What you need to stay warm camping at night
Keep warm while camping
In some areas, no matter how warm it feels during the day, the temperature still drops low enough in the night for you to feel extremely chilly in your tent. And, if you’re camping in cold weather, the problem’s even worse.
Luckily, it’s not hard to keep yourself cozy at night on camping trips if you know how. We’ve got more information below on what you need to stay warm camping at night, plus some tips and tricks to beat the chill.
What you need to stay warm camping at night
A quality sleeping bag
Choosing the right sleeping bag will keep you feeling toasty warm at night. The Coleman Brazos Cold-Weather Sleeping Bag is suited to temperatures all the way down to 20 degrees. If you have a lighter-weight sleeping bag that you want to give a boost to, try a fleece or thermal sleeping bag liner, such as the Snugpak Thermalon Liner. This will make you feel warmer at night without forcing you to buy a new sleeping bag, plus you can easily remove the liner should you get too hot.
When camping in cold weather, you should pack all the extra blankets and comforters you can get a hold of. You ultimately might not need them all, but it’s best to come prepared. Not only can you sleep under these blankets, but you can also sleep on top of them and lay them on the floor for extra insulation against the cold coming from the ground.
Multiple layers of clothing
Packing multiple thin layers of clothing to wear at night rather than one or two thick layers is especially wise when you’re camping in summer but still have a tendency to feel cool at night. This way you can wrap up moderately well, then add or remove layers as needed.
An airbed or camping mat
A hot water bottle
If you’re worried about low nighttime temperatures on your next camping trip, we’d highly recommend buying a hot water bottle to slip inside your sleeping bag. Simply boil some water on a camping stove to fill it up and you’re good to go. It’s ideal for anyone who hates getting into a cold sleeping bag, since you can stick the hot water bottle in your sleeping bag 10 minutes before you get inside to warm it up.
Tips for keeping warm while camping
Don’t wait to add a layer
It’s much tougher to warm up if you’ve got yourself cold than to keep yourself warm when you’re already reasonably toasty. As such, you shouldn’t wait until you feel freezing to add a layer. If you’re hanging out in your tent or by the campfire at night and you notice the temperature is starting to fall, put that sweater on or wrap yourself in a blanket before you start shivering.
Top up on hot drinks
Drinking plenty of hot drinks is a tasty way to keep yourself warm. As the hot liquid moves down your digestive tract, you will genuinely feel warmer inside. Plus, holding onto a hot mug of tea or coffee will warm your hands up. It’s always a good idea to bring a camping stove on a camping trip, and a kettle will help you to boil water more quickly. Although it gets a bad rap, instant coffee makes it quicker and easier to brew yourself a cup of joe on a camping trip. We love Waka Coffee Quality Instant Coffee, not only because it tastes great but because the individual sachets are extremely convenient while camping.
Don’t choose too large a tent
While it’s tempting to opt for a spacious tent that’s got enough headroom to stand up in, the larger and taller your tent is, the colder it will feel inside. Avoid cabin tents and bell tents for cold-weather camping and opt for more compact dome tents or other smaller tent types. If you’re camping in extremely cold weather, choose a four-season tent that’s designed to provide more insulation in freezing weather.
Never go to bed cold
We mentioned above that it’s harder to warm yourself up than to keep yourself warm when you already are. If you’ve got yourself chilly by bedtime, you might think it’s a good idea to get straight into your sleeping bag, pile on some blankets, and try to get some sleep. This sounds great in theory, but anyone who’s ever tried to go to sleep cold will tell you it can take hours to warm up. Instead, attempt to get yourself warmer before you head to bed. You could try jogging on the spot, going for a brisk walk or making yourself a hot drink.
Try to stay dry
The only thing that’s worse than being cold at night on a camping trip is being cold and wet at night on a camping trip. If it starts to rain, head straight to your tent or to a clubhouse or similar, if your campground has one. Make sure you bring towels on your camping trip to help you dry off if you do get wet, and an extra set of clothes beyond what you need day to day, so you have extra to change into if necessary. Otherwise, if you get rained on during your last day, you’ll need to choose between staying in wet clothes or changing into dirty clothes, neither of which is an appealing prospect.
Pack the right clothing
Every camper can benefit from wearing the right clothes. The bottom line is, you want to cover up to keep the bugs, sun and poison ivy off of you while wearing light fabrics that allow your skin to breathe — even better if they’re moisture-wicking fabrics. Pack breathable fabrics that don’t trap the heat, like linen, or tech garments treated to dry quickly. Cotton should be avoided since it gets heavy when wet and quickly begins to smell.
The color of your clothes is also important. Wearing light-colored clothing will keep you much cooler in hot temperatures because light-colors reflect the sun’s rays, whereas dark colors absorb them. A visor or breathable sun hat and a bathing suit are also essentials when camping in the summer, especially if there’s a creek, river or lake nearby.
Avoid heat when setting up your tent
According to Kampgrounds of America, when it’s hot outside, your tent acts like a greenhouse. The synthetic fabric traps the sun’s rays, making it unbearable to be inside. KOA recommends disassembling your tent during the day and reassembling it at night, which will avoid heat build-up and extend the lifespan of your tent.
Find natural shade
One way to avoid constantly breaking down and setting up your tent is to find a camping spot with shade. The key is to make sure you have shade for most of the day — it follows the arc of the sun’s path.
Use the breeze
Keep the air inside your tent circulating so it helps cool things down. Investing in a tent with large mesh surfaces will allow whatever breeze is blowing to naturally ventilate your tent, particularly if you have a two-door tent. Be sure to position your tent door in the direction the wind is blowing and open as many window flaps as possible. If you have a close-fitting rainfly and the forecast shows no rain, remove it to increase airflow.
Invest in cooling gear
If you’re an avid camper or want to try to go camping once every summer, it’s smart to invest in some products to help keep you cool while camping.
If you intend to camp in the summertime, it is helpful to use a tent with as much mesh siding as possible. Mesh fabric encourages ventilation, allowing any breeze to circulate the air inside the tent, while preventing biting insects from getting in.
If you can’t find a group of trees to keep the sun off your tent, and don’t feel like assembling and disassembling your tent every day, a reflective sunshade is a great way to keep your tent or gathering area cool. Set up a foot or two above the tent to allow for airflow, these sunshades reflect sunlight, keeping whatever is shaded much cooler and darker. This set-up can also be useful if you want to sleep in past sunrise.
The reflective mylar sunshades are extremely popular, but a simple tarp tied to trees or poles will also work well.
If your tent’s ventilation system just isn’t good enough or there’s no natural breeze, a tent fan can be a life-saver. There are ceiling fans, which work well in larger tents that have strong roof supports, and stand-up tent fans, which can be set up anywhere and circulate the air just as well if they have rotating heads.
Portable fans usually run on batteries, but most come with an A/C adapter, too, so you can plug them into a generator or a campsite power source. They come in a variety of sizes, depending on the size of your tent, and if you are backpacking, how much you are willing to carry.
Some fans have plastic blades which tend to be quieter and safer if you’re camping with children. Some also come with accessories such as lights and USB ports.
Sleeping bag liners
Sometimes even the lightest summer-rated sleeping bag may be too much coverage on a hot night. Packing a sleeping bag liner to go over your mattress pad can give you a cooler, lightweight alternative.
For the truly adventurous, setting up a sleeping hammock between two trees is a great way to benefit from natural ventilation. If your hammock doesn’t come with one, you will also want to pack a mosquito net and a tarp to hang overhead if rain is in the forecast.
Seasoned campers often bring a separate cooler just for drinks since it’s opened more frequently. This allows other foods to remain as cold as possible, particularly on longer trips. Keeping a separate cooler of ice water on hand is a great way to prevent overheating and ensure that you are staying hydrated. Packing powdered Gatorade, which can easily be mixed with water to create a recovery drink, is also recommended.
Go for a swim or take a shower before bed
If there is a stream or river near your campsite or shower facilities, it can be very helpful to rinse off before going to bed. This will bring your body temperature down and allow you to fall asleep comfortably. During the day you can soak a small handkerchief or microfiber towel and place it on your neck, or even wear a damp hat to keep cool.