Wilderness Basics

October and November are wonderful months to hike and camp throughout much of the U.S. Not only will you enjoy the change of season, but crowds will be down, too. Here are some tips to keep you warm in camp at night, provided by instructors for the Wilderness Basics Course of the San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club.

  • In camp, put on your warmest clothing. Use your rain gear as a vapor barrier.
  • Don't allow yourself to even begin to get cold! If you shiver, that is a sign that your body is cooling down. If you feel cold, add more clothing and move around a bit. If that is not enough, get into your sleeping bag until you feel warm and can reemerge into camp life.
  • Eat a big, warm dinner with plenty of carbohydrates and fats.
  • After dinner, snack on fatty foods, such as peanuts. The process of digesting fatty foods increases body heat.
  • Exercise. When feeling cold, get up and stretch or go for a brisk walk. The exercise will increase body heat. When in your sleeping bag, do isometric exercises.
  • Drink warm fluids. Throughout the night, continue to drink warm fluids.
  • Designate a bottle (clearly marked!) that you can use to urinate into while in your tent. (Women can use a tent bottle long with a special funnel designed for their anatomy.) This bottle will save you from getting up at 2:00 a.m., getting dressed, and going out into the cold during the night.
  • In camp, sit on a pad to insulate you from the cold ground. Find a wind-sheltered spot or orient yourself so your head is downwind. Wear dry gloves and stocking caps to offset heat loss from your extremities.
  • Just before you turn in for the night, make an extra bottle of hot water, ensure that the bottle does not leak, and then put the bottle into your sleeping bag. (This will also provide you with warm water to start morning coffee.)
  • Share your tent or shelter with others to add body heat.


-- Adapted from Wilderness Basics, 4rd Edition by the San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club (The Mountaineers Books, $19.95, paperback).


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