Base layers Double layer mittens Down layers Four enemies of warmth Hardshell layer Hot water bottles How to use a solid-core pad Staying warm in your tent Staying warm outside your tent Versatile laying system Winter Nights

Tips for Staying Warm at Camp

There is nothing more satisfying than being comfortable in extremely harsh weather. It is possible to be in below-freezing temperatures for multiple days without ever shivering or feeling cold. Staying warm in cold weather requires a combination of gear and skill. If you don’t have the appropriate gear you will be cold and uncomfortable. You can bring the appropriate gear but if you fail to use it correctly you’ll be miserable. You need gear to insulate you from the elements but you also need to adjust your behavior in the cold. 

Winter backpacking is not about learning how to endure the cold. It is about learning ways to stay warm.

cooking pit at night

I don’t build fires to stay warm. I don’t do jumping jacks to stay warm. I don’t use unreliable tools such as hand warmers or electrical warming devices. So how do I stay warm and comfortable? This post will focus on staying warm around camp and staying warm inside your tent.

Foot warmth Four Rules of Foot Warmth Layering while hiking Liner socks Merino Wool socks Outer socks Uncategorized

What are the Best Socks for Winter Backpacking?

No one likes cold feet. To keep my feet warm I use a variety of socks depending on the weather conditions. Recently the retailer I used for wool socks dropped the ones I liked and so the search for new options began. Here are a few options that I think work well: The REI Merino Wool Expedition Crew socks, the Wigwam Merino Woodland socks, and the J.B. Fields Icelandic socks. All are good, but my main preferences are the REI Merino wool liner and either the Wigwam Merino Woodland socks or the –40ºC Islandic socks from Canada depending on expected temperatures.

I do not use hand warmers or any type of heating system that relies on batteries. I think these methods are unnecessary and unreliable. I want a system that is long lasting and dependable.

I use a 2-sock method to keep my feet warm. I use this method even on some summer trips. This method increases comfort and warmth and reduces the chances of blisters. It consist of a thin liner sock covered with a thick outer cushioning sock. Together, both need to allow the foot to flex and wiggle in the boot.

The two-sock layer method. Thin Merino wool liner socks (black) compared to the thickness of an outer layer wool cushion socks.

For the best results, the fit, thickness, and materials of the socks has to align with the season conditions and what I call the basic Four Rules of Foot Warmth

Categories of Layering Don't Lose Your Heat Rule Frostbite prevention Gloves Health Hazards Hot water bottles Hypothermia prevention Layering Layering at Camp Layering Gear list Layering while hiking PNW Weather Preventing Wet Clothing Rain Pants Safety precautions Setting up camp in harsh conditions Tips for staying warm Vapor-Barrier Socks Warm Feet Strategies Water Bottles Wind chill Wind Protection Gear Winter Layering techniques

Layering for Winter Backpacking

Layering in the Pacific Northwest:

Knowing how to layer clothing will determine whether you are comfortable or uncomfortable in winter conditions. But be aware that the information here is for winter conditions of the Pacific Northwest, which are comparatively mild—meaning conditions between 0–45º F on average in elevations between 1000–7000 ft and winds that are mostly 0–25 mph and rarely up to gale force. You will likely need more insulation in colder regions, which is why in many places people are traveling on skis pulling heavier gear on a pulk, rather than backpacking in snowshoes. In Pacific Northwest, it is not difficult to backpack in winter with a 25–35 lb backpack. The mountainous terrain here would make pulling a pulk nearly impossible. Nevertheless, some of the basic techniques described in this short introduction to layering may be useful in other destinations.