While winter camping, the best way to stay warm is to use the proper 3 layers. Wearing a good thermal under wear layer, a down gear layer, a wind/water shell layer, and a sleeping bag that is suited for the weather outside is the most important way to stay warm. In this short write up I want to give you tips that might get you outside more during winter weather. By using a couple tricks I always use, you will feel like you are sleeping in a Holiday Inn. Remember that all these tips take discipline. If you truly want to stay warm, you can’t be lazy and just think you can suck it up and wait for morning.
Everyone can suck it up, and survive the night, but if you want to enjoy multiple nights camping, then you should follow this tips and make some of your own. It is a myth that the majority of heat escapes from your feet and head, this came from an old Army Survival manual that many people have always followed.
These areas of the body lose blood flow more quickly when its cold, making them feel as if body heat is escaping. Although you definitely should wear a good beanie, socks and boots, any other part of the body will lose heat just as fast if not properly covered. Your extremities such as your toes, fingers, nose, etc are most at risk for frostbite.
Tip 1- CHANGE YOUR SOCKS!
The second you put your feet in your boots, your feet start sweating. After hiking all day your boots and socks will be damp. When you are ready to settle in for the night, remove your sweaty socks, place them inside your down jacket close to your body. Over night your body heat will dry out your socks for the next day.
Allow your feet to air out until they are completely dry. Gently massaging them with wool gloves will increase blood flow and dry them more quickly. Your feet will get a little cold during this time but it will be well worth it for the warmth while you sleep. Place the new, dry, thick wool socks on and you’re ready for bed.
For even more warmth, add another layer, put a pair of hot socks/down socks over your wool sock. You can also sleep with your boots near your body inside your bag or put a hand warmer in your boots, so they aren’t frozen when you wake up in the morning.
If you decide to sleep with your boots, bring a small dish soap brush to clean off any snow, dirt or twigs from the bottom. Snow inside your bag will cause condensation which will decrease your warmth and make everything damp. Dirt inside your bag will decrease the efficiency of the bags ability to insulate and twigs or small rocks could puncture or tear your bag.
Tip 2- HAVE A GROUND PAD!
You can have the greatest sleeping bag and warm gear in the world, but if you don’t have a ground pad, you will lose all the heat your body made to the ground. Ground Pads not only insulate, but also reflect your own body heat back towards you. I’ve found that inflatable pads are much warmer and more comfortable, but you always run the risk of tearing or having a hole. I always bring half of a foam ground pad just in case.
Tip 3- SLEEP WITH A HOT NALGENE!
On really colds night or if I wasn’t able to have a fire before going to sleep, I’ll heat up 32 ounces of boiling hot water, pour it into my Nalgene and put it in my groin or hug it as I go to sleep. Placing something hot in your groin or arm pits will quickly warm you up. If you make hot chocolate or coffee, it will be warm in the morning or you can reheat it in your jet boil quickly for it to be hot.
Tip 4- START YOUR HIKE SHIVERING!
This tip takes a lot of discipline! Its hard to step out into 20 degree weather and start taking clothes of but you will thank me later. Start off in a T-shirt or with a very light thermal layer, but try not to sleep in the same thermals you hiked in. Although merino wool and polyester thermals still insulate while wet, there is no need to sleep like that.
The sweat and oils from your skin will decrease the efficiency of your gear. Being wet and then allowing the gear to dry out is for staying active while you are wearing the gear or a survival situation. It isn’t to fall asleep in 10 degree weather inside your sleeping bag. This will also cause condensation in your bag. Either hike in without your thermals, neckgater, wool socks, gloves, beanie or have a dry pair to change into.
Have a large down jacket strapped to the outside of your bag so its easily accessible. When you stop to take a break, just throw your down jacket on. If you do decide to hike in your thermals, when you get to camp, strip all your damp gear off and put dry gear on.
Tip 5- PRE-MAKE FOOD AND COFFEE
Every time before I step on trail, I pre-make as much food and drinks as I can. This keeps myself from not doing it when I’m cold, feeling sorry for myself and just want to crawl in my bag. Making Hot Coffee, Hot Coco, or Hot Soup in a thermos will go a long way. Depending on the quality of your thermos, you can keep it hot for more than 12 hours. I also pre make my lunch and dinner for that night.
A mountain house is very easy and will stay warm for about 30 mins to an hour by itself. You can make your mountain house last for hours, if you buy the smaller Pro-packs. Cook the mountain house almost completely before getting on trail, this way all the water is soaked up and wont spill. Place the Mountain House in a good Ziploc bag for protection from spillage, and place the meal in a Nalgene bottle insulator.
Put a hand warmer on the top and bottom of the meal and you will have a hot meal that lasts for hours. This will keep you from having to break open your entire bag when you stop and it will also keep you from shivering while trying to get a Jet Boil going in your freezing tent. Knowing you can get right in your tent and eat a hot meal or drink hot coco immediately will make a cold camping trip that much more comfortable.
I hope these tips help you stay warm, help you find some tips of your own and get you to go camping more in the winter weather! Remember half the battle of staying warm is mental. If you touch a warm jet boil, eat or drink something warm and put on dry clothes you will mentally feel warmer.
– STAY HYDRATED TO STAY WARM
– BUY A SLEEPING BAG SLIGHTLY BIGGER THAN THE ONE RECOMMENDED
– DO PUSH UPS OR JUMPING JACKS RIGHT BEFORE BED
– EAT, EAT, EAT, THE CALORIES WILL KEEP YOU WARM
– CAMP SELECTION (OUT OF WIND)
– USE HAND/BODY/FEET WARMERS
– DON’T LAYER TOO MUCH
– DON’T WEAR TIGHT FITTING CLOTHES, YOU WANT GOOD CIRCULATION
– BRING YOUR VICE (CHOCOLATE, CIGARETTES, ALCOHOL)