If you’re an expert camper going on a hike in the frozen tundra, or a beginner exploring the forest where night temperatures can drop down to 4 degrees Celsius, keeping warm is of utmost importance. Cold weather camping can be dangerous, but, if you know what you’re doing, you’ll not complain about cold feet.
The best way to keep your feet warm in a sleeping bag is by using a hot water bottle. Right before settling in, fill up a leak-proof canteen with hot water, and tuck it in your bag just right below your feet. You may opt to use a heat-resistant plastic bottle or even a metal one.
The Body’s Physiological Response
Essentially when your overall temperature drops, the immediate response of your body is to decrease blood flow to the extremities. This explains why your feet and hands are the first to get cold. The body does this to protect vital organs, seeing the extremities as the disposable parts that it can survive without. By properly layering your clothing before going to sleep and keeping your core warm, the body will then distribute blood back to the extremities to produce heat.
Other Ways to Keep Your Feet Warm
Aside from the good old hot water bottle trick, here are a couple of other ways to keep your feet warm in a sleeping bag.
1. Layers of Socks
Preparing for an overnight stay during a hike would mean you would already have layered your clothing, to begin with. The same must be done for your feet right before you sleep as well. Invest in wicking socks and light to heavyweight wool socks to keep your feet warm. By wearing a pair of wicking socks such as, sports socks under your wool socks, warm air in between accumulates which helps keep your feet warm. Be sure to have an extra pair in your gear and not use the ones drenched in sweat.
2. Keep Dry
Wearing boots and socks from the hike all day will cause your feet to sweat. Sweat is the body’s way to regulate body temperature, and it is produced whenever there is heat, however when there is a decrease in temperature the sweat becomes cold. Changing into fresh socks at least 3 times a day would keep your feet warmer, be sure to do this right before bed.
3. Quality Sleeping Bags
Choosing the right sleeping bag is highly essential to the mix. Ordinary sleeping bags with thin linings are not suitable for low-temperature areas. When you pick out a bag, you must look at the style, temperature rating, and insulation. Experts recommend a mummy-style bag that is form-fitting, eliminating any empty space that would allow cold air to seep through.
Choose a synthetic filling to eliminate the accumulation of moisture, and always opt for a bag that has a lower temperature rating than the temperature you would expect during your trip. For extremely cold weather, goose-down sleeping bags are known to be the warmest.
Remember, most sleeping bags tend to keep moisture in, so remember to take the steps and dry your sleeping bag.
4. Sleeping Pads
Contrary to what most people think, having sleeping pads are very important in keeping warm. When your body’s weight compresses the insulation of the bag while you are asleep, it loses its purpose and does absolutely nothing to keep you warm. Your body is basically on the cold ground.
Sleeping pads add a layer of insulation and keep you comfortable. When choosing a pad, always check the R rating that quantifies the resistance of the pad to heat conduction and portability.
Your body is the main source of heat in your sleeping bag, the whole design of the bag is made to contain the heat your body generates. This heat, in particular, is a byproduct of your metabolism. Eating a high-calorie meal before hitting the sack would guarantee a warm and cozy night.
Some experts even recommend bringing an easy-to-eat snack just in case you feel cold in the middle of the night. That snack would definitely give your body a burst of energy to reheat itself.
At the end of the day, it’s always best to be prepared for any situation while you’re in the wilderness. Pack enough fresh socks and a water bottle to keep your feet warm and always keep your internal core warm with food and hot drinks before bed.
As a last thought, tent heaters could bring up the room temperature, therefore helping a low-quality sleeping bag not to lose heat so quickly.