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Learning how to stay warm in a sleeping bag is an essential skill every avid camper might benefit from. Whether you enjoy cold weather camping or are a strict warm summer weather camper, the location of your camp often matters more than the season. It isn’t unheard of for summer nights to dip well below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, despite being blisteringly hot during the day.

It doesn’t matter whether you are winter camping or warm weather camping; the rule of thumb is that you should ideally have a sleeping bag with a temperature rating slightly higher than the lowest temperature you expect to encounter during the night. The ideal rating should be at least 10 degrees higher.

Even though having the right winter sleeping bag by your side will help a great deal, there are a few problems associated with that course of action:

  • Sleeping bags with the best temperature ratings are rather expensive
  • Winter sleeping bags are quite bulky

If you’re camping in the summer, there’s a good chance you don’t want to be lugging around all that extra weight while you originally envisioned sleeping in a hammock under the stars.

Thankfully, your sleeping bag isn’t the only defense you have against those cold nights that tend to come by so suddenly. Here are some tips on how to stay warm in a sleeping bag that might come in handy so you can get sleep comfortably in a tent.

Tips on How to Stay Warm in a Sleeping Bag

Regarding staying warm throughout the night in colder temperatures, it should be stated that you shouldn’t care about how you look. This goes out to the romantics who go tent camping as a couple and want to impress each other with their beautiful but impractical sleeping clothes.

While there’s something to be said about body heat under the covers, the truth is that you will want to layer up when it gets really cold.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at some of the best ways to stay warm in a sleeping bag.

Layer Up Before Bed

One of the biggest issues with going hammock camping, tent camping, or even car camping is that we assume the weather will stay as lovely as we would like it to be. The problem with this assumption is that we often get caught off-guard. Before you realize that the night isn’t as warm as you envisioned it, your fingers and toes will be well on their way to hypothermia.

women waking up in sleeping bag

At this point, layering up and wearing warmer clothes will help, but it won’t warm you up fast enough. You will remain cold for a good period of time as your body tries to bring your core temperature back up.

The trick is to layer up before you get to this point. There’s always that point in the day when you feel the weather turn:

  • Your skin starts to get a little cold
  • You may get goosebumps
  • Your nose may start to run a little
  • You’ll feel the urge to start a fire or move closer to the one you already have

At this point, you should start layering up and getting warmer. It’s best to dress up in what you will be wearing to bed that night; otherwise, different clothes will be cold against your already toasty skin.

Do Not Sleep Naked

Again, the best way to stay warm is to layer up. However, this doesn’t mean you need to overdo it. Here are some layering tips that should help.

  • Take care of the extremities: Your feet and hands will get cold the fastest. Wear gloves and warm socks before and after bed to keep these extremities warm. You can also wear a warm hat to keep your head and ears warm.
  • Try not to sweat: The problem with putting on too many layers is that you will sweat at some point in the evening. This sweat will seep through to the other layers you have on, causing them to become damp and cold. This will make it more difficult to regulate body temperature, so you will be alternating between sweating and freezing throughout the night, which isn’t ideal.
  • Try not to bundle your core: Instinctively, you want to protect your core from the cold as much as possible. Even though this is a good thing, overdoing it will isolate the rest of your body. While your core will remain warm, your extremities may freeze. Be sure to balance it out well. You can do this by wearing thermals.

Wear Thermals

Thermals are extremely practical on a camping trip. Not only do they give your body the extra boost it needs to keep your body temperature high through the night, but they also cover the entire body without necessarily bundling one section, such as your core.

Consider wearing some leggings, long johns, or long sleeves the next time you are camping in colder temperatures and looking for ways to minimize body heat loss. 

Use a Hot Water Bottle

The hot water bottle is an ever-trusted companion for those who enjoy sleeping warm. Not only will the hot water bottle transfer the heat to your body, but it will help keep that specific section of your sleeping bag warm, so you aren’t surprised by cold spots should you toss and turn in your sleep.

Go to Bed in Dry Clothes

Sweating or wearing damp clothes to bed promotes conductive heat loss. The simplest solution is to change into dry clothes before bed instead of simply jumping into your sleeping bag with the wet clothes you just hiked in.

Use Sleeping Pads and Sleeping Bag Liners

Sleeping bag liners and sleeping pads achieve two things:

Not only do these two things provide you with much-needed warmth, but they also give you an increased level of comfort.

Use a Portable Heater (With Extreme Caution)

Portable heaters, regardless of whether they are electric or gas portable heaters, should all be used with extreme caution. You should NEVER consider sleeping while one of these heaters is on in your tent.

women enjoying the view while sitting in speeping bag

The idea of bringing a portable heater on your camping trip is so that it can warm your tent or keep your tent warm before you get to sleep. That’s the only way you should use them.

Leave the heater on to warm the tent as you change into dry clothes or eat your dinner before going to sleep. This way, all you will find in your tent once you get into it is warm air, as opposed to the cold air that would have welcomed you had you not used the portable heater.

Insulate Your Tent

One of the best ways to keep your tent warm through the night is to insulate it against the cold, hard ground. You can do this by using synthetic insulation solutions like a sleeping pad, as already mentioned, or you could use rugs layered on the ground. Before sleeping, you could also lay down all your camping clothes under your sleeping bag.

Finally, another way to ensure you are protected against cold nights when camping is to pick the right camping spot. Find someplace that is not directly against the wind or has some protection against the wind. You need to worry about the wind-chill factor even when warm camping.

If you are a cold sleeper, bring a warm sleeping bag, wool socks, and as much extra insulation as you can carry. When it’s 2 AM, the wind is blowing, and your tent is getting ever so colder, every extra warm layer will help.

Final Words

As we mentioned before, layers are key to staying warm in a sleeping bag. You can wear multiple layers or just one. The important thing is to be able to adjust the temperature of the layers so that you won’t be cold during the night.

The best thing about the different ways to stay warm in a sleeping bag is that they can all be used at different temperatures. You can also use different types of sleeping bags for different conditions. Make sure not to wear too many clothes at night.

Remember that the key to staying warm is keeping yourself covered with a layer of insulation. It may seem counterproductive to wear multiple layers of clothing when sleeping in a sleeping bag, but this is the best way to stay warm. In order to have the most effective insulation, you must have the most effective base layers.

What other tips or hacks do you have to save warm in a sleeping bag? Leave us a comment below!

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