Cold Weather Camping-How to Stay Warm in a Sleeping Bag

Ok, I will admit, I am not fond of cold weather camping. The reason is simple. I never seem to get warm but…….through the years I have learned some tricks that make my cold weather camping experience more enjoyable. Having said that though, my family is divided on how to get a good night’s sleep in cold weather. We do agree on a few things.

First, make sure the sleeping bag you are using is ranked for the temperature you plan to camp in. When my kids were younger, we did not have the luxury of different sleeping bags suited for different temperatures. As they got older, we were able to purchase a few different kinds. To get through the slim times, we made sure that our kids layered up with at least some type of wicking long underwear to aid in insulating factor of the sleeping bag.

The second thing we would do was to make sure they were not sleeping directly on the ground. It is amazing how much wicking power the cold ground has and once you have pushed out the insulating air from your clothes and sleeping bag, the ground just pulls away your body heat. In doing so, we always made sure to follow the guidelines from emsafety and had our sleeping bags were sitting on top of a foam sleeping mat at least.

While most of these strategies are still used, my husband, son, and myself have somewhat detoured our approach to cold weather sleeping.

Completely Naked Approach Cold Weather Sleeper

The first cold weather sleeping my husband and I participated in was a Boy Scout camp outing. As we were getting ready to bed down for the night, my husband looked over at me and said, “What are you doing?” Well, I was getting ready to slide down into my 32 degree Fahrenheit sleep bag with my clothes on. My husband looked at me and explained to me how and why I need to get into that bag in my birthday suit. Well………taking to what he had told me to heart, I did. Ok, it ended up being the worst sleep I have ever had (not including the adjustment period I went through when my husband started using his BiPAP machine). On the other hand, my husband woke up bright-eyed and bushy tailed the next morning. The “sleep in your birthday suit” concept worked for him but not me. As I was talking to someone about it, they said they had heard of sleeping with your first layer on aka long underwear. The next night, I did this with the same results. In conclusion, I understand that your body heat is supposed to heat up the sleeping bag but no thank you on my end.

Half and Half Approach Cold Weather Sleeper

My son, on the other hand, is a hybrid between my husband and me. When he cold weather sleeps, he puts his base layer on, socks, and maybe a hat. The hat is becoming more frequent since he is going bald but like anything else, it depends on the temperature and weather of the day. If it is simply cold, the clothing list is all he uses but if it has rained, snow and/or is just damp then he adds more layers inside the bag. Yes, this is sometimes more clothes but most of the time it is just a blanket. Why? It is easier to remove a blanket if you get hot verses trying to get a bunch of layers off.

Head to Toe Coverage Approach Cold Weather Sleeper

Now there is me. I cannot stand to get cold so I layer up the most. Wool base layers, socks, sweat pants, sweatshirt, and socks along with a hat. If it is really cold, sometimes I will even put a down vest on. While this may sound extreme, I have found that this is the only way I can enjoy cold weather camping but………..with all the layers I am very aware of how my body is feeling. Yes, I may be warm and yes, I may work up a sweat but this latter can be very harmful and can even cause death. In doing so, I am always monitoring my body and remove the layers as I need to, to keep me warm but sweat free at the same time.