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Last Updated On August 29, 2020

The Camping Cold Feet Chills Can Be A Serious Threat

One of the biggest challenges of outback trips during the cold winter months is keeping your feet warm.

If your feet are cold, you’re experiencing the great outdoors that may lead to misery, and prolonged exposure to the cold may also lead to frostbite.

So I get asked all the time when people go to bed in a sleeping bag, they say their feet get cold.

In this article, we’re going to look at a few known and no so known tips that will help you keep your feet warm in the frigid winter months.

Tip 1. Hot bottle cocoon

This first method is simple: to make a hot water bottle inside your sleeping bag. You can warm your sleeping bag ahead of time before you get in it in cold weather.

And when you crawl in there, it’s already warmed up. And that water bottle is going to help keep your feet warm a good majority of the night.

Warm-up your water

The first step in doing this is to warm up your water itself by boiling pond or creek water over a campfire. This doubles up as a great way to get drinking water by purifying the water inside the hot water bottle that will be cool to the touch the next day and drinkable.

You can either heat the water in a pot or camp billy or use a fireproof metal bottle, but you may need to clean the bottle should you use this option.

Sealing your bottle but not too soon

After boiling the water and containing it in a hot water bottle, what you want to avoid is sealing the bottle with a cap straight away, especially if the water is still steaming.

The plastic caps can and will melt, and even metal lids have a rubber gasket that can quickly erode if sealed under extreme heat and pressure.

Just make sure to set the water bottle aside for approximately 10-15 mins or enough so you can handle the bottle before sealing it up.

Placement inside your sleeping bag for maximum heat

Hot water bottle for camping will help warm tent
Cold feet was a common complaint among recreational campers and finding a solution on how to keep your feet warm

A quick tip I like to abide by is putting it in a sock rather than sticking that dirty bottle inside your sleeping bag.

Just make sure to use a used sock or cloth as the bottle will be covered in soot and ash from the campfire heating process.

Placing the bottle inside your sleeping bag

Now, the fun part is that you can take the hot bottle and drop it into the sleeping bag all the way down to the foot box.

You can roll the bottle up within the sleeping bag to preheat the bottom third approximately 15 or 20 minutes before you go to sleep. So when you crawl in at night, it’s a beautiful, warm spot for your cold feet to lay against. And the bag itself is going to cycle body heat and keep your feet warm.

Stanley Classic Vacuum Bottle

Feels like a bottle of stinking hot summer

Tip 2. Hiking and trail boots to cover cold feet

This second tip to keeping your feet warm applies to hike and basecamp boots, but when it comes to evaluating boot warmth, you should bear in mind that the thicker the insulation, the warmer the boot. It’s pretty straightforward.

Boot insulation

Insulated hiking boots should fit comfortably
Insulated boots will change cold feet to warm feet all trip round

Thinsulate is probably the most common insulation and proven effective.

Primaloft insulation is also a great alternative because of its lightweight, but less durable.

Wool is another excellent type of insulation. It keeps you warm even when it gets wet down.

Down insulation is excellent at keeping your feet warm, but it has to loft the trap to in body heat and be effective. Unfortunately, down does not bode well as a boot insulation but excels for other apparel types.

Boot insulation tips

SOREL – Men’s Conquest Waterproof Insulated Winter Boot

Rugged, insulated. Nothing better.

Most insulated boots will come with care instructions and manufacturing temperature ratings, except for specific models in the same company as a guideline.

These temperature ratings are almost always overly optimistic, so it’s best to take them with a grain of salt.

The first big mistake to why feet get cold in boots is that people often make is buying a boot that’s too tight or snug on their feet, when you’re in the boot, whether hiking or around camp.

You want to make sure that your heel is not exaggerated and moving around, but you also want to make sure your foot is not too tight and restricted.

Having a boot that’s too tight can restrict blood flow and cause numbness and at subzero temperatures, even frostbite.

Finding the right boot size for warmth

Warming cold camping feet with campfire
Use your sleeping bags at night to your advantage by trapping in body heat

Virtually the perfect fit for a boot should enable you to move your toes easily inside the shot, and around the top arch of your foot, you shouldn’t feel tightness.

I see the most common reasons people get ill-fitting insulated boots are because they go to a outdoor superstore where they only have the most popular brands and a sometimes limited line of insulation boots.

Shop around

I suggest that you go to a specialty store, try the different booths from different manufacturers.

Another reason why many campers end up with a loose or tight-fitting boot is trying out the shoes but with socks that do not simulate what the user will be wearing when out in the field.

Always bring the thickest pair of socks that you would wear in the wintertime.

Tip 3. Cold surface barriers

The third tip I to keep you feet warm and for those in the field is that when you’re standing for an extended period or even sitting with your feet on that cold ground, you want to put something between your boot and the frozen earth.

A frozen tale

I now know a cold-weather camp instructor who told me a police officer’s story that came to him and said while working security at a popular venue on the weekend. His shift was four hours a night during the cold weather temperature, his feet were freezing, a day wouldn’t pass when his feet didn’t get cold and he was afraid of frostbite.

He said that his boots were loose-fitting, and they’re rated for cold weather temperature. But the problem for the officer was that the cold was coming up from the bottom of his feet from standing on cold concrete.

Have something between the ground and your boots

The right camping boots will retain heat
Wool socks will act as a barrier to retain body temperature and keep your feet warm

A solution to this problem is to put a barrier between the cold concrete and your boot. If you are in camp and seated or standing for some time, what you want to get is a foam mat or cut a section that is just the right dimensions for your feet to stand on.

The ideal material is closed-cell foam, which is more supple and easy for packing.

AmazonBasics Premium Anti-Fatigue Standing Comfort Mat

A barrier between you and the cold earth, and a back saver too.

Frequently asked questions

  • What can I do about wet socks
  • If your socks get wet, you can hang them to dry in the external tent area. Some hikers will use a tent heater to dry their damp socks but mind the smell
  • What is the ideal body temperature when trying get my feet to stay warm
  • According to a published medical article a healthy foot temperature is 39 degrees Celsius, with a bearable foot temperature reaching 15 degrees
  • I experience cold air and heat loss in my sleeping bags especially in the middle of the night. What can I do to keep warm feet?
  • To keep feet warm at night use an internal camping tent heater and thick merino wool socks and of course the hot water bottles method. This triple threat should be enough to keep feet comfy.
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