Why am I cold in my sleeping bag? How to keep warm while camping

Megan Smith
 min read

Why am I cold in my sleeping bag?

Why am I cold in my sleeping bag? How to keep warm while campingYou might be in a place that’s too windy, the tent isn’t properly closed, or you’ve eaten too much before going to bed.

Insulation from the ground is also important, sweating too much will make you feel cold, and you might need to cover your head.

After a good day of hiking, once in your sleeping bag, you only want a good night’s sleep.

However, it doesn’t always happen like that!

Who hasn’t had an unpleasant feeling of cold that prevents you from falling asleep or wakes you up in the middle of the night?

Why am I cold in my sleeping bag? Introduction

Without a heat source nearby, it’s hard to get warm once you’re cold.

A whole night shivering in your sleeping bag is not the most restful night.

However, this is not the only possible cause for lack of sleep as outlined in our other post How to camp with a snorer: Sleeping tips & strategies to try

Being cold in a sleeping bag is a common problem and is partly due to the fact that when hiking you usually have to carry your sleeping bag.

This means you can’t take the comforter you usually use at home because you don’t want to carry too much.

There are ways to optimize warmth once in your sleeping bag and others best avoided to spend a night feeling cold, even with a warm sleeping bag.

Though the following tips are very helpful, they won’t help as much if you don’t have a proper sleeping bag to begin with; therefore, be sure to check out our other posts to help you choose the right sleeping bag for your purpose:

Why am I cold in my sleeping bag? Tips to keep warm

We have put together several tips to read if you want to spend  a good night in the warmth, either on a trip or if there is an issue with home heating.

Protect yourself from the wind

The wind factor is something not to be overlooked.

Protect yourself as much as possible from the wind. Avoid drafts that push the heated air away from you.

Choose your location strategically according to the wind and available shelter/windbreaks (low walls, hedges, embankments, etc.).

If you are sleeping in a rain fly, also remember to tighten the outer fly to leave an insulating air space between the inner and the rain fly.

Don’t forget to close the tent either.

You’ll be unhappy to realize you didn’t have a good night just because you left the tent open.

On the other hand, be careful not to close yourself off by preventing all air exchange, as humidity levels may increase significantly.

Eat and hydrate properly

Digestion requires a lot of energy, so it’s best to avoid eating too much before going to bed.

However, you must also eat enough to recover and be able to leave the next day.

So you have to find a good compromise, either by eating more during the day or by eating long enough before going to bed.

A hot drink such as soup or herbal tea before going to bed helps to warm up and re-hydrate.

This is important because dehydration makes you feel colder.

Insulate yourself from the cold ground

It is something almost indispensable to not be cold, unless the ground is warm enough, which is quite rare.

Remember that the bag is crushed under your body’s weight.

So it does not trap much air and therefore cannot insulate much from the cold of the ground.

The most traditional way to do this is by using a mattress or cot.

You can also do it by using natural means.

Putting twigs or ferns under your shelter or pitch your tent on thick, dry grass rather than soil will help.

Cover your head

You probably know that a large part of the body heat is lost through the head.

If you are cold, try covering your head with a hat, the hood of your sleeping bag, or even a turban made from clothing.

The heat gain is always surprising.

Pay attention to perspiration

When you sweat, salts are deposited on your skin and clothes.

These are the white marks that you can sometimes see on the t-shirts.

The problem is that these salts tend to absorb moisture and even when well equipped and well dressed, you may get cold.

So don’t sleep in clothes that you have already sweated in.

For example, I usually keep a dry outfit for the evening and night.

I suggest that you wash or rinse the sweaty clothes, it will make a big difference.

Dress properly

Dressing properly doesn’t mean piling up all the clothes you have on hand.

Dry, breathable clothing should be preferred and the first 2 layers of the 3-layer system should be respected.

This often means long synthetic or merino wool underwear next to the skin.

Possibly a fleece or equivalent over it if that is not enough (top and/or bottom).

Be careful not to overdress or you will sweat in your clothes and feel cold afterwards.

Put the clothes you are likely to use during the night directly into your sleeping bag.

They’ll be warm when you put them on and you can put them on inside the bag, just by doing a few contortions.

Note: don’t hesitate to cover your extremities with a hat, socks, gloves if needed.

Limit air exchanges between the interior and exterior

If too much air is circulating between the outside and inside of the sleeping bag, the energy expended heating the air inside the sleeping bag is of little use.

It’s like when someone gets into bed next to you and lifts the blankets a little too much .

To limit the exchange of air, use the collar and/or the hood available in sleeping bags and adjust them with the help of drawstrings.

If you don’t have a collar, you can try wearing a garment in a scarf.

Ideally, only the nose and mouth should be outside the sleeping bag.

Why am I cold in my sleeping bag? Conclusion

Why am I cold in my sleeping bag? Possible causes and solutions include:

  • Make sure that the place you’ve chosen isn’t exposed too much to the elements.
  • Avoid eating too much before going to bed as the digestive system uses up a lot of energy.
  • Make sure that the tent is closed properly.
  • Don’t sleep in sweaty clothes and make sure that your extremities are well covered.
  • Insulation from the ground is also important.
About Megan Smith

Megan has been fighting overweight and her plus size since her teenage years. After trying all types of remedies without success, she started doing her own research. Megan founded Plus Size Zeal to share her findings. She also developed various detailed buying guides for plus-size people in order to make their lives easier and more comfortable. Read More