It is never fun trying to get to sleep on a cold camping trip. It’s probably even worse when you wake up and everything is damp and cold!
What’s the best way to keep warm on those cold camping trips…Well the easy answer is “have a big fire”. But as I described in my previous article – Tent’s Not Always The Warmest Shelter Option, having a big fire is not always useful. Have your tent too close and fire flies from the fire may burn holes in your tent. Have your tent too far, and you’re completely relying on your sleeping bag and pad to retain your body warmth.
However, there are MANY OTHER OPTIONS where you can still use your tent and keep warm using hot coals and hot rocks!
First, let’s look at “hot rocks”, what they are, and how they can be positioned to keep you warm.
Hot rocks are made simply by putting rocks around your fire. As rocks have a heavy mass, they retain thermal energy for hours after you remove them from the fire. Caution! Do not use water submerged rocks from creeks or rivers! The reason you do not use rocks from the water is that the heat causes steam within the rock and they can explode. Now with that disclaimer over with, how close do you put them to the fire? It really depends on how you are going to use them. Have them blazing hot, and there’s one type of use, have them luke warm and there’s a different use. I’ll describe these below and you be the judge in the field of how close you want them.
Moderately warm “hot” rock placement – Take your hot rock and wrap it in several layers of clothing or similar cloth. You can then place it at the bottom of your sleeping bag. You can also use a warmed water container like a Nalgene and accomplish the same goal of warming your feet an sleeping bag.
Be careful as too hot of a rock can scold you or burn through your synthetic sleeping bag if a part of the rock slips out of the cloth protector.
Hot Rock “Sauna” Placement – These rocks can be substantially hotter than the prior option, and placed open inside of your tent. Wrapping them in cloth “may” work, but I would advise you make a little wooden platform to set your rocks on top of so they don’t burn or warp your tarps/tents. You’ve just made yourself a nice little camping sauna!
Hot Coal Bed!
No, we are not talking about power of mind and sleeping on bare coals. Rather, stoke up a big hot fire to make a lot of coals. Let it burn down to coals and transfer some of the coals to a new fire pit and start another fire. From the original fire, bury all the coals in 6-8 inches of dirt. You can optionally dig out the 6-8 inches in the form of a hole and transfer the coals into it. When covering with dirt, make sure it does not consist of a lot of dry dead plant material as it could smolder or catch fire.
You can either sleep directly on top of the buried coals, or pitch your tent directly over top of it. Trust me, you’ll be warm!
Using any of these techniques, you will surely be warmer than you ever have been sleeping outside.