We all know that camping is great, however one of the biggest variables that can make or break a much anticipated camping trip is the weather. As we move into winter, many people decide to postpone their camping adventures until the temperatures begin to warm up, but just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time while camping! Here are some tips and secrets I’ve learned over the years that make cold weather camping a much more enjoyable experience.
- Base layers are key. You’re obviously going to need to dress warm for a cold weather camping trip, however some people overlook the importance of a quality base layer to really keep you warm. Long underwear, wool socks and a snug fitting long sleeved turtle neck are always at the top of my packing list. The biggest benefit of having a quality base layer is that it wicks away moisture from your body, which is one of the biggest factors that make us cold when outside. Merino wool and synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon do a great job of removing moisture, so look for base layers made of these materials.
- Bring extra pairs of base layers and socks! Even if you aren’t expecting snow, being out and about all day in the cold weather can cause some moisture to build up in your base layer, which you’ll start to feel after a few minutes of sitting down. You will be so glad you brought an extra few pairs of socks or long underwear - even if the rest of your body is warm, having cold feet is the worst, why do you think we use the expression "he got cold feet?"
- Pocket warmers are your new best friend. Disposable pocket warmers are great - they last around eight hours and quickly heat up your hands or feet when you’re feeling cold. You can also throw a few in your sleeping bag for some extra heat at night.
- Wear a puffy jacket. If you still haven’t jumped on the puffy jacket train, you should. You’re basically wearing a sleeping bag as a jacket, and they do a great job of insulating. They are also lightweight and allow you free range of movement when you are bundled up. Many have the added benefit of being waterproof as well.
- Your sleeping pad makes a huge difference! Even if there’s not snow on the ground, the earth below us retains a lot of cold during colder seasons. A good sleeping pad will offer an important layer of insulation between you and the ground. Foam pads are great for this, however if you prefer to use an air mattress make sure it’s insulated and rated for winter use. If it’s not, it will trap cold air and won’t provide much insulation at all.
- Winter sleeping bag. Make sure you bring a sleeping bag rated for winter temperatures! Mummy bags are great because they have elastic around the opening, which you can close tight around your head. This helps trap heat inside the sleeping bag.
- Don’t breathe inside your sleeping bag. Sticking your head inside your sleeping bag may seem like a good idea, however breathing will cause some condensation to form inside your sleeping bag. Moisture quickly amplifies the cold, and you’ll be in for a long and chilly night’s sleep. Tighten those elastic straps at the opening of your sleeping bag around your head and wear a warm hat to bed. Read tip #3 for extra warmness.
- Bring plenty of firewood. Campfires are much more satisfying in cold weather as they offer some great heat to warm up after the sun goes down. They also can help quickly dry damp socks!
- Hot drinks throughout the day. This is one of my favorite tips - I love to drink hot tea, coffee and hot chocolate throughout the day to keep me warm. I also drink hot water throughout the day, which sounds kind of strange but is actually really great. It makes a big difference especially if you are relaxing and aren’t moving around to keep your body temperature up.
- Don’t think about the cold too much. This is more of a psychological tip, but it can make a noticeable difference. If you are constantly thinking about how cold you are, you are going to feel cold. By keeping yourself occupied, you will forget (for a little while) about the cold. Staying busy and moving around also keep your blood flowing and help insulate you even more.
With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to stay ahead of the cold and focus more on enjoying your camping trip. Cold weather camping requires you to respect the elements and be flexible, but it also offers you a unique opportunity to connect with nature in ways that aren’t possible during the summer months. Do you have any cold weather camping tips that aren’t listed above? Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you!