If the past year has taught us anything, it’s this: with the right equipment, we can do just about everything outside, in just about any weather. Your friends at Kelty have known this since the 1950s, when our fearless leader first made outdoor comfort his mission—and we’ve spent every moment since tweaking and perfecting those ideas. Here are our top three tips for staying warm while camping.
1. Choose the right sleeping bag.
Start by asking yourself a few basic questions. Does your sleeping bag weigh 15 pounds? Does it pack “down” to a petite 36-inch-diameter roll? Are there [ahem] pictures of deer on the inside? If so, congrats! You’re ready for a sleepover at your bestie’s house.
But if you’re looking to stay warm in a tent in colder weather, it’s probably time to think about grabbing some new camping gear—starting with the right sleeping bag. We’ll begin by saying that size DOES matter! A tailored sleeping bag (i.e. a classic mummy bag) keeps you warmer by reducing the amount of space your body has to heat.
If you’re a woman, there are a lot of benefits to having a women’s specific sleeping bag. Due to international sleeping bag standards, extra insulation is often added to the feet and upper body. Typically, the bag has also been designed to better fit the female body, reducing air pockets and heat loss.
Of course, smart insulation is also paramount. Here’s a basic rundown on pros, cons, and why it matters when you’re tent camping in 30-degree weather.
DOWN VS. SYNTHETIC
- Down Insulation Pros: Down sleeping bag insulation is widely lauded for being light, durable, breathable, compressible…if a bit more expensive than synthetic sleeping bag insulation options. It’s the stuffing of choice for cold, DRY conditions, which makes it great for staying warm while camping—as long as you’re not expecting any wet weather.
- Down Insulation Cons: The biggest beef with natural down insulation is that it can get clumpy when wet, which makes it lose all those warm-and-toasty properties. It also takes longer to dry and requires more care when cleaning.
- Synthetic Insulation Pros: Synthetic sleeping bag insulation is the ultimate bang-for-buck fill. It’s typically more affordable than organic down, and while it’s not quite as thermally efficient as the real thing—it’s more water resistant, dries faster and performs better when damp.
- Synthetic Insulation Cons: Synthetic sleeping bag insulation, while cost effective and reliably high performing, has a different overall feel than organic down. It’s heavier, bulkier and less durable, the loft degrading a bit every time it’s compressed into a stuff sack.
GEAR REC: Cosmic Down: Available in 0- and 20-degree versions, this 3-season superstar features trapezoidal baffles to help you retain even MORE heat—plus a natural-fit footbox for happy feet, a zipper draft tube to keep cold air out and a stuff-sack for quick departures. Cosmic Synthetic Available in 0-, 20- and 40-degree versions, the synthetic version of our best-selling Cosmic bag is one of our most versatile overall bags—with all the features of the organic down version for about 50 bucks (i.e. a few good 12-packs) less.
2. Don’t Forget the Sleeping Pad.
Turns out, there’s more to staying warm while camping than a great sleeping bag! A high-quality sleeping pad will not only ensure that you wake up with a spring in your step—it’s also a critical component of camping warmth.
Insulation plays a key role as it reduces the amount of body heat you lose to the cold ground beneath you. A sleeping pad’s R-value measures how well it’s able to resist heat flow (“R”, for “Resist”!). The higher a pad’s R-value, the better it will insulate and the warmer you’ll be.
Not trying to hang out in the cold? We like self-inflating (SI) pads for their ability to loft up and pack down quickly.
GEAR REC: Waypoint SI Sleeping Pad. This new addition to our backcountry sleep essentials features three inches of comfy thickness, with oversized dimensions for wayfaring slumberers—plus a super-soft stretch fabric exterior with open-cell foam insulation for utmost coziness. Waypoint also boasts a positively volcanic R-value of 5.6…which is nice.
3. Choose your tent wisely.
In the backcountry, staying warm while camping is largely about staying dry. So consider a tent that ventilates well to fight condensation, which is a common culprit in making chilly nights feel even chillier.
GEAR REC: For backpackers, the Late Start tent’s fine-gauge no-see-um mesh allows moisture to escape while the tent fly helps stave off any moisture trying to find its way in. It also goes up and breaks down quickly, so you don’t have to stand around in the cold.
In addition to packing the right gear, here are some HOT HACKS to stay extra warm while camping.
- Go to bed with a warm water bottle. A hot water bottle in your sleeping bag can stay warm for hours. Fill up your Nalgene (or another hard, plastic bottle) and go to bed with it between your legs, at your feet, or near your core. Just be careful it’s sealed tight and safe to the touch (don’t get it too hot).
- Go pee– it’s worth it! If you wake up and have to pee, go pee. We promise, it’s worth it. Otherwise, your body will waste energy keeping your bladder (and pee) warm. If you empty it out, that’s more energy to heat the rest of your body. It also helps you go back to sleep without distractions.
- Stuff extra gear under your sleeping pad. Don’t have an insulated sleeping pad? Sometimes you can get crafty and add more layers between you and the ground. If you’re car camping, consider bringing a blanket for under your sleeping pad. Check out our new Galactic Down Blanket and other Kelty blankets here.
- Dog pile! Okay fine, we’re just looking for more reasons to curl up with dogs. But, extra body heat never hurts
Looking for more tips to make the backcountry feel like home? Follow us @keltybuilt for all kinds of cool camp content (and) dogs. See you out there, friends!