If some one suggested a year ago to go camping in the snow, without a tent, the answer would have been a very enthusiastic “NO!!!”. Since then I actually went camping with a tent, 3 times, and twice I was super cold. Stay tuned for that blog post because I have a lot to say 🙂
But now let’s talk about how to go winter camping, ans actually doing it without a tent and still enjoy it. I did this twice, and Loved it! In fact, my second time was on this past New Years Eve, so you if you have time, check out my Youtube video about that amazing time.
But for now, here are my 15 tips for staying warm and 1 bonus for just becase 🙂 For some you might need to invest some money, most require very little, and a lot are free tips. These tips can apply to camping in a tent or without a tent, in snow or in just cold weather.
- price: $100-200. 0 degree sleeping bag. If you can invest a one time $100-200 in a quality sleeping bag, pretty much most of your troubles are over. There are mummy style bags, I personally don’t like them because I feel like I really am a mummy, unable to turn. I toss and turn while I sleep, side to side and I can’t help it. So I like a spacious bag. The one I got is from Kodiak Canvas, it’s $200, wide and super tall (if you spend another $20, it can accommodate someone up to 6’3″. It has a built in pillow top, it’s very neat. Very warm !! Very light weight and packs up nicely. Definitely recommend them. Check them out at http://kodiakcanvas.com
- free Jumping jacks, warming up by the fire, drinking a hot beverage before you get in your sleeping bag. Your sleeping bag is not a heating pad. It cannot generate heat. A lot of people don’t know this, but you cannot go inside your sleeping bag and expect it to warm you up, regardless of its temperature rating. You must be warm and the bag will retain your body temperature. Which leads to my next point…
- free Layers. If you are sleeping in a lowers temperature sleeping bag, you can’t have layers. It might be a scary thought to just have on a t-shirt and thin pants, but trust me, it works like that. As long as you get in there feeling warm, your 20 – 0 – -20 degree sleeping bag will do its job. If you have 3-4 layers of clothes on, it won’t. You will be cold, your sleeping bag will be like any others. If you have a simple bag, let’s say rated at 40 F, yes, you should have a few layers, but don’t forget point #2, and many of the ones coming up.
- $5-10 Use a tarp behind you if you’re not using a tent. You can actually position it above you, but I think it’s best if it’s behind you and a bit above you it shield you from rain as well. I camped twice without a tent, once I didn’t put up a tarp, the second time I did. It was the same temperature, same gear, bit I think the tar made a difference because I felt warmer at night with the tarp behind me.
- $10-40 Even of you have a wonderful sleeping bag, you still need some insulation to maximize its potential. Let’s say you have a cot, and you put your sleeping bag on it. The bottom of your bag will get compressed and will not provide the same insulation as you need. You can do 2 things:
buy a sleeping pad, this should be a “closed cell” sleeping pad. The price varies, some can get expensive, but you can also use this if you’re sleeping on the ground (in that case you definitely need this). What I did was something less expensive: Mylar blanket. Much less expensive. What you do use a blanket, any kind of sleeping bag, etc on top of your cot (or the ground) and then lay the Mylar blanket on top, and on top of that your sleeping bag. This will keep your body heat / sleeping insulation from escaping to the ground. I bought mine from http://dragoonunlimited.com
- $5-10 Mylar Blanket: I know I just talked about this, but I want to point out its other uses. If you can’t invest in a quality, low temperature sleeping bag, then I would wrap myself around with this thermal blanket and then get inside the bag. I haven’t tried this, but I would assume that you also don’t want to have too many layers on. Maybe 1 and keep extras o n hand inside your sleeping bag
- $1 In order to stay warm in your sleeping bag, you can simply fill one or more water bottles with hot water and place them inside. They will emit heat and it will be easier to stay warm. I would put one in the bottom, by my feet and one to hold. You can use hot potatoes in foil. Toss them in the fire, then wrap them in foil. Be careful so they don’t burn you. You can eat them the next day 🙂
- free If you use a cot, (or a hammock), you will now have 1 foot or more cold air between you and the ground. It’s better than sleeping directly on the ground, in my opinion, but that cold air can make it very cold for you. So you need to fill that space with something. This can be your camping gear, fire wood, dogs if you have them (that would be best since they will emit body heat and they will probably like sleeping under a shelter. But worse case, if you don’t have enough things, pack it with snow. Snow actually insulates, but make sure it doesn’t reach your cot. If i t does, it will make it wet so all your efforts of staying warm will be pointless. Test it by sitting on your sot, laying on it and making sure it did not touch the snow.
- $5-10 Again, for the same reason as above, bring some handwarmers. They’re inexpensive. These little packets will take about 15-20 minutes to heat up (simply shake them, keep shaking them a few times) but will stay hot for several hours. I used to have one in each hand, they really help. You can put them in your sleeping bag before you get inside so it will already be warm. Even with my 0 degree bag, I had a few of these on hand. You never know, if I get cold at night, using these would be much easier, you couldn’t just pull out hot potatoes or hot water bottles from nowhere, right?
- free Do not go to sleep hungry. This is not the time to do intermittent or worry about your diet. Make sure you have a nice meal, and I don’t mean a couple of granola bars. Something warm, something that will full your belly. Digesting t will create more body heat.
- $300+ . This is a little pricier, but if you plan on snow camping a lot (hunting, or even just enjoying the snow), especially for 2 or ore night, you probably want to be in a tent. A canvas tent if possible, it retain heat a lot better than other tents. They’re called 4 season tents because they are able to keep you alive even in very cold conditions. I got mine from Kodiak Canvas. One of the reasons for this tent is that you can put a wood burning stove inside, and your staying warm problems are forever sold. You would need to convert your tent to be able to do this, but it’s simple. I did it. My video will be on Youtube in a few dass, check back here for the link. So this brings me too my next point…
- $200-400 Wood burning stove. You can only use this in a canvas tent safely. I would not recommend using it in a nylon or other type of tent, unless it specifically says it’s ok. Why do you need this? Remember I said in the beginning of this post that last year I went snowcamping 3 times and twice I almost froze my butt off? Well, it turns out that your little camping heater can work in cold temperatures or at high elevation, but they will NOT work in cold temperatures AND high elevation. It worked at 3200 ft and 25 degrees, so my 3 season tent held up nicely. But it did not work at 7200 ft elevation and 25 degrees. They have a low oxygen sensor shut off so they just won’t even turn on. If you live up north where temperatures get below 0 regularly, there might be other options available, but not anything I have seen seen so far. So wood burning stove is what you need because they will work no matter what because you’re burning wood. Your tent will be literally 80+ degrees inside. You can also use the top for cooking so you do not need a camping stove or make a campfire to cook. I got mine from Colorado Cylinder Stoves http://coloradocylinderstoves.com and I love it. Definitely worth the investment. I will have a video up in a week or so on Youtube showing you how I camped like this, so make sure you check back for the link.
- free Now let’s say you can’t just now invest in a wood burning stove. You can take a big pot and place embers in it from your campfire, they will help warm up your tent and will stay burning for a few hours. Because they do smoke a bit, you need to make sure there is enough ventilation for the smoke to escape. Be careful with this.
- free keep your socks, gloves, even some of your clothes you will be wearing the next day in your sleeping bag. They will stay warm. No one wants to put on freezing cold clothes in the morning when it’s already cold
- free While you sleep, wear a beanie, gloves and wool socks. We lose a lot of heat through our head, and our hands and feet are the furthest from our bodies so they get cold first. I always feel that if my hands and feet are warm, I’m warm.
- free Did you know your phone’s battery life is greatly reduced in cold temperatures? You probably do. I’m sure my phone is not the only one that can go from 100 % to 6% in half an hour. What do you do? Bring a warm sock and put your phone inside. That’s it. Simple. You should first make sure your phone is not freezing cold already, warm it up if it is (same thing as it is with your body and the sleeping bag). Once it’s in the sock, you should keep it in your pocket or close to your body (I often put them inside my snow boots), or your sleeping bag. At night do the same thing.
- and here is one more, also free. Do not camp on top of a hill, but also don’t camp on the bottom, in a valley. It will be colder on top, but also windier. Most people think in a valle it will be warmer, because you’re sort of protected, like you’re in a pocket, but cold air settles, so it will go down to the bottom. You will be much colder down there. Find a spot midway. Sometimes ‘s hard to find a flat, even area like that, but if you use a cot, you can just dig some of the feet in and you’re set. If you’re using a hammock, you are definitely set.
So these are my 15 +2 tips for staying warm, hopefully you find them helpful. If you have any other advice, please leave them in the comment section!
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