If you love camping in the great outdoors, you know that nature is just as beautiful during the colder seasons of the year. The leaves begin to turn, plants offer us tasty treats, the wildlife makes the most of the last days before winter. Enjoying camping activities in the winter can be an incredible experience. However, it also means sleeping out in much colder temperatures.
Before you give up on the idea of being able to camp in cold weather, take a moment to check out these helpful tips. With a little thought and modification, you can have a great trip, even if the temperature outside is freezing.
How to Stay Warm
First, you need to think about external influences like the thermal regulation of the tent and your surroundings. Next, you need to think about what you are sleeping in. The right sleeping bag and heating methods can make a massive difference to your body temperature at night. Then there is the clothing you choose to wear as you sleep. The layers and materials you choose also play a big part in how well you retain heat.
Find the best place to pitch your tent where you can stay a little warmer.
The best place to start is with the location of your tent. Choosing a good campsite can have a significant effect on the temperature in the tent throughout the night.
Look out for a protected campsite at just the right height above sea level. You do not want too high of an altitude, nor anywhere too low-lying where cold air can settle. Exposure to the wind can also be a big issue, so look out for protection from trees and other barriers.
Keep an eye on the temperature inside of the tent.
Once you have the ideal site to protect you from the worst temperatures in the middle of the night, you need to think about insulation. This provides an extra barrier, keeping the heat inside your tent and maintain a better sleeping environment.
You could get a tent-safe heater and let it warm up the tent for a while before you go to bed. Just make sure to turn it off before you sleep so it does not become a hazard or use too much power. You could also get a thermometer to check the temperature and notice when it begins to drop.
Consider bringing thicker insulation for the floor of your tent.
Many experienced campers recommend insulating from the ground up. Sleeping on the cold ground can make it very difficult to get warm and maintain body heat. It is a good idea to place sleeping pads between your sleeping bag and groundsheet so that you lay on top of the pad. A yoga mat will do nicely because it is so narrow, dense, and easy to transport. If you are short on materials, a bed of soft pine needles works too.
Avoid sleeping on air mattresses, if possible. Some people think that this is a good solution because it allows you to lift yourself up above the cold flaw. However, there is no temperature regulation for the air within the mattress. It will take on the colder temperatures and will not give the same snug feeling.
Look into other styles of sleeping bags that are cozier.
A new sleeping bag could make all the difference in how well you stay warm and how well you sleep. Traditional sleeping bags can lose insulation because they are so wide and have zippers all the way around. Look out for a temperature rated sleeping bag like a mummy bag. These are more compact and efficient against heat loss. A fleece-lined bag can help here too.
Whichever sleeping bag you choose, remember to take good care of it for the best performance. Try and fluff it out like a pillow each night. This allows for more space between the fibers, which can then trap warm air for insulation. You also want to make sure that the sleeping bag is dry, so you do not get chilled from any moisture trapped inside.
Consider sleeping with a hot water bottle or another heating tool.
There are additional tools that you can use either inside or outside your sleeping bag to add some extra warmth. A popular choice for many people that struggle on cold nights is the hot water bottle. They are familiar and can hold the heat well. However, you need to be sure that you can fill it with enough water and get it to the right temperature. Self-heating gel heat packs for your hands or feet can be more convenient.
Then there are the different blankets that you can use. Traditional blankets should not be underrated here. The right material and size could help provide that extra thermal layer. They are also more comfortable than other options. An electric blanket can be effective for a faster heat increase. But, you need to switch it off before you sleep, and it does eat up some of your power. Another interesting option is the mylar blanket. You might recognize this as the thermal blanket given to marathon runners.
Make sure you wear enough layers while you sleep.
Finally, you should consider what you are going to wear while you sleep. Many campers will have no problem donning multiple layers from head to toe. This also means a nice warm pair of socks or even some gloves. However, this could be uncomfortable for those that are not used to sleeping with that much on. You do not want to ruin your sleep in the process.
A solution here could be to choose fewer layers but to make sure those layers retain the optimal amount of heat. Thermal clothing should help you maintain your body temperature more comfortably. One of the best examples is a pair of thermal long johns. These thick bottoms consist of soft insulating cotton and extend further down the leg than traditional underwear.
Staying Safe While Camping in the Winter
Above all else, your safety is the most important thing to consider. There is no point in putting yourself at risk through any of your choices. Below are a few tips you should keep in mind in order to stay safe during winter camping trips.
1. Assess the weather conditions carefully before you go.
Do not assume that you are invincible against the winter and its weather patterns just because you have a new heater or thicker sleeping bag. If the temperature becomes dangerously cold and there is a risk of bad weather, just postpone the trip. You just want to take the edge off and get comfortable on cooler nights. It is not an endurance exercise. Keep an eye on the forecasts and make sure you can contact the outside world.
2. Remember that ventilation is also important.
A drawback of heating and insulating a tent in winter is that you can end up with condensation. Condensation quickly chills and lowers the temperature. It can also settle on materials, making them damp and uncomfortable. Make sure there is ventilation in your tent to avoid the worst of this.
3. Avoid unsafe heating appliances and fuels.
Do not ignore the risks of overheating or using dangerous fuels. Self-heating tools are the best way forward. Electric items are OK with supervision. Anything with a fuel-burning method is off-limits. These gas-burning appliances give off dangerous emissions like poisonous carbon monoxide.
Find a solution that is convenient and comfortable for you.
For example, you might not like the idea of wearing lots of layers in bed and feel that it will inhibit your sleep. If so, put more effort into the insulation and heat regulation inside the tent. On the other side of this, you might feel that all these extra tools and clever sleeping bags are not going to work on your budget. If so, pay more attention to what you already have with layering and clever hacks.
You may also decide to take a few options with you and see which works best to take the chill off. You might wear layers on the first night, get uncomfortable, and then switch to a hot water bottle or external heater. Do what is best for you and stick with it.