So you want to know how to keep your feet warm while camping? With the wind chill, the temperature outside your tent is hovering right around freezing. It’s time to get up, but the thought of getting out of your nice and cozy down sleeping bag sounds daunting. We’ve all been there. In this article we are going to give you the knowledge you need to be able to keep your feet warm when camping. Then camping will be a whole lot more fun and enjoyable!
(Quick side note: If you are looking for boot inserts and other winter clothing that will keep you warm in sub-zero temperatures even if you get wet, see my article “Fortress Clothing – My Review!“)
To keep your feet warm while camping follow these simple steps:
- Start with good synthetic sock liners that will wick the moisture away from your feet.
- Wear warm merino wool or synthetic socks. (Keep a separate dry socks in your tent that you change into whenever you go into the tent.)
- Wear a pair of boots that will keep moisture out and that are insulated and keep the heat inside your boots. They need to be able to breath as well so that moisture can escape.
- If you are going to be walking through a lot of wet grass, underbrush or high snow, wearing gaiters will help keep moisture from getting into your pant legs and boots.
It’s easier to get up and face the next 3.2 miles of your three-day back-country hike, if you’re dressed head to toe in the appropriate gear. Keeping your feet warm while camping is essential to surviving the great outdoors. There are lots of ways to keep your feet warm while camping! Let’s get started.
How Your Body Loses Heat
To keep your feet warm while camping, you need to first understand how the human body loses heat. By understanding the basics of heat loss, you can come up with fairly simple solutions to keep your feet warm! Our body loses five ways: respiration, evaporation, radiation, conduction and convection.
Let’s start with evaporation. Remember that time you were hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail in the middle of January? Your wife told you not to go, but you insisted and packed up all your gear and put one foot in front of the other. But, you packed the wrong kind of layers and suddenly you were sweating bullets about 3 minutes into a three-week trip. Evaporation is losing body heat through sweat and breathing (respiration). If you start sweating while camping, you’re basically losing body heat.
How does that work? If you get wet, drenched in sweat and you’re not wearing the proper clothing to wick it away. This is where things get dicey. Certain fabrics, like cotton, soak up all that water (sweat) and begin drawing body heat from your core.
Water, and any kind of moisture really, can drop your body temperature fairly quickly. This is why it’s so important to stay dry from head to toe! Especially in the toe region- nobody likes to hike around in wet, sweaty and cold feet. That’s a recipe for disaster. We’ll take a closer look at how to keep your feet dry later on in this blog!
Now that we know all about evaporation, let’s take a look at radiation. Our body loses heat when the air temperature is colder 68 degrees. According to outdoor survivalists, the human body loses about 65% of its body heat through radiation. This is why layering is so important.
The most effective layering includes a base, middle and top layer. The idea behind layering is to cover your body with a layer that keep you at the perfect temperature- not too hot, not too cold! If you get too hot, you start to take layers off and BAM, you lose all that body heat through radiation.
Next up, conduction. Conduction is the process of transferring heat from one thing to another. When you’re camping this most likely occurs when you’ve taken your boots off for the day and you’re walking barefoot in your tent, which is pitched in the snow!
Your toasty feet are transferring all their heat to the cold ground. Get it? This is why the boots and socks you choose while camping is so important. The last thing you want is to have all these nice jackets, vests and wool hats, only to have your boots bite the dust.
Let’s take a look at convection. Convection is the process of losing body heat through wind. Our body loses about 10%-15% of heat through convection. This explains why you can feel nice and toasty one moment and then a big old gust of wind blows through and nearly knocks you off your feet.
Wind is a thief of body heat. In fact, there’s an arrest warrant out for its arrest. Just kidding, kind of. Wind will steal your body heat if you aren’t careful. This is why it’s so important to wear a windbreaker when you’re camping. When it comes to your feet, a nice pair of waterproof boots will do the trick.
Respiration does not apply to your feet and toes specifically. But it affects your body as a whole which can cause your body to pull its heat into your core, which can cause your extremities such as your feet can get cold.
Importance Of Socks
Okay. Now that we know how our body loses heat, we can take a look at how to keep our feet nice a warm while camping in cold weather. The temperature of our feet plays a big role in how cold or how warm the rest of our body feels. According to some medical experts, the feet are kind of like the thermostat for our body. When our feet are cold, our entire body starts to feel chilled.
When our feet are nice and warm, you’re happy as a clam in the Pacific Ocean. Our feet out sweat any other body part. Did you know each foot has 250,000 eccrine sweat glands? That means we need to come up with a plan and a good pair of socks to keep those feet dry!
If you’re going to take one thing away from this blog, remember this: dry feet=warm feet. When camping in cold weather it is important to keep your feet dry at all time. There are lots of ways to keep your feet dry, but the most important part of this equation is your socks! Having the right kind of socks and made out of the right fabric is critical when you’re out in the back-country, trying to stay warm inside a tent during the biggest blizzard of the year. Catch my drift?
A quick Google search of “warm winter socks” and you’ll be more overwhelmed than a kid in a candy store. Put the chocolate down. I’ve already done the research for you. When you’re looking for a sock, make sure it’s made out of a synthetic material or merino wool. I prefer merino wool, personally. Regardless of your preference, you want to make sure your socks have the ability to draw moisture (sweat) away from your foot.
Whatever you do, keep the cotton socks at home. As I mentioned in another blog, cotton kills. Cotton actually absorbs water like a giant sponge. Would you ever go camping with sponges on your feet? Didn’t think so. Keep the cotton at home. When cotton gets wet it also draws heat away from your body.
Merino Wool Socks
Merino wool is the material to keep your feet warm and dry while camping during the winter months. So, what’s so special about merino wool? Well, for starters it’s not your grandma’s wool-nothing like that blanket she had on her couch when you would visit as a kid. Merino wool is the modern-day miracle fabric. It’s soft, wicks away moisture and insulating all at the same time. Here is a link to the Merino Wool Socks in the image on the left, in case you would like to check them out.
SmartWool is perhaps one of the best-known companies in the world when it comes to making high quality merino wool socks. They make some of the best socks on the market today. There’s no one size fits all, when it comes to SmartWool socks. The company makes different socks to match the temperature and your planned outdoor activity. Camping in 30-degree weather? There’s a sock for that! Scaling the jagged snow-covered peaks of Denali? There’s a sock for that too.
Synthetic Socks are also great choice to keep your feet warm while camping. You’ll find synthetic socks under a variety of names: Nylon, Lycra Spandex, Wickspun and CoolMax to name a few. These socks are great when you need a little extra cushion in key pressure points on your feet. Like merino wool, socks made with synthetic materials wick away moisture and keep your feet dry.
Some synthetic socks can be extremely warm as well. Just be sure you focus on socks that were designed for that purpose. But either way they are great for wicking.
How Thick of Sock Do I Need?
Great question. According to the experts at REI, the thickness of your sock depends on what you’re doing in the great outdoors and the fit of your boots or shoes. If you’re backpacking into your campsite, you may to carrying a couple different thicknesses of socks.
Once you reach your camping spot for the night, you may want to take your hiking socks off and slip into a thicker, cozier pair while sleeping and hanging around the campfire. Because you’ll be resting while you’re camping, you don’t necessarily need to worry about sweating too much. You should be concerned about losing heat through radiation. This is why you’ll want a nice, thicker pair of socks to keep your feet warm.
Just like glove liners, there are Sock Liners for your socks. How cool is that? Outdoor experts recommend wearing a sock liner underneath your socks to wick away moisture from the foot. That moisture is then transferred to the main sock and evaporated into the boot and beyond! Sock liners are good choice when backpacking or camping in cold weather.
According to outdoor experts at REI, sock liners dry out faster so you can wash them and wear them day after day! Liner socks are always a good choice for those like me, who always have cold feet. It provides just another layer of insulation to keep your feet nice and toasty.
Now that you have the right socks for your camping adventure, it’s time to talk about your boots. The right kind of footwear in cold weather camping can make the difference between and fun, memorable adventure and the kind of adventure you never speak of again. Here is a link to the Sorel Boots in the image to the left in case you want to check them out.
I’m going to go with the fun adventure for 500, Alex. I digress. There are lots of choices when it comes to finding the best boots for your winter adventure. Let’s take a look at all the different options to help you decide what to bring on your next camping excursion.
When deciding what boot is right for you consider the activity you’ll be doing. A boot to wear to the movies in January is going to be a lot different than a boot for camping in Yellowstone in December. Flip the boot over. How much traction does the sole of the boot have? How much insulation? Too much insulation and your feet get sweaty. Not enough insulation and, well, you freeze. When choosing a boot, you want to make sure it’s waterproof too.
According to outdoor experts, if you’re ice fishing, camping or snowmobiling you should always choose a pair of boots with the most insulation. Always try on the boot, with your socks, before you leave the store. If the boots are too tight, they could restrict the flow of blood vessels and make it harder to keep your feet warm. However, experts recommend going up a size in boots when you’re going on short hikes or urban adventures.
Depending on how you’re arriving at your camping spot, you could go with a waterproof hiking boot or a heavier insulated boot designed to withstand mucking through feet of snow. Once you plan your winter camping adventure, you’ll have a better idea of the boots you’ll need to keep your feet warm. See also our article entitled “Top 24 Warmest Winter Boots“.
No, not THAT kind of gator. I would never recommend anyone taking alligator camping. Can you imagine? But, I will advise you to pick up a pair of waterproof ankle shields designed to protect the top and side of your boot from harsh weather conditions. Gaiters are great at keeping water, wind, snow, sleet and blizzard type weather away from your boot. Gaiters are great when you want to prevent your feet from getting wet via the top of your boot.
Even if you pull your pants over your boots, there’s still room for weather to works its way inside. Gaiters come in all sizes, and lengths to protect you from the ankle and all the way up the shin. Gaiters are great if you’re hiking to get to your camping site. These nifty devices will insure your feet are warm when you arrive.
We’ve talked a lot about keeping your feet dry while getting to camp. Once you reach your camping spot, you want to apply the same tips we mentioned above. We know you’re tired and want to start roasting marshmallows around the campfire, but don’t forget to keep those feet covered! If you ever need an extra layer while at your campsite, down booties will do the trick.
It’s like having your own sleeping bag, just for your feet. Throwing on a pair of these booties will keep you toasting all night long inside and outside of your tent. Plus, down booties are light to pack. Have fun on your next camping trip and remember, keep those feet dry if you want to stay warm and alive! Happy camping! See also our article entitled “How To Keep Feet Warm While Hunting“.