13 Steps to Sleeping and Surviving Cold Nights

Sleeping in a Mummy sleeping bag

The temperatures are getting perfect for getting outdoors for hiking, climbing, fishing, whatever sport strikes your fancy. Unfortunately, it also means that the temperatures at night are still cold resulting in taking more steps to get ready to lay your head at night, and stay warm. Here are some ways and tips you can stay warm at night, feel motivated to get out of your warm sleeping bag in the morning and be well rested for your next day’s adventure.

1) Go to the bathroom before going to sleep/go to sleep thirsty

When your body is storing urine it actually will try to warm that part of your body instead, until you get rid of it. Also, it’s pretty miserable to have to wake up in the middle of the night to have to pee and your tent mates won’t like that you just stepped on their face getting out of the tent.

2) Eat foods high in carbohydrates and protein.

Ditch that diet that you have been religiously following and eat food that will help create energy, or heat. Eating a dinner high in these will help you stay warm at night because your body will use them when creating heat and the last thing you want is waking up in the middle of the night at 4am to a gurgling stomach.

3) Stay off the ground when sleeping

This is especially important when winter camping, but still rings true when fall camping on the cold ground. Using a hammock or sleeping pad to stay off the ground when sleeping will help your body stay warm. The ground actually absorbs your heat and does not give it back like a bad gift-er during Christmas. Even when using a hammock, if it’s too cold, having a sleeping pad under you can help you conserve heat by creating a barrier under you from wind.

Staying warm when sleeping outside

4) Sleeping in the clothes that you are going to wear for the next day.

Waking up and putting on cold clothes is the most annoying thing to handle at the start of your morning. Warm body + cold clothes = not a happy camper. By wearing the clothes you plan on wearing the next day, you can just wake right up and go, saving time and anguish.

5) Sleep with a pillow.

Having a pillow simply makes sleep, better. Using your sleeping bag stuff sack – put your jacket, pants, shirt, etc into the stuff sack and lay your head on top of that. Not only do you keep your gear warm and dry but you have a nice pillow that doesn’t take any extra space in your pack.

6) Put shoes in sleeping bag at night.

It’s not the most comfortable situation at night, but you’ll love it when you wake up. Sleeping with your shoes in your bag (either near your body or at the foot of the sleeping bag) is a trick that many mountaineers do to dry their boots out when hiking big peaks.

7) Drink a hot drink in the morning.

There is a reason why, even in our homes, that we drink coffee or tea to get going in the morning – for the caffeine and more importantly for the cool weather camper to get warm. It’s just an amazing feeling and legitimately will help your body get moving in the morning even when the temperatures are at their coldest.

8) Get into your tent and bag before nightfall

Not being able to see what you’re doing is frustrating, but also getting into a cold tent and bag is equally frustrating. The heat that your own body produces is the only heat source that will keep you warm at night. Saying that, don’t let your body cool down before you get into your bag, it could be awhile before you get to sleep.

EXTRA TIP: Before getting into your tent, do pushups, jumping jacks, etc to create heat from your body and quickly get into your bag. You’ll thank me later…

What winter socks should I get

9) Bring an extra pair of dry socks.

For those long treks, bring an extra pair of merino wool socks. When one isn’t in use, the other one is drying from your gross foot sweat. Wet feet in the morning isn’t ever how you want to start your day.

10) Put warm water into a Nalgene and go to sleep hugging it.

This will keep you warm throughout the night and will surprisingly stay warm longer than you would think – usually lasting deep into the night near 5am.

11) Sleep with a beanie.

Whether you believe that 80% of your heat is lost through your head or it’s just 10% you still have an opportunity to trap heat by simply wearing a hat.

12) Sleep like a mummy.

Cinch that mummy bag all the way up and try breathing in your bag. Heat is lost through breathing as well, and conserving/trapping that heat in your bag will keep you warm and help you use less energy to do so.

13) Take off those wet clothes.

When tent camping it can be difficult to dry those wet clothes but if you can, hang them up in the tent or on a tree to dry them. They won’t dry completely but they won’t do much good if you wear them when going to sleep.