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10 Tips for Toasty Toes and Cosy Cribs: Winter Camping in Australia

2 Jun 2022

Australians are a tough bunch, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get cold.

Stay warm winter camping australia location winter warm banner

Rain, hail or shine, Aussies love a winter camping trip. Life-long memories are made overcoming the colder months, and having an amazing time in the great outdoors.

However, because of our reputation for warm weather and long sandy beaches, it’s easy to forget that temperatures can fall quickly in Australia.

Use this list of ways to get warm, be warm and stay warm before you leave on your next winter outdoor adventure.

1. Choose your campsite location wisely

Stay warm winter camping australia location

If you park yourself in the middle of a wind-swept field with zero protection in any direction, it makes sense that you’re going to lose heat quickly.

Inexperienced campers will make this mistake at their peril, leaving themselves exposed to downpours, wind and limited insulation from the coldest conditions.

Once you arrive at your campsite, consider where to best place your tent. If possible stay close to some dense vegetation or trees that can provide some shelter, avoid being in valleys or depressions that trap the cooler air (not to mention the rain) and in the cooler months, stay away from large lakes and rivers that might also keep the chill close, rather than push it away.

2. Make sure your tent is waterproofStay warm winter camping australia location winter warm

This is obvious, but once you’re out there camping, it's a little too late to wonder if your tent is rain-proof!

Will it repel or absorb the moisture all around you?

Be sure to put all of your equipment to the test before you set out on your next camping adventure, because a case of pneumonia is well worth avoiding.

Tarpaulins are extremely handy to have as they can cover the ground and act as windbreaks, so keep a couple of these handy in your car boot.

3. Pimp your sleeping bag

Stay warm winter camping australia

Having a quality sleeping bag is a no-brainer when camping. That flimsy piece of scratchy nylon you used for primary school sleepovers isn’t going to cut it - especially if you’ve developed a love for the mountains.

Most good brands of sleeping bag available from any reputable camping store now come with a temperature rating that tells you how warm it will be inside. For cold weather camping, a down-filled sleeping bag is ideal, but synthetic alternatives will keep you just as warm, even if they won’t be as compact when rolled up.

A sleeping bag with its own drawstring ‘hoodie’ is a good idea to reduce body heat leakage and a thermal sleeping bag liner will take that retention to the next level.

Pro-Tip: In addition to the liner, it’s a good idea to cram your sleeping bag full of the clothes you’re planning on wearing the next day. As well as adding a bit of extra warmth overnight, it means you’ll have warm, dry clothes to put on the next morning!

4. Keep off the floorStay warm winter camping australia mat

The ground is cold! Stay above it on a rubber mat or some kind of bedding that separates yourself from the earth, which will steal your body heat at will.

Your sleeping bag’s warmth rating is useless if it’s the only thing separating you from the ground.

In extra cold conditions it pays to double-up, and a mat beneath an inflatable mattress should have you snug and warm at night - especially when you’ve been around a blazing fire.

For those camping with their partner, you’ll also stay warmer if you share body heat, so don’t be shy about tying your mats together, unzipping your sleeping bags and using them like quilts!

5. Layer upStay warm winter camping australia layers warm

This is what the Danish called ‘hygge’ - getting cosy in multiple layers of warm clothing!

When it gets cold, dressing in single heavy layers won’t serve you. As soon as the temperature starts to drop in the late afternoon, you’ll want to start adding some extra ‘thin’ layers before you start losing too much body heat.

3 or 4 layers is generally considered optimal, from base, mid-layers and a shell. Be careful not to overdo it because if your sweat cools overnight while you’re still wearing all these layers, the situation can quickly become unbearable.

6. Go to the toilet and change your clothes before bedStay warm winter camping australia camp fire family

Without trying to sound like your Mother, it’s important to avoid getting caught out needing to ‘go’ when it’s 3am and freezing outside.

Holding on might sound like an option, but we all know that getting back to sleep in this scenario is less than ideal. If you have to go, we suggest keeping a pair of ‘slip ons’ close by to avoid trudging the wet and mud back into your tent once the deed is done.

The other thing well worth doing is removing any items of clothing you’ve been sweating in throughout the day. In cold enough weather, sweat will freeze on your clothes, which is the last thing you need.

7. Go to bed warm - get around a fire

Stay warm winter camping australia billy tea

If you're camping in a place where bonfires are allowed, utilise this source of warmth to heat your bones, cook up a hearty feed and boil some soothing tea.

One of the things you absolutely must know when going camping in winter is to never go to bed cold. Going to bed cold is dangerous, and you put yourself at risk of getting seriously sick.

If you do feel cold before turning in for the night, do a quick exercise routine before getting into your sleeping bag. A few jumping jacks or similar will quickly get your body warm and your blood flowing.

Fire is one of the best ways to keep warm when winter camping in Australia. But matches and lighters – the most commonly-used fire starters - are prone to getting damp.

Consider buying a striker (a portable flint, available in most good hiking and camping shops) to help start your fire – it works in the wet and cold, and you’ll feel like a real-life Bear Grylls when your using it.

8. Eat Comfort FoodStay warm winter camping australia potato hot

Sticking to simple eating habits when winter camping will significantly improve your body’s heat efficiency. 

Another great tip for staying warm is to snack constantly. Eating will help keep your digestive system working around the clock.

Also, remember that camping in the cold is not the time to start skimping on high-sugar, high calorie foods.

9. Play Indoors
Stay warm winter camping australia indoor pool

Apart from stocking up on fun board games you can play anywhere, your favourite reads to enjoy with your favourite beverage, or taking the family to all manner of indoor entertainment, Discovery Parks has loads of opportunities to have fun indoors, no matter what the weather's doing!

10. Use a Hot Water Bottle (or make your own)

Stay warm winter camping australia hot water bottle

If you’ve got a heavy-duty plastic bottle, you can fill it full of boiling water (from the fire you have cranking), pour it into the bottle and chuck it in your sleeping bag. Bingo: your very own extremely uncomfortable hot water bottle!

For a little camping ‘luxury’, pack a kettle and gas burner so you can pop a hot water bottle in your sleeping bag. Especially good for cold feet, hands, or a good old fashioned spoon.


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