So as the nights get darker earlier and temperatures are really beginning to drop I thought it would be good to share some tips on how best to keep warm on these cold nights.
Over the years I have spent a few nights where I have been too cold to sleep or at least get a good night’s sleep. A few came from not having the right equipment when I first started camping and back then I couldn’t just jump online and ask others for advice and our local camping supplies shop leaned more towards fishing than camping. Other nights I was just unprepared but thankfully with help from others and experience I am now never cold at night while camping. We have even camped the week before Christmas and early February where temperatures have dropped below zero and have still been cosy during the night.
Many people are still fair-weather campers, to say that they only camp during summer months or when the weather is warmer. But, as more people are camping in the UK than before and the tents that we are using/buying are becoming more advanced some people are realising that they can camp for more months throughout the year.
There are some changes that most people make between their summer camps and spring/autumn even winter camps. This is also dependent on the type of camping you do. But whether you are out there wild camping on your own or setting up camp on a great campsite with all the facilities you could need the one thing that will be required to change is your evening/sleeping routine.
Now there is more to keeping warm than just how you sleep, and it is worth considering shelter too. Nowadays some tents are very luxurious with their space, but you may want to consider downsizing for camping in colder months. This is due to heating the air around the tent. The larger the tent the more difficult it will be to heat. Tent fabric is also worth considering as heavier fabrics will hold the heat in for longer. Some tent ranges, like Outwell now have a dual protector cover that you can buy. One side being silver to reflect heat either back into the tent or away from the tent in summer months. You can however use a tarp over the tent to prevent some cold and frost from settling on it.
Another thing to consider for your tent is flooring to help insulate from the cold ground. It is worth investing in a tent carpet or some throws which will help stop the ground drawing heat down out the tent and you. We do have a carpet for our living area but use large picnic blankets for our bedroom pods and in winter we put an emergency blanket between the groundsheet and blanket for a little added warmth. Read my tent carpet blog here.
Also, ensure that all ventilation panels are always left open. Ventilation panels are there to prevent condensation build-up within a tent from breathing to the steam coming off hot drinks. If you close these panel’s condensation will build up and cause things inside the tent to become damp or wet.
This is one item of your camping equipment you must get right for camping in colder seasons and it can make or break a good camping trip. It is worth spending money on a good sleeping bag and where you can try bags before you buy for fit. Believe it or not they are not all the same size.
Now, most people know that sleeping bags are rated by season but please be careful when choosing and use a reputable supplier as I have bought “4” season bags before only to find they weren’t even as warm as other summer bags.
Down bags are great and there are many synthetic bags now that will keep you more than warm. Do your research before purchase.
We use a Coleman double when away that is great. Unfortunately, the one we have is no longer sold.
You can also invest in a sleeping bag liner which is said to add a season to your sleeping bag, I myself have never used one. You can buy these in silk, cotton and fleece materials and they are relatively cheap when you consider how many nights you will use it.
A sleeping bag can be cold to get into so you may also wish to take a hot water bottle with you to slip inside your sleeping bag and heat it up before you get in.
Another thing to always keep in mind is that condensation can also build up inside your sleeping bag so never be tempted to put your head inside the sleeping bag and breathe to either heat your face up or heat the sleeping bag up as condensation will just dampen the inside of your bag. This also is the same if you sweat too much. If you are too warm take off a layer.
Something couples should also consider is the use of single sleeping bags in colder weather. With a double sleeping bag, you will often find that the cold air enters the sleeping bag in the gap between both bodies, especially if you turn away from each other during the night. With single sleeping bags, you can prevent this by pulling the bag at the neckline.
It is also important to consider where you sleep. Whether you use a bed, a sim or even an inflatable mattress. As I said earlier a floor covering will help keep some heat in but the main thing to consider is being off the ground or at least having a good barrier between your body and the ground as the ground will draw heat from your body during the night.
If you would normally sleep on the ground make sure you use a SIM (self-inflating mattress) or an insulated mat. A blanket between this and your sleeping bag will also keep you a little warmer. It is important to note that while your sleeping bag may have good loft usually once you lie on it you compress the fabrics underneath and insulation is greatly reduced.
If sleeping on a camp bed a mat or blanket is also a good idea as the cold air under the bed will make it feel colder.
Or maybe you use an air mattress. Whether it is single or double height and you are off the ground you should remember that it is air filled and that air will get cold during the night so a blanket on top of the mattress but below your sleeping bag is also advisable.
With any of the above, you can also use an emergency blanket underneath. I normally put mine under my SIM or between my SIM and blanket if on the ground or using a camp bed. If we do use our double height inflatable mattress I put the emergency blanket under the mattress and a blanket on top of the mattress but under the sleeping bag.
Maybe you prefer a duvet to a sleeping bag and I know many people do ensure it a heavy tog sleeping bag and take the same precautions of insulating under your sleeping areas as the above.
Ensure you take warm clothes, I know, that goes without saying. But ensure you take a spare set and think about what you will wear while sleeping. I prefer thin thermal base layers for bed with socks. If the weather is really cold a hat is also a good idea. If this is not enough, you can always put a onesie or pyjamas on top of a base layer.
In all cold weather, it is better to wear many thin layers, so you can take items on and off to keep yourself at a comfortable temperature. Always have dry clean clothes for sleeping in as the clothes you wear throughout the day will hold moisture from your body and this will make you colder if you sleep with them on at night.
One of the most important things to remember is to be warm going to bed. So if you start to feel a little cold in the evening put on another layer, do not wait until you are really cold as it takes a while to heat your body back up.
Have something warm to eat or drink before bed to help warm you through and if it is really cold it is also good to do some light exercises before going to bed. Some jumping jacks or running on the spot should be enough to heat you up before jumping into bed.
If you can go to bed warm and have your sleeping area warm and insulated there is no reason you should not have a good, warm night’s sleep.
There are many types of camping heaters nowadays. Some people won’t touch them thinking they are dangerous and others like myself will use them with caution. The choice really is yours but always be safe.
There are both gas and electric camping heaters available and for me, if using EHU I will take my small electric fan heater. I would not use a gas heater as these are not meant for enclosed spaces due to the carbon monoxide they produce. I use my heater to take the chill off the tent before bed.
- Many thin layers are better than thick bulky ones.
- Keep warm with hot food and drinks.
- Never go to bed cold. Exercise before jumping into bed to raise the temperature if needed.
- Insulate underneath your sleeping area as well as using the correct seasoned sleeping bag. Add a blanket on top if necessary.
- A smaller tent will be a warmer tent and always keep well ventilated.
- Never leave any heating appliance unattended or on during the night. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.