My favorite time of year to camp is Fall. The changing leaf colors, crisp air and crackling camp fires, and smaller crowds are all part of the attraction. But Fall camping, especially in the upper Midwest, does have a serious challenge – staying warm at night.
While the day time temps can be a warm 65 degrees, at night it can drop down to the low 40’s. Or lower. If you camp in late Fall, as I will be doing this weekend, the night time temps dip below freezing. So what’s a glamper to do? Stay home? No way! Just follow these tips and you’ll stay warm all night long and get one of the best night’s sleep of the year.
- Go to the bathroom right before bed. Don’t make your body expend energy trying to warm the pee in your kidneys and bladder.
- Eat an energy bar before you go to bed. This provides extra energy to your body to produce more heat.
- Wear silk long johns and wool or silk mittens, hat, and socks to bed. Or some type of synthetic like fleece. You’ll hear me say this a few time but DO NOT WEAR OR USE COTTON. Cotton soaks up moisture and then sucks the heat from your body.
- Completely change all of your clothes from what you wore during the day. They may not seem damp to you, but they are. I know it’s cold in your tent and getting naked and putting on cold bed clothes doesn’t sound attractive, but this is important to do. Dampness is your enemy.
- Use a smaller, lower ceiling tent. You want to be able to trap heat and create a micro-climate. If your tent is too big or the ceiling too high, that won’t happen.
- Get your bed up off the ground. Use a cot or an airbed but do not put your sleeping bag or blankets on the floor of your tent. The cold ground will seep through your bedding and steal body heat.
- Layer under and over. Put a wool blanket on top of your bed. Then layer insulating layers such as your sleeping bag or a synthetic comforter or thick fleece. Then your body. Then repeat the layers on top of you with the wool layer on top. If you know you chill easily, use more layers. If you get hot and start to sweat, remove layers but keep the wool on top. Wool keeps you warm even when damp, which often happens to your top layer of blankets. It’s condensation from your breath during the night. DO NOT USE COTTON BLANKETS, SHEETS, OR COMFORTERS!
- Do not cover your face with your blankets. If you put your blankets over your face your interior blankets (and you) will get damp and cold from your breath. Once that happens, you’re miserable for the rest of the night.
- Use a bed warmer. This could be a willing partner, two people snuggling together are much warmer than sleeping alone. Or it could be a rock or brick heated at the edge of a fire. Just be sure to carefully wrap it up in wool so it never touches your flesh and tuck it down at the foot of your bed. It’ll radiate heat all night long. Some people use those chemical heater packs, but I’d caution against that as they can burn you when you roll on top of them. I have the same caution against electrical or gas tent heaters – that’s just asking for a fiery death or severe burns.
If you follow these tips you’ll be toasty warm all night. And the layers make such a warm nest that it encourages sleeping in. Or having some lazy morning nooky and then taking a nap. The leaves and hiking that trail can wait a few hours.