Using Hot Water Bottles, Exercise, Sleeping Pads, and Layers

Sleeping through a cold night is not a lot of fun, whether it is a cool summer night or camping in winter with below-freezing temperatures. The following ideas can help campers stay warm through those chilly nights.

Before Getting in the Sleeping Bag

Before getting into the sleeping bag for the night, fluff the bag so that it is fully expanded. This is especially important for down bags, as they need some time to fluff up from being compressed in the stuff sack.

Take some time to increase blood circulation and body heat by doing jumping jacks or running in place. It is better to go to bed warm and allow the heat to be caught by the sleeping bag’s insulation than to go to bed cold.

What to Wear in the Sleeping Bag

When in the sleeping bag, wear thick socks to keep the toes warm. Down or synthetic booties can also help. Wear gloves for the hands and wool or synthetic cap for the head.

Wearing lots of layers of clothing in the bag may not help as body heat will not be caught by the sleeping bag’s insulation. However, if it is an old sleeping bag with thin insulation, then wearing a few extra layers could help.

Sleeping Pads and Tarps Underneath the Sleeping Bag

Place a sleeping pad underneath the bag. The pad insulates the body from the cold ground, which can draw away body heat. These pads are usually made of either closed-cell foam or inflatable.

Place a tarp underneath the pad, especially if it is inflatable, as the tarp will protect the pad from being punctured by sticks or rocks on the ground.

External Heat Sources in the Sleeping Bag

Bringing an external heat source into the sleeping bag can help to jump-start the warming process. One method is to boil hot water in a pot over either fire or camp stove and pour the water into a plastic water bottle.

This hot water bottle will stay warm for several hours and in the morning will be available in the morning for that first quart of water to drink instead of being frozen if left outside the sleeping bag. Wrap the bottle in an extra fleece sweater or hat so that the heat does not burn the hands.

Use chemical heat packs to keep the toes warm. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Staying Warm Through the Night

  • Do exercises in the sleeping bag to generate some body heat.
  • Eat food (unless there is a danger from bears) to get fuel into the body.
  • Drink water to maintain hydration.
  • Go to the bathroom if necessary. Not doing so means the urine or waste will draw heat that could be used to warm the body.
  • Use a pee bottle, if possible, so that one doesn’t have to get out of the bag to pee. Make sure it is clearly distinguishable from a water bottle.
  • If there is extra space at the bottom of the bag, stuff a sweater or fleece jacket to fill up the space, which means less space for the body to warm.