Is Sleeping On The Ground Colder When Camping?

When camping in cold weather, and you’re trying to keep your gear to a minimum, sleeping on the ground is one choice that will help you minimize the amount of camping gear you need to bring. But will sleeping on the ground be colder when you’re camping?

Sleeping on the ground when camping can be colder than sleeping on a cot or on an air mattress. But with an insulated sleeping pad, and a sleeping bag rated for the temperatures you’ll be camping in, you can stay warm sleeping on the ground even in cold weather.

Sleeping on the ground doesn’t have to make you colder when camping. Here’s what you’ll need to stay warm if you choose to sleep on the ground instead of using an air mattress or a camping cot

Sleeping on the ground in cold weather doesnt have to make you cold

Use a Ground Cloth

Controlling moisture is the first step to staying warm.

To do that start by using a ground cloth, also known as a footprint, ground tarp, or groundsheet. 

If you don’t have a footprint made for your tent, then a tarp will work. Either cut the tarp to size before you leave home or make sure you fold the excess tarp under itself so that none of the tarp extends past the edges of the tent. 

A ground good ground cloth will reduce moisture under your tent which in turn will separate you from the moisture that could seep into your tent, making the cold feel even colder. 

There’s more you can do also, so check our guide on how to insulate yourself from the cold ground

Bring A Sleeping Pad

A sleeping pad will help keep you from losing too much heat and you’ll feel warmer. Keep your bedding dry and you will be warmer. 

A sleeping pad also makes laying on the ground a bit more comfortable by smoothing our small bumps but the main use for a sleeping pad is to keep the ground from sapping you of your body heat. 

The sleeping pad will help insulate your body very well from the cold ground. A quality sleeping pad will also store and reflect some of your body heat. 

One key to staying warm when camping is to stay dry

Bring A Blanket Or Two

Bringing extra blankets along is another way to insulate yourself from the ground. If you can bring them along they don’t take up as much room as a cot. 

You would think that piling more blankets on top would keep you warmer. But as the old saying goes “one blanket under you is worth two on top”. 

When sleeping on a cold surface you are fighting a losing battle to that cold surface if you don’t get some separation. The ground will keep taking your body heat and never give it back, making you colder by the minute. 

So put a blanket or two on top of your sleeping pad and under your sleeping bag to insulate you even more from the cold ground.

Keep Your Sleeping Clothes Dry

People often forget how important it is to sleep in dry clothes. You might be tempted to jump right into your sleeping bag without changing your clothes when it’s time for sleep. 

Don’t do it. Your clothing could be damp from just hanging out around the campfire. 

Wet clothing inside your sleeping bag will sap your body heat away. The cold, damp clothing will be colder than your skin and your body will lose precious heat as it tries to warm your wet clothing.

One tactic is to keep a set of clothing only for sleeping and keep them dry. You may not enjoy the idea of changing your clothes in the cold before climbing into your sleeping bag at night, but you will warm up quickly once in your bag.

I recommend thermal underwear for sleeping in cold weather. Get a set to bring camping that you will only use to sleep in. Then keep them dry.

One option is to keep them in a dry bag. Another option is to keep them in a heavy-duty zip-lock bag. Even stuffed into the center of your pack with your other dry clothes will do.

Don’t Breath Inside Your Bag

This tip also deals with keeping moisture out of your sleeping bag. If it’s really cold you might be tempted to cinch your sleeping bag up over your head to keep your head and face warm. 

But it’s best to keep your face open to the fresh air so that the moisture from your breath doesn’t build up inside your sleeping bag and make your clothing damp, thus making you colder. 

If it’s cold enough that you need to keep your face warm then wear a balaclava. A good mummy-style sleeping bag will let you snug the opening around your head keeping you warm, while still keeping your face open to fresh air. 

You might still feel cold on your face this way, so the balaclava pulled down over your face can help.

Invest in a good mummy style sleeping bag and youll be happy and warm for years to come

Use The Right Sleeping Bag

If you have one of those old rectangular sleeping bags it’s time to upgrade to a mummy bag. 

A mummy sleeping bag gives your upper body plenty of room while tapering down toward your legs and feet. 

The rectangular bag leaves a lot of needed space that your body has to try to keep warm. That’s a losing battle in cold weather. 

The mummy bag, as noted above also typically has a hood and drawstring to help keep your head warm, and control heat loss, while also giving your mouth and nose an opening through which to breath. 

Before you purchase a mummy bag, think carefully about the temperatures you’ll likely be camping in and purchase a quality bag that’s rated for those temperatures, or even slightly below.

Sleeping on the ground when camping doesn’t have to be colder than using an air mattress or a cot. Take your time and make a plan for your next camping adventure. 

Bring the right gear and use it properly and you can stay warm overnight while camping in cold weather. 

One note here is that when cold weather camping, or any kind of camping, you shouldn’t forget a first aid kit. Failing to prepare for minor injuries while having fun can ruin any trip. Check out our recommended first aid kit here.

Get comfortable, stay dry, stay warm, and wake up refreshed and energized for another day of camping fun.

  • Kevin

    About the Author

    Hi, I'm Kevin and I love getting outside. I want my articles to be as helpful as possible so that you can learn to enjoy getting outside more often yourself. So leave a comment if you have a question, find a typo, or think I missed something. I'd love to hear from you.

    You can learn more about me and find more of my articles here.

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