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Staying warm when winter camping is essential if you want to be comfortable and enjoy yourself. It’s also necessary for getting a good night’s sleep and ensuring another successful camping trip.
Unfortunately, it can be a challenge to keep warm when you are camping, especially when on the cold ground. Anticipating cold weather challenges and planning ahead can make a big difference when it comes to staying warm while camping.
There are varying degrees of what you can do to stay warm. Most people camp in the spring, summer, or fall, so they don’t need to worry about severe temperatures. Of course, there are those daring winter campers who view the harshest conditions as a camping adventure. So, if you fall into this category, you’ll want to do as much research as possible to determine how to keep warm.
Camping during the winter can be dangerous. Staying warm in a tent is not just a matter of comfort when it comes to winter temperatures, so you need to be very careful if you choose to tent camp in freezing temperatures and you need to take every precaution possible to protect your health.
If you’re like most people, however, and you’re camping during what’s typically considered “camping season,” you don’t need to take such drastic action to protect yourself. You’ll want to do what you can to make sure you are comfortable and that you are able to sleep without awakening because of the overnight temperatures.
Other than investing in an expensive cold-weather tent such as a four-season tent, here are a few tips for staying warm when camping in a tent:
Invest in a Warm Sleeping Bag
Having a high-rated tent that is known for preserving warmth is important, but you can further improve your heating situation by investing in a great sleeping bag. As a matter of fact, a sleeping bag that’s good at preserving heat can make up for a lot of your tent’s warming sins.
Your sleeping bag should be rated for zero degrees, which means, in theory, it should keep you comfortable as long as temps don’t dip to the subzero level. Some sleeping bags have a fleece lining that not only makes them warmer but also cozier and more comfortable.
If you are in doubt that your sleeping bag will be enough to keep you warm, take a blanket with you to add warmth. Nobody wants to pack more stuff than needed, but that additional layer of coverage when you’re sleeping can mean the difference between a long, cold night and sleep in warm comfort. You might even consider using a Mylar heating blanket. These are made of metallic paper, so they aren’t something you’ll want to cuddle the inside of your sleeping bag. Covering your bag with the blanket can help retain warmth, making them highly effective.
Finally, it’s not a bad idea to use a sleeping pad of some kind under your sleeping bag. This lifts you up off the ground, so you don’t need to worry about the ground cold seeping into your sleeping bag. An air mattress can help with this, but dense pads tend to do better for staying warm because air mattresses are filled with cold air.
Invest in an In-the-Tent Heater
Though it’s usually not advisable to use a heater inside your tent, some heaters are made specifically for in-tent use. You still need to be very careful, especially if you plan to operate the heater while you are sleeping, but if you’re able to do so safely, an in-the-tent heater can have a huge impact on your ability to stay warm.
Keep in mind, however, that these heaters are usually only a good option when you’re driving to your campsite because you wouldn’t want to carry them if you’re hiking long distances.
If you’re uncomfortable using a space heater in your tent, consider using one of the traditional methods for heating a space: heated rocks. Before bedtime, heat a few rocks over your campfire and then wrap them in towels and place them around your sleeping bag. They’ll generate heat for a couple of hours which can be enough to take the chill off your space and make it more comfortable.
Dress for Warmth
Most people know to dress warmly during the day if they are camping in colder temperatures, but dressing the part at night while you sleep is also important. Don’t assume you’ll be comfortable wearing the same sleepwear or other clothing you would in a heated house.
Some people even go the extra step of sleeping in wool socks, a hat, and even hand warmers on every winter camping trip. You lose a lot of heat through your head and feet, so keeping these body parts covered when you are sleeping can preserve your body heat and help you use it to keep you warm.
This final tip is one that a lot of people fail to realize or remember. You must keep the inside of your tent dry if you want to stay warm. This means more than just keeping leaks at bay if it’s raining.
To truly keep your tent dry, you need to have proper ventilation. It might seem counterintuitive to let cold air into your tent but over time your breathing and your body heat cause condensation to build up, which means the temperature in your tent can feel chilly. Also, make sure you don’t sweat too much. As nice as it is to cuddle up under your sleeping bag and blankets, if you end up breaking a sweat because of the body heat you’re generating, you’ll ultimately end up cold. You’re better off keeping your body temperature at a comfortable level instead of being too warm while compensating for the cold temperatures outside.
You’ll also want to make an effort to keep moisture out of the tent that can seep in from the outside. The idea of cold rain dripping into your tent is enough to send chills through your body when you are not camping! Check your tent in advance for leaks and make sure you have the materials needed to repair any leaks (throw a roll of duct tape in your kit for this) when you are planning to camp in colder weather. It’s also a good idea to check the floor or base layer of your tent to make sure no moisture has managed to seep in from underneath, jeopardizing all of your other efforts to stay warm.