Camping and Cold? Not Again. Sleep Your Warmest With These Tips

All of us at some point have underestimated how cold it would be when we were camping or out in the backcountry. Maybe an unexpected storm arose and you just didn’t have enough clothes. One time when my in-laws were visiting we all camped out on the Oregon coast. This was in summertime, mind you, and we are aware that it would get cold there, even on sun-shiny days.

We warned everyone to pack well and bring warm clothes. As it turns out, we were all cold the whole weekend. Everyone needed one more layer, and we just didn’t bring enough warm clothes. I learned from that miserable experience. Sleeping when you’re cold is no fun, and waking up on a chilly morning when you’re already cold is downright unpleasant. Here are some tips for keeping yourself warm no matter where you are.

First things…bring enough clothes. Bring a hat and gloves. Bring a scarf if you have one. Bring extra socks. If your socks get wet and you sleep in them because that’s all you’ve got, you could be setting yourself up for hypothermia.

Investigate your sleeping bag. If you have a down-filled bag and you’ve had it for some time or it’s gotten heavy use, it might just not be as warm as it once was. The down compacts and clumps up over time, and those air pockets that work to keep you warm diminish. Even synthetic insulation will tamp down over time.

When it’s time to replace your bag, know that there are a ton of styles out there now. There are square cut sleeping bags which maximize space. Mummy bags (which I prefer not to use because I feel constricted), have narrow shoulders and hips to reduce weight. Some of them do have more room near the feet. And there are even hammock sleeping bags. Depending on your size, you may need a bag that is made for a larger person so that you have some room to move inside of it. Backpacking bags minimize weight, while sleeping bags for car camping maximize comfort. Decide how you’ll use the gear.

Whatever bag you choose, get a polar fleece liner. Slip it inside your bag. This not only helps keep your warmer, but keeps the inside of the bag more clean.

Stuff a pillow case with extra clothes for a pillow to avoid having to bring one. Some sleeping bags have a “pillow pocket” to allow you to do just this. Or, stuff it with an extra blanket.

You lose a lot of heat through the top of your head. Either wear a comfortable cap or invest in a bag with a built-in hood. The nice thing about the hoods is that they work just like a sweatshirt hoodie…you cinch the drawstring around your neck and it keeps your heat in and the hood on your head.

Add some long johns to your night clothing. Wearing an extra layer under your sweatpants or hoodie will help. Wool or silk longjohns are a little more expensive but really do work to keep you warmer.

Bring along a hot water bottle. If you have a campfire going as you ease into sleep, warm up some water and fill up your hot water bottle with it. Put it down by your feet or hug it to your belly and you’ll feel toasty for most of the night. I use a wrap on my water bottle that I sewed from an old towel with a drawstring from an old shoelace added. It insulates it so that the heat lasts quite a while.

Sleeping on an air mattress helps because you’re insulated from the cold ground. Sea to Summit makes an easy-to-inflate small and lightweight insulated air mat that we’ve tried and liked a lot.

What’s the best sleeping gear you’ve discovered? Let us know how you keep yourself warm. And yes, we’ve heard this before…sleeping with someone else does help!