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Camping in 30-Degree Weather (How to Enjoy Cold Weather Camping)

It’s that time of year again! The leaves are falling, the mornings are getting colder, and you’re probably thinking about taking your family camping. But there’s one problem: it’s 30 degrees outside.

It may seem like an impossible feat 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 need to have the right gear. Without the right gear, I can just about guarantee you will have a miserable time.

It can also be dangerous to camp in cold weather if you are not prepared.

Here’s a personal story to set the tone.

In late October, we took the family camping in the high desert many years ago. We didn’t realize how unprepared we were until my daughter (about 7-8 years at the time) woke up crying at about 1 am because she was freezing 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 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 you need to.

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 layer of clothing you put on. 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 to have 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. A good 3-season tent is a great option.

One of the major 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 on the inside of 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 you are 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 are camping 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 gives you protection 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, a good 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.

Sleeping pads

If you are camping in cold weather, a sleeping pad is a must-have piece of gear.

A good sleeping pad will provide insulation and keep you off the cold ground. It will also help protect you from moisture and drafts.

Man in a heavy coat sitting in a sleeping bag

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 simple. 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 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 is not going to 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.

Sleeping bags

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 you are using and the clothing you sleep in. 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. It’s a good idea to choose a sleeping bag rated 10 degrees lower than the lowest temperature you expect.

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.

Check out this article for more information on zip together sleeping bags. Using a zip together sleeping bag along with a double-sized sleeping pad can help you stay warm.

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.

Blankets

Camping in cold weather can be a lot of fun, but it is important to pack extra blankets.

In the summer, you might not need them at all, but as the temperature starts to drop, you will want something warm and cozy to keep yourself from getting too cold.

Packing a few extra blankets can make a huge difference when camping in 30-degree weather or lower. They are lightweight 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, that’s a good idea. 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 that is protected from the wind and a spot on higher ground, so if it rains (if it’s warm enough to rain), you won’t be camping in a puddle of water.

Choosing a campsite protected from wind and weather can help so that you don’t 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 a challenge, but it’s also a lot of fun. One of the main things to keep in mind is that you need 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 along some electronic devices, but make sure 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 they can also be dangerous if not used correctly. Make sure you have a heater that is rated for enclosed areas.

Tent heater sitting on a counter

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 to add to your camping gear if you use a propane tent heater.

Heaters are a great way to stay warm, but make sure you use them safely and responsibly.

If you are interested in learning more about tent heaters, check out our article here.

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 it requires some preparation.

If you’re planning 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.

Make sure all of 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, you won’t want to 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 many times 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 get back if there are any problems. Hopefully, everything goes smoothly, and you can venture out a little farther 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 cold after dark

When camping in cold weather, it’s important to be aware that the temperature can drop significantly after the sun goes down. So make sure you have plenty of warm clothes and bedding to keep you warm when the temperature starts to drop.

You may also want to consider using a tent heater to help keep you warm. Just be sure to use it safely and responsibly.

Conclusion

Camping in 30-degree weather is a fun and exciting experience, but it does require some preparation.

If you’re planning on camping out in cold conditions this winter, be sure to practice at home first, check the forecast for your destination region, and pack plenty of warm clothes.

It’s always good to do a dry run before you head out for a camping trip, especially if you’ll be spending time outdoors during times when temperatures drop significantly after dark.

Have a great trip!

Steve and Kris
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Steve and Kris are avid campers, outdoor lovers, and founders of Camp S'more Worry Less. When they are not camping, they enjoy other outdoor activities, including fishing, kayaking, and hiking with their family. Read more.

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