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 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. Here’s my advice on staying warm while camping.
#1 The right clothes & layers
You want to avoid cotton with all your clothing and learn how to follow a basic layering system. Wearing more clothes doesn’t automatically mean you will be warmer. You need to have space between your layers for the air to be trapped and to warm up.
The basic set up is:
Base Layer: get yourself a decent set of long sleeved thermals (I use Armadillo Merino wool base layers….use the code LHW20 for 20% off!). I always have 2 sets – one for the day and one for sleeping.
Mid layer: I use a cheap fleece (I found it just as effective as my expensive one) and hiking trousers.
Outer layer: Get decent waterproofs which by default will also be windproof. You will also want a thick insulated jacket, down is the most effective although not effective in wet conditions when you will want to favour synthetic.
#2 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. One of the most effective items I have is a merino hat liner which I also got from Armadillo Merino.
#3 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.
#4 Know what gear is worth spending money on
When it comes to staying warm I’ve found having a good quality insulated roll matt, jacket and a sleeping bag is where it really matters. I can really recommend checking out Tundra for a good sleeping bag as they make quality and ethical bags (I love mine!). I’ve also got a really good Thermarest insulated roll mat.
#5 Always change your socks before bed
I don’t know why this works but it does. My best guess would be because socks hold all your sweat which will make it hard for your feet to get warm. Even if your clean socks feel cold your feet will warm up once you’ve changed them…trust me!
#6 Never wear all your clothes to bed
Your sleeping bag needs air and access to your body heat to work. If you wear all your clothes then it won’t work. It is very counter-intuitive but no matter how cold it gets take EVERYTHING off except for your thermal base layers, a pair of socks and a beanie. 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 night when I went to bed in 3 layers.
Another handy tip is to 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.
#7 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.
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.