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How to Stay Warm
in a Sleeping Bag

If you know how to stay warm in a sleeping bag, you'll greatly increase your camping enjoyment! Being warm and toasty in bed when it's cold outside is one of camping's greatest pleasures!

happy guy in warm sleeping bag

Weather can change suddenly. Even if the weather report promised a weekend of hot days and warm nights, it's best to be prepared for anything - including an unseasonably cold night!

This article has some great ideas for staying warm on a camping trip - and lots of great tips for fall camping.

How to stay warm in a sleeping bag

Choose your campsite carefully.

Set up your tent so that it is sheltered from the wind as much as possible.

tent in sheltered campsite

Strong wind can lower the temperature inside your tent.

Click here for tips on choosing a tent site in a campground.

If you are planning to camp in more remote locations, stay away from low areas where cold air can settle.

Read these tips about choosing a tent camping site in the backcountry.

Eat and drink regularly throughout the day.

A well-nourished and well-hydrated body will conserve heat more efficiently.

Eat a big dinner that is rich in calories.

Coconut Chicken with Asparagus

Click here for some delicious and wholesome camping food ideas.

Go to the bathroom before you go to bed.

Be sure to empty your bladder completely before crawling into your sleeping bag. Having a full bladder will cause you to cool off faster because your body has to heat up that extra liquid.

campground comfort station

And you don't want to have to get out of the tent in the middle of a cold night if you can avoid it!

Here's everything you need to know about the campground comfort station.

Get warm before you go to bed.

It's much easier to stay warm than it is to get warm. Do some brisk exercise to raise your body temperature. Then dash to the tent!

Care for your sleeping bag

A clean sleeping bag will keep you warmer than a dirty one will.

sleeping bags on clothesline

A sleeping bag works because your body warms up the air spaces in the bag. If the air spaces are filled with dirt, the bag won't be as efficient.

Here are some tips on washing a sleeping bag.

Shake your bag before you get into it, to fluff up the insulating material.

Sleep on a good quality sleeping pad.

What you lie on is even more important than what you sleep in! A sleeping pad will insulate you from the cold ground.

Click here to read about sleeping pad options.

Sleep in pajamas or your "sleeping outfit", not your clothes.

Don't sleep in the clothes you wore during the day. Even if they don't feel damp, they have absorbed perspiration and are not completely dry.

Moisture in your clothing will draw heat away from your body. As the moisture evaporates, you will cool even further.

If you don't wear pajamas, reserve a set of long underwear as your sleeping uniform.

Wear socks to bed.

Be sure that your feet are dry, and then put on a pair of clean dry socks.

feet in wool socks

Don't use the socks you wore all day.

Use a sleeping bag liner.

A silk or fleece sleeping bag liner will add warmth to your sleeping bag.

Some even have a drawstring that you can tighten around your shoulders to keep out cold air.

Wear a hat to bed.

Did you know that up to 50% of heat loss happens through the head and neck?

A warm fleece or wool hat will keep you warm on a cool night.

Don't use hats with strings that could get tangled around little necks.  Look for a comfortable chin strap that will keep the hat on during the night.

If it's really chilly, you might even want to wear a fleece neck warmer.

Take a "warmer" into your sleeping bag.

Hot water bottles aren't convenient to use when you are camping, but there are a number of other options that have the same effect.

Place one or two of these devices at the bottom of your sleeping bag a few minutes before you crawl in. Your feet will be warm and toasty! Then move the warmer to wherever you need a bit of extra warmth.

A water bottle filled with hot water

I love doing this on a chilly night!

Be sure that the bottle has a tightly fitting lid! A stainless steel water bottle works well.

Put the bottle inside a sock for added comfort.

stainless steel water bottle inside cotton sock

Disposable hand warmers

These are convenient, but can get expensive if you use them every day.

The heat lasts about 8 hours once the warmer has been activated.

Reusable hand warmers

I think these are great!

These can be reactivated by boiling them for 5 minutes. Their heat doesn't last as long as a disposable hand warmer, but it does last long enough to warm a cold spot in your bag.

Rechargeable hand warmers

Looking for something more high-tech? This handy device is not only a hand warmer, but also an emergency flashlight. It can even charge your cell phone!

It takes about 10 minutes to reach its maximum temperature, so be sure to start it up before you are ready to crawl into your sleeping bag. Once heated, it stays warm for up to 6 hours.

One more idea - not recommended!

You could also warm a rock in or beside the campfire, wrap it in a towel, and take it into your sleeping bag. I've tried this, and it can be delightful if you get the temperature exactly right - but because of the risk of burning yourself or melting your sleeping bag, I don't recommend it!

Who should learn how to stay warm?

Everyone should know how to stay warm at camp - but some of us need these information even more than others.


If you are camping in an RV, you're all set. You can just turn on your furnace, and you're toasty!

If you are in a tent, you'll have to take extra steps to stay warm.

The temperature in your tent will probably be only about 5 or 10 degrees (F) higher than that of the outside air. At low temperatures, a tent will be chilly!


Women are more susceptible to cold than men are. (No, it's not my imagination!)

Here's why:

  • The blood vessels near the surface of our skin constrict sooner, and more, than those of men. 
  • We feel cold faster, especially in our hands and feet. 
  • Since we have less muscle mass, we don't create as much body heat when we exercise.


Your children probably aren't interested in learning how to stay warm, so you'll have to make sure that they do! Keeping your children warm will ensure a happy camping trip for all.

Just one night with cold miserable children is all it will take to convince you never to camp again!

Cold sleepers

Some people are just naturally warm. They kick the covers off, no matter what the temperature.

Others (like me) are "cold sleepers". I often wear socks to bed, even at home.

We cold sleepers need to be extra vigilant about learning how to stay warm in a tent.

The bottom line

Shivering in a sleeping bag is no fun - but if you know how to stay warm, that will never be an issue for you.

Be sure to take these "how to stay warm" precautions before you go to bed.

Hearing the cold wind whipping around my tent while I snuggle down, warm and cozy in my bag, is one of my favorite things about camping!

Now that you know how to stay warm in a sleeping bag, click here to read about the different types of sleeping bags.

Visit The Camping Family home page for lots of ideas about preparing for your next camping trip.

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