Ever dream of setting up a winter tent in the snow? Or even just camping in brisk, cold weather? It’s not as daunting as it seems. With the proper gear and the right mindset, you can brave winter camping too. From packing a wood stove and clothing layers to serving up belly-satisfying meals, here are 10 tips for staying warm while winter camping.
#1. Choose a Four-Season Tent
Make absolutely certain that your winter tent is rated as a four-season tent.
The cotton canvas fabric is rather durable, weighing between 8-11.5 ounces per square yard (our are 11.5 ounces). On top of that, a sturdy four-season canvas tent is built with metal pole frames and strong stakes.
You can also layer your winter tent with extra insulative accessories. Add a few thick rugs along the tent floor to prevent cold ground from reaching through.
There are numerous fitted rugs for bell tents, but it doesn’t have to be fancy. You can also choose standard-size rugs. Whatever you decide, you’ll be glad not to step out on a cold groundsheet in the morning.
At the very least, roll out a footprint or groundcover beneath your winter tent.
#3 Place a Fly Cover Over Your Winter Tent
Tent covers are not just for keeping your tent dry. A fly cover will also add an extra layer of insulation to your tent. Also, fly covers are made of a more slippery material that will allow the snow to slide off of the tent. In turn, it prevents condensation, which can freeze overnight and turn to ice if you’re not too careful.
Don’t forget to prevent tent condensation by venting your tent too. Condensation can build up, especially in winter when you’re breathing nothing but hot humid air inside.
#4 Create a Warm Bed Foundation
Sleep peacefully. Make sure to create sleeping arrangements that will keep you warm when temps drop at night. It starts with your bed’s foundation.
Your first intuition might be to use an air mattress, but we recommend an insulated sleeping pad instead. Standard air mattresses trap cold air inside themselves, which only leaves you cold.
An insulated sleeping pad is always a good alternative. Place them on top of a cot for extra support and warmth. And always look for a high R-value. For winter camping, choose an R-value between 4 to 6, the latter if you’re sleeping in freezing temps.
And remember! You can always add another closed-cell foam pad (R-value of 1-2) for an extra layer.
#5 Choose a Warm Sleeping Bag or Down Quilt
Like sleeping pads, sleeping bags also have ratings. Choose a sleeping bag with a temperature rating lower than the air temperature. This way, you are better prepared for those chilly nights and in case it drops further than predicted.
Sleeping bag liners are also extremely useful. Fleece or silk, they help trap an extra layer of heat inside. Plus, they make washing your sleeping bag that much easier.
Adding a down quilt to the top of your sleeping bag is also wise. Down quilts offer plenty of warmth while winter camping and offer a lightweight solution too.
#6 Bring a Wood Stove or Space Heater
Wood stoves are excellent heat sources and can warm a tent in a jiffy. Plus, they add a great ambiance to a bell tent.
If you choose to heat your winter tent with a wood stove, it pays to choose a proper size tent. In other words, the larger the tent, the more energy it takes to heat the interior. So save on your wood resources and choose the right tent size for you and your family.
Propane tent space heaters are also a nice portable alternative, especially for smaller traditional tents. However, for extra safety measures, we recommend also keeping a carbon monoxide (CO) detector in your winter tent and turning off the heater when you go to bed or leave for the day.
#7 Pack Proper Clothing and Wear Multiple Layers
Baselayers, beanies, balaclavas – oh my! Be sure to pack proper clothes, planning for multiple layers. Bring extra baselayers or long johns to sleep in. Flannels and zip-up hoodies are fantastic mid-layers. Slip into a puffy jacket or hardshell jacket as a final outer layer. Even sleep in it if you must! Don’t forget socks, beanies, and any other accessories to protect your fingers and extremities.
Avoid cotton and choose wool instead. Wool is the perfect material for winter clothes. It’s breathable and moisture-wicking, which means it dries fast in front of a wood stove.
When in doubt, always start out wearing multiple layers. You can always remove one, but your body has a much harder time getting warm than it does cooling off. So don’t wait until you are cold to try and get warm.
On that note, if you break a sweat setting up camp, quickly change into dry clothes. The sweat will turn clothes damp, which could even give you chills. So brace yourself and slip into something warmer – you’ll thank yourself later.
#8 Invest in Rechargeable Heated Accessories
To upgrade your layers, why not invest in some rechargeable heated accessories? There are countless gadgets out there with built-in heating elements: Gloves, boots, and even down puffy jackets!
Slip your preferred rechargeable accessory into a pocket, keeping both hands and phones warm. Because don’t forget – phone batteries drain faster in the cold!
#9 Eat Hot Meals and Drink Warm Beverages
Serve up hot high-calorie meals, morning to night. For breakfast, think oatmeal and freshly made eggs. For lunch and dinners, consider something that will stick to your ribs and trigger your body to burn off the calories. Something like chili, a curry dish, or even stewing from your Dutch oven.
Along the same lines, be sure to wash it down with tea, cocoa, cider, coffee, or any of your favorite warm drinks. Especially before turning to bed. Yes, it means you might have to relieve yourself in the middle of the night, dashing to the bathroom in the freezing air, but it will ensure your body is warm before hitting the sack.
#10 Raise Your Body Temperature With Movement
Bring up your body temperature with a little exercise. Take a quick hike, do some jumping jacks, or whatever gets your heart rate up. It will raise your internal body temperature and keep you warm at the campsite – and beyond!
Just remember to hydrate! Drink a hot beverage before your exercise routine and bring bottled water in case.
Have any more winter camping tips? Tell us in the comments!
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As a former hospitality interior designer with an adventurous spirit and love for travel, I now help interior designers and tourism-related businesses in creating online content and media.