Fiona Outdoors logo My independent guide to the best of Scotland outdoors

Tips for staying warm on chilly camping trips

Written by Fiona

January 13 2020

While many people stick to the warmer seasons for a camping trip, it doesn’t have to be tis way. Camping during the late autumn or winter months can be a chilly experience but if you’re an avid camper during the warmer months, you will most likely want to try camping in the colder months at least once. 

It’s an entirely different, but amazing, experience. Snow-capped mountains, frosty landscapes and frozen lochs are just some of the views you can expect during a winter camping trip. Here are some tips to consider if you like the idea of camping in the chillier seasons.

The best tent

You need a tent that will cope with winter conditions, including winds and snow. Look for tents tat are rated as three or four-season, depending on the type of camping trip you plan to embark on. 

The right sleeping bag

It might seem obvious but the warmer the sleeping bag, the warmer you will be. A down filled bag will be a good choice for winter camping and you should make sure that it has a rating of sub-zero temperatures.

It is a good idea to have a sleeping bag that is water-resistant, too, because it is likely you will end up with condensation in a tent due to your own hot air / breathe.

To save money, you could double up two summer sleeping bags but that means carrying two bags with you.

Wear insulated layers such as a down jacket at night as well for extra warmth.

Insulated sleeping mat

The ground will be cold in winter, so an inflatable sleeping mat will help to keep you away from the ground and warmer as a consequence. Inflatable sleeping mats save on weight when carrying them and then create a comfortable and insulated mattress for sleeping when inflated.

Another tip is to lay a foil blanket – the sort you might get free after a running race – under the sleeping mat for further insulation and heat retention.

Share a tent

Two people sleeping together in a tent will be much warmer than one person in a single-person tent. If you plan to camp in winter go with your partner or friend and don’t be embarrassed to sleep close together! A dog will also offer extra warmth at night.

Warm-up with hot liquids 

Enjoying a hot cup of tea or coffee can be a great way to warm up after a chilly hiking trip. Many winter campers will carry a travel kettle with them so they can warm up liquids up. 

You could add an insulated water bottle or hot water bag to your winter camping equipment list and then fill with hot water. This is a great way to stay warmer at night.

If you do use a hot water bottle or bag to warm up, be careful not to place it directly against your skin. 

Wear wool layers 

You’ll want to wear clothes that keep you warm. The best baselayers are those make of wolls such as merino or yak. Woooll layers create layers of warm air between the body and the fabric.

Wool has the advantage of being moisture wicking and also tends to smell less after a few days of wear.

Choose wool baselayers for your torso, legs and feet if you are winter camping.

Choose your campsite wisely 

The right camping spot will help with staying warm overnight. You want to be sheltered from the wind and rain so you should choose a tent pitching spot carefully.

Look for locations that are sheltered by trees, for example. This will protect your tent from getting directly hit by wind. Large rocks can also help to keep the tent in place if the wind is strong.

Make sure the ground you’re pitching your tent on is clear of any snow or ice. This can help prevent moisture from leaking into your tent. 

Know the signs

While braving the elements can be a thrilling experience, you also want to make sure that you don’t get too cold. You don’t want your camping trip to end in frostbite or hypothermia. 

Know what the signs of frostbite and hypothermia are before going on your trip. Uncontrollable shivering, extremely pale skin and struggling to talk are all signs that you should seek medical attention. 

If you find yourself or a friend getting too cold on your winter camping trip, don’t hesitate to pack up and go somewhere warm. Camping in cold weather is hard, especially if you don’t have the right supplies. 

Camping in the winter is a very different experience than camping in the summer, but with another preparation and the right supplies, you can stay nice and warm on your trip.

More Like This

Adventure

Saving up for your next outdoor adventure – top tips and tricks to try

Adventure

The 6 best choices for floating docks 

Adventure

The Hebridean Way cycle route: A comprehensive guide

Adventure

Walker Lorraine McCall tackles toughest Scottish mountains challenge yet

Adventure

All you need to know to start the Camino de Santiago from Sarria

Adventure

Gamekeeper turned runner to take on Cape Wrath Ultra 2024