Nothing ruins a night out under the stars like not getting a wink of sleep because you are freezing. On the flipside, there's nothing better than the feeling of climbing into your sleeping bag, cozy as can be, and waking the next morning well-rested and ready for the day's adventure. Here are 10 tips to help your next camping experience resemble the latter.
Photo: Moe Lauchert
1. Make yourself a "crotch bottle".
Don’t put that JetBoil away just yet. You’re going to need to boil more water for your “crotch bottle.” There’s an important artery that runs inside your inner thighs that’s important for regulating warmth, so a hot water bottle nestled up against your crotch is going to keep you nice and toasty. Just think of it as your backcountry teddy bear that you have to take to bed with you.
2. Bring hand and toe warmers.
Remember those things your mom made you wear at ski school? They could be the difference between a terrible, am I getting frostbite right now night in the backcountry versus a great and warm night’s sleep. Yes, you have to pack them in, but the few ounces they’ll add will certainly be worth the amazing sleep you’ll get.
3. Do 50 jumping jacks right before you get into your tent to go to sleep.
No, this isn’t a trick to burn additional calories. You might feel like an idiot doing jumping jacks in the dark, but this hack is an important one. If you’re already cold when you get into your tent, it’s likely that you will stay cold throughout the night. Doing a boatload of jumping jacks will get just warm enough (not sweating) to feel snuggly when you crawl into your sleeping bag.
Photo: Matt Clark
4. Go camping with your SO and snuggle.
Or just get to know your random tentmate really, really well. It’s true: nothing will keep you as warm as another human body. Do you want to be little spoon or big spoon?
5. Eat olive oil, chocolate, peanut butter…Eat anything that is high in fat.
I once heard a group on a skiing hut trip were nearing hypothermia, so they passed a jug of olive oil around and chugged as much as they could. Bottoms up!
6. Bring two stocking caps.
Make sure they are different colors, so you can be the most fashionable person on the trail. Just kidding. But bringing two hats will ensure that you always have a dry, warm one. Having a warm hat isn’t useful at night if it’s been out in the rain or snow all day. The solution? Bring two.
Photo: Gregg Boydston
7. Don’t freak out that you’re cold and put on all of your clothes.
This, in fact, might actually make you colder. Sleeping bags actually use your own body heat to further warm you, so if you have a million layers blocking your natural body heat from the bag, it’s not going to work at its highest functionality. I had one friend who said he sleeps naked in his bag. I haven’t tried it yet, but I will say this friend was a real badass, so it probably works.
8. Don’t get wasted.
Yes, a bottle of backcountry whiskey might be half the reason you go backpacking. But listen: even though that alcohol might make you warmer initially, it could backfire very quickly. One, alcohol dehydrates you, and dehydration makes you colder. Two, the warmth and buzz you get could give you false confidence about how warm you really are. Nothing is more frightening than having a friend get wasted while outside, and passing out in unsafe conditions.
9. Keep your butt off the ground.
Avoid sitting on the ground or on rocks. They are cold, and they are going to transmit cold to you. Instead, sit on your pack or, if you have one, a camp chair.
10. Splurge on great gear.
Okay, so this isn’t really a “hack,” but one non-trick to staying warm is simply having great gear. You’re going to feel different in a $60 jacket than a $400 down one. I’m not saying you need to get the most expensive, cutting-edge gear out there, but you should do research and think about investing in pieces that will last forever—and keep you warm.
Photo: Cole Buckhart
Cover photo: Cole Buckhart
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.