I've sent a list like this to many people in the past when asked about how I stay warm when camping in below freezing temps, or just when hanging out around the campfire when it's cold. I decided to include it here for reference as well.
Note - If you want to use a tent heater - you may not need to do all of this to stay warm when you're sleeping. However, it's always best to be prepared for the unexpected
. If the tent heater doesn't work, or if you run out of batteries/power, etc., you'll need a back-up plan if you want to get some sleep.
To keep warm at night, wearing several layers of non-cotton clothing usually works best for us. The layers help trap heat and allow you to take something off or put more on, keeping you from getting too hot & perspiring, which is definitely not good when it's cold out. Layering on the head and around the torso is priority. Putting your layers on "BEFORE" you get cold is important because KEEPING warm is much easier than warming up once you're already cold.
At least two layers for the head: 1)look for "Thinsulate" fleece or wool caps or something comparable that offers warmth and wicking 2)the 2nd (or last) layer will be a hood from one of your outer layers for your top (see below). Avoid cotton. If you tend to get cold easily, more than 2 layers on your head will make a big difference. I like using a thin fleece cap + a thicker fleece/knit cap with ear flaps.
Start with a thermal top and thermal bottoms (also called "long johns") for the base layer - No Cotton! You can find the best selection at Academy or REI. Try to get wool or silk, something that says "wicking". They usually have multiple levels to pick from (i.e., warmest, warm, lightweight, etc.). Whichever you choose, keep the thickness in mind when you pick what to wear over them (or vice versa).
Here are all of the layers I recommend to bring/wear to stay warm:
2)Long sleeve light to mid-weight shirt
3)Hooded fleece sweater or hooded fleece jacket
4)Waterproof/windproof layer (i.e., windbreaker, jacket or coat)
2)Any kind of pants, preferably not cotton
3)If blue-jeans are your 2nd layer, consider putting another layer over them such as fleece pants or rain pants
1)Wool wicking thick socks
2)If 2 layers of socks are desired, sock liners can be worn as the first layer, under the wool socks - which is better than 2 pair of socks because they can cause blisters
3)Warmest shoes you have that aren't too tight; if it cuts off the circulation any, the blood can't do a good job of warming the area; Academy has fairly inexpensive fur lined winter boots - or hiking boots can work
1)I use some glove liners I got at Academy that have some kind of metallic threading, which helps disperse heat to fingertips; sometimes, that's the only layer I need on my hands
2)Quality gloves which aren't too tight; look for features like: windproof, waterproof (again, avoid cotton)
1) "Thinsulate" fleece caps or something comparable that offers warmth and wicking
2) Optional layers: 2nd fleece cap with more coverage such as ear flaps, possibly fur lined; a balaclava
(aka "ski mask") as a first layer
3) Hood from your fleece jacket and/or outer coat layer
Optional items which may come in handy include earmuffs, scarf, hand warmers, blanket
SLEEPING/COMFORT related "keeping warm" tips
If you are sleeping in a tent, there are a few things you can do (in addition to the above layers) to keep yourself warm:
First - don't trust that the "Minus 0" rating on your sleeping bag will actually keep you warm enough all by itself. The quality level varies greatly - always be prepared with extra layers for sleeping. Here's a great article on sleeping bags and keeping warm
Whether you sleep on the ground, on an air mattress or on a cot, in addition to your sleeping bag/insulating layer(s), use an extra layer underneath you to keep your body heat from being radiated into ground. You can use a $2 "space" blanket
, a tarp or even a large plastic trash bag for that layer.
The larger your tent is, the more effort it will take to get/stay warm. That doesn't mean you need to trade in your "house to go" for a smaller tent. You can rig up something to keep your body heat from straying too far from its source - using, for example, a space blanket or a small tarp. Depending on the dimensions of your tent, you can tie a space blanket or tarp to the 4 corners about halfway between you and the tent ceiling. If your tent is too big for that, you can tie a rope from one side of your tent to the other so that it forms a straight line above where you'll be sleeping (head to foot oriented). Then, you can drape a space blanket or tarp over the string so that it forms a miniature tent within your tent. Avoid covering your head area with this extra barrier though because as you breathe, the condensation can collect above you and end up dripping on your face. Speaking of tent condensation, this is a great read
Something I ran across last year that came in really handy was a cushion/pillow
marketed towards hunters that you put in your camp chair & when you sit on it, it holds in your body heat....made a big difference last year around the fire.