There aren’t many positives to a cold nights sleep. I’ve had my fair share - curled up in the fetal position, uncontrollably shivering whilst glancing at my watch and wondering when morning will finally arrive. Sound familiar? And whilst we’re on the subject isn’t there absolutely nothing worse than turning over and seeing your mate right next to you enjoying a comfortable nights sleep, buried in their much superior (and far more expensive) sleeping bag? Now the business man inside of me is trying to get me to put in a link here to something like the ……cough!…..cough!…..Summiteer Glowworm…..cough!, and to tell you that this will end all your problems. However there’s also the dirtbag climber inside of me that can totally empathise with this scenario. So whilst the ideal is to have a sleeping bag suitably rated for the temperatures you’re expecting; sometimes optimism, an overexcitement for minimalism or maybe a lack of funds means that you often have that “oops I did it again!” feeling, followed by an awful nights sleep. So without anymore of an introduction - discovered mostly from trial and error and sheer desperation, here are 5 last minute things you can do, using the kit you’ll most likely have with you already, to ensure a warmer nights sleep.
- The hot water bottle
For those of you who scan read, THIS ISN’T A REAL HOT WATER BOTTLE! Heat up some water on your stove, open up your drinking bottle and pour it in. After this screw the lid back on (make sure it is tight!) and here’s my extra trick…. Take a thick hiking sock and put the bottle inside it. Then tie a knot in the top. This is obviously easier for those with bigger feet, those with smaller feet can maybe produce a similar result with a t-shirt or alternatively carry an additional large sock. The advantage to using the sock technique is that it can be used in direct contact with your skin without burning you, as well as stopping the heat escaping too quickly. As for where to put it. For a short length of time I would put this bottle between my thighs just below my groin. You have two femoral arteries down there and the results of direct heat on them do wonders for warming up the rest of the body. I then read a rather
concerning article put out by the NHS that gave a few suggestions as to why this might not be a great idea for gentlemen looking to start a family. If this is a concern to you, play it safe and just have it close to your chest.
2. Eat well and have a brew
You have no excuse for not cooking a proper meal. I'm a big fan of pasta but there’s nothing wrong with freeze dried camping rations if you can stand the taste of them. A cup of tea or hot chocolate just before bed will work wonders. If you’re clever you can brew up with the same boiled water you used for your hot water bottle.
3. Press ups
Remember your sleeping bag isn’t a heat source. Your body is a heat source and your bag is designed to trap that heat in. If you enter your bag cold it’s going to take a lot longer for it to heat up. Press ups are a great way of getting the blood flowing whilst remaining in your tent. And there are no prizes for style here. If it is warming you up, it’s working fine.
4. Do not leave your tent!
This is all about preparation. Have everything you need to hand. This includes any extra water, and if it’s convenient for you a pee bottle. The moment you open your tent doors you can expect the temperature to plummet. Going outside will result in your body losing its heat and you having to start the process all over again.
5. If you wake up cold sort it out….
The chances are if you’ve woken up in the middle of the night due to being cold you’ll struggle to sleep again without sorting it out. You’d be much better off sitting up, putting some extra layers on and assessing the situation from there. A term I often use in the outdoors is “make the effort”. This is about seeing a problem and sorting it out before it escalates. In this case you are only going to get colder. Make the effort to restart step 1, 2 and 3 all over again. That way you can guarantee at least another few hours of sleeping comfortably.
So there you have it. Five tips for getting the most out of your sleeping bag and staying warm at night. If you’ve benefited from this you might want to sign up to our mailing list. Our monthly newsletter is full of useful advice from the likes of mountaineering instructors and gear experts and is generally a rather interesting read.
There are so many more little tips that I haven’t included. If you have any of your own please use the comments box below to tell us all about it.
All the best,