It’s truly amazing how the rest of your body can feel warm while your feet are freezing cold icicles. This is an issue that many people deal with when they sleep but warming up your feet at home is a little easier than doing so in your sleeping bag.

While sleeping in your tent with the cold air surrounding your body, it’s certainly not uncommon for your feet to start to get very cold even if you’re snuggled up in a sleeping bag. Of course, depending on the weather, your entire body might end up getting cold.

For this post, however, we want to focus on how to keep feet warm in sleeping bag (though most of the methods will also subsequently warm your entire body up). Truly, there are a number of different tactics that you can employ.

Whether you need to upgrade the insulation of your sleeping pad or sleeping bag, wear warm wool socks when you sleep, or even perform the infamous “hack” of using a hot water bottle, you have tons of options at your disposal.

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The obvious and probably also the best way to keep your feet warm in any sleeping bag is by wearing warm wool socks (way #3 below).

Why does your feet get cold in a sleeping bag?

Instead of answering this ourselves, we figured we’d give Harvard Health Publishing the honor. According to the medical school:

Many people frequently have cold feet, as well as cold hands. Some research suggests it may be an inherited trait. When the body’s core temperature drops, the small blood vessels in our hands and feet constrict. This shunts blood away from our extremities to be keep our internal organs warm. People who have less body fat (and therefore less insulation) may be more likely to be bothered by it.– Harvard Health Publishing

What this tells us is the fact that it seems to be a common problem. In other words, you’re certainly not alone.

How to keep feet warm in sleeping bag?

Photo by Felix M. Dorn / Unsplash

Yes, it’s now time to get into the meat and potatoes. We’ll be covering 7 ways to keep your feet warmer when you’re in your bag:

  1. Use a hot water bottle
  2. Invest in a high-quality sleeping pad
  3. Wear socks while you sleep (duuh..)
  4. Buy the right sleeping bag
  5. Invest in a bag liner
  6. Spread clothing under or over your feet
  7. Exercise and eat before you go to bed

We’re not going to waste another second rambling. Let’s do this.

1. Use a hot water bottle

This trick, or technique or whatever you want to call it, is really a great one. All you need is a source to boil some water. Thankfully, we’ve already detailed in a different post many creative ways that you can boil water while camping.

Anyway, right before you hit the sack, boil some water and transfer the water to a bottle that you know isn’t going to leak. From there, all you need to do is tuck the bottle into the bottom of your sleeping bag. The additional warmth should do wonders for your feet.

2. Invest in a high-quality sleeping pad

As important as your sleeping bag for keeping you warm is the sleeping pad you buy. The pad should be doing more than just providing you with cushioning. It should also be insulating your body warmth. Important to remember, though, is to ensure the pad is long enough so your feet don’t hang off the edge.

Now, as you would expect, sleeping pads have differing levels of insulation performance. You’ll see pads will have an R-value, and this is, more or less, how you gauge their warmth. Typically, R-values will range from around one to seven. The higher the R-value is, the greater the pad will be able to insulate you from the ground.

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Sleeping pads are expensive, so to keep them working properly for many years to come, you want to make sure you store your sleeping pad optimally.

3. Wear socks while you sleep (duuh..)

This is probably the most obvious answer to the question of how to keep feet warm in sleeping bag. Providing direct heat and insulation to your feet, via socks, is always going to be the best way to go.

If you want to go this route, we recommend going for a pair of wool socks and make sure that they’re fully dry. To ensure this, it’s a good idea to store a separate pair of socks on your trip solely for sleeping. Of course, you could also wear a pair of booties that have a removable outer shell.

In all fairness, some people simply can’t sleep with anything physically on their feet. Not an issue as, as you can see, there are plenty of other methods on here.

4. Buy the right sleeping bag

It’s ironic because we’re here talking about how to keep feet warm in sleeping bag but not all sleeping bags are made the same. Specifically, when talking about their warmth and insulation, certain bags will be rated to handle lower temperatures.

Why this is important is because your feet may be getting so cold because the sleeping bag you have may not be rated to handle the temperature that it needs to. Another thing to note is that if you want the warmest type of bag possible, going with a mummy-style is recommended.

That shape of sleeping bag is going to eliminate any extra space that could allow cold air to get in. However, the main thing is to buy a bag that can handle the lower temperatures that you possibly will experience. You can even buy a bag that’s rated to handle lower temperatures you’ll experience, as you can always ventilate if you get too warm.

5. Invest in a bag liner

If you still need your sleeping bag to be warmer or really don’t feel like buying another one that’s rated to handle colder climates, you can also invest in a bag liner. In addition to warming your entire body up, one can also do wonders for your feet.

Bag liners are simply lightweight materials that can be used to line your sleeping bag for additional warmth. They can also help to prolong the life of your bag by protecting it from abrasions and general wear and tear too, so that’s also a plus.

6. Spread clothing under or over your feet

This isn’t the most formal way of how to keep feet warm in sleeping bag, but it can get the job done. Take some of your clothing and spread it either under or over your feet (or both) for additional warmth.

If you already have a well-insulated sleeping pad, you can just stick with piling clothes on top of your feet (and sleeping bag). Perhaps your winter coat or even your jeans could be used in this scenario.

7. Exercise and eat before you go to sleep

Yeah, we know. Camping and backpacking are all about having fun, so why would you ever even think about working out? Well, some people do think working out is fun, for the record. Anyway, if you exercise before you go to sleep and allow your muscles to generate lots of heat, your body temperature will increase, as a result.

You don’t have to do anything too crazy with this. Just do enough to get your body temperature warmer and then hit the sack with a little more heat.

We all know it’s bad for us to eat right before we go to bed, but after a meal, there’s usually a slight increase in your body temperature. Without question, we’d recommend the above methods over eating in a heartbeat. As a last resort, though, this isn’t too terrible.

Some additional ideas

Green tent on a snow covered mountain
Photo by Sam Marx / Unsplash

There are two posts that we’ve already published that we’d like to make mention of. Both of which can relate to how to keep feet warm in sleeping bag.

After all, a battery-powered tent heater and several other ways to heat your tent without electricity can subsequently heat up your feet too.

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If you do choose to buy a heater for your tent, it’s best to not run it all night long as that’s somewhat of a safety hazard.

Final thoughts

If you leave with just one thought after reading this post, leave with this. There are plenty of solutions for keeping your feet warm in your sleeping bag. From a simple fix of wearing some wool socks to sleep to investing in higher quality sleeping items, there’s an abundance of ways to go about it.

Heck, even the hot water bottle trick is an excellent method. Don’t be afraid to combine a lot of the above methods too, in the case that you really have an issue with cold feet at night. It’s not enjoyable to sleep with cold feet no matter where you are, but definitely not while in a sleeping bag.