Miscellaneous Cold Weather Tips
Sleeping Bag Snacks
Ok, hear me out. I know every wilderness expert ever has told you to never EVER keep food in or around you while you sleep as it may attract unwanted wildlife like bears. This suggestion is for emergency situations and during winter months when bears are most likely hibernating. Don’t come after me if you end up cuddling a mouse or other, larger mammals, because you kept food in your sleeping bag overnight.
That being said, one method I’ve used to stay warm is to keep a granola bar or similar snack in my sleeping bag while I sleep. When you sleep, your body goes without an intake of calories for several hours, which can make you slightly colder. If you wake up cold in the middle of the night, you can replenish some of those calories with a quick snack and maybe feel a little warmer.
Boil Water in a Nalgene
I never had a Nalgene until my Long Trail thru-hike. Sick of being freezing cold, I purchased one because I had heard you could put boiling water in it. Willing to try anything, I boiled water before bed, poured it into the Nalgene, and put the bottle in the foot-box of my sleeping bag, praying I would not wake up to a soaking wet down sleeping bag.
It was heavenly. I felt like I was cuddling a small, warm, ball of fire with my feet. It didn’t last all night but it definitely helped me fall asleep and had an added bonus of ensuring my water wasn’t frozen in the morning.
Though some hikers “cold soak” their food, negating the need for fuel and a stove, in colder weather hot food and drinks can really improve your body temperature and your mood. Having something hot to drink may be the motivation you need to crawl out of your sleeping bag on a freezing cold morning.
Sleep With Electronics and Water
This tip won’t keep you warm, but it is rather vital to a successful backpacking trip during cold weather. Freezing temperatures can wreak havoc on some of your gear, and the best way I’ve found to combat this is to sleep with these items in your sleeping bag. Your body heat will help keep them from the worst of the affects from the cold.
Electronics: Severely cold temperatures will deplete the batteries of your electronics. Consider keeping your phone, external batteries, GPS, and other electronics in your sleeping bag with you to prevent them from dying.
Water: If you don’t want to wake up to a completely frozen water bottle that you can’t drink from until whenever it decides to thaw out, keep your water bottle in your sleeping bag with you as well. Make sure the top is tightly sealed to prevent any leaks.
Water filter: Water expands when it freezes, so any leftover water droplets in your water filter could expand and crack your filter, rendering it unusable. Consider keeping your water filter in your sleeping bag with the rest of your cold-sensitive gear.
Hike With Your Dog
Hiking with your dog can mean cuddling with your own personal furry heat source. Here are a few tips for hiking with your dog in cold weather.
- Depending on the size of your dog, you may share a sleeping bag for maximum warmth. For a large dog, consider a double sleeping bag.
- If your dog does not have a long, warm coat, they may need a puffy jacket to keep warm too. I use this one from Ruffwear.
- Plan on providing your dog with their own sleeping pad; they need to be insulated from the cold ground just as you do.
Hiking with your canine companion can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but requires careful planning and consideration. For more tips on hiking with your dog, check out our article Backpacking With Your Dog (link).