How can you stay warm during winter camping? First, when layering in winter conditions, know that getting too cold isn’t your main issue. Your concern is with getting sweaty because when it dries, sweat cools causing your temperature to reduce. It’s also important to find jackets which will collect hot air to keep you warm.
There are three layers, the base, mid, and outer layer. These layers should all work together to provide your body with breathability, and warmth, they should also be packable. Your sweat will cause your body to become too cold, avoid this by choosing a thin, tight-fitting layer that fits snug against your skin.
Doing this will help collect body sweat and dry it through wicking. You should feel an immediate sense of warmth as the layer traps in body heat. Also, pay close attention to an item’s material, thinner material will dry quicker and transport moisture better.
Choose carefully: Never wear cotton in winter conditions, cotton won’t wick moisture and will drop your body temperature. Cotton material makes your clothes become saturated in sweat much like a sponge. Instead, choose either merino wool or polyester.
These materials wick sweat away towards the middle layer where it can evaporate. Merino wool is antimicrobial which means it provides odor protection for 5-7 days. Polyester dries quicker than wool, but when it becomes wet it does not insulate well. Fleece is budget-friendly and super durable, it can usually be used for your mid or base layer.
The best material: Hydrophobic is less water absorbent than wool. This means it holds less water than wool and can dry more quickly. This material is pricey though, so I would recommend these layers to outdoor professionals. Another high-quality material you may want is gore-tex.
Mid-layers should retain your body heat and transport moisture to the outer layer. There are a lot of options for mid-layers, but it’s best to select thicker fabrics to insulate your body better. Fleece, polyester, or wool works well as a mid-layer. If your mid-layer is square fabric, and see-through, then it will also be breathable allowing for any perspiration to escape.
Your best choice for insulation would be down jackets, why? Down provides the best warmth to weight ratio than other materials. Basically down gives you a lightweight layer that also provides the best warmth. With a down, you get to have your cake and eat it too.
Outer layers, aka shells, will protect you against snow and wind while also giving your body breathability. How does the outer layer retain heat, is it the material alone? Actually no, you should pay attention to an outer layer’s ability to hold air. If an outer shell can hold air, then you will remain warm and comfortable.
Your outer layer should also provide an adequate amount of wind protection to stop yourself from getting cold during harsh winds. If you want your shell to be drier, then you will have to pay more because drier means pricier. Your shell should be able to zip up to your chin to protect your neck from the cold.
Layer sleeping pads
Layering sleeping pads gives you the distance from the cold ground. Layer an air mattress with your sleeping pad, you can even use, mylar blankets, or foam yoga mats. You can also place waterproof layers between your two sleeping pads to add a little extra insulation from the cold ground below.
Situation 1 extreme cold – 0ºF to 10ºF
(0ºF to 10ºF), In these conditions, your main priority should be staying warm.
Wear multiple mid-layers, to stay warm. You also need high-quality hardshell jackets and rain pants. which will help keep you warm and comfy out there.
Situation 2 – 20ºF to 30ºF
(20ºF to 30ºF), For this type of situation, breathability and moisture-wicking layers are ideal.
Wear mid-weight, moisture-wicking, merino wool base layers. Also, bring a waterproof shell, but you won’t necessarily need the shell unless it is snowing. Putting your shell away will improve your breathability, decrease sweat, and keep you warmer in certain situations.
Gloves and mittens
Use a thin inner glove, and cover it up with either a thicker outer glove with a hard exterior or mittens. Mittens lack dexterity but they can provide more warmth than normal gloves which have gaps making your fingers colder. If you want to snap a picture, then mitts can still work if they have a strap that can hang on your inner gloves. Consider your ease of dressing and undressing while wearing gloves or mitts. If you can’t undress quickly, then you will get cold fast, and you should probably keep shopping.
What to look for
Keep hot air in: Boot gaiter cuff adjustments are a nice option for retaining heat and breathability. If it’s too cold, seal it, and If your feet are getting a little warm, then you can open up the gap to let some air in. There are more ways to retain heat, for example, do your sleeves cover your wrists and overlap your sleeves? You don’t want cold air leaking in between the gap and cooling your wrists. Another way to keep your hands cold is by wearing sleeves with thumbholes which keep air from leaking in between the gap in your sleeve and glove.
You will start your day cold so wear three layers, but as you move about throughout the day you will become warmer, that’s when you can shed a layer. At rest stops layer up by putting on a shell, this will keep your temperature up. If you are still hot, swap a mid-layer, mid-layers are one of the biggest causes of overheating during your activities and can be removed if you get too warm.
If you want to stay warm during winter camping, remember to avoid sweat by swapping layers, choose the right material for layers, and find clothes that trap hot air in. Now that you know how to stay warm during winter camping, you can get the right layers, and follow these tips to keep yourself warm and safe on your next winter adventure.
Ryan Pratschner is the founder and writer at outsideboogie.com. We cover many topics, from camping and hiking to backpacking and more. Let us research so you can start packing and go boogie!
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