Updated: Aug 19, 2019
Some of our friends give us quizzical looks when told we are taking our kids, age 4 and 7, camping in January and February. We like to camp in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains here in the southeast, and most of the country would consider these temperatures mild most winters. This year, the challenge has been avoiding the rain, not the cold. However, there are some tips we have acquired over the years for camping with young kids during the colder winter months.
Keeping kids warm is the goal of camping in cooler temperatures. The most important tip while camping with youngsters is to know the lower range of their sleeping bags. My son’s bag will reach 25 degrees and keep him comfortable, but my daughter’s bag is only comfortable to 30 degrees. This means, the closer the temperature gets to freezing, the greater the chance she will get cold during the night. The kids bags we have are synthetic and have a tie at the bottom that we can cinch right below their feet. This is a great feature for cold nights, the less room in the foot of the bag means less heat escaping into the part of the bag their feet can’t reach, which will keep them warmer. A kid size sleeping bag is not essential, an adult bag will work, just tie the bottom of the bag off close to the child’s feet to keep heat from escaping.
Heat loss does not just happen at the bottom of a sleeping bag. Clothing is also an important element to ensure a child’s warmth during the night. For camping in cooler temperatures, we dress both kids in synthetic fabric long johns right before bed. Changing clothes before bed ensures both kids have not gotten hot next to the fire, thus sweating and getting wet. Synthetic material also allows moisture to wick away from the skin so they stay warmer at night when the temperature drops. We also make our kids wear their fleece snow hats at night when the temperature dips below about 45 degrees since most heat is lost through your head.
The last piece of advice for camping in cool weather applies to any camping situation with kids, stay flexible. We try to prepare for any situation that could arise with extra clothing, bandaids and first aid equipment, and extra snacks but thinking outside the box comes in handy with kids, especially if boredom sets in. Kids like entertainment, but don’t overestimate how simple this can be. Rock throwing competitions, digging holes, and helping set up the tent were our kids favorite activities on the last camping trip.
Camping in cooler weather does have its challenges, but doesn’t necessarily need a complete change in gear from summer. With some minor changes in clothing and sleeping bags the gear from fall will transition nicely to winter. Don’t be afraid to take the kids out in the cold, bundle them up and if all else fails, have an exit strategy