Keeping warm at night whilst camping is a challenge. Even the hottest of days can be followed by a chilly evening so being prepared and keeping warm is essential for a good nights sleep.
Before we start to look at heating the tent we first need to look at what we are wearing. Multiple thin layers of clothing is the way to go and far better than just a chunky jumper or fleece. Thermal base clothing, including socks, is always a good idea (woman’s) (men’s) but you must ensure that the base layers are made of moisture-wicking materials and not plain cotton as this will hold moisture against the skin which will quickly have the reverse effect and chill the body. Perhaps the most important piece of clothing is a fleece or wool hat because, as we all know, we lose a significant amount of heat through our heads, and covering it, especially when sleeping, will help to keep you warmer.
Getting prepared for a cold tent
An hour or so before its time to jump into your sleeping bag, or before it gets too cold, get yourself changed and put on what ever it is you are going to sleep in, under your clothes, as this will ensure that when the time comes you will be ready that much quicker and you wont lose so much of the body heat that you have built up. Eating a good meal with lots of calories during the evening is important as calories are also units of heat and without them your furnace won’t burn hot during the night.
Always go to bed WARM, don’t get cold and jump in expecting to warm up because your sleeping bag will insulate cold as well as heat, just like a Thermos, and don’t get so hot that you are sweating either as this is the fastest way to end up cold in bed. Warm up by taking a brisk walk to the toilets just before bed which will also mean that you hopefully wont have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the loo and lose all that lovely heat that you have built up in your sleeping bag. As a final treat, pop a hot water bottle in your sleeping bag before heading out for your walk so that it has time to get nice and warm for you to jump into on your return.
Sleeping mats and air beds
We now need to take a step back and look at what you are planning to sleep on. Air beds and mats must be insulated as the cold in the ground will draw any heat out of both the bed and also who ever is sleeping on it. Throwing down a good heavy blanket or better still a thermal rug under the bed first will help and make a big difference. However, if you really want to do the job properly and you have a bit of spare time on your hands before your trip, then grab yourself a roll of Thermal Bubble Foil Insulation and a roll of Duck Tape. Now measure your sleeping pod, or just the area of your bed and Roll out the Thermal Foil. Now cut lengths according to the size of your sleeping pod or bed and simply join the lengths together and edge with Duck Tape to create a highly effective thermal barrier.
Alternatively if you are handy with a sewing machine you can join the lengths together with strips of binding and edge the whole mat in the same way to make a very professional job of it. To top things off a nice warm blanket, between you and the bed, will be as much as you need to ensure that the air in the bed, as well as you, remains as warm as possible.
Finally, sleeping bags, this is a subject worthy of its own feature and one that we will cover in more detail at a later date as it can be very confusing. All I will say at this stage though is save money on gadgets that you possibly don’t need or will never use and spend the money on a good quality sleeping bag. Don’t be tempted to go overboard though and get a bag capable of extremely low temperatures as this could mean that you simply get too hot and end up unzipping the bag to cool down rather than maintaining a comfortable temperature. Remember, you can always add an inner liner to increase the efficiency of your bag if need be but you cant take away what is stitched in i’m afraid.
The most important thing to remember with a sleeping bag though is that they should never be kept rolled up when not being used. Always unroll your bag and keep it on top of your wardrobe, or hang it somewhere out of the way and only put it back in its bag the day you leave to go on the trip. By leaving your bag packed it will compress the fibres and the bag will go flat which means that it will not be anywhere near as efficient as it should be as it will have no loft and little insulation. Also, when you unpack your bag, vigorously shake and fluff it up to open all the fibres up as it is the air between the fibres that holds the heat.
Photo courtesy Karl-Petter Åkesson