Camping & Survival

Quick Camping Tip: Warm Days, Cooler Nights. Preparing for Fall Camping

Picture shows a bright orange tent in a state park in winter.

Cheaper Than Dirt! Quick Camping TipFor some, cooler weather is right around the corner. Early and mid-fall camping can be the most enjoyable—the days are pleasantly warm, while temperatures drop at night making sleeping in your tent quite comfortable. However, if you are unprepared, a cold night in a tent can be miserable. If you pack right, camping in cooler weather is no sweat. Here are 12 tips to staying warm during chilly nights.

Picture shows a bright orange tent in a state park in winter.
If you pack right, camping in cooler weather is no sweat.
  1. Pack cold-weather clothing, such as long pants, sweatpants, a long-sleeved shirt, wool socks, a beanie or stocking cap, a jacket, hoodie or sweatshirt and closed-toed shoes or boots.
  2. Heat some water on the camp stove or campfire and put it in a sturdy bottle. Place the bottle in your sleeping bag down at your feet. Alternatively, use chemical warmers.
  3. Sip on hot coffee, chocolate or tea before bedtime.
  4. Go for a walk. Exercising raises your body temperature.
  5. Put a foam pad or air mattress under your sleeping bag. This will help stop conduction of your body heat.
  6. Downsize your tent. It is easier to keep a smaller tent warmer.
  7. Sleep wearing a fleece hat or stocking cap.
  8. Buy a portable heater rated for indoor use.
  9. Cover your sleeping bag with a warm blanket.
  10. Eat a good, hearty hot dinner.
  11. Insulate the ground before pitching your tent. Rake dry leaves, hay or pine needles over your pad site. Then put a ground cover over that.
  12. Upgrade your sleeping bag to a mummy-style rated for 15 degrees or colder.

How do you stay warm when camping in colder weather? Share your tips with others in the comment section.


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Comments (15)

  1. Always keep a few “chimney bricks” in or close to the campfire. when ready to go to sleep, wrap them in a wet towel and place them at your feet in the bag. You’ll be toasty for a good while, also do leave a pair of sox and pants in the bag so they’ll be warm in the morning. Just don’t put them on the damp towel!

  2. I have used the hot water bottle in the sleeping bag trick before. I use a plastic Nalgene bottle that I know will not leak and boil some water right before bed. I then let it barely cool down from boiling and pour it into my bottle and put that into the bottom of my bag as I am getting ready for bed so that when I am undressed and ready to climb in it is already pretty warm and it help to keep it a few degrees warmer while I fall asleep.

  3. Lets combine three blogs again. Staying warm Camping with dogs and Critter control. A very cold night was called a three dog night. That is where the group got its name. A warm hound would have smelled a lot better than my tent mates in scouts!!! Sleep with dogs wake up with fleas? That’s better than the lice being passed around at school. (never got them!!) Just the smell of a dog will keep some critters out of camp. A bark will run off others including two leg animals. Remember the dog can get cold also. A house dog can’t take it. Plan for Fido also.

  4. My wife is confined to a scooter or wheelchair, so when we tent camp, our tent is a 10 x 10 commercial canopy with zippered walls. We have a collapssable metal frame for our air mattress and zip together king size sleeping bags. Using a heavy plastic tarp for a floor, my wife can drive right in and manuver around with ease. With an extra pair of thermal underware it stays warm enough for the two of us.

  5. When I camped, I use to use a Teepee as a tent and to stay warm at nights. So, some of you are probably scratching your heads. Saying to your selves, haa, a tent with a hole at the top. Well it seem the American Plains Indian, were a lot smarter then their white counterparts were. The Teepee design allow air to pass through the opening at the top. And get drawn-down and heated by the fire and warm bodies at the base of the Teepee. This causes a micro or mini (e.i. Whirlwind effect) inside the Teepee circulating the warm air. The best way to describe a whirlwind effect, is to go into the desert and see the Dustdevil’s at play. And as far as rain is concerned, they do have Teepee’s with storm dampers on them.

  6. For over 60 years I have camped from the time I got potty trained.(NO not last week!) .From the beach in Oregon to Mexico.The desert to near 14000 feet on Mt Whitney .Camp grounds and with a backpack hiding under the bridge off the interstate. 110 + at lovely Blyth to Snow camp with the wrong gear. In scouts a can of beans for dinner kept the tent warm all night. That’s chemical heat. Now my best way to control the elements is Motel 6.

  7. Back in the 70’s we tried a lot of things. My friends and I had seen a movie where a mountain man covered the still smoldering embers of a camp fire with dirt and slept on that. The next time we were camping in cold weather a friend tried it and woke up in the middle of the night with his fart sack burning. It cost him a new bag and we laughed our asses off between shivers in the cold.

    I wouldn’t suggest that method but the hot rocks in a wool sock sounds good. Since then I’ve always opted for a tent and warm gear. You can always take it off but if you don’t have it you’ll be cold. I’m interested in alternative heat sources that are fire safe. Any one have any intel on chemical heat sources? The ones I tried years ago weren’t impressive for very long.

  8. Add a light fleece bag inside your regular sleeping bag and it’ll add tremendously to your warmth, especially if the outer bag has a nylon type inner lining. Also keep a pair of socks and gloves inside your bag, they’ll add insulation and be toasty warm in the morning.

    1. The fleece would slip on the bag liner and cling to my long johns. Woke up Mummy wrapped! Almost had to cut my way out.

  9. If you use the Hot Rock in the Sock trick use a wool sock. The synthetic ones will MELT! Found several old style hand warmers in the old guys “junk” box. They still work.

  10. # 11 has proven to me to be one of the most useful tips. A knee deep pile of pine needles easily crushes down to a thick mattress under your tent that cushions and insulates better than an air mattress or foam pad I’ve ever slept on.

    #3 can be impractical for us old guys because if we drink anything before bed time we’ll be up peeing all night. And once I’m in my fart sack I don’t want to have to get up and wander around in my undies looking for a good spot to drain the monster or a rest room.

    Have any of you tried #2? An extra source of heat sounds good but I’d be afraid of a leak during the night that would leave you doing the back stroke in your bag and the chemical heat pouches I’ve used didn’t last that long. What ever happened to the “Johnny Hand Warmers?” The last time I thought to replace the one I lost no one carried them anymore.

    1. I like to warm smooth stones in the fire in put in my Nalgene bottle. Yes, the fear of a leak has been there so I use duct tape on the lid. Never had a problem. I also hate to get up in the middle of the night so I highly recommend not messing with the Big Gulp outside my tent….

  11. Until I get an Off-Road Capable or Tracked Wheelchair. I’m not going to be doing any camping, any time soon.

    1. The Chaplin at the hospital my dad was in was given a chair that would climb stairs. Up and down.That might help.

    2. @ OLD&GRUMPY.

      Unfortunately my Health Care provider and Insurance Company, consider that a Luxury Item, and refuse too purchase on for me. And there only so far a I can go in a National Forest, in my Toyota FJ40 4WD Wheelchair, For some unfathomable reason, it seem the Park Ranger, have it in their collective minds. That I’d be endangering the Wildlife and the Visitor’s that use them. Go, figure.

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