Tips for sleeping in the cold at Burning Man

person in parka cold

Can you sleep when you’re cold? I can’t. As one who froze most nights during my first two years at Burning Man (or maybe it was three), before figuring out how to prepare sufficiently for sleeping, I’ll clue you in on some things you may want to consider while you’re provisioning and preparing for your precious hours of sleep.

When I say I was cold my first two or three years, I wasn’t simply cold. I was miserable. Miserably cold. Miserably unprepared. Miserably under-rested the next day in an already challenging environment. And while you might be able to find blissful sleep in the cold, I have often found it difficult to sleep when all that I can think of is how cold I feel.

I should probably also add that I am a huge fan of being able to sleep in the clothes I wear out at night. When I come back to my tent, especially on a really cold night, I like to remove my shoes, coat and accessories then climb into my bed. Done. I also like to wake up and not freeze in the morning, so I like to sleep in warm clothes. As you can imagine, my packing list is designed for this type of comfort.

Put all your warm sleeping clothes in a bag by your bed

There have been times when I’ve been so cold at Burning Man that I didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag to dig through my suitcase, a mere few feet away, to get warmer clothes. My strategy now is that I keep a nylon bag by my bed and in it I stuff warm, sleeping-friendly layers, as well as mittens, warm socks, a wool hat and more.

When coming back to my tent at night, I know where my warm sleeping clothes are and if I need an extra layer while snuggled in my sleeping bag, I can easily reach in and get it.

When I wake up in the morning (or at least after the day has warmed up a bit), I put those items back in the bag (rather than into my suitcase) so that they are ready for the next cold night. A simple strategy. A simple solution: one that has been worth its weight in gold on cold nights.

Also, I can grab any of these warm items and stuff them in my sleeping bag if I’m really cold.

Bring a wool afghan or two (or three or four)

I bring several wool afghans, two of which I put on my tent’s floor for comfort, warmth, a layer of thickness and to trap the dust. The other two I keep available as blankets for when I sleep.

Other tips for sleeping in the cold include

  • Wearing a wool scarf or neck gaiter over your nose and mouth
  • Put a big warm cashmere scarf around your neck and head
  • Wear a cozy hat while sleeping
  • Wear alpaca mittens
  • Put as much soft wool on your body as you can — a nice merino skirt over your leggings (for men and women) provides more lower-body warmth
  • Bring hand warmers, a hot water bottle or Zippo handwarmers to bed

This dude slept in a van in 8 degree F temperatures and he is an advocate for wool! My kind of guy.

For some humor …

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