If you are a fall or winter camper, the spot where you pitch your tent can make a difference in staying a bit warmer at night, as much as 20°. It’s nice to camp at a pretty spot, but warmth should trump aesthetics when the sun goes down.
Watch the weather. Keep an eye toward the sky as evening approaches. Clear skies and no wind allow for intense radiational cooling – heat is drawn into space from any upwardly exposed surface. FIX: Camp under trees or rig a tarp above your tent.
Stay high. Avoid low-lying areas such as canyon bottoms, rivers, and meadows where heavy, colder air tends to settle and flow. FIX: Get high. Temperatures can be as much as 20° warmer just a couple of hundred feet above the nighttime inversion layer. Cold air flows off the high country down canyons just like a river.
Avoid the wind. Look to the trees for signs of frequent, hard winds. Foliage concentrated on one side, bent branches, and blow-downs all facing one direction can indicate a persistent windy spot. Stay off of ridgelines and summits, traditionally windy places. Avoid passes, valley entrances, and constricted landforms where winds tend to accelerate. FIX: Pitch your tent behind heavier stands of trees or brush. Naturally occurring rock walls or large boulders can disrupt the flow of wind.
Plan for morning. Nothing can be worse than packing up in a cold, shady spot. FIX: When deciding on a place to pitch, pull out that compass and find a nice southeast exposure so that the sun warms you up first thing in the morning.
Do you have any tips for picking a warm campsite? Please share them in the comments below. Thanks!