There is nothing so frustrating as waking in the night to bone-chilling cold. When you’re traveling through the backcountry, sleep is a priceless resource that can be the difference between a productive day on the trail and a wasted one. So, take the following steps to ensure peaceful nights under the stars by learning how to keep a tent warm.
How to Keep a Tent Warm: Know the Ground Rules
Before retiring for the night, engage in some brief, sweat-free cardio. Try doing around 50 jumping jacks to help burn calories and get just warm enough to feel cozy when you crawl into bed. If you’re fighting off an intense cold or just feeling chilled, look to peanut butter, chocolate, and other high-fat snacks to help boost your body heat.
On cold nights, the warmth of some back-country whiskey can be quite tempting, but, according to the Mayo Clinic, alcohol will make you more susceptible to hypothermia. In particular, alcohol can quickly dehydrate you and lead to loss of warmth, not to mention the dangers of false confidence, which can put you directly in harm’s way. Putting on all of your clothes might also seem like a brilliant idea, but too many layers can quickly lead to sweat and a greater risk of falling victim to the cold.
On the other hand, taking a pee when you wake up with your bladder full will actually help your body stay warm. While your bladder is full, you are actively maintaining the warmth of your urine, so emptying it means that your body does less work. Whether you go outside or use a collapsible pee bottle, you’ll be able to fall asleep more easily without your full bladder weighing on your mind.
How to Keep a Tent Warm: Get the Gear
Before you even step foot on the trail, you can prepare for the cold by investing in high-quality backpacking gear. To start, remember that sleeping bags are rated at the temperature where they will keep you functioning rather than cozy. So, although it will cost more, opting for a down or other sleeping bag rated for temperatures far below 0 will help you sleep on the chilliest of nights.
If you normally run cold, be sure to choose a bag with a lower temperature rating than you expect. In addition, you might consider a sleeping bag liner that raises the temperature rating – usually by around 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Women, in particular, should look to bags designed for their gender because that include added insulation in the upper body and feet.
Although it might seem like an unnecessary splurge in the camping shop, you’ll be grateful for your sleeping pads when trying to sleep in a brisk evening. While air mattresses add comfort, they do little for insulation, but closed-cell foam pads deliver added insulation. According to Tent Camping HQ, bringing one of each and then placing the pad below the air mattress will ensure added warmth.
How to Heat a Tent: Seal in Warmth
If even with high-quality gear, you find yourself uncomfortable while camping, then you should research potential heating options for your tent. For instance, there are various catalytic heaters designed for warming up your tent at the end of the day. However, they should not be run throughout the night, but only to help your body adapt to the cold before and after sleep.
Before hitting the trail, ensure that your chosen tent’s seams are fully sealed, and provide extra sealing for any that might allow moistures inside. Remember that dampness equals cold when you’re sleeping in the backcountry, so preventing potential leaks will keep your tent warm, too. In addition, consider investing in tent designs that incorporate lightweight, insulated fabric and covers to maintain interior warmth.
Although your fellow campers might give you odd looks before bed, attaching Mylar thermal or other blankets to the ceiling will reflect heat back into your tent. Placing extra gear around the inside perimeter of your tent will also provide some extra insulation. However, remember to keep your tent ventilated, as even the heat from your own body can cause enough condensation to make trouble.
Bed placement is also key, as keeping your hiking buddy’s sleeping bag close to your own will keep out the cold stored in the ground. Using a cot or air mattress with a pad will also help keep your body’s warmth in your sleeping bag. However, as pointed out by the REI Co-op Journal, stuffing gear beneath your sleeping pad will also put enough of a buffer between you and the ground to help you stay warm.
Among backpackers, the classic method of staying warm during the bitterest of cold nights is affectionately named a “crotch bottle”. This refers to a hard plastic or other water bottle filled with boiled, hot water that is placed between your legs in order to warm the femoral artery in your inner thigh and so help regulate your warmth. According to The Outbound Collective, the “crotch bottle” will help you sleep the whole night through, though you can also try stones warmed by the fire.
For simpler solutions to staying warm, look no further than your knitted hats and other gear. Most backpackers will advise bringing an extra stocking cap to wear during the night, even with the hood of your sleeping bag pulled up and over your face. Hand and toe warmers provide similar warmth for your extremities, although a fresh pair of heavy wool socks will keep your feet and toes cozy, too.
How-ever you keep warm in your sleeping bag and tent, avoid burrowing into your bag, as this will only make things worse. In particular, the moisture in your breath will become trapped in your bag and just make you colder. Simultaneously, consider the standard rule of not keeping food in your tent to help your body maintain energy, albeit only if wild animals are not likely to be an issue at your campground.
For the topic of how to keep a tent warm the number one rule, as in most backpacking situations, is not to freak out. Remember to stay calm and consider all of the options available for helping you get the rest that you need. When you know how to deal with the cold, even sleeping in the back-country in winter can be a comfortable and relaxing experience.