Camping is all about getting back to nature and feeling a little bit of peace and relief from your busy daily lives. The last thing you need is to have a bad night’s sleep because you end up shivering all night in your tent. Being cold doesn’t just lead to lack of sleep, it can also be dangerous for your health and you can risk hypothermia if you’re not careful.
Not to worry. We are going to take you through all kinds of ways to make sure you stay warm in your in a tent so you can forget those sleepless nights and snuggle up warm to wake up excited for the day of adventuring.
This may sound pretty obvious, but what we mean here is don’t let the cold get in and make sure you layer up before your temperature starts to drop. It’s much easier for your body to maintain heat than have to create it because you’re cold. As soon as you feel the temperature start to drop or notice cold weather coming in, put some more clothes on.
Thermals are light and easy to pack and you should always carry a thermal base layer for both your legs and upper body, especially when camping outside of the summer months and most certainly in winter. By wearing thermal pants and a long-sleeved thermal t-shirt, you’re giving yourself the best chance of staying warm no matter the weather. Plus you’ll be able to use fewer layers to stay warm.
One of the worst things you can do is go to bed cold. Your body has to work hard to keep you warm and if you get into your sleeping bag cold, you’ll most likely remain cold for a while. If you are cold when you want to go to bed then do something to warm up. Whether it’s drinking something hot, doing some start jumps, or even doing some situps while in your sleeping bag, get your core body temperature up will help keep you warm all night.
Sleeping bag liners are designed to add a season to your sleeping bag rating. They come in all shapes and sizes but the warmest are most likely fleece sleeping bag liners. They are light, packable, and make a huge difference when you’re camping in cold weather or winter.
There is nothing better than using a high-quality sleeping bag to stay warm throughout the night. Down insulation is the best in terms of keeping you warm. But down sleeping bags can be expensive. There are some great less expensive sleeping bags that use synthetic insulation if you’re not willing to spend the extra cash for down. Just make sure to buy a 3-season sleeping bag unless you’re camping in winter, in which case you’ll want a 4-season sleeping bag.
A hot water bottle is pretty much a portable sleeping bag heater and you should always pack one if you’re going camping in winter or if there is any risk of cold weather. All you need is to boil some water, fill it up and you can go to bed with a warm companion that’ll keep you toasty most of the night.
One way the cold will get to you in your tent is through the floor. As the night rolls in, the ground gets colder and colder and will act as a heat sink, stealing all your hard-earned warmth. Usually, a single camping mattress will do, but when it’s really cold, you’re going to need some additional ground layers to protect you.
Consider getting an extra sleeping mat for times like this and ensure it has a high R-value. The higher the R-value the better the sleeping mat mat will be at preventing heat loss. By using a mat like this, plus your normal sleeping mat, you’re giving all your gear the best chance of keeping you warm.
The smaller your tent, the quicker your body heat is going to warm it up. A large tent, with a high roof and not many people init will struggle to warm up. Make sure to pick a tent that fits you all comfortably but isn’t too big so that you’ll get cold.
In this day and age, you can buy a tent heater to take along with you. They are either electric or run on gas, note if you choose an electric one you’ll have to have access to a power hook up. You can use them to heat up your tent before you go to bed, but you shouldn’t ever use them while you’re sleeping for a long time as they are a dangerous fire risk.
If you do plan on investing in a tent heater, make sure it comes with all the safety features like an automatic kill switch that turns it off if it falls over. This way you can minimize the risks a little bit.
Keeping tent vents open does seem to go against every bone in your body when you’re planning to be warm, but it’s exceptionally important. Good ventilation allows some of your heat to escape the tent and will stop any condensation from building up inside. If condensation builds up, your tent and gear can become slightly damp which will make you cold, something we are doing our best to avoid.
Keep your vents open will keep your tent and gear drier, therefore keeping you much warmer.
When you’re camping in winter or with the risk of some cold weather coming in, picking a campsite that protects you from the elements is going to give you a huge advantage. Use areas with trees or bushes to block the wind, don’t camp in the bottom of a valley where it gets colder than anywhere else, nor should camp on the top of a hill where you can be exposed to high winds and a colder altitude.
Every time you sleep in your sleeping bag, your body heat and breath will end up leaving some moisture inside it. It won’t be very noticeable but we guarantee you it’s there. The best way to dry it out is to hang it out in the sun but you won’t always have that option. Each morning, roll it up tightly from toe to head to squeeze any dampness out that might otherwise make you chilly.
Ever notice that when you’re too hot in bed, you need to pop your feet out of the covers? Or when you’re cold, putting a wooly hat on makes all the difference? The two parts of your body that tend to express the most heat are your feet and your head so wearing socks and a wooly/knit hat to bed are excellent ways to keep you warm.
Your head is likely to be the only exposed part of your body when sleeping in a sleeping bag, and this is why some have been designed with a hood, to keep your head warm. Even if your sleeping bag does have a hood, it’s still worth wearing a knit hat as you can always shrug it off in the night if you’re getting too warm.
Another point to make is to ensure your socks are dry. Cold, damp socks are not going to help keep you warm, in fact, they will do the opposite. It’s a good idea to keep one pair of socks just for sleeping. Not only will this ensure they are dry and not full of sweat or moisture, but it also means your sleeping bag might not get so smelly.
One way to keep your body working and making heat is to eat a big dinner before you go to bed. Going to bed on a full stomach will make your body digest for longer and therefore help you radiate more heat to stay warm. So don’t hold back at dinner time, fill up, and enjoy your food to the maximum.
If you’re hiking with your partner, then this is an obvious one and you’ll probably cuddle up even if you’re too warm. But, if you’re two burly men, this may seem like an odd thing to do, but when it gets cold enough, you’ll forget all those worries and be happy that you helped each other out by sharing and maintaining body heat.
Picking out your clothes for the next day will make sure you don’t get cold in the morning when you’re changing but there is a lot more you can do with them. If you stuff them in your sleeping bag when you go to bed, you’ll not only have some extra layers to keep you warm but also have warm clothes to put on in the morning that haven’t gotten cold or damp in the night.
Life on the trail can be a bit of a shock from the office, especially if you’re not out there often, and instead of sitting behind a desk all day you’re breathing fresh air and working your body. While this is the whole reason we’re out there it can also lead to some laziness, like not changing out of your hiking clothes before going to bed. This is an error, as your clothes will be damp from all your exercise and will keep you cold. Plan to pack one set of sleeping clothes that you use every night and leave in your sleeping bag so they stay warm-ish and protected.
Getting too hot and beginning to sweat in bed is quite a dangerous thing to do. Sweating = moisture = dampness = cold. You may start to sweat at the beginning of the night but at around 5 am when the night is as it’s coldest, that sweat is going to make you freezing cold. Shed layers before you start to sweat so you don’t overheat.
This trick is a bit of a last resort but it can save you from a cold night, especially when you’re unprepared. Once you have built a fire find some small rocks and place then in the fire to heat up. Once they are piping hot, carefully remove the rocks from the fire and let them cool down until you can handle them. Now take your warm rock and wrap it in something and put it in your sleeping bag. The rock will radiate heat for hours and keep you warm through the night. Granite is one of the best stones to choose as it releases heat much slower than other rocks.
Instead of putting the rocks in your sleeping bag, you could pile them in the center of your tent if you have enough space to create a heater that’ll keep the entire tent warm.
You’ll need to give your body the best chance of keeping you warm whilst you’re out in the wilderness. This means keeping it fuelled, keeping it hydrated, and protecting it from the elements like wind, rain, and the sun. If your body is feeling weak, abused, or isn’t getting what it needs, it’s going to struggle to keep you warm.
Make sure you have the right gear to stay warm and dry during the day, as reheating at night is not easy. Getting wet or chilled to the bone is one way to make you freeze all night long, and by having the right clothing, you can avoid it. You’ll need a good hardshell to block any wind and rain, plus a down jacket, a wool jumper, and thermal a base layer to guarantee warmth in any weather scenario.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!