous practical ways as well as borrowed ideas from fellow campers on how to keep warm when camping in the cold. We’ve gotten crude ones like sun-basking to interesting ones like using a hot water bottle, all known to effectively keep the cold at bay.
Now it’s over to you to give the below-mentioned tips and hacks a shot and hopefully you can entertain the idea of winter camping.
It’s a biologically proven lifesaver that sharing body heat is a sure way of staying warm in cold weather. So, don’t be afraid to huddle up with your dog or whoever you are camping with for cozy uninterrupted sleep.
It’s one of those “if it works, it isn’t stupid” hacks. Simply fill your water bottle with hot water, seal it tightly and slip it into your sleeping bag. It will provide a source of heat for a couple of hours, well just enough to get you to sleep.
If you are a light sleeper and happen to wake up at night ensure you take it out as it will have turned cold.
Aside from tautology, what this means is that as soon as you notice a drop in temperature, pile on an extra layer of clothing to stay warm. Else, it will take you longer to warm up again and use more resources to achieve that state.
With that in mind, don’t go to bed cold. Instead, have a warm drink or do some workout routines to get you warmed up. A 5-minute brisk around the campsite, some star jumps or whatever you have in mind are well in order.
You will need to carry some extra everything – clothing, emergency blankets, duvets… – to keep warm when camping.
When it gets chilly around the campsite or in the tent, it’s always a good starting point to do some physical task. This might be a chore you were keeping off or even playing camping games like tossing games, scavenger hunts, and Jenga among others.
If you get wet for whatever reason, make sure to change into dry clothes immediately so that you don’t lose your body heat. In addition, keep any wet gear out of your sleeping area as it will cause condensation.
When you have to go, just go. Don’t try to hold in your pee especially at night as this only draws energy to keep the urine warm. If it’s too cold to pee, a designated pee bottle comes in handy. For women, pee funnels can come in handy.
If you need batteries for your electronics, go for lithium batteries. They work much better in cold conditions than nickel-metal hydride or alkaline batteries. Lithium batteries are also light to pack and carry and will outlast other variants by a considerable measure.
Ensure your skin, hair, and feet stays dry before heading for bed. If necessary, you can use cornstarch to help with moisture absorption. However, do not use scented baby powder as it can attract bears.
A no-brainer to say the least but very crucial to mention, actual sun-basking is a sure way to stay warm if the sun’s out. Plus, you get your daily dose of Vitamin D as a bonus.
Does camping in winter give you the chills just thinking about it? Well, you need not dread it anymore – feel free to camp whenever and wherever while staying warm with the above tips.
If by any chance you still find it hard beating the cold, then it’s time to go big on a campervan or a homey RV. If the cold is too much to bear, there’s no shame in waiting for the summer camping period.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.