I’m one of those people who can be wrapped up in a thick jumper on a sunny day and still feel cold…! While on expeditions or camping this can be a real problem. Being cold can affect my mood and makes all the difference between a good nights sleep and a bad nights sleep. Over the last few years though I’ve picked up some amazing tips, especially while on my Arctic expedition in Norway for keeping warm camping.
Here’s my advice on staying warm whether you are in a tent or out in the open wild camping in a bivvy bag…
#1 Never get into your sleeping bag cold
If you are feeling chilly before bed go for a brisk walk or do some star jumps no matter how much you don’t feel like it. If you go to bed cold you are doomed! Your sleeping bag reflects the heat you produce so if you aren’t producing any and they don’t work. Get your heart pumping and only go to bed when you are feeling comfortably warm.
For the same reason, I try to go to bed early on expeditions. As soon as the sun goes the temperature drops and sitting out will just make you colder and colder.
#2 Clothes & layers for keeping warm when camping
You sweat into your clothes throughout the day and this, when up against your skin, will keep you cold at night. So the first thing to do is to change out of all your clothes into dry ones in the evening (including your socks!). I have a set of clothes for hiking in the day and a set of clothes for evening and sleep.
Your sleeping bag needs air to be effective as it reflects your body heat to work. If you wear all your clothes then it won’t work so efficiently. It is very counter-intuitive but no matter how cold it gets take EVERYTHING off except for your thermal base layers to start with (plus socks and a hat).
While camping in -32 I slept like this, only adding a fleece layer to my top if I was still struggling to stay warm. I was much warmer than the first few nights when I went to bed in 3 layers.
Bonus tip: put your next days clothes in the bottom of your sleeping bag. In the morning it means you have toasty warm clothes to change into rather than cold ones.
#3 Protect the extremities
It always amazes me how much difference a beanie, a buff and a pair of gloves can make when it comes to staying warm in a tent.
You should never have your face inside the sleeping bag no matter how cold it gets as your breath will make the inside of the bag wet and ineffective. Sometimes it can be hard to sleep if your nose is out in the open and this is where your buff can come in handy as you can pull this up over your face.
One of the most effective items I have is a merino hat liner which I also got from Armadillo Merino.
#4 Know what gear is worth spending money on
When it comes to staying warm in a tent I’ve found having a good quality insulated roll matt, jacket and a sleeping bag is where it really matters.
Bonus tip: Your sleeping bag is most effective when you use all the drawstrings it comes with. Usually, there is one around the shoulders and also one around the face. Pull them all tightly to trap in air.
#5 Use your water bottle as a hot water bottle
If you have a Nalgene water bottle you can fill it with hot water before bed. It will then act as a hot water bottle to keep you toasty warm.
Remember to loosen the lid 10minutes after filling it up and shutting to release the pressure.
#6 It’s good to pee
Having a full bladder makes you cold. If you wake up in the night and get even an ounce of an urge to wee then go straight away. There’s no point fighting it. You will lie there getting colder and colder before eventually giving in. Afterwards, you’ll feel relieved and will likely get back into bed, warm up and wish you’d just gone straight away.
I’ve been through this process way too many times.
#7 Bonus tip for women; add extra insulation to the hips
Women lose a lot of heat in their hip area (test this at night if you are cold in your sleeping bag….feel your thighs and hips and they’ll be freezing to touch!). If you have an insulated jacket put it in the sleeping bag and just lightly wrap it around your hip area.
This makes SUCH a difference.
If you found these tips on keeping warm camping useful, you might also be interested in reading:
- How to pack your hiking backpack like a pro
- 22 tips for long distance hiking
- Guide to wild camping in the UK
- Bivvy bag guide – how, what, where and when