Cold Weather Camping

I haven’t had as many camping trips as I would like, but I’ve gone enough to successfully pitch a tent all by myself.  Most of my camping experience falls under the summertime, let’s go enjoy the lake and the company category, but I had the (mis)fortune to accidentally attempt cold weather camping.

I thought camping in Colorado and Utah in the middle of May would involve mild weather with the nights maybe being a tad chilly.  As did the rest of the group I was with, so no one was prepared for reality.

As always, I’d like to share what I’ve learned from this experience so you don’t have to go through it accidentally unprepared.

Gear for hanging out in the evenings/mornings/whenever you’re outside your tent

  • Layers:  The most important thing you can do is bundle up in as many layers as you brought.  I’m talking short sleeve shirt under a long sleeve shirt under a crew neck sweatshirt under a hoodie under a jacket under a coat.  Seriously.  The warmer you can keep your insides the happier you’ll be!
  • Extremity coverings: Hats, gloves, wool socks, whatever you think you need to keep warm.  Again I’d recommend layering up (knit gloves under ski gloves, things like that).

Gear for staying alive overnight

Ok, so that might be a little extreme (it really wasn’t that cold, just mid twenties throughout the night) but when you’re shivering in your tent at three in the morning, you’d be thinking a little extreme too.

  • The most important thing you can do is get yourself a solid sleeping bag.  I’ve found sleeping bags can either be compressible and cheap, compressible and warm, or cheap and warm but these things usually don’t overlap any more than that.  If you know you’ll get the most use out of your bag in cold weather, focus on that.  If your budget is tight, stay within the cheap range.  You know what’s right for you.  However, if your sleeping bag isn’t necessarily the warmest do what you can to fix that.  I recommend packing a fleece blanket in your sleeping bag before leaving so you always have it just in case.  Even the one added layer makes things much more bearable!
  • Sleep in layers.  I think running tights or some other sort of legging under warm sweatpants is the best way to go, but that’s just me.  I’d also keep a majority of the layering you’ve already done!
  • Extremity coverings are needed more than just when you’re outside.  I slept in my hat and gloves and that made a big difference!  If your toes are prone to getting chilly or you know your sleeping bag isn’t especially warm, I recommend hand warmers between two pairs of wool socks to save your feet.
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