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  • Jen Theisen

How To Keep Warm This Winter

If you live in an area where the temperatures get cold in the winter, you’ve probably heard the saying “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

If you’re a Minnesotan, you’ve probably also groaned or rolled your eyes a little when people say that to you in January. Never fear, in addition to previous posts about warm layering tips, here’s a handy list of things I’ve used to stay warm or comfy on the trail!

Here's 10 Tips to Keep You Toasty this Winter


Chemical hand warmers are great for keeping all sorts of things warm when it’s cold, including your phone battery. Use two if it’s really cold. My adventure buddy gave me this tip right before we hiked up Eagle Mountain in the BWCA in single digit temps and it totally saved my battery. For a more eco friendly version, and if you have access to a microwave before heading out on your winter activity: Make a small re-usable warmer out of a mismatch sock filled with rice or lentils. Tie a knot in the end, and viola! FYI- lentils may smell a little funny but really hold in the warmth!


Double up two quilts or sleeping bags to make one warmer one! I have used this formula to estimate combined temperature ratings. It has circulated on hammock and backpacking forums no one seems to know it’s origin, if you do…let me know. You should always use extra caution in VERY cold temps, but it helped me decide whether I had what I needed to stay warm a couple of years ago on a winter trip with the Scouts.

x -(70 – y)/2 = z

x = first bag (higher rated/lower degree)

y = second bag (lower rated/higher degree)

z = rating of doubled bags


Reflectix is a lightweight insulation material that can be used many different ways. Use a small piece to sit on, wrap around your water bottle for insulation, stick under your backside in a hammock to keep it warm, insulate food while rehydrating, windscreen, foot warmer, fan to get the fire going, etc. If you don’t want to buy a whole roll, you can use a metallic mailing envelope.


Fill a Nalgene bottle 2/3 of the way full with nearly boiling water and put it in a wool sock, hat or wrap in extra clothing. Make sure the lid is screwed on tight. Place between legs, armpits, feet or hug it like warm little baby until you drift off to sleep.


Store your mittens under your rear end when hammock camping to make them easy to find and keep your backside insulated. This literally saved my butt once.


Use a cheap mylar emergency blanket on the bottom of your tent, sleeping pad or hammock to reflect your body heat and keep the wind/draft out. It might sound like you are sleeping on a bag of potato chips, but it can help you stay warm in a pinch. These weigh very little, are multi purpose and should be in your 10 essentials.


Attach a ziptie, paracord, or keychain to zippers to make them easy to access with mittens. This may seem basic, but will prevent you from having to take your mittens on and off to access your pockets, etc.


Pull your backpack over your feet in your sleeping bag or quilt to add warmth to your feet and legs. If your pack is large enough, add your clean boots to the bottom to keep them from freezing.


If you wake up cold when nature calls, don’t hold it. Having a full bladder will make you colder than the quick visit outside….then do some sit ups in your sleeping bag to warm back up.


One of my favorite things about snowshoeing and winter camping is enjoying high calorie foods on the trail and right before bed. A Snickers bar, cup of hot cocoa (add butter to it!), or sausage and cheese before bed is like putting a log on your internal fire and will help keep you toasty!

With some skills, good layers, and a few pieces of well thought out gear, you can keep enjoying the outdoors all year round! Enjoy!

Happy Trails!

About the Author:

Jen is a Mom, Scout Leader, Women Who Hike Ambassador and self-proclaimed defender of joy. She just finished hiking the 310 mile Superior Hiking Trail and has hauled over 325 lbs of trash off of Minnesota’s trails this year. When she’s not outside, she’s wishing she was. Follow her adventure and read more of Jen’s blogs at @wandering.pine on IG and at


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