10 Ways to Keep Warm When Camping in Winter

Views from tent with sleeping bag camping

If you love camping then you don’t want cold weather to stop you getting outside. Here are my top tips on how to keep warm whilst camping in winter. 

Some are practical tips for staying warm and others are useful outdoor gear items to make your winter camping experience a good one!

In December, I went hiking in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco (with a plan to go camping too). You can read all about the hiking trip here including my winter packing list guide here to see what I took! I don’t like being cold so there was plenty of warm weather gear on my list!

But the UK has loads of great places to go camping in winter too. If you want an adventure then you don’t need to go all the way to Morocco for some snow! 

And if you want to visit Scotland, then winter is a perfect time because there are no midges!

Have you ever tried winter camping? Let me know in the comments below any more tips.

10 ways to stay warm camping in winter

Winter camping Lake District
Wild camping in the Lake District

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Make your own hot water bottle

I have used both my metal Sigg water bottle (which comes in lots of different colours) and also my Platypus as hot water bottles when I’m camping in cold weather.

Make sure you choose a leakproof bottle, boil some water and pop it inside your sleeping bag to make a lovely warm bed for you!

Check prices on Amazon for Platypus hydration system I use here. I use it with both a hydration tube and a screw-on top so it’s great for multi-use on your trip. 

Buy a sleeping bag liner

Snowy hills in the Peak District
Once the sun goes down in winter it gets pretty cold

A cheaper option to keep your warmer is a sleeping bag liner. It is also great for keeping your sleeping bag clean too.

There are lots of different types, I have a silk sleeping bag liner because it’s small too. You can buy them pretty cheap from Amazon but I reckon it’s worth paying more for a decent one – this Rab sleeping bag liner has good reviews on Amazon.

You might not think it makes a massive difference but when the temperature drops in the middle of the night, you’ll be glad of the extra warmth!

If you’re planning on hiking in the snow then these tips might help you keep safe whilst you’re out walking.

Go to bed with a full tummy

Summit to Eat meal and camping stove
My camping kitchen!

One way to keep warm when you’re camping in the winter months is to make sure you’ve eaten a good meal before you go to bed. 

Of course, a warm meal is my preference instead of cold snacks. When I’m wild camping I often eat the Summit to Eat meals, you simply add hot water to a dehydrated meal. They also make good hand warmers too!

Macaroni cheese is my favourite meal, yummy! Check out other meals on the Summit to Eat website or from Amazon.

But the important thing is to give your body energy to keep it warm through the night.

Get your body warm before you go to sleep

Views of Blencathra and tarn in Lake District
Keeping warm after pitching my tent in the Lake District

Jump up and down. Do some star jumps, whatever activity you can do to get your heart racing and the blood pumping around your body.

Or even just a simple walk before you go to bed. But don’t forget a head torch! I use this rechargeable head torch from Led Lenser.

Also, if you wake up in the middle of the night cold too then moving your body around (whilst in your tent will help warm you up).

Upgrade your sleeping bag

Thermarest Oberon Sleeping bag from tent
Watching sunrise + keeping warm in my sleeping bag!

If you’ve been camping over the summer months in a 2-season sleeping bag now that winter is here you might need to reconsider your camping kit. Once the night temperatures start dropping you need something thicker to keep you warm on the cold nights.

For the UK a 3-season or 4-season sleeping bag in the winter months is a must. Especially if you’re a cold sleeper like me!

I’m planning on taking my Thermarest Oberon sleeping bag with me to Morocco, which goes down to comfort rating of minus 18. I will let you know how I get on!

You can check out the sleeping bag I used on my 2-month summer hiking trip on my long distance packing list here.

Read later. Save to Pinterest

Sunset from tent whilst camping

Use a warm sleeping mat

After upgrading my summer sleeping mat to a warmer version I really noticed the difference when camping in cooler temperatures.

Most of your body heat is lost through the cold ground when camping, so even if you have a warm sleeping bag a mat will help keep you warm whilst camping.

I have a Thermarest X-Therm, it’s certainly a lot warmer than my summer Thermarest Neo Air.

However, if you don’t want to buy another sleeping mat you can buy a cheaper mat to put underneath your initial sleeping system to help keep you warm in cold weather.

Wear merino thermals to sleep in

tent camping trip with person in thermals
Thermals are great to wear to keep warm and perfect to sleep in

I read many times that you shouldn’t wear anything in your sleeping bag and otherwise, the sleeping bag won’t do its job.

However, I don’t agree with this, some thin but efficient layers like merino wool thermals will help keep you warm.

Thermals are perfect to wear whilst camping and handy to have some warm clothes on in case you need to go for a midnight wee in the night!

Lovely and warm in my sleeping bag
Lovely and warm in my sleeping bag

Keep your head and feet warm

For me, if I don’t wear a hat then I feel like a lot of my heat is lost through my head. Get yourself a comfy hat to sleep in, my bobble hat is great for hiking but it’s not that practical to sleep in!

A thin beanie is the best option to help you stay warm.

I also love a nice cosy pair of warm socks to sleep in. For Harry Potter fans, you could get these cool bed socks!

Buddy up with a friend in your tent

Now, this option might not be for everyone but sharing body heat is a great way to keep warm.

If you have a friend or partner that loves camping then why not take them along on the camping trip and you will find that two people in a tent is much warmer than one.

It’s also handy if you are planning a wild camping trip then you can share carrying the tent to save carrying extra weight too!

Of course, it might not a great idea if one of you snores but otherwise, it’s a perfect way to keep warm.

Take a gas stove for a hot drink

views from tent whilst camping with gas stove
Views the tent at sunset whilst enjoying a cup of tea

This might not be an essential item of kit for a summer camping trip but in winter before you go to bed a hot drink will be great for helping your body warm-up.

Although remember not to drink too much otherwise you’ll be up in the middle of the night needing to go to the toilet, brrr that makes me cold thinking about it!

And waking up on a cold winter morning, a hot drink will do the trick to warm you up.

Be sure to read my guide on going to the toilet whilst wild camping for my tips on how to do it right!

Other Top Tips for Winter Camping

Don’t go to sleep in wet clothes

Wearing thermal bottoms whilst looking out of tent camping
Sat watching the light fade over the hills whilst wild camping

Ok, now this might sound obvious but if you’re hiking in the rain then ensure you have some spare clothes to sleep in.

As soon as you pitch your tent, change into your dry clothes and hang them up to dry, if you can.

Wet clothes will reduce your body temperature and will get even colder at night.

Winter daylight hours

As there are fewer daylight hours in the winter months so be prepared with a good head torch and also a few things to keep you occupied before you go bed.

A book or a magazine is a great thing to take along to read before bed. 

I can recommend ‘Mountain Man’ by my friend James Forrest, he shares his comical and challenging Nutall bagging adventure, alongside a few of his camping disasters! Treat yourself to a copy from Amazon.

Sunrise on a winter wild camp
Sunrise on a winter wild camp (5 pm)

Battery power

Maybe for a night’s camping, this won’t matter have a big impact but the cold can completely drain a phone battery in a night (I know I’ve left mine out the sleeping bag before and had no power in the morning!)

I find putting my phone in a sock inside my sleeping bag is the best place to keep the battery warm.

If you have a power bank or GPS watch then keep this inside your sleeping bag too. I have this Anker power bank which will charge my phone about four times.

Wild camping in winter

Snowy day in the Peak District
Snowy winter’s day in the Peak District

If you’re planning a wild camping trip in winter then remember not to scrimp on warm items of clothing and gear. Yes, you’ll be carrying it but it’s better than being cold out on the hills. Who knows what the weather will do in the UK!

After a long (or short) hike to your camping spot putting on an extra warm layer will help keep your body warm after an active day.

Would you like to try winter camping? Do you have any more worries about keeping warm when camping in cold weather?

Ask me in the comments below.

Read next – 5 budget items for winter hiking

Pin to your camping boards for later

Tent in winter Lake District

Snowy hills in Peak District

 

 
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