January 12, 2021
A cold, sleepless night can quickly turn a great camping trip sour. Don’t let the fear of being cold keep you from enjoying the beauty that the winter months have to offer! We've put together 4 simple tips for staying warm on those chilly nights in the backcountry.
Always check the forecast before heading out and pack accordingly, keeping in mind forecasts in the mountains can easily change. When camping in the cold, I personally feel it never hurts to bring along a couple extra “just in case” items. Maybe it’s an extra fleece layer, a packet of Hot Hands, or that thicker pair of warm socks you’re debating bringing. Be warned though, it’s very easy to go overboard with this and overpack out of fear of being cold, but an extra pound of well thought-out items in your backpack that will help keep you warm is worth it in my mind!
A even the fluffiest of sleeping bags will do you no good if you don’t pair it with a warm and insulated mattress. It’s a non-negotiable piece of gear in the colder months and the key to a comfortable night’s sleep, not just because the mattress itself is more comfortable than your tent floor, but because body heat is quickly lost when sleeping on the ground or on a poorly insulated mat. Why? Conduction. Conduction is when heat transfers from one mass to another. Imagine transferring probably the most precious resource in the cold backcountry (your body heat) directly to the ground!
Before climbing into bed, always change out of your sweaty, damp hiking clothes. Carry a separate set of clothes designated for sleeping and keep them dry in your pack. Start with moisture-wicking base layers/long johns, a good pair of warm socks, gloves, and a hat. Layer up from there as much as you need to, but beware of TOO many layers! If you go to bed bundled up like a toddler on their first snow day you run the risk of getting too hot and sweating, and then subsequently getting too cold because of the sweat. Too many layers can also cause you to compress the down in your sleeping bag and render it practically useless, though this is less of a problem with a Zenbivy Bed because the top quilt is not pinned down and instead it’s free to float above you.
As nice as it sounds to hide away in the warmth of your sleeping bag, try to keep your face outside of your bag. As you breath, you exhale warm, moist air that can create a “damp” environment and that’s the last thing you want inside your nice, cozy sleeping bag! For the same reason, it’s important to vent your tent. If there’s too much hot breath air (for lack of a better term...) inside, it can create a clammy environment. Although it may seem counter-intuitive to vent your tent, don’t think of it as letting cold air in, but rather, letting the moisture of your breath out.