Staying warm is one of the most important tasks when camping, and for many people it’s easier said than done. For those who camp in warmer climates, it’s somewhat simple. All you need are warm, dry socks, a beanie, a hoodie, and a decent sleeping bag. If you’re camping in an area where temperatures drop exceptionally low at night, you need some techniques to go with your gear.
If you plan on camping out in a chilly space anytime soon, here’s how you can maximize your ability to stay warm.
1. Use propane heaters
Propane-powered heaters are going to be your absolute best friend on any camping trip, even when it’s not that cold. There are different types, and not all are suitable for a camping trip. However, you have two great choices: a Mr. Heater Little Buddy heater for use inside your tent or RV, and a patio heater for outside by the campfire.
A Mr. Heater Little Buddy heater is the only propane heater safe to use inside an enclosed space. Please make sure you don’t bring any other type of heater into your tent unless it’s rated for indoor use because it will release carbon monoxide (CO), which is deadly. Carbon monoxide has no odor or taste, so you won’t even know it’s there.
Many campers have died from bringing gas heaters into their tent. You may not realize it, but even hours after extinguishing a barbecue, there’s still carbon monoxide, so don’t ever bring your barbecue or stove inside your tent for warmth or to keep it out of the rain. Bring a tarp and cover it instead.
As a side note, home carbon monoxide monitors are not programmed to detect all levels of CO. They will only sound if the CO levels reach a certain point, which is higher than you think. Just because your CO monitor doesn’t sound the alarm doesn’t mean a heater isn’t leaking a small amount of CO. Always use a high-quality carbon monoxide alarm with an indoor propane heater and avoid using larger 4.5-gallon tanks because they can degrade the lines and create leaks.
2. Wear a balaclava
While it’s not something you’d want to wear during the day (especially if you’re walking around with your knife), a balaclava (ski mask) will keep you really warm at night. It will cover your face except for your eyes and mouth, and you can even get them with a built-in mouth flap if you want to avoid breathing in cold air.
3. Get ear muffs
As dorky as they may look, ear muffs will keep you really warm. They’re mainly designed to warm your ears, but when your ears are warm, you’ll find the rest of your head stays considerably warmer, too.
4. Learn how to layer
Materials like fleece and wool are perfect for staying warm, but you need to layer them properly to get the right effect. Wool should be your first layer because it’s designed to retain body heat without making you sweat. You don’t want to sweat because the moisture will make you colder.
Put on at least one fleece layer over your wool base layer. The fleece will also retain your body heat, but it will also trap it and reflect it back to your body. This is why you never want to use fleece as your first layer – it will make you sweat. However, you might be able to get away with fleece socks. They’re easy enough to change if you get too warm.
Avoid cotton because it’s pretty useless for warmth unless you’re already in a semi-warm area. Even fleece-lined cotton hoodies won’t be warm enough.
For pants, trade regular sweats for fleece-lined sweats or anything made from polar fleece and wear a pair of wool long johns underneath.
5. Line your sleeping bag with a fleece blanket
Even if your sleeping bag will keep you warm in chilly temps, there’s a benefit to lining it with a fleece blanket. If you place enough of the fleece blanket sticking out of the head of the bag, you’ll be able to wrap it around your neck, shoulders, and head at night to keep you nice and toasty. This is a good option if you don’t have a sleeping bag with any kind of hood to cinch up around your face.
Staying warm takes practice
It’s easy to take warmth for granted until you go on that one camping trip that feels colder than ever before. That’s why it’s important to have a plan for how you’ll stay warm. Don’t head out unprepared – figure everything out first or you might regret not planning ahead.