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Tips on Cold-Weather Camping From The Boy Scouts

When I was in my youth, I spent very little time sleeping outside in sub-zero temperatures.  Some of that had to do with my aversion toward the cold, the rest probably with the fact that I grew up in Louisiana.  Regardless, it ‘s safe to say that I never had a chance to earn my “zero-hero patch,” like a group of 130 burly Boy Scouts in North Dakota recently did, when they camped out overnight in sub-zero temperatures.

The boys made it through the frosty night with the aid of heavily-insulated sleeping bags, toasty handwarmers and other accoutrements of the cold, in addition to grit and determination.  But what about if you don’t have the boundless energy of a 10-year-old to keep you warm?  Here are a couple solid tips for keeping the cold at bay next time you’re camping out on a frosty winter night.

Wear Layers

The best technique for keeping warm in cold weather is to dress in numerous layers.  You’ll want to start with a dry layer (also called a wicking layer) and then cover that with a layer that provides insulation, such as a fleece camping jacket.  Lastly, toss on a shell that will prevent you from getting wet in nasty conditions.

It’s also important to have a pair of thermal, dry socks and a warm beanie or hat to sleep in.

Max out on Padding

If it’s frosty outside, you’ll likely want at least two forms of padding (such as an air mattress or waterproof blanket) between you and the ground.  Consider heeding this advice even if you’re simply sitting down for a second, by sticking a pack or other barrier between you and the ground.

Drink Lots of Fluids

Cold weather can be just as dehydrating as extreme heat, which is why it’s important to drink plenty of water.  You might also enjoy a little hot cocoa before bed to warm you up.

Grub Down

Did you know the process of eating actually warms you up?  Keep a snack at your side during the night and munch away if you get chilly.

Do you have any more tips on how to stay warm while camping in the cold?  If so, please let us know in the comment section below.


  1. My husband is a Scoutmaster, and we live in Northeast Ohio, in the Lake Erie snowbelt. We also have a cold-weather camping award, the Polar Bear Beads. For every 2 nights of camping in 32 degrees or colder, a Scout earns a hand-carved wood bead to wear on a special knot tied by the Scoutmaster, worn on the right shirt pocket button. For every 2 nights spent in sub-zero, a clear acrylic bead is given. Thanks for the timely info on staying warm – I will post it on our Troop’s Facebook Group page!

  2. Thanks for the comment Colleen, your troop sounds great. We appreciate you sharing the content.

  3. that would be great to have warm clothes for riding horses.

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