Winter Camping Tips

At the gym this week, a friend of mine requested a blog post on some winter camping advice before she and her husband head out on a cold weather camping and climbing trip over Thanksgiving (also, so jealous!). I don’t have much to share considering Ive only truly cold weather camped once and I wouldn’t say that I did it well. But I did get a few hours of sleep and I survived the 25 degrees without losing any fingers and toes.

On that cold trip, my friend Anthony chose to sleep in a hammock and he nearly died.

On that cold trip, my friend Anthony chose to sleep in a hammock and he nearly died.

  1. Get a good sleeping bag. If the forecast calls for a low temp of 32 degrees, a 30 degree bag is NOT going to keep you comfortably warm. It will keep you breathing, but you’re gonna freeze your toes off. The sleeping bag rating system is a super fun paradox where the degree rating doesn’t mean anything. Here’s a great article that goes into the intense minutia of sleeping bags . My rule of thumb is that if you have a set sleeping bag rating, you’ll be comfortable in weather about ten degrees warmer than that. So my 15 degree bag will keep me pretty cozy in 25 to 30 degree weather.

  2. If you’re car camping (camping at a campground that you can drive up to), bring all the blankets. I’m a firm believer that if you have room to bring more supplies, do it. Fill that trunk up with all your raggedy old blankets you don’t mind getting a little dirty. Pack them into your tent, use them under you and over top of you. It’s like an uber cozy adult blanket fort.

  3. Layer, layer, layer. Bring all the socks, all the sweaters, base layers, and down jackets, beanies, and gloves. Who cares if it looks like you gained 10 pounds in fabric weight. You’re gonna be cozier and happier than your skimpy friends.   

  4. Warm up some stones or fill nalgene bottles with boiling water to keep your toes cozy. Apparently nalgene bottles are made of some sort of black magic witchcraft and don’t melt if you fill them with boiling water. So, simply boil a liter of water before bed, fill up your bottle and screw the camp on super tight. Then shove it down to the bottom of your sleeping bag. If your campsite happens to have some medium sized stones laying around, stick them in the fire for about an hour to get them heated thoroughly. After an hour move them out of the fire and let them cool down just a bit. Then wrap them in a towel or old blanket and put them in your sleeping bag. Straight up little house on the prairie.

  5. Buy hot hands to keep in your pockets. What’s better than warm pockets?

Even if you follow all of these, you’ll most likely be uncomfortable. But lets be real here, no one goes camping in winter just because they like suffering. You go camping when its freezing so that after you’ve survived it, you can sound super hard core to all your friends who don’t understand your “type 2” fun.