Getting cold at night can sap the fun out of winter trips. The right gear and a few easy tricks will help you stay warm and comfortable and keep you camping, hiking and exploring all year round.

Get the Most Out of a Good Sleeping Bag

If your sleeping bag isn’t up to scratch, you’re probably going to have a bad time. Your bag should have an EN Comfort, Lower Limit, and Extreme rating. It is always a good idea to go for a warmer bag than what you think you will need as temperatures can drop unexpectedly.  You can always unzip a bag to vent heat, so invest in a sleeping bag for the coldest conditions you’ll encounter.

If you want to push the limit of your current sleeping bag, here are a few tips:

  • Keep your sleeping bag dry by packing it in a waterproof compression sack. Down sleeping bags won’t keep you warm once they’re wet.
  • Use a thermal liner like the Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor to boost the warmth of your sleeping bag while also keeping your bag clean.
  • As soon as you set up your tent, take your sleeping bag out and shake it. This gives it time to loft up before bed.
  • At home, store your bag uncompressed in an old pillowcase or storage sack so it retains as much warm loft as possible.
  • Cinch the hood of your sleeping bag tight around your face to lock in the warmth. This makes a big difference.


Photograph: Jed Collard.

Invest in a Proper Mat

Even with a great sleeping bag, the insulation gets compressed flat underneath you. Without a proper insulating mat, you’re pouring your body heat into the cold ground. A mat’s insulation is given as its “r-value”. If you’re sleeping in freezing conditions, you want a mat with an r-value of at least 4.

R-values are additive. You can layer an inflatable mat with an r-value of 3.5 over a foam mat with an r-value of 2 and end up with a combined r-value of 5.5, which should see you through some pretty extreme cold.

If you can still feel the cold coming through your mats, try laying an emergency blanket under your mat. For snowy or cold conditions, it’s a good idea to have a closed-cell foam sleeping pad like the Nemo Switchback to add an extra layer of heat reflectivity under your regular mat.


Photograph: Jed Collard

Photograph: Jed Collard.

Bring the Right Layers

Having the right layers lets us stay warm, dry, and comfortable in changing conditions. As well as your hiking clothes, bring a set of wool or synthetic thermals, a beanie, and socks only for sleeping in. Keep these completely dry in a lightweight dry sack as wet clothes sap warmth. Avoid cotton as it won’t keep you warm. Change out of sweaty hiking clothes into a dry set of clothes, like thermals, as soon as you get to camp. You can read more tips on layering here.

Photograph: Lachlan Gardiner.

Build a Fire

There’s nothing like warming yourself by the fire on a winter night. Check any fire or firewood restrictions with park authorities and don’t forget the marshmallows!

Heat Your Sleeping Bag With a Nalgene Water Bottle or Hot Hands

One of the reasons Nalgenes are so popular is because you can fill them with hot water and use them as a backcountry hot water bottle. If you throw a hot Nalgene or a few activated Hot Hands into your sleeping bag ten minutes before going to bed, you should be greeted with a toasty cocoon.


Mt Wellington Tasmania, 2018

Photograph: Lachlan Gardiner. Mt Wellington, Tasmania.

Eat Something Right Before Bed

The energy in food lets us generate heat. Make sure to bring more food than usual on a winter trip. Eating a fat-rich (slow-burning) meal or snack right before bed will help you keep producing heat throughout the night. This is one time when late night chocolate bars are just what the doctor ordered. Hot chocolate and teas are also great for warming yourself from the inside, as is adding a pinch of chilli to your dinner.

Go to Bed Warm

It’s a lot easier to stay comfortable if you get into bed warm. Try a few star jumps right before getting into bed. Not so many that you start to sweat, just enough to make you feel warm.

winter adventuring

Photograph: Jed Collard.

Share Your Tent

People are great heaters. Sharing your tent is an effective way to stay toasty through the night. Small full-nylon tents will be warmer than airy mesh tents, just make sure to open the vents so condensation doesn’t settle in the tent overnight.


Being cold at night is a pain, but don’t let that keep you home all winter long. With the right gear and a little preparation, you can stay cosy and warm while camping, hiking, skiing, and climbing all year round.


Comment your tips for staying warm in winter, and don’t forget to tag us in your adventures on Instagram. We can’t wait to see where your winter camping trips take you!


#ExperienceIsEverything | #PaddyPallin

About The Author


Some 80 years ago, a young bushwalker's dissatisfaction with the limited and heavy bushwalking equipment available prompted him to design and make his own. Before long, word spread, and Paddy Pallin's lightweight, functional designs were soon in demand among fellow bushwalkers. From its early days the company has concentrated on supplying bushwalkers, travellers and adventurers with the highest quality and most advanced products and knowledge. Since 1930 the company has grown to become Australia's leading supplier of specialist outdoor and travel gear. The company, still owned by the Pallin family, now has thirteen stores throughout Australia as well as online, mail order and corporate sales divisions. We are using our vast wealth of knowledge, and experience, to build an online community where we can share our stories, reviews and tech tips to help you research and plan your next adventure.

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