Instructables
Let me emphasize something: The picture of me sleeping outside in the snow is not a good idea. I did not sleep well. But I did survive, and since then I've learned some tricks that would've kept me plenty toasty. Many of these seem like common sense when you read them, but you'd be surprised how few people think of them. I didn't, without a lot of trial and error. Here's what I learned so that you don't have to make the mistakes I did.

Keep in mind that most of these techniques assume dry weather. If it's raining or snowing, the steps are the same, but you'll have to do them inside your tent or vestibule. It is also assumed that you have a sleeping bag rated for around the same temperatures you're likely to be experiencing, but the techniques demonstrated here can give you some wiggle-room with that. Remember: being prepared is always step one.

As always, anyone see something I'm doing wrong, could be doing better, or should be doing that I'm not, let me know!

Also, with the exception of the two intro pics, they're all staged on a closed course by professionals, but rest assured that these techniques do work. Hopefully, they'll help you get a better night's sleep, and in doing so help you better enjoy the great outdoors.
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Put on Your Fly.

This seems like a no-brainer, especially with a mesh-canopy tent like mine, but it's very, very important in frigid conditions. Not only does your fly block wind, keep in heat and keep off rain or snow, many tents are actually designed so that the fly helps prevent condensation, and a dry sleeper is a warm sleeper.
The fly also provides a vestibule, which is an extremely useful thing to have, especially in windy or rainy situations.

On the downside, it does block your view of the stars, but I can forgo marveling at the majesty of the cosmos if it means not freezing to death.
1-40 of 358Next »
archertom3 months ago

Great suggestions and how To's thanks

Sask71 year ago
This is a terrible article and you should probably just delete it. You basically stated that one trying to survive outdoors should stay in a tent... thanks tips. I do Winter camping in Canada where air temp (without feels like/windchill/humidity factors included) can get down to -40 C (-27 F) and this is definitely the worst article on Winter survival I have ever read.
Mother Natures Son (author)  Sask71 year ago
Well thanks for your feedback. However, I'm not going to delete it, because I have read much worse resources on cold-weather camping--a good example would be wherever you read that -40 C is equal to -27 F. Winter camping in Canada takes a lot of skill and knowledge, and having backpacked in northern Sweden and slept out in an Icelandic blizzard, I can appreciate that. However, what may be hard to remember is that not everyone comes pre-endowed with the knowledge of how to stay the night comfortably in adverse conditions. After spending a lot of time working with Californian Boy Scouts, I can tell you that things like "set your tent up properly, get dry, take a leak, dress warmly" are not concepts that are instinctive for everyone. Look through some of the comments here and I think you'll find that a lot of these basic ideas are far from intuitive for a lot of people.

Maybe these tips don't help you, but this is a guide for less advanced campers. Please bear that in mind before casting aspersions.
I did about eight years in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, finally making Eagle shortly before my 18th birthday. In eight years, I did plenty of winter camping, in Ohio, which sees a lot of snow, freezing rain, and temperatures well below freezing. Every method discussed in this article is by the book-- and not just for Scouting, but for military, as well. The only point that might merit further discussion is the clothing section, but even that has addressed various concerns to an extent far exceeding sufficiency. "The worst article." Right. If you went winter camping in Canada without the practices discussed in this article, your first night would be your last.
Beenay25 Sask71 year ago
Well... I liked the article :P
gen814651 year ago
What I've found to help keep warm is to put one of those thermal "space blankets" between my ground pad and my sleeping bag. By putting it shiny side up, it reflects the body heat back on to me. Do not put it inside your sleeping bag, as too much heat reflection will cause you to sweat, and that defeats the entire purpose. The space blanket should be available at just about any place that sells sporting equipment, and may be listed as an "emergency blanket". They are reusable if folded and cared for, and when worn out, can be discarded (or used for something else) and go buy another. They're usually just a couple bucks.
the_nthian1 year ago
My personal take on staying warm? Change your socks before bed..and again in the morning.
The 'warming drink' before bed? Try Jello with half the water...hot, sweet and easy to digest.
badwooki1 year ago
a full bladder need to be kept warm and uses the heat the body could be using
strods1 year ago

The water bottle trick is a solid one. Two weeks ago I led my scout group on a survival camp with 31 degree overnight low. I filled my canteen with boiling water at night, tight lid, and threw it at the bottom of my bag as a footwarmer.
The next morning, our camp water was frozen but the water I kept in my bag was my body temp, eaisly made ito coffee. It wams you to sleep, you then keep it warm at night, and then it warms you up again.
ever use a pee bottle?
I haven't, but plenty of people have suggested it. I might try it on my next trip.
no point in giving up the warmth we've conserved half the night..just make sure the designated bottle is CLEARLY marked with tape or use one that is very different so you can feel it in the dark and not mistake it for a water bottle (need i say more?)
Any one want mountain dew?
it happend once to a friend with lemon gatorade the label was still on and he forgot
 LOl did it happend to you?!
label your pee-bottle or be ready to find out what it tastes like. Or just make sure you are paying attention when you are thirsty.
Not if you're Bear Gryllis
The mechanics of that are rather awkward and you lose heat when you squat over the bottle. Using a pee funnel is recommended.

DO NOT use an inflatible mat. they leach heat into the ground

Hot gatorade best choice.
I must put my peice of experience to this topic, i'm a Boy Scout out of Kentucky and before my Scoutmaster taught me better i would go to bed looking like i would dress for the weather and i would freeze beyond anything i have ever felt before, but stripping down to ur boxers and sleeping with a warm bag and a bag liner, you will always wake up toasty and in Kentucky the Weather goes from 100's in summer to 30's nad below in Winter, and you must always be prepared, the idea of a cap is very smart, but i use a hybrid mummy sleeping bag with a removable hood and it has the same consept, but everyone has there opinions and Kentucky isn't everywhere, so i'm not all knowing. just my bit of experience.
sockless4 years ago
I personally prefer to wear almost no clothes, but I throw my clothes in my bag with me. The sleeping bag should warm up with your body heat, so you shouldn't need warm clothes.
I've found this works much better than layering up for sleeping. If you sleep in the buff, any sweat you might produce will be wicked away by your sleeping bag. If you're sleeping in clothes, they're very likely to soak up that moisture and then you'll get cold.

If you do need to wear clothes to stay warm, I'd suggest just getting a better sleeping bag or a wool blanket (wool wicks away moisture), or you could wear wool clothing. I prefer the better sleeping bag because it's less weight, but if that's not of any concern then a nice wool blanket would work perfectly.
Or instead of the wool blanket, even if your sleeping bag keeps you warm, get long johns. They're amazing lol
Mother Natures Son (author)  sockless4 years ago
That works fine--if you've got a sleeping bag sufficient for the conditions. If you don't, then you need extra insulation. If it's the middle of the summer and you've got a 15° bag, you won't need clothes. If it's going to be zero (or, realistically, 15°) then you will.
fostermoody2 years ago
Actually, a good trick I have found is that you can combine steps 6 & 7. It does mean that you can't drink out of the bottle, but you do get the benefit of not losing any of your precious body heat.

Unfortunately combining the steps is a fair bit less convenient for that half of people with female urinary tract, though still doable if they're careful.
Gelfling62 years ago
Mutiple layers are good, but I actually found simple makes better too.. I learned this many times camping out at Renaissance faires, in a simple tent, a close-fit sleeping bag (mummy style) is best for keeping out the elements, even in a tent. (cursing the mutiple times a tent seam decided to leak during a rainstorm!). On the cheap, You can go with flipping your shirt & T-Shirt inside out, but keeping it over, and around the back of the head, and just above the bridge of the nose, so that your nose & mouth are the only things exposed. , and curling up into a fetal (legs/knees bent, and close to the chest.) inside a fairly thick sleeping bag, works. Also did this as semi-survival during recent power outage caused by storm Alfred. Idea, is to keep in a close formation, and keeping the top of your head covered, while still allowing breathing. You'll notice if you stretch out full length (legs straight out) you'll tend to get cold again.
If your out and about on the town, be sure not to be wearing the tight trouser that's all the rage. Any covered bin will yield a dry newspaper or two. Trouser ends tucked into socks, crumpled newspaper stuffed anywhere and everywhere and a park bench, pallet, bush will have ye looking like a half baked michelin man but ye'll be snug! The ground sap's heat because it's large and solid, things that keep you warm trap air and hold their shape. If you lie on them, those air spaces need to stay intact with bodyweight or you conduct. In town corrugated cardboard is a pal. Snow insulates because it holds air even when you lie on it unless you melt it, so the snow needs to be insulated from you in order to insulate you back! Better off with a bed of twigs and sticks (or anything with spaces) covered with almost anything that's comfortable enough. Bare ground is a bodyheat vampire that's easily accomodated with a bit of preparation and even preparation can keep ye warm.
xFyrios2 years ago
Layer's layer's layer's! When dressing warm it's always important to where layer's! If something gets wet, just take it off, if you get too warm hiking, take something off and prevent your inner clothes from getting wet. When out in the outback layey's are always a good idea! :)

It's much more efficient than wearing something big and bulky and warm.
Wool blankets work well, just sayin.
whitepinoy5 years ago
Too many years in Boy Scouts with military leaders led me to give this explanation. When sleeping outdoors the key to staying warm isn’t so much as the pad that you use. The key is layering. The earth sets off heat all year long. No matter what the outside temperate is the earth is going to be warmer or cooler depending on the season. So what we want to do is use that temperature to regulate the heat in our bed. The best lesson that i have every received for camping was from and Master Sergeant Army Ranger who told me that when you sleep it is key to place 2 layers below you for every 1 layer on top. With this technique I have camped in -20 degrees weather and stayed toasty. And yes I only wore a hat. If you wear clothing it is more likely that you will sweet at night and not be comfortable. The other thing is not so much the bag or whether or not you wear clothing to sleep in it is whether or not you have the right size tent. If your tent is too big you will never be able to warm the air in your tent and you will be cold. But, also if you are cramming 3 men into a 2 man tent you are going to get extremely hot (I have done this thinking I would freeze on night). There is more to say but I think you get the idea.
I must disagree with something you stated - though the earth gives off heat - it absorbs it as well, as in the case of body heat. - this is well known through out the camping/outdoor world. You layer or pad the earth side first and formost - to prevent body heat absobtion. Then cover.

I do like your layering idea rule of thumb - interesting. Your Sargent knew of the absorbtion of body heat by the ground. hence he told you about layering.  ie; padding on the ground side.

- Air pads do not do as well as a foam pad for insulating you from the ground from what i found.
Bjorno -chase-3 years ago
Air is the best insulator from heat... period. IF you inflate it properly, an air pad is far superior.
I will never ever use an inflatable matteress/pad of any kind.

I have had too many experiences where the matteress/pad sprung a leak.

Now what I use is closed cell foam for insulation between me & the ground & open cell on top of that for comfort(softness).

Closed cell foam thickness = 4 inches
open cell foam thickness = 6 inches

I forgot to mention that between the 2 foam pads, I have a piece of plastic sheeting 10mm thick.

I never ever freeze. not even in a blizzard.
Mother Natures Son (author)  SIRJAMES093 years ago
That's 10 inches of foam...and 10mm of plastic isn't a sheet, it's a slab! how do you carry all that?
on a dog sled.
seldom do I carry anything in the winter, my dogs pull the sled that carries all my gear...usually about 75 to 80 pounds of it.

that's about 250-300 pounds the dogs are pulling....that's my gear, me & the sled combined.

I have 15 mutts, all about the size of a mastiff. I say "mutts" because they are all cross breed dogs
Hope you don't mind if i jump in here for a sec... but first a quick shout to  Mother Natures Son - Hey long time since i been here - over 330 coments !!! you may be keeping warm in the winter but you sure posted one hot topic! ;0)

And you've got some real real heavy wieghts in the cold weather camping departement chiming in too! Lots of knowlege flowing here!

@ James0124 - you run dogs - may i ask what part of the country are you in with your dogs - i just watched a trail dvd and some guy from up in Alaska was running his dogs - (they followed him via camera on a two day trip) Point being - he was saying there are not that many people running dogs these days unlike what the hype has people thinking - you're a pretty rare breed  - well - from what he was saying about Alaska anyway. Perhaps there's a lot more people running dogs where you are - don't know.

Either way - @ MNS - this guy wouldfior sure know cold weather... and how to keep warm in it for sure. Lucky him though - he can pak 250-300 pounds of gear... so  James0124 if you were treking it on an overnighter with out the dogs hauling your own gear - what would you suggest?

- chase -
the last time I traveled without my dogs was over 10 years ago...
I don't run my dogs in races, my dogs are for me only. I come & go as I please, & stay out as long as I want. Since my wife passed away, I seldom stay home for any length of time...I am always headed off somewhere in the brush.

as far as going anywhere over night without my dogs, it never happens any more. if I'm going over night, the dogs will always come with me.

I can't really say how much weight I could carry for sure...I'm thinkin 40 - 45 pounds maybe....but like I said, I don't go overnight without my dogs.

I live in Maryland right along the Virginny border....there are bears around here, so that's why I do not go without my dogs.
Ahh i see... sorry to hear about your wife. My condolences.

I was thinking you were in Alaska - didn't know they had dog sleding in Maryland. Learn something new every day! ;0)

I was actually thinking you might be - if in Alaska - the same guy that did the video documentary - he wasn't racing his in the video - just taking a photographer freind of his to document the last of this town as they moved on and the town became a ghost town.

As far as recommending - i was meaning what would you recomend if you were treking with out your dogs to keep warm since you wouldn't have the dogs to carry the extra gear. It sounds like to me you have alot experience in cold weather camping. - not how much you could carry over all. Just what would you use or recommend to those of us that don't have dogs or sleds to carry our gear.

I can see if I had even a snow mobile to drag a sled - what you are using would definitly keep you warm and most importantly insulated from the ground.

and thanx for the reply for sure - i see a lot of people with more experience than i have posted and given insight to fighting the cold off. Some great ideas so far.

Most agree - the air mattress is not the answer.
again thanx
and again hello to Mother Natures Son.

Happy trails to both of you,
chase
TY Sir.

As far as sleds in Maryland, as far as I know, I'm the only one with a sled. it's just something I enjoy doing. it is not uncommon to get some really weird looks from people when they see me. I like to be different & I march to the beat of a different drummer. I often dress like something that stepped out of the 1830's... it looks strange to the people around here, but in the winter, I never get cold.
1-40 of 358Next »
Pro

Get More Out of Instructables

Already have an Account?

close

PDF Downloads
As a Pro member, you will gain access to download any Instructable in the PDF format. You also have the ability to customize your PDF download.

Upgrade to Pro today!