It’s that time of year again! The leaves are falling, the mornings are getting colder, and you’re probably considering camping with your family. But there’s one problem: it’s 30 degrees outside.
It may seem impossible to stay warm while camping in this weather, but no worries- we’ve got you covered. This blog post will give you all the tips and tricks for staying warm when camping in 30-degree weather.
To camp successfully in 30-degree weather, you must have the right gear. Without the right gear, I can guarantee you will have a miserable time.
Camping in cold weather can also be dangerous if you are not prepared.
Here’s a personal story to set the tone.
We took the family camping in the high desert in late October many years ago. We didn’t realize how unprepared we were until my daughter (about 7-8 years old) woke up crying at about 1 am because she was cold.
Thankfully I run warm, and we zipped our sleeping bags together and kept each other warm through that night.
The next day I high-tailed it to the local sporting goods store to buy some extra gear. Mind you, “local” being about 50 miles away. Lesson learned.
So, let’s dive in and see what it actually takes to have a successful cold-weather camping trip.
What to Wear Camping in 30-Degree Weather
Camping in cold weather requires the proper clothing. You need to dress in layers, allowing you to adjust your temperature more quickly.
You are pretty much always going to have your base layer on. Then you can add or remove additional layers as necessary. You will be amazed at how quickly you can warm up when you start moving around in the morning.
Likewise, you might be surprised at how quickly you will get cold when the sun goes down. But, again, dressing in layers allows you to quickly adjust as needed.
Here are some clothing items that you will want to wear when camping in 30-degree weather:
Base layer: A base layer is the first clothing layer you wear. It should be made of wicking material to help keep you dry vs. cotton fibers that will soak moisture up and not let go, making you cold.
Staying dry is critical to keeping warm.
Middle layer: A middle layer should be an insulating layer, such as fleece, wool, or sweatpants are a good option for sleeping. This will help keep you warm at night. During the day, some sort of running pants or other pants with an insulating layer.
You can go with as many layers as you need, really. If you want to throw on a fleece and a hoodie over the top, go for it.
Outer layer: The outer layer should be waterproof and windproof pants and jacket to protect you dry and from the elements. Oh, and don’t forget a beanie, stocking hat, or whatever they are called these days, along with gloves or mittens (GORE-TEX is a great option).
For your feet, you can’t go wrong with a good pair of wool socks (Merino is excellent). Wool is the best insulation that keeps moisture away from your footsies.
You will also want some sort of closed-toe shoe or boot for bad weather days. For example, a sandal might be great for summer hiking, but it’s just not going to cut it while camping in 30-degree weather.
Tent for Cold Weather Camping
Choosing the right tent for 30-degree camping is essential to helping you stay warm. An excellent 3-season tent is a great option.
One of the significant factors when you are camping in cold weather, is to control condensation. Like, condensation from breathing and body heat in general.
This is where a good sleeping pad and sleeping bag come in (more on this in a bit). With a 3-season tent, you can “crack” the window or door to allow for ventilation (to help control moisture in the tent) while staying toasty in your sleeping bag.
You don’t want to wake up with ice inside your tent from heavy breathing all night.
A shorter tent is also a better option because you won’t lose as much heat as you would with a taller tent.
A large tent, like a cabin tent (seen here), will take longer to heat up, and you lose a lot of heat in the vastness of the tent. So a smaller, shorter tent is a good option when camping in cold weather.
Try to choose a tent that is one person larger than you need so you have room for extra gear.
If you camp in wet or snowy conditions, a tent with a good rainfly protects you from wind and moisture while giving you a vestibule for extra storage. So you can keep wet or snowy boots outside the tent.
A good three-person tent will accomplish this.
Single-Wall vs. Double-Wall Tents
This is pretty self-explanatory but worth noting. A single-wall tent is just that, one layer of material between you and the outdoors. These tents are lightweight.
A double-wall tent comprises two layers (usually ripstop or nylon). The outer layer protects you from the weather, while the inner fabric layer provides ventilation. As a result, you lose some packability but gain more protection.
You only really need a double-wall tent if you are in seriously extreme conditions, like mountaineering. If you are cold-weather camping, an excellent 3-season tent with the right sleeping gear works great.
Speaking of sleeping gear, that’s up next.
Sleeping in 30-Degree Weather
Now that you have clothing and a tent, it’s time to figure out the best way to sleep when cold weather camping. You pretty much sleep in the same gear you layered on, but you can adjust depending on how you feel.
A sleeping pad is a must-have gear if you are camping in cold weather.
A good sleeping pad provides insulation and keeps you off the cold ground. It will also help protect you from moisture and drafts.
Sleeping pads have an R-value rating, which indicates how well the pad resists heat loss. There is a testing process that you can read about here. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation.
R-values are pretty simple to understand, and I like simplicity. Values range from less than 2 to greater than 5.5. So, a pad with an R-value of 2 is warmer than an R-value of 1 pad (twice as warm).
For camping in 30-degree weather, a pad with an R-value in the 2 to 4 range is suitable. Typically the higher the R-value, the more expensive the pad.
Your standard run-of-the-mill blow-up air mattress will not cut it in cold weather. Instead, an insulated air mattress is the way to go if you want a comfy mattress, especially sleeping next to another person.
Now that you have a base layer to sleep on, it’s time for a nice cozy sleeping bag to keep you warm.
All sleeping bags are not created equally, and just because it’s rated for 30 degrees, this isn’t gospel. First off, some people are always cold, and some run warm.
The sleeping bag rating can also be impacted by the pad and clothing you use. Therefore, there are a lot of factors to consider when looking for a cold-weather sleeping bag.
In my experience, men and women have different needs for sleeping bags. For example, the women in my family are usually cold, whereas I am usually warmer.
Temperature ratings are based on “averages,” so that you can compare apples to apples. Choosing a sleeping bag rated 10 degrees lower than the lowest temperature you expect is a good idea.
You can always unzip the sleeping bag if you get too warm.
Remember, the sleeping pad and base layer play a significant role in keeping you warm, so don’t just rely on the temperature rating on the sleeping bag and think you can get away with sleeping on the ground in shorts and a t-shirt.
Zip Together Sleeping Bags
Ever felt the need to cuddle up with someone when you are cold? This is because our body heat helps us stay warm.
The same principle applies while camping in 30-degree weather. Zip together sleeping bags can help keep you warm by trapping your body heat between the two sleeping bags.
The sleeping bags need to be compatible with each other. You can’t just zip any old sleeping bags together. It’s a good idea to test this out before you head out camping in cold weather for the first time.
Camping in cold weather can be a lot of fun, but it is essential to pack extra blankets.
You might not need them in the summer, but as the temperature starts to drop, you will want something warm and cozy to keep yourself from getting too cold.
Extra blankets can make a huge difference when camping in 30-degree weather or lower. They are lightweight and don’t take up a lot of space.
If you are limited on space and have a good sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and the right clothing, you might not need extra blankets.
If you can, take extra blankets on your trip. You can use the blankets as an extra layer of protection on the bottom of your tent if you don’t use them as covers.
How to Stay Warm in Your Tent
You are camping in 30-degree weather, and you’re cold. What can you do? Staying warm is the key to a good night’s sleep, but it isn’t always easy if your tent doesn’t have insulation or proper ventilation.
There are many ways to stay warm when camping in extreme temperatures (even without electricity), but here are some of my favorite tips for keeping cozy on those chilly nights.
Hot Water Bottle
Hot water bottles can provide warmth even without electricity. You can heat up water from a camp stove or campfire and fill up a hot water bottle.
A hot water bottle is a great little trick to help take the chill off, especially your hands or tummy.
Be careful if you keep the water bottle in your sleeping bag. The lid must be very secure so you don’t wake up to a warm, wet mess. No, I am not talking about what you think I am talking about.
Try wrapping the water bottle in a towel just in case it leaks.
Insulate Your Tent
Camping in 30-degree weather can be a challenge if you aren’t prepared. But it is possible to stay warm and comfortable with the right gear.
There are various ways to insulate a tent so you can stay warmer inside, including:
- Use foam padding on the floor
- Cover the outside of the tent with a thermal blanket
- Hang blankets, a space blanket on the interior of the tent on the wall and ceiling
Click here to read our complete article on how to insulate your tent.
Choose Your Campsite Wisely
Camping in the cold can be a lot more enjoyable if you are prepared, including choosing a good spot to set up camp.
Choose a spot protected from the wind and a spot on higher ground, so you won’t be camping in a puddle of water if it rains (if it’s warm enough to rain).
Choosing a campsite protected from wind and weather can help you not spend your time shivering in the cold.
Camping With Kids in 30-Degree Weather
Honestly, this section could be an entire blog post all by itself, but we will try to hit the highlights.
It can be difficult camping with kids, no matter the temperature, but that adds a new element when it’s frigid.
Camping with kids in cold weather can be challenging, but it’s also a lot of fun. One of the main things to remember is to pack extra clothes for you and the kids.
It’s essential to have dry clothes to change into, especially if it’s cold and rainy. You’ll also want to pack plenty of activities to entertain the kids, such as games, books, and puzzles.
You can also bring some electronic devices, but ensure you have plenty of chargers and backup batteries.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the temperature can drop at night, so make sure you have extra blankets for everyone.
And finally, don’t forget to pack your sense of humor.
For more information about camping with toddlers, check out our comprehensive guide.
Using a Tent Heater
It is essential to know how to use a tent heater properly.
Heaters are great for keeping you warm but can also be dangerous if used incorrectly. Make sure you have a heater that is rated for enclosed areas.
You should never run the heater when you’re sleeping. Only run the heater when you are in the tent and awake.
And, of course, never run a propane heater inside your tent without proper ventilation. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly.
Carbon monoxide detectors are a powerful accessory for your camping gear if you use a propane tent heater.
Heaters are a great way to stay warm but use them safely and responsibly.
Tips for Camping in 30-Degree Weather
Before you head out on a cold-weather camping trip, here are some tips to help you along the way.
Practice Before You Go
Camping in cold weather can be a lot of fun but requires some preparation.
If you plan on camping in 30-degree weather or colder, practice at home first. You need to make sure your tent is set up correctly and that all the parts work together smoothly.
The last thing you want is for your tent to not stay warm because of an issue with the zipper or something else.
Ensure all your gear works as it should and that you have proper clothing and bedding for your trip.
It’s always good to do a dry run before you head out for a camping trip, especially in cold conditions.
Is There a Burn Ban?
Camping in 30-degree weather is a great experience, but it can be a lot more enjoyable with a campfire. Unfortunately, fires are not allowed during periods of high fire danger, so if you’re camping in a region with an active burn ban, don’t risk it.
Make sure to check for local regulations before going out on your trip
A great alternative to a wood campfire is using a fire pit if there is a burn ban. You will need to check the local regulations to be sure, but as long as you can turn off the flame, you can still enjoy a nice fire.
Stay Close to Home
For your first camping trip in cold weather, stay close to home. If you are still unsure how everything will work and don’t want to be too far from home if something goes wrong.
Stay close to home so you can quickly return if there are any problems. Hopefully, everything goes smoothly, and you can venture out further next time.
Check the Weather
One of the most important things to do before camping in cold weather is to check the weather.
You don’t want to be caught unaware by a cold front that moves in, or worse, a blizzard.
Make sure you have a good idea of what the forecast looks like so you can pack appropriately. You don’t want to end up shivering in your tent.
Take the time to research the area where you will be camping and find out the average temperatures. That way, you’ll know what to expect.
It Gets Colder After Dark
When camping in cold weather, it’s important to know that the temperature can drop significantly after the sun goes down. So ensure you have plenty of warm clothes and bedding to keep you warm when the temperature drops.
You may also want to consider using a tent heater to help keep you warm. Just be sure to use it safely and responsibly.
Camping in 30-degree weather is a fun and exciting experience, but it does require some preparation.
If you plan to camp out in cold conditions this winter, practice at home first, check the forecast for your destination region, and pack plenty of warm clothes.
Doing a dry run before heading out for a camping trip is always good, especially if you’ll be spending time outdoors when temperatures drop significantly after dark.
Have a great trip!
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.