Cold Weather Camping

Camp warm on a cold night with these tips

At night, how do you stay warm on a cold camp out?

  • Start with a sleeping bag that is rated way below what you expect to actually encounter. Many people find that a bag rated for –20 is not at all overkill for 20+ degree weather
  • If you sleep at home with an electric blanket, reread the above point
  • Use a close cell sleeping pad; the thicker, the better
  • Change all your clothes that directly touch your skin right before going to bed including underwear. Wear dry long underwear and fresh socks, perhaps two layers or more
  • Get warm before you get in the bag. Do exercises if necessary
  • Humans typically exhale and perspire over a full pint of water every night. If it cannot escape, the water vapor and condense to liquid. This will form where the sleeping bag touches the side of the tent, under the sleeping pad, or on coated tent surfaces. Leave the windows partially opened at the top to provide cross ventilation, especially in humid or cold conditions.
  • Don’t breath in your sleeping bag.
  • Wear a balaclava (over the face ski mask) and/or a good hat.
  • Pull the mummy bag tight around your neck
  • Use a separate camp or fleece blanket inside the bag – tucked tightly against your body
  • If your winter coat is dry, throw it on top of the bag or on top of your feet.
  • Drink a hot beverage before going to bed (downside – getting up in the middle of the night to relieve oneself)
  • Consume some quick calories just before bed – candy, sugar, etc.
  • Be sure the tent has at least some ventilation because the dampness from your breath can accumulate in the tent and conduct cold right in to you and will freeze on the inner surfaces or drip onto you.
  • Use two sleeping bags, one inside the other
  • Try chemical hand / foot warmers
  • Use Liners – fleece, silk or just home made with nylon


During the day how do you stay warm on a winter camp out?

  • Stay dry. This is absolutely critical to staying warm!
  • If it’s rainy or slushy keep the rain out with a hooded poncho or rain suit.
  • Dress in layers
  • Wear synthetics (vs. cotton) close to the skin
  • In case they get wet try to have two sets of:
    • Hat
    • Mittens
    • Snow pants or nylon shells
    • Boots (or one set of boots and a pair of sneakers for the cabin while your boots dry out by the stove)
  • Face mask or scarf for below 20 degrees.


What types of clothes are best around a campfire?

Wear clothes that will not melt or are too loose and can fall into the fire. Old and not very valuable clothes are ideal. Clothes do get thoroughly trashed and worn on campouts. Old clothes, often unsuitable for other occasions are perfect! No one wears the good stuff for Boy Scout camping. Remember too that clothes that are well marked can much more easily be returned.