10 Ways to Keep Warm While Camping

CampingMeg bundles up and drinks hot chocolate to kep warm while camping.My friends know that I’m not a fan of numbered lists.  I don’t think simple lists of tricks are conducive to real learning.  If you want to be comfortable and safe in the wilderness, you need to do two thing: READ and PRACTICE.  Practicing is fun, but reading is a lost art. Most people these days don’t have the patience to read more than a simple bulleted list.  Real knowledge comes from reading volumes of information and then applying that information to life.  Alas, it’s Friday. Enjoy this list!

10 Ways to Keep Warm While Camping

  1. Keep yourself dry. Moisture is the enemy of heat. If your under layers saturate with sweat, change them. Always change your socks!
  2. Put on all of your dry cloths, even your rain gear. Each layer traps more air between you and the environment.
  3. Stay active.  Walk around camp, do your chores, and exercise if you need to. Just don’t start sweating.
  4. Eat fatty foods. Fatty foods release heat as they digest. I always pack salami and pepperoni.
  5. Drink warm fluids like hot chocolate or coffee.  Be careful not to drink so much that you need to make a midnight run to the nearest tree.
  6. Use hand and foot warmers. Keeping your extremities warm really helps.
  7. Cover your head. Use hoods if you have them, they let your body and head share warmth.
  8. Wear mittens over glove liners, and pull your thumb in with your fingers.  Keep the crew together!
  9. Wear your sleeping bag like a coat. Most of them will zipper up from the bottom so you can hang your legs out.
  10. Build a fire! Fires warm the body and spirit. Keep it small and safe! You’ll really be cold if you burn your shelter down.

Additional Reading

CampingJay’s Winter Gear List

Dressing in Layers

Winter Backpacking: Elk Pen to Tiorati Circle

8 thoughts on “10 Ways to Keep Warm While Camping”

    1. It depends if you’re trying to avoid bulk while wearing or while storing your gear. The best clothing to pack away and take out when you need to be really warm is anything Down. Regardless of the manufacturer, here’s what to look for:

      -How thick is it? You get approximately 40 degrees of thermal protection for every 1 inch of thickness
      -What is the Fill Power? The higher the fill power, the smaller your gear will compress
      -Is it complicated? If you want gear to pack down small, avoid complications like zippers, pockets, and draw cords. Keep it simple!
      -Does it have a hood? Having a hood makes a huge difference in keeping warm. It keeps the breeze off your neck and lets your body share warmth with your head.

      Another thing to consider is wind protection. Insulation itself is great, but some insulating materials will let a bit of breeze through. Manufacturers do this on purpose to enhance breathability. If you really need to shed wind, try putting a lighter wind jacket, rain jacket, or hard shell over your insulating layers.

      For more information on dressing warm, check out my post on dressing in layers. http://wp.me/p4JH2W-aw

      So what’s the very best compactable insulating layer? Check out the Montbell Plasma 1000 http://goo.gl/am1QKY

      If you’re on more of a budget, check out the Ultralight Down Parka from Uniqlo. Here’s the women’s model: http://goo.gl/gW0vm1

        1. Fill power describes the volume filled by an ounce of down. One ounce of 350 FP down will fill 300 cubic inches. One ounce of 700 FP down will fill 700 cubic inches. If you’re trying to fill a jacket or sleeping bag with down, you’ll need half the weight of 700 FP down as you would 350 FP down. Because there is physical less material in higher fill power down, it will also pack down smaller. Does that make sense so far?

          There is one more advantage: All solid mater conducts some amount of heat and down is no different. The down in a jacket isn’t used to insulate, it is used to trap air. Using a higher fill power down means you’re filling the space with more air and less down. Heat lost through conduction via down filaments is negligible, but it will be less in a higher fill power garment.

          There are three ways for heat to transfer from one object to another: conduction, convection, and radiation.

          Conduction is the most effective method of heat transfer. Conduction happens when one object is directly in contact with another. It only works well through solids or liquids, so it is minimized by limiting the amount of solids or liquids you’re in contact with. Filling a jacket with down traps air within it. Air is a very poor conductor.

          Convection is the second most effective method of heat transfer. It happens when your body warms the air around it, and then that air moves away from you. Convection is why you feel colder when it is windy. Convection can happen even in tiny spaces. If your jacket was filled with air alone, the air closest to you would warm up and then circulate away from you and in turn it will transfer heat to the outer layer of the jacket and then into the atmosphere. Down stops air from being able to circulate throughout a jacket.

          Radiation is the method of heat transfer that you feel on your skin when the sun is out or you’re near a fire. Radiated energy moves directly through air or space and doesn’t need matter to carry it. Fortunately, it is blocked by most opaque materials, like the shell of your jacket.

          Next week I will write a formal post all about heat transfer.

    1. Effective rain gear is thin, light, and breathable. The problem with a lot of rain gear is that it is completely sealed up and sweat can’t escape. When humidity starts to build up on the inside of your rain gear, it will condense on the walls. This makes it feel like the gear is leaking. Look for rain gear with zippered vents in the armpits. Some rain jackets also have a vent flap on the back. Good rain pants have zippered flaps along the legs.

      I usually advise hoods when you’re trying to keep warm, but try using a rain hat instead. Just as hood can help hold in heat, it also holds in moisture. Wear a wide brim hat to keep rain off your neck while moisture can still escape.

      What’s my favorite rain gear? I always carry a light weight poncho that doubles as a tarp.

      1. Interesting point well made. Your sweat make the jacket feel like it’s leaking. Thanks for all the GREAT tips!!!!

        1. Your welcome.

          Another interesting thing to think about is the use of “waterproofing spray.” These sprays do not actually make fabrics any more waterproof. What they do is cause water to bead up and fall off the jacket. If the outer layer of a breathable fabric becomes saturated with water, the fabric can no longer breath. If that happens, vapor will condense on the inside and you’ll feel like it is leaking. It is important to use the right “waterproofing” treatment with the material your jacket is made from so that you do not clog the pours.

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