If you’re planning a camping trip out to the middle of nowhere, you’ll need to think ahead about your sleeping strategy. Nights in the wild quickly get mild. These tips will keep you sleeping warm in the backcountry.
Preparation is Everything
Research starts before you leave for your trip. Google the weather forecast of where you’ll be, as well as the historical weather patterns for the same season in previous years. Knowing what to expect can make all the difference in how prepared you are.
When you get to your campsite, look around for the best place to set up camp—you want a flat, dry, durable surface that’s protected from the wind. Pitch your tent and stake it out well. Then, before you do anything else, set up your sleeping system. Inflate your sleeping pad and lay out your sleeping bag, so that the down or synthetic insulation can fully recover all of its loft before bedtime. If you’re a cold sleeper in a tent with three or more people, try to sleep between your tent mates (rather than on one side.)
Insulate Yourself from the Ground
When it comes to being warm, sleeping bags are only half of the equation. Educate yourself about R‑values, which are used to measure a sleeping pad’s ability to insulate. The higher the R‑value, the warmer you’ll be. If you’re a cold sleeper or will be traveling in extreme climates, consider using two sleeping pads.
Wear the Right Layers
Whenever possible, put on dry clothes before bed. Avoid cotton, and opt for wool or synthetic instead. Wear a warm hat, socks, and whatever other layers feel good. And that old wives’ tale about how it’s warmer to sleep naked? It only works if you start sweating. As a best practice, if you’re cold put on more layers.
Remember that Sleeping Bags Provide Insulation, Not Heat
Think of an insulated cooler: if you put in something warm, it’ll stay warm; if you put in something cold, it’ll stay cold. So instead of crawling into your sleeping bag when you’re covered in goosebumps, try pre-warming your body. Do jumping jacks, push-ups, whatever gets your blood pumping enough to raise your core temperature.
Minimize Empty Space
Your body is working hard to heat the air inside your sleeping bag, just like a space heater inside a closet. The more empty space, the harder your body has to work. Try stuffing dry jackets or clothing inside your bag to fill empty spaces, or tuck extra baffles underneath your body to make the sleeping bag smaller.
If you have a mummy bag, make sure the hood is covering your head and cinch the opening around your face.
Make Yourself a Hot Water Bottle
If you have the resources, there’s nothing cozier than a plastic bottle filled with hot water. Just make sure it’s sealed tightly, and double-check that your bottle is BPA-free before drinking the water in the morning.
Eat Before Bed
Your body expends lots of energy generating heat, and a small bedtime snack can provide fuel for the long night ahead. Just avoid sugar, and opt for high-protein, high-fat foods like nuts, seeds, or avocados.