How to Stay Warm When Camping
An occupational hazard of camping trips can be getting cold. However, with some forethought and preparation, feeling the chill should never be a problem.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to keep warm when you’re holidaying under canvas, even when the mercury plummets.
In this guide, I’ll share some tips on how you can keep warm and toasty when you’re camping in your tent, even in the chilliest of weather.
Keep warm and dry
Now, this might sound obvious, but it’s a fact that if you get wet and cold, you’ll find it very difficult to get warm again.
If you feel your body temperature dropping, move around a bit or put on an extra layer. Don’t wait until you are actually cold to do something about it. Preserving the heat that you have is key.
Also, getting wet will leave you feeling cold in no time, even in warm weather. So, make sure that you have plenty of dry clothes and waterproof layers on hand to help you stay dry.
The same applies to sweat. If you plan on going hiking or mountain biking, wear moisture-wicking fabrics next to your skin to keep you dry and warm.
Choose your pitch carefully
Take a look at cattle, horses, and sheep out in the fields, and you will see that they favour particular spots to stand in during cold weather. That’s because those areas are sheltered from the chilling effects of rain and wind.
So, think like a horse when choosing your pitch! Choose somewhere sheltered that has natural windbreaks such as rocky outcrops, drystone walls, hedges, and copses of trees.
If possible, choose a slightly elevated location that’s away from a valley floor. Cold air sinks and water naturally flows downhill to gather in a valley bottom, so the temperature here will be a couple of degrees lower than it is slightly higher up.
Insulation is essential!
Most of the heat that you generate is lost through the ground, so you absolutely must use good insulation to create a barrier.
That applies whether you’re sleeping in your tent or sitting outside.
Good forms of insulation are:
- Layers, layers, and more layers!
- Self-inflating mats
- Air mattresses
- Thick blankets
- Thick foam camping mats
- A combination of the above
And so, to bed
Even if you place a layer of insulation underneath an air mattress, the cold can still seep through and chill you to the bone.
A better sleeping arrangement is to invest in a camp bed so that you can sleep raised up off the ground.
Use insulation underneath the bed, including an extra layer between the sleeping base and the floor – carpet or cardboard is perfect for that.
Put a thick fleecy blanket or rug underneath your sleeping bag, too, to keep you warm and stop your sleeping bag from slipping around, letting cold air get underneath you.
Finish off by piling a duvet or a few extra blankets on top of your sleeping bag if you think you’ll need them.
Now, although it might sound odd, it’s very important that you have enough ventilation in your tent. That’s because body heat and your breath create condensation inside the tent, which will make the atmosphere damp and cold.
So, keep your tent vents open to prevent condensation from forming.
Choose the right sleeping bag
Did you know that you can buy sleeping bags for every season? Well, you can, so make sure that you choose a sleeping bag to suit the temperatures that you can expect for the time of year when you’re going camping.
For an extra layer of warmth, invest in a sleeping bag liner. You can also use liners alone in very hot weather, and they’re much easier to wash too.
NOTE: When your sleeping bag isn’t in use, it will probably be folded up and squashed underneath other items of bedding. That will crush the fibres inside the sleeping bag, squeezing out the air. The same thing happens at night when you’ve been lying on the sleeping bag. Well, it’s the air between the sleeping bag’s stuffing that holds the heat and keeps you cosy. So, each morning, give your sleeping bag a good shake to fluff up the fibres and aerate the sleeping bag.
Pack the right clothes
When packing for your camping trip, pack for the worst, and hope for the best! You’ll be thankful for extra socks, underwear, and a warm fleece if you do get wet.
Think layers. Lots of layers. You want moisture-wicking base layers that will stop you from getting damp, as well as lightweight fleeces that you can put on top.
Make sure that your waterproofs are exactly that; waterproof! The last thing you need is to get caught in a downpour only to discover that your jacket leaks like a sieve, and your hiking boots let in water!
In addition to warm clothing and bedding, there are a whole plethora of accessories that you can take on a camping trip to help keep the cold out, including:
- Portable hand warmers
- Self-heating gel packs
- Hot water bottles
- A flask (fill it with a nice hot drink or hot soup)
- A good pair of insulating gloves
- A warm hat
Hot drinks and lots of calories
Calories are important to give you energy but also to keep you warm. High-calorie meals are perfect for warming you, and hot drinks are essential, too, as they warm your core.
A small tip is to eat a piece of shortbread before you do to bed. Your digestive system will go to work to break down this indulgent treat and help produce a little extra body heat.
However, try not to drink too much before you go to bed, as you don’t want to get up during the night to go to the loo. Nighttime toilet visits mean that you’ll lose all that precious heat that you’ve built up inside your sleeping bag.
Sitting around is a sure-fire way of getting cold.
Try taking a short, brisk walk, doing star jumps, or even kicking your legs around in your sleeping bag. All those tactics will help to keep your circulation moving and keep you warm.
But don’t do too much as you don’t want to sweat! Sweating will leave moisture on your skin to increase your rate of cooling – which is exactly what we don’t want.
Light a campfire
There’s nothing quite like a crackling fire to make you feel warm and generate a considerable amount of heat. So, if your campsite permits campfires, do light one.
Enjoy your fire, but do be sure to observe fire safety rules. Don’t light the fire anywhere near your tent, do not leave the fire unattended, and put it out completely before you retire to bed.
If your pitch has an electric hook-up, you could consider using an electric camping heater. Heaters can be great for warming up your tent before you go to bed, and when you get up in the mornings.
Do not use a fuel-burning heater inside your tent. Your tent is a poorly ventilated space, and anything that burns fossil fuels can present a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Electric heaters are not expensive, and you can choose from convector or fan heaters. Again, do not leave the device unattended, and always switch off the heater before you go to sleep.
To wrap things up…
Don’t let getting cold ruin your camping trip! As you can see, there are lots of simple, inexpensive hacks that you can use to keep yourself warm under canvas, whatever the weather throws at you.
I’d love to know how you keep the cold out when you’re camping. If you have any extra tips, please share them with us in the comments box below.