Tips for Cold Weather Camping

one-pot-meals-winter-camping-by- peupleloupCold weather camping isn’t for the faint of heart or ill-prepared. You can saunter out the door with nothing but a lightweight sleeping bag and a hammock during the summer, but that won’t cut it during the winter. Camping in cold weather can be downright unpleasant if you don’t know what you’re getting into. Camping outside in the winter can be enjoyable if you’re prepared and you have the right equipment, however. Here are some cold weather camping tips for the bold and the brave who want to get outside this season.

A warm fire works wonders

A campfire is your best friend. Campfires provide warmth, comfort, and it can keep your spirits high on a cold weather camping trip. Don’t skimp on the supplies. Trying to start a fire with nothing but a match when your fingers are numb and the sun is going down is a miserable experience. Bring plenty of firewood and a fire starter.

Layering is key

Layers are important any time you head out in nature. Start with a warm merino wool or synthetic base layer. Follow that with a warm middle layer such as a fleece and winter weight hiking pants. Top that off with a big down or synthetic jacket. Don’t forget winter accessories such as hats, scarves, gaiters, gloves, mittens, etc. Unlike hiking, camping doesn’t generate a lot of body heat. You’re mostly sitting still in the cold, and so you need more insulation to stay warm.

Sleeping bag

You need a cold weather sleeping bag if you’re going to camp in the winter. Most sleeping bag manufacturers provide a temperature rating for their sleeping bags. This temperature rating is often based on the comfort level for the average person. In other words, this is a highly subjective rating. Determine whether you sleep hot or cold before buying a bag. Those who sleep cold might be uncomfortably chilly in a 30-degree bag on a 35-degree night, whereas someone who sleeps warm might be perfectly comfortable in a 30-degree bag in sub-freezing temperatures.

Sleeping pad

A sleeping pad is equally as important as a good sleeping bag. A sleeping pad not only provides extra comfort, but extra insulation from the ground as well. Typically a foam core sleeping pad will provide more insulation than an air core pad. There are exceptions, however, so it’s safest to check the R-value rating provided by the manufacturer. The higher the R-value, the better the thermal resistance, and the warmer you will be.

Sleeping bag liner

Another way to add some extra warmth to your sleep set-up is a sleeping bag liner. The amount of warmth provided by a liner varies greatly depending on the material. Some sleeping bag liners can increase the temperature rating of your bag by over 20-degrees. Sleeping bag liners also extend the lifetime of your sleeping bag.

Hot water bottle

Boil some water over the fire or on a camp stove, and pour it into a Nalgene water bottle. Toss this makeshift hot water bottle into your sleeping bag a few minutes before bed, and enjoy a toasty sleep set-up.

Tent camping

You might think that you want a tent that retains as much heat as possible while camping in cold weather. While you do want your tent to trap some of your body heat, you also want your tent to breathe. Make sure your tent has good ventilation to reduce moisture build up, or tent drip, on the inside of your tent. Another way to eliminate this buildup of condensation is by storing all wet or damp gear – such as boots, socks, etc. – outside of your tent. Also refrain from cooking in your tent to avoid excess heat build up (also cooking in your tent is a fire hazard).

Hot drinks and a hot menu.

There are only so many jackets you can put on to try and stay warm before you start to look a little absurd. Luckily hot drinks and warm food can provide a little extra warmth and comfort during winter camping. A nice hot cup of coffee, cocoa, or cider will stave of the chills, and a warm, hearty bowl of stew, soup, or chili will warm you through and through.

Hand warmers

There’s a joke about pockets being the original hand warmers. While a fleece-lined pocket is certainly better than nothing at all, a hand warmer beats a pocket any day. Once you use some disposable hand warmers or a reusable hand warmer, you won’t ever go camping in the winter without one again.

Stop by Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters for any of your camping needs! We’ve been providing Northwest Arkansas with camping, hiking, and climbing gear for more than 30 years!

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