Winter Camping Tips | Troop 428 (2023)

Winter Camping Tips

Fail to Plan = Plan to Fail


Always bring a bit more than what you think you'll need – water, food, clothes.


Make sure that you have a good knowledge of the signs of frostbite and hypothermia. You should be able to recognize it in others and in yourself. Tell someone right away if you or another scout is showing signs of cold-related problems.

Keep out of the wind if you can. A rain fly for a tent can be pitched to serve as a wind break. The wind chill factor can often be considerable and can result in effective temperatures being much lower than nominal.

  • Stay hydrated. It’s easy to get dehydrated in the winter. Eat and drink plenty of carbs.

  • Bring extra WATER. It’s easy to get dehydrated in the winter. You aren’t visibly sweating, so you don’t think to drink water, but since the air is so dry, you lose a LOT of water through breathing. Drink lots of water!

  • Bring extra food that doesn’t need to be heated or cooked. Granola bars, trail mix, etc

  • Keep a pot of hot water available for cocoa or Cup-a-Soup – these warm from the inside. (note - The Scoutmasters will have hot drinks available)

  • Always eat hot meals (breakfast, lunch, & dinner.) Dutch ovens are the best – they keep the food hot longer. It doesn't need to be fancy DO cooking. Meals should be 1-pot meals to keep cleanup to a minimum. Don't get too fancy with the meals - it's hard to chop onions & carrots at -10ºF with gloves on. Prep all meals at home in the warmth of the kitchen.

  • Shelter the cooking area from wind (walls of tarps, etc.)

  • Fill coffee/cook pots with water before bed. It's hard to pour frozen water, but easy to thaw it if it's already in the pot.

  • (Video) -35° Winter Camping 3 Nights Extreme Cold
  • Remember C O L D:

  • C Clean - dirty clothes loose their loft and get you cold.
    O Overheat - never get sweaty, strip off layers to stay warm but no too hot.
    L Layers - Dress in synthetic layers for easy temperature control.
    D Dry - wet clothes (and sleeping bags) also loose their insulation.

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  • COTTON KILLS! Do not bring cotton. Staying dry is the key to staying warm. Air is an excellent insulator and by wearing several layers of clothes you will keep warm.

  • Remember the 3 W's of layering - Wicking inside layer, Warmth middle layer(s) and Wind/Water outer layer. Wicking should be a polypropylene material as long underwear and also sock liner. Warmth layer(s) should be fleece or wool. The Wind/Water layer should be Gore-Tex or at least 60/40 nylon.

  • If you’re camping in the snow, wear snow pants over your regular clothing

  • Bring extra hand covering - mittens are warmer than gloves.

  • Bring 2 changes of socks per day.

  • Everyone must be dry by sundown. No wet (sweaty) bodies or wet inner clothing.

  • Use plastic grocery bags or bread bags over socks. This keeps your boots dry and you can easily change those wet socks.

  • Keep your hands and feet warm. Your body will always protect the core, so if your hands and feet are warm, your core will also likely be warm. If your hands or feet are cold, put on more layers, and put on a hat!

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  • Dress right while sleeping. Change into clean, dry clothes before bed. Your body makes moisture and your clothes hold it in - by changing into dry clothes you will stay warmer and it will help keep the inside of your sleeping bag dry. Wearing wool socks and long underwear (tops and bottoms) in the sleeping bag is OK.

  • Put on tomorrow's t- shirt and underwear at bedtime. That way you won't be starting with everything cold next to your skin in the morning.

  • Wear a stocking cap to bed, even if you have a mummy bag.

  • Put tomorrow's clothes in your bag with you. This is especially important if you’re small of stature. It can be pretty hard to warm up a big bag with a little body, the clothes cut down on that work.

  • Put a couple of long-lasting hand warmers into your boots after you take them off. Your boots will dry out during the night.

  • Fill a couple of Nalgene water bottles with warm water and sleep with one between your legs (warms the femoral artery) and with one at your feet. Or use toe/hand warmers. Toss them into your sleeping bag before you get in. Some of the toe/hand warmers will last 8 hours.

  • Eat a high-energy snack before bed, then brush your teeth. The extra fuel will help your body stay warm. Take a Snickers bar to bed and eat it if you wake up chilly in the night.

  • Use a sleeping bag that is appropriate for the conditions. Two +20ºF sleeping bags, one inside the other will work to lower the rating of both bags.

  • Use a bivvy sack to wrap around your sleeping bag. You can make a cheap version of this by getting an inexpensive fleece sleeping bag. It isn't much more than a blanket with a zipper but it helps lower the rating by as much as 10 degrees.

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  • Use a sleeping bag liner. There are silk and fleece liners that go inside the sleeping bag. They will lower your sleeping bag's rating by up to 10 degrees. Or buy an inexpensive fleece throw or blanket and wrap yourself in it inside the sleeping bag.

  • Most cold weather bags are designed to trap heat. The proper way to do this is to pull the drawstrings until the sleeping bag is around your face, not around your neck. If the bag also has a draft harness make sure to use it above the shoulders and it snugs up to your neck to keep cold air from coming in and warm air from going out.

  • Don't burrow in - keep your mouth and nose outside the bag. Moisture from your breath collecting in your bag is a quick way to get real cold. Keep the inside of the bag dry.

  • A zipped up coat pulled over the foot of a sleeping bag makes an extra layer of insulation.

  • Don't sleep directly on the ground. Get a closed cell foam pad to provide insulation between your sleeping bag and the ground. A foam pad cushions and insulates. The air pockets are excellent in providing good insulation properties. Use more- than one insulating layer below you – it’s easy to slide off the first one.

  • In an emergency, cardboard makes a great insulator. Old newspapers are also good insulation. A layer of foam insulation works too.

  • Bring a piece of cardboard to stand on when changing clothes. This will keep any snow on your clothes off your sleeping bag, and help keep your feet warmer than standing on the cold ground.

  • A space blanket or silver lined tarp on the floor of the tent or under your sleeping bag will reflect your heat back to you.

  • No cots or air mattresses! Better to lay on with 30º earth instead of –10º air.

    (Video) Stay Warm While Winter Camping

  • Sleep in quinzees or igloos. These are warmer than tents since you’ve got an insulating layer of snow between you and the outside air, instead of just a thin nylon layer.

  • If in tents, leave the tent flaps/zippers vented a bit, it cuts down on interior frost.

  • Drain your bladder before you go to bed. Having to go in the middle of the night when it is 5 degrees out chills your entire body. Drink all day, but stop one hour before bed.

  • FAQs

    How cold is too cold for winter camping? ›

    How cold is too cold for camping in a tent? 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 to -4 degrees Celsius) is generally considered too cold for camping in a tent, especially for those less experienced or not equipped with the right gear.

    How do you stay warm camping in 40 degree weather? ›

    To stay warm, it's crucial to focus on the following:
    1. Warm Clothing (thermals, beanies, jackets, socks)
    2. Sleeping Bag.
    3. Extra Blankets.
    4. Sleeping Pad.
    5. Tent Preparation (people who hammock have more work to do)

    Is sleeping in a car warmer than a tent? ›

    Car, hands down. The R-value of the stuff below you is higher than that of any camping pad, and even with the windows cracked and heat-loss through the glass, it remains noticeably warmer than outside.

    How much warmer does a tent keep you? ›

    Quick answer: Three-season tents are usually only about 5 degrees F warmer inside than outside. Winter tents are better designed to trap heat and are typically 10-15 degrees warmer inside. Insulated or expedition tents can be over 25F warmer inside.

    How cold is too cold to sleep in your car? ›

    Think of your car like you would a tent. If you have a 15°F sleeping bag, your lower limit for sleeping in a car in winter should be around 15°F.

    Is 45 too cold for tent camping? ›

    The quick answer is this: Nighttime temperatures in the high 30s/low 40s Fahrenheit is too cold to go tent camping for inexperienced campers with cheap gear. Nighttime temperatures of about 50°F to 65°F are most comfortable for camping.

    How do you sleep with extreme cold? ›

    Tips for Staying Warm on a Cold Night
    1. Tips for Staying Warm and Getting Better Sleep.
    2. Use a Space Heater: If you don't have central heating, a space heater is an ideal substitute. ...
    3. Use a Hot Water Bottle or Electric Blanket: ...
    4. Layer Up: ...
    5. Drink Warming Tea: ...
    6. Wear Socks: ...
    7. Do Some Light Stretching: ...
    8. Soak in a Hot Bath:
    1 Nov 2017

    How can I camp in the winter without dying? ›

    Cold-Weather Camping Tips to Keep You Warm While You Sleep
    1. Essential Cold-Weather Camping Gear Checklist. ...
    2. Always Check Weather Conditions and Hazards. ...
    3. Secure Your Campsite and Flatten Your Sleeping Surface. ...
    4. Bring an Insulated, Closed-Cell Foam Sleeping Pad. ...
    5. Insulate Your Tent by Reducing Ambient Space.
    16 Oct 2018

    Can you live in a tent all winter? ›

    A tent that can survive the winter must be durable and insulating as well as water repellent to keep out moisture and condensation. Winter camping also requires more gear than you'd generally need in the warmer months, so a tent large enough to accommodate you and your gear comfortably is crucial.

    Can you run an electric heater in a tent? ›

    However, if you follow proper safety precautions, you can safely use electric or fuel-powered heat sources inside a tent on a winter camping adventure. Modern and safe tent heaters have automatic shut-off features for tipping over and low oxygen to help ensure your safety if you fall asleep.

    Is it warmer to sleep with clothes on or off in a sleeping bag? ›

    Is it warmer to wear clothes in a sleeping bag? Yes, wearing long underwear and clothes keeps you warmer inside a sleeping bag. Your clothes are another layer of insulation that keeps your natural heat close to your boy and prevents it from escaping.

    What is the safest way to heat a tent? ›

    7 Safe Tent Heating Ideas That Work
    1. How to heat a tent without electricity.
    2. Heat your tent with hot water.
    3. Use heated stones to keep the tent warm.
    4. Insulate your tent.
    5. Set up your tent on top of a campfire.
    6. Electric heaters for tents.
    7. Electric blankets to keep you warm.
    8. Underfloor heating carpets to use with your tent.
    17 Oct 2018

    Should you crack a window when sleeping in your car? ›

    Furthermore, sleeping with the windows up can cause excess moisture from your breath. This will cause your body to feel colder, which isn't ideal in the winter. As a result, you may want to crack the window a half-inch or an inch to aid in circulation and actually stay warmer.

    What is stealth camping? ›

    Stealth camping is camping overnight in a van or RV in areas outside of a designated camping area, usually without permission. Many people choose to do this to avoid paying camping fees or because they only plan to stay at the location for a few hours.

    Will a candle keep a car warm? ›

    Car heating kit

    If you have space, you should also consider keeping sweaters and blankets in your car — if you have to shelter there in below-freezing temperatures, a candle heater can help keep you warm, but it can't do the job on its own.

    Will tarp over tent for warmth? ›

    A tarp over tent setup is an easy way to add extra protection to your camping setup. Hanging a tarp over your tent not only shelter you from rain, but it will keep you better insulated and your tent will breathe better, too.

    Will a tarp keep heat in? ›

    White tarps are also a great option for keeping heat out. And most colored tarps will do a better job than a black tarp. Black tarps are more useful in applications where you want heat to get through. For instance, covering a camping tent in the winter.

    How do homeless people keep cars warm? ›

    Stockpile blankets and sleeping bags.

    These will be essential when you are sleeping outside, but can also keep you warm in a car or in a more protected shelter. Wrap yourself with blankets and then get into the sleeping bag for maximum warmth.

    What is the coldest place in your car? ›

    The floor tends to be the coolest area, and with the air conditioner on, the car should be cool enough to get you home before the fresh produce wilts and the ice cream melts. The cabin also tends to be better insulated than the trunk. So you'll have a better chance of avoiding extreme swings in temperature.

    How do you keep a tent warm without electricity? ›

    The best methods of heating a tent without electricity are:
    1. Use a winter rated sleeping pad.
    2. Use a winter rated sleeping bag.
    3. Wear plenty of layers.
    4. Use a wood or tent stove.
    5. Choose the right tent.
    6. Use hot water bottles.
    7. Choose the right camping location.
    8. Bring candle lanterns.

    Do bigger tents get colder? ›

    The more volume to a tent, the more dead air space to heat. Whether you're heating the tent with a heater, or just body-heat, the result is the same. A larger tent is colder, because your body can't warm the larger enclosed volume as effectively.

    Can you get hypothermia camping? ›

    Fluctuation in temperatures can lead to hypothermia if campers are not prepared, even in mild temperatures. Check the weather close to the departure date to be as prepared as possible, and make sure to pack a warm sleeping bag and synthetic clothing to stay warm and dry.

    Is it unhealthy to sleep in a cold room? ›

    As long as you feel comfortable, there are no health risks to sleeping in a colder room. Ideally, you should keep the temperature between 60 and 67 degrees to experience the maximum benefits.

    Is it healthy to sleep in a cold bedroom? ›

    Being in a comfortable environment is essential for healthy sleep. Keeping your sleeping quarters at a temperature near 65°F (18.3°C), give or take a few degrees, is ideal. Your body's temperature decreases during sleep, and a cool, but not cold, room will help you settle into and maintain sleep throughout the night.

    Does sleeping all day help a cold? ›

    If you're sleeping a lot when you have a cold, flu, or fever, it's because your body needs the rest. Sleeping more than usual is helping your body build up its immune system and fight off your illness.

    Can you freeze to death camping? ›

    You risk dying from the cold anywhere below 40 degrees Fahrenheit if you aren't careful. To survive you need to be prepared if you are going out camping in the cold, especially into wilderness areas where help won't be close by in an emergency.

    Is 12 degrees too cold for camping? ›

    If you are inexperienced and have basic, amatuer gear, temperatures under five degrees celsius would be too cold for you. As someone new to camping, temperatures of ten to twenty-two degrees celsius would be just right for camping in a tent.

    Is 20 degrees too cold for camping? ›

    Is 20 degrees too cold for camping? 20°F is definitely too cold to be camping with three-season gear. You need four-season or winter gear to withstand these temperatures (including the windchill factor).

    Can you love in a tent? ›

    In the United States, it is illegal for individuals to live in cars, tents, or other items not deemed suitable for human dwelling. These housing standards exist even if you are on your land. You will need either a structure with a building permit or possess a camping permit.

    How do you heat a tent all night? ›

    10 Simple Ways to Heat a Tent
    1. Insulate Your Tent. If you're currently in the market for a new tent, you can buy one that's already fully insulated. ...
    2. Use Makeshift Hot Water Bottles. ...
    3. Use Specialty Tent Heaters. ...
    4. Use Hot Stones. ...
    5. Pitch On a Dead Campfire. ...
    6. Connect Sleeping Bags. ...
    7. Use An Electric Blanket. ...
    8. Wear Cold Weather Clothing.
    15 Mar 2021

    How do I heat my tent at night? ›

    Below are some helpful tips.
    1. Consider ventilating your grow tent from a lung room: a crawlspace, attic or other room in your home that does not get as cold as the outside environment.
    2. Dim your intake/exhaust fans with a fan speed controller. ...
    3. De-glass your hoods. ...
    4. Create an air diffuser. ...
    5. Add more light.

    Can you leave an electric heater on all night in a tent? ›

    Camping heaters can be powered by a fuel source or can be connected to electric hook-up. You can safely operate most electric heaters in tents during the night if you follow our advice here. Gas heaters should only be used in well-ventilated areas and not inside tents.

    Does sleeping with socks on keep you warmer? ›

    Other than helping your body stay warm, wearing socks at night also has extra benefits: Prevent hot flashes: Some women find wearing socks helpful for cooling their core body temperature. Improve cracked heels: Wearing cotton socks after you moisturize can help keep your heels from drying out.

    Is it OK to sleep with socks on? ›

    Wearing socks to sleep comes with very few risks, other than discomfort for those that prefer the feeling of being barefoot. Be sure to wear socks that are loose, and do not wear compression socks to bed unless directed by a doctor or other medical professional.

    What do you put under your sleeping bag when camping? ›

    Add a closed-cell foam pad beneath your regular sleeping pad for extra insulation. Stuff dry clothing inside your sleeping bag to fill empty spaces, reducing the area your body must heat. Put a warm water bottle close to the core of your body, since your core is your body's chief heat-generating zone.

    How cold is too cold to camp in a tent? ›

    How cold is too cold for camping in a tent? 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 to -4 degrees Celsius) is generally considered too cold for camping in a tent, especially for those less experienced or not equipped with the right gear.

    How do you keep warm camping without fire? ›

    To stay cozy on a fire-free camping trip, bring extra blankets, layers, and accessories like insulated sitting and sleeping pads for optimal comfort. Even during the hot season, when fire danger is at its peak, temperatures tend to drop at night, a fact made that much more obvious when you're sleeping outside.

    Will a heater warm up a tent? ›

    The space heater is now my go-to solution, providing plenty of warmth to heat a two- to three-person tent to a very comfortable temperature for a short time—around bed time and in the morning—while adding just a touch of additional heat in its more efficient, 100 watt setting throughout the night.

    Are portable heaters safe in a tent? ›

    Carbon Monoxide Poisoning with Camping Equipment

    Never use portable heaters or lanterns while sleeping in enclosed areas such as tents, campers and vehicles.

    Can I use a little buddy heater in a tent? ›

    You can use a Buddy Heater to heat your tent while you sleep, but I don't recommend it. Even with the built-in safety features – oxygen depletion sensor and accidental tip-over switch – it still only takes one of those features to fail one time for serious injury or death to occur.

    What temperature is unsafe for camping? ›

    The general consensus on max temperatures for comfortable camping are around 95 degrees (Fahrenheit) during the day, and low 80's during the night. To sleep comfortably in these conditions it's necessary to use additional cooling methods such as a portable fan.

    Is 10 degrees cold for camping? ›

    If you're considering going camping in 10-degree weather, or any temperature below freezing for that matter, you're in the extreme cold zone.

    How do you keep food from freezing in winter camping? ›

    Surround with Hot Water Bottles

    Just like keeping your food and beverage cold in the summer by replenishing the ice, you need to do the same by refreshing your heat source. Encircle your foods with hot insulated water bottles. This will also help keep your water source from freezing, as well as your food.

    How do you warm up in a tent? ›

    How To Stay Warm In Your Tent Camping Tips
    1. Don't wait until you feel cold to layer up. ...
    2. Thermals are big and clever. ...
    3. Always pack a hot water bottle. ...
    4. Don't go to bed cold. ...
    5. Sleeping bag liners can help. ...
    6. Invest in down insulation. ...
    7. Insulate your tent with a tent carpet or rugs. ...
    8. Invest in some disposable heat packs.

    Is winter camping safe? ›

    Understand the risks. Winter camping puts you at a much higher risk for hypothermia and frostbite, serious medical conditions that can sneak up if you're not careful about your body temperature.

    Can you use a heater in a tent? ›

    Yes, it's safe to use a propane heater in a tent as long as your heater is labeled as “indoor-safe.” This is very important. There are many indoor-safe propane heaters that you can safely use inside a tent when camping in cold weather.

    What is considered cold for camping? ›

    What is considered cold weather camping? Answers range from 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 to 4 degrees Celsius) being too cold to 30 to 40 degrees being too cold for those who are inexperienced or have amateur gear. Kozulj suggests cold weather camping is any camping below 0 Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit).

    How much hotter is a tent than outside? ›

    Most of the time, assuming you aren't camping in direct sunlight and under high temperatures, your tent can be about 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the outdoors. That said, this number can easily jump up if the weather conditions allow the tent to absorb more heat.

    Can a candle keep you warm in a car? ›

    Empty coffee can, pillar candle, matches and lighter

    If your family becomes stranded, lighting the candle will provide light and some warmth. The metal can keeps the flame protected and will also conduct heat from the flame that can be used to keep hands warm.

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