Keeping warm at night is top priority for our family when camping. If the kids get cold they will wake up and we’ll all have a bad night. So what is the best way to keep them cosy in a tent without packing heaps of bedding?
I used to bring piles of spare duvets and blankets but they completely filled our car and took time sorting and washing when we got back. On my mission to camp with less stuff and less stress I’ve realised this was a major packing nightmare for me and one problem I was determined to solve. By changing what we sleep on and what we wear I have dumped all the spare bedding and found a much more efficient way to beat the cold.
Here my top tips for keeping warm at night in a tent with minimal stuff:
1. Do NOT sleep on an airbed
As the sun goes down and the temperature drops the air inside an airbed gets extremely cold. This will seep through into your sleeping bag unless you have layers of blankets underneath you but these take up precious space and there is much a easier way.
2. Do sleep on a self-inflating mattress.
These are much thinner than airbeds and packed with insulation. The small amount of air inside them is warmed by your body heat and the insulation forms a barrier from the cold ground. They range in size from 2.5cm, 5cm, 7.5cm, 10cm… with the cost generally rising with the thickness or how light and compact they are.
Our kids are quite happy on inexpensive 2.5cm mattresses (Multimat Trekker 25), I have a 3cm (Outwell Sleepin Single 3.0) and my husband has a 5cm (Thermarest Neo Air). 3cm may sound like nothing but its amazing how warm it is. I am a side sleeper and feel padded and protected whatever position I sleep in. The thicker mattresses (10cm+) will of course feel cosier, but tend to have much larger pack sizes, all of ours at 5cm thickness or less fold in half lengthways and then roll up giving a pack size of about 20cm x 15cm diameter.
We each have a sleeping bag, mat (and us adults have an inflatable pillow) and that’s it, no other bedding.
(nb. Self inflating mattresses are not recommended for children under 15 months. There is a risk of suffocation so do not use these for or next to a baby.)
3. Wear a hat, socks and thermal underwear
Inside our sleeping bags we all wear a set of thermals, socks and a hat and feel very warm like this. In fact, I usually end up kicking half of it off in the night as I am too hot. (Too hot in a damp field at night in the UK, I am still amazed by this!)
I’m not a fan of onesies for our kids anymore (they have covered feet so kids can’t get shoes on to go outside for a toilet dash, they are generally quite large to pack, and if kids do need the loo in the night they need to take the whole onesie off and will get cold) so prefer to bring thermals for them instead.
4. Don’t wear cotton in bed
If you sweat at all when sleeping cotton clothes will get damp and stay damp which will then become cold. Its a better idea to wear breathable synthetics which wick moisture away from your skin instead.
5. Don’t wear too many layers in bed
Sleeping bags are designed to warm up by trapping the heat from our bodies, if you are wearing too many layers the heat from your body may not be able to warm the sleeping bag. Our kids are now age 5 and 7 and out of the baby stage so they can definitely tell us if they are too hot or too cold. However, tiny tots can’t and will need to be checked throughout the night to make sure they are not overheating.
6. Choose the right sleeping bag (depending on when you like to camp)
Sleeping bags have a season or tog rating and you will need to choose which suits you best depending on what time of year you will be camping. I’ll admit we never camp in winter here in the UK, so we have 3 season bags which suit us fine. Keep an eye on pack size hen you buy a new sleeping bag and look for one which is smaller when packed up. Sleeping bags vary in size quite a bit and if you can save space on the size of all the family's sleeping bags it can make quite a difference when packing the car.
7. Put your layers on during the evening before you get cold
Its easier to stay warm than get warm. I like to put my thermals and hat on about 9pm under my clothes when we are still up and around the campfire before I start to feel the cold. Then when its time to hit the hay my thermals are already keeping me toasty and I can just take off my outer layers and sneak into bed without waking the kids.
I do hope you find this helpful, I’d love to hear your ideas about the best way you keep your family warm when camping so do comment below. It would be great to hear from you.