Anyone who’s spent a few nights outdoors in a sleeping bag can tell you just how effective they are at providing insulation and a good night’s rest no matter where you stay. One of my longtime pet peeves about camping, however, had to do with nights spent in sleeping bags. Due to the design of most bags and the way our bodies disperse heat, it can be difficult to keep your feet warm even if the rest of your body is just fine. Nowadays, I know more about camping and know how to keep my feet warm in a sleeping bag at night.
Keeping Your Feet Warm While Camping
The simplest way to keep your feet warm is to put on a nice pair of socks before hitting the sack. Your feet are one of the most important places where your body can release heat, but by donning some thick socks, you can keep all of that dispelled heat on top of your skin.
However, socks might not always be the best solution to your problems. If you spent most of the day on your feet or wearing boots that offer limited ventilation, your feet may suffer if you don’t give them the chance to air out at night. You should also never try to re-wear your socks when on a camping trip, especially when your body is resting. I only wear socks in a sleeping bag if I go car camping, haven’t been very active, and have a fresh pair at the ready.
Tucking your legs in closer to your body and away from the end of the sleeping bag helps to concentrate your body heat in a smaller area and allows that heat to reach all the way down to your toes. Not all sleeping bags will let you curl up inside of them, and even if they do, you might not feel comfortable sleeping like that. Still, if it feels fine to you, this can be an easy way to avoid taking any extra measures against the cold.
Hand and Foot Warmers
If you’ve ever been to an outdoor goods store, you’ve probably seen their selection of small, packaged hand and foot warmers. These packs are great for providing near-instant heat to a small area of your body in even the coldest weather. If the overnight lows start to approach the limits of my sleeping bag, I’ll take one of these packs and put it down at my feet. Since the warmers can become very hot to the touch, I strongly recommend wrapping them in used clothing before putting them in your bag. Having a layer of fabric to shield your bare skin can make the difference between warm feet and a small burn.
Also, keep in mind that these packs are designed for specific temperature ranges and uses, and that many may be too powerful to stay inside of an insulated sleeping bag. These warmers are designed to be inserted into gloves, which have much weaker heat retention capabilities than a well-made bag. Even if the weather outside is especially cold, you might find your sleeping bag to be unbearably hot if you use a heat packet designed for sub-zero temperatures. Use weaker hand warmers if you want to use them at all.
Layering Around the Sleeping Bag
One solution I’ve started using recently is to surround the bottom of the sleeping bag with items that can aid with insulation. If I go car camping, I’ll typically bring an extra blanket to wrap around everything from the knees down, and sometimes more stuff. When I go backpacking, I’ll pack clothing around the bottom of the sleeping bag and put my pack on top of that pile. This trick can be a good way of adding lots of heat retention overnight while still offering your feet the chance to breathe.
Another potential option is to bring a sleeping bag rated for temperatures well below the overnight low temperatures of your campsite. Unzipping the bag down to the halfway point should help excess heat escape, but the bottom reaches of the bag will still retain the extra insulation needed to keep your feet toasty. I’ve never liked this method since I prefer to use a sleeping bag that matches the conditions, but one of my closest friends swears by it and never does anything different.
Cold temperatures are, to me, part of the fun in camping. If I wanted to stay in perfect temperatures and comfort all the time, I’d go day hiking and head back to my house for the night. So, while there are a few ways to counter the cold and keep your feet comfortable when camping, I think it might be more “honest” just to curl up and try to keep them close to my body. It builds character!