I live in Southern California and am lucky enough to have some very mild winter nights. However, every once in a while the temps will drop from the low 30’s into the teens and single digits overnight. Here are five tips on how I stay warm while camping in the backcountry.
First off I layer appropriately. When camping in cold weather, I always bring a good top and bottom base layer. In addition to the base layers, I will also bring a balaclava or a beanie depending on how cold the temps are going to be. I’ll change into my base layers before it gets too cold out so I don’t lose too much body heat while changing clothes.
The second thing I do is bring a mylar blanket. My mylar blanket has orange on one side so I can use it to signal for rescue if need be. I will usually lay the mylar blank down under my sleeping pad for the night. If the temps start to drop, I will lay the mylar blanket over me to reflect my body heat back at my body.
The Third thing I will do is to use an additional sleeping pad such as a closed cell foam pad under a high R rated sleeping pad(4.0 R rating or higher). This helps with any extra rocks and bumps under my tent and will also allow less body heat escaping to the ground.
The Fourth way I stay warm in the backcountry is the use of thick socks. There are many ways to keep your feet warm, but I prefer thick socks. There are lighter options out there such as down booties, but I have been using thick socks for years now. Before putting on your thick socks to sleep in for the night, make sure your feet are dry. One way to assure they are dry, is to add a little gold bond powder before slipping on your thick socks.
The fifth way I stay warm in the backcountry is making sure I relieve myself before going to bed at night. When you wake up in the middle of the night with a full bladder, you are going to be colder. Your body's expending energy to keep that liquid warm. Try to drink less before going to bed, so you don’t wake up in the middle of the night having to relieve yourself.
A bonus tip for staying warm is the use of hand warmers in your sleeping bag or quilt. I like to use two hand warmers. One I will use down by my feet, while I will use the other under my torso. Hand warmers will last upwards of 8 hours, keeping you warm throughout the night.
I hope some of these tips help you stay warm at night in the backcountry. A good night of sleep does wonders for your next day of exploration on the trails.