So you want to try cold weather camping? It’s very doable with these winter camping hacks that will help keep you warm and happy as we head into the coldest months of the year.
Having an enjoyable winter camping experience goes beyond good gear and warm clothes. You’ll want to make sure you have a proper winter camping sleep system, and have all the helpful little tips and tricks in your arsenal to stay warm and safe out in the wilderness.
Here is our list of the top 6 ways to stay even warmer when you’re out camping in the cold this winter.
1. Invest in high-quality winter camping gear
- You get what you pay for
Proper gear is essential anytime you’re going out into the wilderness, and this is doubly important when it’s cold and your wellbeing and perhaps livelihood is at stake. I know, it ain’t cheap, but I promise you don’t want to skimp on quality gear.
- What is your sleeping bag rating?
You’ll want a bag that’s rated to at at least 10 degrees cooler than the lowest temperature you plan to encounter. Your options are down or synthetic. Down is favorable because it’s lightweight, but you’ll need to make sure it stays dry or it loses its warming power.
- Do you need a four-season tent?
A four-season tent is a smart investment if you’re doing any cold weather or snow camping. These tents have stronger poles and are generally much more sound structures than a three-season tent, using more substantial materials to protect you from the elements like falling snow and high winds.
Some four-season tents use double-walled designs and have steep angled sides to withstand snowfall. They also pay close attention to ventilation, which will prevent frost from building up on the inside. And, many offer proper vestibules giving you a place to store snowy gear so there’s less chance the snow follows you inside. The vestibule also gives you a break from wind and an area to cook that isn’t inside your tent, which can be dangerous.
2. Get that fire going, quickly
There are a few tried and true fire hacks to get any wood to light, providing that imperative warmth on a cold day or night. If it’s been snowing, firewood will be wet or—worse—frozen. A way to outsmart this situation:
Cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly. Do this before venturing out, and pull out the cotton balls to quickly start a fire.
3. Layer up at night
- Layer on the clothes
On cold nights, you can wear—at least—a tank top, long-sleeved mid-weight base layer, and fleece. You don’t want anything too tight that might restrict blood flow to your arms and hands. Don’t be afraid to sleep in a beanie or with gloves on. On the bottom, I suggest thermals and wool socks.
- Change your clothes before bed
It’s also important to wear clean clothes, not what you’ve had on all day, which undoubtedly has moisture baked in, making it harder to stay warm. You want dry clothes to sleep in.
- Don’t get too hot
If you start sweating inside your sleeping bag, it’ll trap moisture inside and cause your body temperature to drop as it tries to cool you off. This totally defeats the purpose. I know, it sounds like an impossible balance—get warm, but not too warm!—but proper layers pay off.
- Also layer up on bedding
Double down with an extra sleeping pad or mat for even more warmth and comfort. You will want full-length pads to keep you warm from head to toe. Try a closed-cell foam pad on the ground level and an inflatable pad on top.
4. Choose your tent spot wisely
- Cut down on wind by setting up camp near trees
If it is windy, you’ve got some extra work to do to make sure you’re secure. First, ensure your tent is tucked in good and tight with firm lines. There are wind-resistant stakes you can opt for, and tents have wind ratings, if that’s a concern. Wind can be detrimental to your gear, so make sure it’s properly rated if you’re headed into a windy area.
5. Master the bedtime routine
- Get active to stay warm
When it’s cold and you’ve put out the fire, all you’ll want to do is crawl into your cozy sleeping bag. I know, and I feel you. But I have another idea. Get that heart rate pumping with some jumping jacks. You’ll instantly warm and bring that into bed with you. But don’t sweat! For aforementioned reasons.
- Avoid liquids
Also, avoid a lot of liquids after dinnertime. This is obvious, but the last thing you want to do in the middle of the night is get up to pee. But, pee if you must
I feel it is my duty to say this: if you have to pee at 2am, GO PEE. Sitting there stewing about it will only cause you to lose more sleep. Trust me, this is a scientific fact.
- High-calorie snacks are your friend
Another tip is to eat a high-calorie snack before bed and/or bring one into your sleeping bag with you to munch on if you get cold in the middle of the night. Why does this work? Simple: your body requires fuel to keep you warm, so by forcing it to work and metabolize sugars, fats, or carbohydrates, you’re kicking it into action.
6. Keep your water warm and drinkable
It’s easy to forget to drink water when it’s cold outside, so you’re actually at a higher risk for dehydration. Another risk? Letting your water freeze overnight.
Frozen water is no good to anyone, so choose an insulated water bottle and stay hydrated. Drinking cold water is working against you, so rely on warm water and soups, and keep them warm with high quality insulated bottles.