Got several responses to the post I made about camping in the cold. Some deal with what we might expect here, others are intended for places that get considerably colder and have more snow. But here’s some suggestions I gleaned from reader responses:
Stay dry. Sounds like a no-brainer, but when you don’t have a house, car or camper in which to take refuge, this requires some preventative strategy. Your clothing should be synthetic fibers that shed moisture. Cotton does the opposite, so leave it at home. Have rain gear with you. And prepare your tent site. Find a place that doesn’t turn into a gully if the rain gets heavy. If you fear water may flow down to your site, dig a water trough around your tent to divert runoff and keep it from coming underneath. Keep your sleeping bag dry; if you think your hike may involve getting rained on, be sure to wrap your sleeping bag in a trash bag or some other waterproof sack before it goes into your backpack. And that sack may come in handy here in just a bit.
Stay hydrated. Water does the body good. And hot drinks warm your core temperature.
Eat fatty foods before going to bed. Again, to help your body stay warm.
Avoid alcohol. Alcohol dehydrates you, slows things down and makes you colder. Even if alcohol makes you feel warmer, don’t be fooled.
Get into your sleeping bag when you’re warm. It’s easier to stay warm than it is to get warm. Also, for the same reasons, put on extra layers before you get cold.
Make a hot water bottle. Got a Nalgene? Or some other water bottle? Boil some water, fill the bottle and put the bottle in your sleeping bag. Make sure it’s sealed tight so it doesn’t leak. This will warm up your bag. If you wear pants to sleep, you can keep the bottle in the bag with you to help stay warm. A hot fireside rock wrapped in a shirt can do the same thing, but be careful with that one.
Share a tent. A tent that has the maximum amount of people that it’s designed to shelter can be significantly warmer inside than outside. Body heat, plus the warm exhales of your breathing, will help keep the inside of a tent warmer. And that trash bag to keep your sleeping bag dry? Slip it over the bottom of your bag to help insulate the bag’s footwell.
Don’t hold it. If you have to pee, take care of business. If you don’t, your body will expend heat trying to keep the fluids in your bladder at body temperature. If it’s really cold outside, have a pee bottle inside so you don’t have to go out. Ladies, bring a funnel. Make sure the bottle is sealed tight when you’re done.
Wear a hat. Something like a knit cap or beanie. You lose a lot of heat through your head. A hat will retain that heat.
Lastly, my wife’s advice. I was recently using a sleeping bag I’d bought for her that, shall we say, didn’t meet her expectations. I found it wanting as well. Her words: “Don’t buy an $80 hell bag to sleep in!!!”
Got more suggestions? Keep ‘em coming.