A number of my friends take their kids to the desert in December to go dirt biking and they complain about the cold camping. Well, here are a number of tips that I’ve used when cold weather camping that will make your campout more enjoyable.
The obvious first tip is to bring warm clothes. So why am I mentioning this? So, you’ll bring the right clothes! Bring gloves, ski jackets, wool hats, wool socks, long underwear, turtleneck shirts, sweat pants, sweaters and lots of extra clothes that you can layer. Unlike summer camping where you can get away with a couple of t-shirts and a pair of shorts. Plan to over pack during cold weather. As the old adage goes, “It’s easier to put on clothes you have than clothes you do not have!”
Shelter – Find a place to shelter your tent from winds. I know it may be hard to do this in a desert, but try to make camp on the edge of a dry lakebed, not in the middle. If the wind sees to be coming from a particular direction, park your vehicle to block the wind.
During the day you keep warm by being active – hiking, dirt biking, etc. At night when it gets colder and sleep beacons you is when you need to be prepared.
Bedding – Make sure you bring lots of warm bedding. I usually take a 0 ° F rated sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, an extra blanket and a summer rated sleeping bag. Make sure you have lots of padding between your sleeping bag and the ground of your tent. If you do not, the cold ground will suck all the heat out of your body while you sleep! Burrrrr!
Sleeping – Before you go to bed, put on your long underwear, wool socks and a wool hat. Your body loses lots of heat through an exposed head. If you wake up cold, put the extra blanket or summer sleeping bag on top of you or another layer of clothes such as: sweat pants and a sweat shirt. If you get too warm, vent your sleeping bag by opening the zipper, or vent yourself by taking off your wool hat or a layer of clothing. The key is to keep warm, but not to sweat. Perspiration will make you wet and cold. If this happens, peel off your wet clothes and put some dry clothes on and start again. Now are not glad you bought lots of clothes! 🙂
Warmth – A couple of tricks I use are to build a fire at night so everyone can sit around, chat and get toasty before going to bed. But, also while the fire is burning, put a pot of water on the fire, bring it not quite to a boil, pour it into a canteen or heavy-duty water bottle and take it to bed with you to warm the sleeping bag! Additionally, it’s always good to have some hot beverage – cocoa or tea prior to bed to put something warm in your body. But, you better rid yourself of the fluids before you go to bed. Nothing is worse than waking up in the middle of a cold night to the “call of nature.” 🙁
Hopefully you will find these tips useful and feel comfortable enough to camp when the weather is cold. Try it! It’s quite a sense of accomplishment.