Fall is fast approaching for many of us around the world. If you’ve ever spent a night camping in the bush (or your backyard for that matter) in early spring or late summer, you know just how chilly things can get after leaving the warmth of the fire behind and retiring to your tent.
Here’s a few great hacks to help you feel cozy on the coolest of nights:
1. Don’t be a cheapo camper.
Listen, there are just some things you don’t cheap out on. I’ve learned this one the hard way more times than I can count. The distinction that all these many years have taught me is what you can get away with and what you can’t. I stick to Columbia for coats, vests, toques, socks, hiking boots, and other outerwear that keeps me warm when it’s cold outside. Dakota’s the only boot brand that means a thing when it comes to extreme cold, but most would agree that Sorel really has the true market on cold weather boots. If a cool-weather clothing product doesn’t have “Thinsulate” on it, I probably don’t own it. Buy the cheapest food if you want, but don’t skimp on the gear that keeps you comfortable and may well save your life when it gets colder than you planned out.
2. Minimize your clothing situation.
This might sound like a bunch of hogwash, but it’s true. Strip down to your undies and a light undershirt, or put on a light pair of PJs if you want to stay warmer. The fibers and other insulation material inside sleeping bags are designed to absorb, retain and otherwise maximize your body heat, and its actually counter-productive to bundle up in a bunch of layers of clothing.
There are three main problems to bundling up in a sleeping bag:
1) It can over-compress the insulation material in the bag, rendering it useless (you need a little space between your skin and the lining of the bag).
2) You’ll start to sweat and actually get colder (sweating equals death in really cold temps.
3) Ask any Boy Scout and they’ll tell you that sleeping in a bunch of clothes will make you ten times colder the next morning when it comes time to emerge from your tent.
3. Sleep with a toque on.
Some sleeping bags have a “mummy” design that covers your head up for camping in Everest-level cold temperatures. They’re great for late, late fall temperatures, but hunkering into the top and closing it up can make it downright hot for most people. The easy trick is to always have a toque on hand when you slip into the bag, and preferably a separate one from that you wear throughout the day. A toque will keep you from losing excessive body temps and stop you from burying yourself in the bag so you don’t get too hot while sleeping and begin to sweat.
4. Eat a meal that’s high in healthy fats at suppertime.
You won’t find a lot of fat-averse climbers on Everest (I’m dying to watch the movie by the way). Nuts, fatty meats, olive oil, avocados, cheese — are just a few examples of the staples you should be eating in colder weather. Fats fire up the metabolism and keep those fires burning longer, during those crucial hours while sleeping when body temperatures naturally reach their lowest.
5. Treat your thighs to a surprise!
I swear I’m going to keep it PG here folks, don’t worry! You might have seen the inner thigh as a method of killing someone in your favorite spy or another good guy / bad guy movie at some point in time. That’s because the legs biggest and most major artery runs down the inside of your leg. This just happens to be the perfect place for a hot water bottle to go while you sleep to keep your blood nice and warm.
Alternatively, you can easily fashion your own insulated “hot rock”:
*Make sure you bring along a pair of old cheapo oven mitts — sans any holes, a pair of sturdy barbecue tongs, and some good old fine American Duct Tape (the good stuff, not the generic).
- Find a smaller rock or two that will fit comfortably inside the mitt. Make sure you have at least a few inches left at the top, so you can fold that part over and seal the rocks completely inside to prevent being burned.
- Put rocks on the side, not the center, of the fire and leave them in as long as you like. With a good fire going, ten minutes is all that’s required if it’s late and you haven’t put them in to warm up yet.
- Next, you basically want to put the rocks into one of the mitts using the tongs. I recommend putting the other glove on the hand you’ll be holding it with in case you bump said hand with hot rock.
- Fold the top over well and do a couple of rounds top to bottom of the mitt with the tape however you wish. Make sure the fold at the top is secure and the hot rock won’t slip out.
I could give out tons of cool camping hacks here, but those are my 5 go-tos, aside from using common sense to make camping in the cold more enjoyable. Like staying away from booze while you’re camping, snuggling if you have someone to snuggle with, having a warm mat or blanket under my sleeping bag for further insulation from the ground…
What’s your common sense tip or tips for camping in the cold? Any really good hacks to share? Let everyone know in the comments.
Here’s to happy fall camping adventures!
Main Image Credit: Bradley West/Flickr