It’s one thing to be comfortable outdoors when it’s cold if you’re moving your body around, constantly generating body heat. It’s another story when you’re lying motionless, asleep. It’s hard to fall asleep in the cold, but how cold is too cold?
You can sleep in 30 degree weather if you have the proper equipment. You’ll need a sleeping bag rated for at least 20 degree weather and a sleeping pad to insulate you from the ground. You should dress in layers for bed and use a tent with a low ceiling so the warmest air will stay close to you.
Whether you’re comfortable sleeping in 30 degree (-1.11°C) weather depends mostly on your tolerance for cold and how prepared you are. It’s always better to over-prepare because it’s easier to cool down than warm up. Keep reading to get more tips on how to make your cold-weather camping nights as cozy as possible.
How Cold Is Too Cold To Camp?
Judging how cold is too cold for camping depends on your cold tolerance and your experience level with cold-weather camping. If you’re a veteran camper who frequently sleeps out in subzero weather, your answer will differ from that of a novice camper who lives in a warm-weather climate and has never seen snow.
To figure out your cold limit, start small and close to home. If possible, try a night or so of backyard camping in the winter to find the right combination of gear and clothing that will keep you comfortable.
When you’re starting out, stay within an hour or so of your home so if you start experiencing absolutely unbearable conditions, you can quickly get help and warm up. You should also start your cold-weather camping journey with car-camping rather than heading straight to the backcountry.
How To Stay Warm While Camping in 30 Degree Weather
A great way to help your body maintain a good temperature all day is to have hot meals to start and end the day and high-energy lunches and snacks in the middle of the day. It’s good to get something warm into your body first thing when you wake up and just before bed when you aren’t moving your body as much.
During the day when you’re moving around, you should stick to easy-to-eat foods with a high calorie density. Paired with plenty of water and warm drinks like tea or hot cocoa, this will help keep you toasty all day.
What you wear is just as important as what you eat. Dress in layers you can easily add or subtract to maintain a comfortable temperature. Try to avoid getting sweaty as any moisture that gets trapped in your clothes can freeze, which will lower your body temperature significantly.
While you’re awake, moving your body around will help keep your core warm. At night, sleeping in a tent that’s well-sheltered from the wind will help you sleep soundly without getting too cold or sweaty.
Required Gear for Sleeping in 30 Degree Weather
To sleep in 30-degree (-1.11°C) weather, you need more gear than you would during fair weather or summer camping. The most obvious piece is your sleeping bag. It’s a good idea to find one rated for 10°F (-12.22°C) colder than you expect the temperature to be.
Use a sleeping bag liner inside your bag to increase the warmth and give you more flexibility. This can let you use the same outer bag as you would for warmer weather camping, but with an increased cold rating.
Also read: Does A Bivy Sack Add Warmth?
Under your bag, use sleeping pads to keep you from leaking your body heat into the ground. A closed-cell foam pad works best as the bottom layer, with an inflatable or self-inflating pad on top. This will keep a good layer of insulation between you and the coldest part of the tent.
If you’re car-camping, pack a few blankets that you can use as another layer. You don’t have to use them if you’re too warm, but you’ll not regret having them if you’re cold. It’s also wise to keep a separate set of sleeping layers to avoid bringing moisture from your day clothes into your sleeping bag.
Cold Weather Sleeping Bags
You should always choose a sleeping back rated 10°F (-12.22°C) colder than the lowest anticipated temperature. If it’s too warm, you can always unzip it a little or use the vents, but if it’s not warm enough, there’s not much you can do.
A good draft collar is a feature that’s worth the investment, too. You want to keep your head warm, but you don’t want to breathe into your bag all night. Over time, the moisture in your breath can accumulate in the sleeping bag and make you colder. If your bag doesn’t have a draft collar, you can wrap a fleece layer or a scarf around your neck for similar protection.
Mummy bags are a good option. The Teton Sports Mummy Sleeping Bag is rated for -8-degree (-22.22°C) weather, so it should keep you toasty in even the worst weather. There’s extra insulation in the bottom to keep your feet warm, and the hood has a draft collar and draft vents all the way down the side. It’s light enough to backpack with, too.
Tent Camping in 30 Degree Weather
Picking the right tent can have as much impact on your cold-weather camping as the right sleeping bag. 4-season or winter-specific tents will work better as they have longer rain flaps and fewer flies to help keep snow out. The fabric is usually thicker, and the poles are sturdier to withstand strong gusts of wind.
You also want a short tent. The taller the tent, the more heat you’ll lose due to warm air rising. It’ll also take longer for your body heat to warm up a large tent. Pick a tent rated for one more person than is in your party; if you have three people camping, use a four-person tent. That leaves enough room to store your gear without losing too much heat.
Even if you’re using a very sturdy tent, dig out wind shelters before you pitch it. Also, check to make sure you’re not pitching it below a potential avalanche spot. Look for packed-down snow that isn’t directly beneath a slope.
Keep gear in the tent out of the elements, with the exception of sharp gear like ice axes or crampons. You don’t want to rip your tent and let in the wind accidentally.
The Weanas 4 Season Camping Tent is a great choice because it comes with a snow skirt you can zip over the top to keep snow from getting in. It’s an extra layer of insulation and protection, too.
What To Wear for Cold Weather Camping
Day or night, when you’re cold weather camping, you need to dress in layers. Choose fabrics that wick moisture and avoid fibers like cotton that will absorb it. You’ll stay warmer if you stay dry. You should have a base layer, an insulation layer, and a waterproof layer when you’re outside.
In the tent and at night, you should wear a different set of layers so you don’t trap sweat or ice from the day in your sleeping bag. Thermals as a base layer with fleece, leggings, or other insulating layers on top should be enough.
Make sure you’re wearing thick socks at night, too. If your feet get cold easily, double up on your socks.
Winter Camping Tips for Beginners
One of the best ways to stay warm is to eat more; calorie-dense and fatty foods especially. You may need a midnight snack to stay warm. Your body has to work harder in the cold to regulate your temperature, so the more fuel you give it, the warmer you can be.
Remember to stay hydrated because you might not feel as thirsty as you do in summer, but you still need the water for your body to function. Hot tea can help supplement your water intake too.
A good rule of thumb for beginners is to pack like it will be colder than the predicted temperatures. It’s easier to cool your body down than warm it up, so extra layers are far better than too few.
With just a few investments in quality camping gear, you can take to the outdoors no matter what time of year it is. 30 degree (-1.11°C) weather, or even below, can be a comfortable sleeping temperature when you’re properly prepared.
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Erick is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Growing up in Nairobi Kenya and now calling Glasgow, United Kingdom home. Sipping on homemade spiced swahili tea and enjoying a good book is his idea of bliss.