If you don't like camping, it is provably because you have had uncomfortable experiences and decided to never try it again but hold on, there's a chance that you may have been doing it wrong.. what if all you needed was the right gear and better planning to really enjoy spending a few days outdoors?
If you already like camping, join us for the upcoming trip to City of Rocks and keep reading the following tips for a nice and comfortable winter weekend:
10 Basic Cold-Weather Camping Gear Checklist
Closed-cell foam sleeping pad or inflatable mattress
Sleeping bag with an appropriate lower-limit temperature rating
Warm quilt or throw
Synthetic or wool base layers
Winter shoes (2 pairs)
Socks, gloves, and a cold-weather hat
Tent and stakes
Stainless steel water bottle
Camp Like a Cold-Weather Pro
1. Always Check Weather Conditions and Hazards
Know before you go. This is the golden rule for any outdoor activity: check the conditions. Consider contacting the closest ranger station to stay current. Always establish a trip plan and inform appropriate parties of your whereabouts and anticipated return.
2. Secure Your Campsite and Flatten Your Sleeping Surface
Once you’ve secured a location that’s reasonably dry, flat, and protected from the elements, set up your tent.
TIP: How Does Your Body Lose Heat?
Evaporation: Evaporation causes a cooling effect. The body loses 85% of its heat through sweating during intense exercise. Wet clothes from sweating and increased respiration also trigger a drop in body heat.
Radiation: Radiation causes heat to move away from the body. The body may lose more than 50% of its heat from radiation at temperatures lower than 68°F (20°C).
Conduction: Conduction is the transfer of heat from physical contact. Conduction occurs at 68°F (20°C) and is responsible for the loss of body heat from sleeping on the cold ground.
Convection: Convection occurs when a heated fluid (liquid or gas) travels away from a source. Take the example of a hot cup of tea. The rising steam coming off of the cup indicates the movement of heat as hot water transitions into gaseous water (wet steam).
3. Bring an Insulated, Closed-Cell Foam Sleeping Pad
Conduction is the culprit for the heat loss that occurs when sleeping on the cold ground, and even a “warm” cold-weather sleeping bag is a cold bag without a quality, insulated pad underneath it. Most self-inflating air mattresses only insulate down to about 30°F, so if you want yours for comfort, lay down a closed-cell foam pad (or CCF) first.
4. Insulate Your Tent by Reducing Ambient Space
Buddy Up: Put your partner’s sleeping pad close to yours.
Think Like a Pack Rat: Place your stuff sacks and extra gear around the tent’s inside perimeter to further insulate.
DIY Radiant Barrier: Create a radiant barrier by duct-taping a space blanket (emergency blanket) onto your tent ceiling. They’re cheap!
5. Warm Up With a Hot Water Bottle
If you put a hot, non-insulated stainless-steel water bottle in your sleeping bag at night, it will radiate heat like a sauna stone.
6. Get Good Socks
Your body prioritizes warming your core, so keep your hands and feet warm to conserve energy and invest in a synthetic blend or high-quality wool sock for moisture reduction and odor management. (Don’t forget the gloves!)
7. Wear the Right Clothes for Sleeping in Cold Temperatures
For temperatures below 30°F, be sure to outfit yourself in appropriate base layers:
Avoid tight-fitting clothing (socks, underwear, gloves) that may restrict blood flow to your extremities.
Avoid running too warm (moisture will get trapped in your bag and will cause an overall drop in body temperature as you cool off).
Wear synthetic fabrics or wool.
Consider warm socks, fingered gloves, and a cozy cap.
If you run warm, you may want to use a vapor barrier to prevent your perspiration from reaching the down in your sleeping bag. If you are waking up to recurring condensation, ventilate your tent with a small opening. Hot or cold, whatever you do, dress for the occasion and leave your cotton clothing at home.
TIP: Why Is Cotton Clothing Bad for Camping?
Cotton clothing does not wick moisture, may drop your body temperature, and serves as a medium for bacteria.
Moisture-wicking materials such as merino wool, polyester, and polypropylene are designed to redistribute moisture via capillary action, whereas cotton becomes easily saturated much like a sponge. To stay warm, avoid silk and cellulose fibers like cotton, layer strategically, and opt for synthetic fabrics.
8. Munch on a High-Calorie Midnight Snack
Your body runs on fuel, so fuel it up. Go for sugars, fats, and carbohydrates. The closer you can eat to bed time, the better, especially if your meal is rich in fat. Your body metabolizes protein before fat and takes longer to metabolize fat than carbohydrates, so opt for calorie-dense foods like chocolate, cheese, and nuts. A warm meal requiring minimal prep right before bed will give your body an added boost.
9. Prevent Spills on Your Dry Gear—Try a Reusable Straw
Nothing would be more frustrating than spilling liquid on your dry gear but hydration is a must, so keep a reusable straw near your water bottle for no-mess drinking in the middle of the night.
10. Remove Morning Frost From Your Tent
Water vapor often condenses on a tent’s inner wall even with the door cracked. Once the ice melts, it will soak your gear. Control frost by keeping your gear covered or inside garbage bags and sweep (with a tent brush) ice crystals into collectable piles before they melt.
Remember to dry out your gear daily if conditions permit. If you’re hanging out for the day, invert your tent and let any sunshine or dry wind remove outstanding moisture.
11. Don’t Hold Your Pee in at Night
If nature calls in the middle of the night, don’t procrastinate; this makes you colder in the long run because your body has to burn calories to keep urine warm.
12. Get out of Sweaty Clothes & Pack an Extra Base Layer!!
Once camp is constructed and you’re ready to settle down for the evening, remove your sweaty layers ASAP. While it may be hard to strip down in harsh conditions, you’ll be grateful you did. Throwing on dry clothing revives your warmth (this includes your socks). Then, layer up with as many pieces as you need to feel comfortable.
On the coldest nights, tossing on a hardshell jacket over your giant puffy can be a solid move because shell jackets trap heat exceptionally well. There’s no shame in sleeping in a hard shell if it means a good night’s rest, just be careful that you’re not trapping too much moisture inside your cocoon.
13. Protect Your Electronics From the Cold
Cold weather can drain battery power fast, or even worse, permanently damage electronics. Stow your electronics, batteries, fuel canisters, and anything else you don’t want to freeze in the foot of your sleeping bag. Your electronics have maximum and minimum storage and operating temperatures, so it’s wise to check these out before heading into the wilderness. Operating or charging an electronic device outside of its specified temperature range can cause irreparable damage.