Planning on camping out but worried about being cold? These practical tips on how to keep warm and comfortable when camping will give you a sound night's sleep!
Camping in lower temperatures
Sleeping outside when its cold can be difficult, but with the right gear and knowledge it's possible to have a comfortable night no matter what the temperature. All you need to stay comfortable and warm while sleeping outdoors is the right gear, clothing, and attitude.
In this guide, we'll show you the right gear and clothing to use for sleeping in various temperatures , as well as some other important things to consider when thinking about how to sleep outdoors.
You can use these tips whether your planning on camping in the snow, or are just concerned that you might get cold at night even if camping in the summer.
Related: Wild camping essentials
Pack the right camping gear
Packing the right camping gear is a fundamental aspect of having a good time outdoors during cold weather. You'll want a sleeping pad (either a self inflating one or foam), a sleeping bag rated for the season you are camping in, and a good tent that is waterproof.
Although the tent itself provides shelter, it also traps heat making the inside warmer than outside temperatures. Picking the right combination of these three things is the highest value action you can have when selecting your camping gear.
Related: Bicycle Touring Camping Gear
Sleeping Bags and Sleeping Bag Liner
If there's one thing to get right, it's a warm sleeping bag. A sleeping bag that's designed to keep you warm in winter is a must for for sleeping outdoors on a chilly night.
A normal sleeping bag is designed for average temperatures so it will be too thin for very cold conditions and have its temperature rating compromised – a good winter specific sleeping bag should have a temperature rating that will cope with what you expect on a cold camping trip.
You can use a sleeping bag liner for more warmth on a cold night.
Choose a good camping pillow
I've literally spent years living in tents and using rolled up clothes as a pillow. When I finally made the swap over to using a camping pillow, the improvement was massive!
It wasn't expensive either – I think my Karrimor pillow cost me around 3 pounds and has lasted me years of travel adventures!
It's well worth carrying the extra weight of a camping pillow with you , especially if it is a self inflating one, because you'll be thankful for the extra support when your head hits the pillow on those cold nights. Your neck will also thank you for it.
Related: Choosing a camping pillow
Pick the right camping spot
Location is key to enjoying a good nights sleep in a tent. You'll want somewhere that's sheltered, but will catch the sun as sun as it rises (unless camping in a hot country, when you probably don't want to do that at all!).
Some key points for selecting where to camp include: Look for dry ground, below the top of a hill is preferred (prevents getting snow up your back), out of direct wind, close to water and trees for firewood. If camping in snow, make sure you're safe from potential avalanches!
Related: How to wild camp
Even if you've been unlucky enough to be out in the rain all day (which happened to me frequently when cycling in Canada!), you want to dry off and put on dry clothes when inside your tent.
It will help raise your body temperature back up, and on cold nights, you might even want to wear a layer or two of clothing inside the sleeping bag.
Travel tip: I always keep a set of ‘dry clothes' separated from the rest of my gear, specifically for use after the day spent outdoors. It's non-negotiable that these clothes always stay dry no matter what!
How to stay warm in a sleeping bag
Even if you have the right rated sleeping bag and other gear, it can seem cold on some nights. Therefore, you might want to use a few ideas like these to make sure you keep warm and snug inside:
Use your sleeping bag liner – Your sleeping bag will work better if you have a good insulating layer between yourself and the outer material of your bag. A sleeping bag liner will also keep your main sleeping bag cleaner.
Eat some calories before bed – Your metabolism slows down while you are asleep, and if you are not eating enough at night then your body begins to turn inward on itself for energy (because there isn't any coming in).
Put a pile of clothes under your feet – Your feet tend to feel colder because they are further away from your heart. Use some extra clothes underneath your feet to act as insulation from the cold ground.
Wear a hat – If your head is getting cold during the night, wear a hat. I normally wear my Sealskinz waterproof hat on cold nights.
Related: Choosing a sleeping bag
FAQ About staying warm when camping
Readers have been asking questions about how to stay warm when sleeping outdoors, so I figured I'd add some answers here.
How can I stay warm when I sleep outside?
There are many methods and strategies that can be employed to ensure that you stay comfortable and warm while sleeping outdoors. Some of the basic necessities are: having a sleeping bag rated for the temperature you expect outside, using a pillow like a camping pad or foam mat, wearing socks and long underwear for warmth, and finally knowing what to do in when weather conditions make it all too much.
How cold is too cold to sleep outside?
There's a great Norwegian saying – ‘Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlig klær!' which translates to ‘There is no bad weather, only bad clothes!'. This also applies to your outdoor gear!
How do you get a good nights sleep when camping?
In order to get a good nights sleep while camping, there are many things that you should do. One of the key things is making sure you're dry and warm. Another thing that can help is putting a pile of clothes under your feet because your feet will get cold. Another thing to keep in mind if it's cold outside is to wear a hat because your head will be cold too.
How do you stay warm in a tent?
A good sleeping mat and sleeping bag, as well as a good quality tent are essential if you want to stay nice and warm in your tent at night.
Sleeping outdoors is an adventure that many people enjoy. It can be very challenging, however, to stay comfortable and warm while camping in cold weather conditions if you forget the right gear or don't plan accordingly.
We hope this article has provided some helpful tips for staying warmer before bedtime including packing the right sleeping bag and tent for your climate, choosing a good pillow, picking the best location to camp at night (and what not too do when camping in snow), how to keep dry even after being caught in rain all day long, as well as other useful ideas like eating calories before bed time or wearing a hat on cold nights.
If you have any questions about these topics we've discussed please reach out!
Dave is a travel writer who has spent several years living in tents during his various cycle trips around the world. If you enjoyed reading this travel guide about how to keep warm when camping, check out some of his other travel guides, tips, and experiences. Follow Dave on social media for travel inspiration: