Our bodies aren’t naturally good at staying warm when it’s really cold outside. In fact, we have to make a major effort to keep our core temperature at a nice 98.6 degrees. That ideal temperature is where our vital organs thrive. Our heart, lungs, liver and brain do a really good job of moving air, circulating blood when our body is warm. However, any deviation of that 98.6 degrees and we start to shiver, become confused, mumble, fumble and eventually we start to shut down.
Staying warming is critical not only for surviving outside in the cold, but for enjoying yourself too. Please also see our article entitled “How To Choose The Right Winter Survival Clothes“. I mean, who wants to go hiking in the Cascade mountains in soaking wet feet? I’ll pass thank you! No one ever said it would be fun snowmobile in a wet blanket! Staying warm, means staying dry! Water takes away body heat 25 times faster than air.
So, if you get wet, you’re bound to be in big trouble when your outside in frigid temperatures. If you’re heading on an outdoor adventure, print this blog out and take it with you! Let’s take a look at the obvious and not so obvious ways of staying warm in cold weather camping!
Wearing layers, keeps moisture at bay and protects your body from snow, rain and wind. You should always wear three layers, when you know you’re going to be outside in cold weather for long periods of time. The base layer should fit snug against your body and be made of merino wool or a synthetic material. Stay away from cotton. Cotton has the ability to soak up sweat and moisture and hold onto it like a wet sponge.
If you’re wearing wet clothing, you’ll notice your body start to feel chilled. You want to prevent that at all costs. The main function of a base layer is moisture control. Merino wool works wonders when it comes to wicking away sweat from your body. Wool also insulates as well. The base layer does a really good job of keeping a thin layer of warm air close to your body. You’ll need this layer when the temperature starts to drop!
After the base layer, you’ll want an insulating layer, also referred to as the middle layer. The main function of the middle layer is to keep you warm. Down coats, fleece vests or wool pullovers all make great middle layers. Look for a middle layer with breathable qualities. All that sweat from the base layer, need somewhere to go!
A breathable middle layer will help move the moisture out of your layers, all while keeping you warm at the same time. If you have the wrong kind of middle layer, like one made out of cotton, it will keep you wet and make you cold rather than warm.
Next up: the outer layer. The outer layer is designed to protect you from wind, rain and snow. Depending on your activity, look for waterproof and windproof outer layer. Remember, water-resistant and waterproof are not the same thing. Water-resistant is a great choice for mild days and drizzling conditions. Water-resistant won’t hold up in at squall.
Waterproof is treated with a durable water repellent chemical designed to keep you dry even in the most intense Seattle rainy days! Waterproof is typically heavier duty and more expensive than water-resistant coats. Layers will keep you alive! Layers also do a really great job of keeping you the perfect temperature- not too hot and not too cold!
You might also find our article entitled “Why Is Layering Important To Keep Warm?” very helpful.
If you’re feeling chilled, cover those hands! Wearing a waterproof pair of gloves will keep your hands protected from bitter cold temperatures. Keeping your hands warm will also prevent frostbite from setting in. Down filled gloves offer more warmth, but they’re expensive and don’t hold up well in wet weather.
Gloves filled with synthetic material are good at keeping your hands warm too, although they can feel slightly bulky. Synthetic filled gloves hold up well in wet weather and they’re budget friendly.
3. Glove Liners
Glove liners are an inexpensive way to add an extra layer of warmth to your hands. Liners are like a base layer for your hands. Liners are typically made out of merino wool or a synthetic blend. Try on your liners with your gloves before you head outside into the bitter cold.
If you’re skiing or mountain climbing, you don’t want to lose dexterity with a pair of glove liners. You may need to opt for a larger pair of gloves if you plan on using liners.
Mittens are a great option for staying warm while outside in the cold. Unlike gloves, mittens keep all your fingers in one nice compartment. I prefer mittens over gloves most of the time. When all your fingers are close, they generate body heat and keep each other warm.
Mittens may not work however, for your planned activity. If that’s the case, pack an extra pair of mittens for when you’re taking a break or sitting around a campfire.
5. Heated Gloves
If you have poor circulation and you’re heading out into a winter wonderland, heated gloves may be the right investment for you. While typically more expensive than regular gloves/mittens, heated gloves are battery powered and provide a consistent flow of heat throughout your hand and fingers. With various settings, you can adjust the temperature to match how you’re feeling.
The only thing with these that you will want to be careful of is that you have enough batteries to last for your entire outing. If your batteries run out you will not have the warmth from the electric heaters. It is a good idea to bring back up warm gloves as well just in case.
6. Cover Wrists
Take a look at your wrists. Do you see all those arteries close to the surface? Because of their proximity to the surface, your wrists can be a major source of heat loss. Many arctic explorers recommend always covering your wrists to stay warm. A base layer or coat with thumb layers allows for fabric to cover your wrists and stay in place all day. Pair that with gloves and you’re good to go for a day of fun in the snow.
Another very effective idea is wool or synthetic insulated wrist warmers. They fit just over your base layer on your arms and your glove liners if you are wearing them. They are a base layer for your wrists so they should be insulating but also wick away moisture away from your wrists.
Keep those toes covered and you’ll be nice and warm for the entire day! We tend to lose a lot of heat from our feet, but there are ways to prevent it. Not every sock is going to work for you! They make socks now to match your activity. Hiking in the Alps? There’s a sock specifically for you? Shredding freshly groomed runs at Sun Valley? There’s a sock for you too. One basic thing to remember with socks is to stay away from cotton.
Check the label and make sure the socks do not contain ANY COTTON. Cotton will make your feet cold, especially if you are prone to having sweaty feet. Choose a sock made out of merino wool or a synthetic material. Also, thicker socks don’t always mean warmer. If your socks are too thick for your boots or shoes, you will cut off circulation and your feet will be cold. Try on your socks with your boots before heading out into the great outdoors!
8. Sock Liners
If you’re going to be in subzero temperatures or you suffer from poor circulation, sock liners may be your golden ticket to warm feet. Sock liners are designed to wick away moisture and insulate your feet all at the same time. You should always wear a pair of socks over the liners for optimal warmth!
One common mistake beginners make is they think multiple socks is the same thing as wearing a good sock liner. What matters is the material the inner sock, or sock liner is made out of. If it is made out of cotton your feet will get wet and freeze. You need your sock liners to be made of a material that will wick away the moisture from your feet to keep them dry.
Our bodies tend to lose a lot of heat through conduction- the process of transferring heat. Conduction occurs when you walk on cold floors on your bare feet or if you sit on a pack of snow. Boots protect your feet from the elements and prevent your warm soles from transferring heat to the cold ice and snow below. The right boot for you will depend on what you’re doing outside.
Will you be hiking through 5 feet of fresh snow or will you be sitting around ice fishing all day? No matter what you are doing outside, you want a boot that will protect moisture from creeping in. Choose a boot coated in a waterproof material. If you’re boots aren’t waterproof, you can spray a waterproofing coating onto your shoes to repel the weather!
Even if you have the best boots in the world, somehow, someway, water always finds a way to sneak inside and settle in your socks. To keep water and snow away from the inside of your boots, try on a pair of gaiters. Gaiters are an extra out layer designed to fit around your boot and go all the way up your shin. Gaiters typically cinch around your pants at your knee or calf to prevent any moisture from getting inside your boot.
Gaiters come in all different lengths, depending on what you’re doing. They make gaiters specifically for hiking, mountaineering, ice climbing, running, biking and skiing. In addition to keeping moisture away, gaiters also add another layer of insulation to your legs, boots and feet!
Your grandma was right…. put on a hat our your going to get a cold! Our bodies lose heat in the form of radiation from our head. Do you even notice how putting on a hat makes the difference between being chilled and being comfortable? A hat puts a lid on our body heat escaping. There are a lot of different hats on the market today! Make sure you chose one that covers your ears! Fleece, wool and synthetic blend hats are all great choices to keep you warm on a cold winter day!
Fortress designs these Balaclavas (as shown in the image on the left) to keep your head warm even if you get wet. They are an made out of an amazing new technology. (See Fortress Clothing Review for more information.)
12. Face Mask
We lose body heat by just breathing cold air. To keep a cap on the heat loss, try a face mask. A face mask protects your entire face, neck and head all in one. The only opening is for your eyes! An all on one mask covers all the vulnerable areas on your head, face and neck! It also does a really great job at keeping you warm! Just don’t wear one to the bank!
Remember you are not going for the super hero look in choosing a face mask. You are going for practicality and function. The idea is you want it to keep you warm!
Goggles are a great way for staying warm while you’re outside enjoying the beautiful winter weather. Goggles should fit snug against your cheeks, eyes and forehead. The seal around the goggles keep cold air out and warm air in. When you pair goggles with a face mask, you are sure to stay warm, even on the coldest days.
Goggle technology is changing rapidly- you can now get UV protection in the lens of the goggles, so they act like sunglasses too! With some goggles you can change out the lens to match the conditions. Some newer versions are battery powered with a built-in fan- to prevent the goggles from fogging up.
14. Avoid Tight Clothes
For your layers of clothing to most effective, each garment needs to fit just right- not too small and not too big. If your coat is too big, all that warm air your base layer is working hard to hold onto will disappear into, well, thin air! (sIf your clothes are too snug, you could risk reducing circulation- especially to your feet and hands.
You want enough room for your clothes to be comfortable- but you don’t want to be swimming in them either! The same goes for kids. As parents, you always want to get the most out of a pair of snow pants. If they’re too big, time to buy a new pair!
Staying hydrated is key to staying warm! When you drink more water, warm blood circulates easier to every part of your body. Keep a camelbak filled with water at all times, that way you don’t even have to stop to take a drink. You can sip water on the chair lift, on the back of a snowmobile or while glissading down a glacier!
16. Cocoa/Herbal Tea
If the idea of sipping cold water in below freezing temperatures sounds awful, try a nice warm beverage. Cocoa and herbal tea are great choices to stay warm while in the cold. A thermostat of hot water should last you most of the day.
Pack a couple bags of tea, instant hot cocoa and Postum packets and you can have a hot drink wherever you are. Plus, you’re staying hydrated and it tastes good too.
17. Avoid Alcohol
You better think twice before drinking that beer at the summit of your favorite mountain. Alcohol leads to dehydration and overtime it will be more difficult for you to stay warm. Save the drinks until you’re off the mountain! Better yet avoid alcohol altogether. It is not good for you!
I do not drink alcohol, nor does any of my family, so I did not have a picture of us in the winter drinking alcohol. So for the image on the left I had to search for available images for this section. I could not find one with someone drinking alcohol in the winter, so this one will have to do lol!
Eating foods rich in vitamin k and fat can help you boost your body temperature! Vitamin K is a great way to naturally increase your circulation. Leafy greens such as kale, cabbage and spinach are all great sources of vitamin k. Dairy is a great source of vitamin k. If you’re feeling extra chilled, grab a handful of almonds, cashews or snickers bar. These snacks give your blood sugar the spike it needs to keep you warm.
However, be careful on the sugar. You don’t want a sugar crash while your hiking at 5,000 feet. Yikes. Bananas are also an easy snack to pack. According to nutritionists, bananas are rich in b vitamins and help regulate body temperature!
19. Spice it Up!
Spicing foods keep your body warm too when you’re feeling chilled outside. Chilis, cumin and peppers will add the kick to boost your metabolism. Ginger also has “thermogenic properties” to help you stay warm. You don’t have to pack an entire ginger root with you either, you can now find crystallized ginger treats in the organic aisle at your local grocery store.
Pop a couple ginger candies in your mouth and you’ll be nice and toasty for a while! Ginger also promotes blood flow- which you’ll need to keep your feet, hands and core at the perfect temperature.
20. Sip Soup
Pack a thermos of chicken noodle soup and you’ll quickly be the most popular one in your group. Like sipping on a hot beverage, soup has an amazing ability to warm your core.
A few spoons of chicken noodle or your favorite soup and you’ll warm up in minutes. When you pack it in a thermostat, you can sip it on the go- no matter where you are!
If you’re feeling chilled, stand by a campfire for a while to warm up. Clearly, warming up by a fire is as old as time- but it works! If you’re gloves are wet or your boots are soaked, take them off and dry them by the fire too. Don’t get too close to the fire, you don’t want to go from freezing to second degree burns. It can happen if your fingers or toes are feeling numb.
Keep a good distance between yourself and the flames! Also, watch out for flying embers- they’ve been known to burn tiny holes in really expensive gear.
22. Take Off Wet Clothes
Wet clothes will steal your body heat faster than a bank robber in the wild, wild west. If you become submerged in water or your clothes are soaking with sweat, you need to get out of those clothes ASAP. Water and sweat will only make you colder. If you can, seek shelter and change into a dry set of clothing.
I always pack extra socks, glove and a base layer in the event something happen and my clothes are soaked. Wet clothing in cold weather is a one-way ticket to hypothermia and frostbite. Get out those wet clothes to stay warm!
23. Hand Warmers
Hand warmers are a great way to add a boost of heat to chilly hands and feet. Disposable hand warmers are a great choice for skiing, hiking, ice fishing or snowmobiling. A quick shake of the hand warmer packet and you have heat for a few hours. Hand warmers always take the edge of chilly extremities. Rechargeable hand warmers also work well if you need more intense heat for a longer period of time. These types of hand warmers are more expensive, but they can last for years.
They don’t work well if you need your hands for skiing, hiking or other active sports. Rechargeable hand warmers are probably best suited for cold football games, ice -fishing, hunting and camping.
24. Body Warmers
Body warmers are just like hand warmers, except they come with an adhesive back and you can stick the heat directly to your torso, chest, legs- really anywhere you are feeling extra chilled.
They’re budget friendly, easy to use and help you stay warm when and where you need it the most.
25. Toe Warmers
Don’t forget about your toes! I don’t know about you but my toes always seem to be cold. Toe warmers have saved my feet on more than one occasion. Toe warmers are designed specifically to follow the arch of your toe.
With an adhesive back, the toe warmer pouch fits nicely on the bottom of your sock- no need to worry about slipping and sliding around.
26. Insole Foot Warmers
If your entire foot is extra chilled, an insole foot warmer will warm you up fast. This style of HotHands, fits the entire length of your foot- so every inch, from your toes to heel are toasty.
Hothands are non-toxic and they provide the perfect amount of heat right when you need it the most.
27. Wool Boot Inserts
To keep moisture at bay, wool inserts provide an extra layer of protection between the sole of your boot and your foot. Wool inserts prevent body heat from escaping through your boot as well.
Wool is a great option, but sheepskin and inserts made with synthetic material will also do the trick! The main idea is to have inserts made out of a good insulating material that will keep your foot warm and keep moisture away from it.
28. Insulated Pad
If you’re standing for long periods of time on the snow and ice, your body will start to feel chilled. This is because all your body heat naturally transfers to the colder surface.
By adding an insulating pad beneath your feet, your protecting your body from that cold surface. You can also sit on the pad as well, if your feet get tired.
If an insulated pad isn’t in your budget, grab a couple pieces of cardboard from the recycling bin on your way out of town. Cardboard is a great insulator from the cold ground. It’s cheap, easy and you can recycle it after you’re home.
30. Here Comes the Sun!
If it’s a sunny day outside, don’t be afraid to stop and a soak in the rays. That burst of warmth, even on a cold day, will make you feel toasty. However, make sure you’re wearing sunscreen and a good pair of sunglasses. The sun reflects off the snow, making you vulnerable to getting sun burned.
You don’t have to be at the beach in July to get a burn! Trust me. I learned the hard way when I trekked across a glacier on a sunny day, sans sunscreen. That one hurt.
31. Seek Shelter
If you’re starting to shiver, you’ve entered the beginning stages of hypothermia. This is the time to seek shelter. If you’re still miles away from the nearest cabin or car, it’s time to set up a tent. Your tent should be windproof and waterproof- to keep the harsh weather from penetrating your warm, dry space. Tent manufacturers are masters at making really high-quality tents, durable and light weight. This means you really have no reason not to pack a tent the next time you’re outside for long periods of time. A tent gave give you the space you need to warm up under a nice toasty sleeping bag.
32. Sleeping Bag
If you can’t seem to get warm, no matter how many hand warmers you stuff inside your gloves and boots, get inside your tent and crawl into a down sleeping bag. When cold weather camping, make sure you have a sleeping bag that is rated for at least 10 degrees lower than the predicted weather for that area.
This way, if the weather changes and it’s colder than expected, you will still be warm. Sleeping bags filled with down feathers work wonders on a cold body. Down gives you the most insulation out of any other bag on the market. However, down is only effective when its dry- so keep it away from wet weather.
33. Mummy Sleeping Bags
Mummy sleeping bags are excellent at keeping you covered from head toe. Mummy bags, make you look like, well, a mummy! A mummy bag extends over your head and tapers down to your feet.
There’s not a whole lot of extra wiggle room- that’s why this style of bag is so effective at keeping you warm.
34. Join Forces
If it’s a really cold night, zip together two sleeping bags for extra warmth. By sharing a sleeping bag, you can generate more body heat and stay warmer through the night.
Most sleeping bags are designed to be connected to another bag. If you’re in the middle of a blizzard, this might be the only way you survive.
35. Sleeping Pads
Sleeping pads make sleeping on the ground more comfortable and protect your body from thermal conduction. When your body is exposed to cold temperatures, you lose heat. A sleeping pad will help you stay warm and dry while sleeping in your tent!
36. Portable Heater
If you need more heat inside your tent, a portable heater might just do the trick. Portable heaters typically run on propane or kerosene. Make sure whatever heater you purchase is specifically designed for inside a tent. Never use gasoline powered heaters in an enclosed space!
37. Jump Around
One of the best ways to stay warm in the cold is to jump around. Fifty jumping jacks seems to be the magic number. Just kidding. But, seriously getting your body moving is a great way to generate body heat. All that activity, gets your blood circulating. The warmer blood moving in your body, the warmer you’ll feel. The next time you feel chilled standing on the sidelines of a soccer game or hiking in the Sierra Mountains, bust a move and dance your way to warm toes!
38. Hot Water Bottles
This is a great hack if you are camping in the winter, hunting or watching a football game in Wisconsin. Grab a couple empty water bottles and fill them with hot water. If you’re camping you can boil water on your camp stove and carefully fill bottles. Then, cover the bottles with socks, a shirt or towel.
Climb inside your sleeping bags and place the warm water bottles next to your body, preferably near your major arteries. This will help warm you up in a pinch. They also make warm silicone water pouches designed for this very reason. These would be a great choice to slip into your coat while sitting down for a while.
39. Don’t Get Too Hot
Huh? This doesn’t make sense. Hear me out. If you wear the wrong layer combination and get overheated, you’ll most likely want to take layers off! Don’t do that. Taking layers off will release precious body heat and then your body temperature will start to drop. It’s easier to stay warm than it is to stay warm. To prevent getting too hot, opt for layers with vents. You’ll find a lot of middle and outer layers have zippers in the armpit area to vent hot spots and keep you warm all at the same time! Moisture management will also prevent you from getting overheated as well. As I mentioned earlier, layers are the key to keeping warm- not too hot and not too cold!
40. Shelter from Wind
Wind is a thief of body heat. You can be perfectly warm and cozy and then bam… a burst of wind whips by and suddenly your shivering. The loss of body heat from wind is referred to as convection. If you want to stay warm and the wind is picking up, seek shelter behind a tree, a tent or a snow cave. If there’s a cabin or other structure nearby- that’s a great option too! Keeping the wind at bay, is a great way to stay warm. If you can’t get out of the wind, make sure you have an outer layer designed to keep wind from breaching below to your mid and base layers. Most waterproof jackets are windproof too! You may need to pay a little more for a windproof coat, but it will be well worth it!
41. Go Inside!
Duh! One of the best ways to stay warm in the winter is to call it day and head inside where the fireplace is roaring and nice warm meal is waiting. Don’t be afraid to turn around if the weather changes and you’re simply not prepared for the conditions. Go inside, take a break and rest. It doesn’t take long for hypothermia or frostbite to take hold when you’re outside for long periods of time. When in doubt, call it day!