Losing a night’s sleep can ruin anyone’s kayak trip. Making the right choice of sleeping bag and mat for the climate is something you need to do before you leave on your trip so let’s assume you find yourself cold at night and it’s too late to buy a new bag or mat.

Choose the right ground

Hard or dense ground will suck body heat away more efficiently than soft, fluffy ground. Look for leafy or grassy areas. You want that insulating air which fluffy material has. If only rocky or muddy ground is available, gather leaves, grass or branches and pile it up underneath your tent. The soft layer will insulate against losing heat through conduction and will create a soft and comfortable layer for you to sleep on.

Choosing the soft grass will insulate more compared with the flat rock.

Hot water bottle trick

Fill a water bottle with hot water. Make sure you use the right type of plastic bottle. Some bottles can take boiling water, others can’t and will deform. Place the hot water bottle inside a dry bag to avoid catastrophic leakage inside your sleeping bag! Place it at your feet so that it’s out of your way inside the bag. This is my go-to trick if a client or friend wakes me up at night cold and miserable.

Wear wool at night

Wear a layer of wool on your upper and lower body. Wear thick wool socks. Even double up on your socks. Gloves, beanie and a neck scarf will also improve your heat retention. Pulling the neck scarf over your face and letting just your nose be exposed to the cold air will also keep you warmer. It’s your hands and feet which get cold the fastest so add those extra woollen layers before you go to sleep.

Put an emergency blanket under your sleeping mat

The reflective surface of these emergency blankets will reflect your body heat and reduce heat loss through conduction. Most emergency blankets are waterproof and do not breathe, so you can’t place it over yourself. Condensation from your body will be trapped by the emergency blanket, making your sleeping bag damp and moist. A sure show stopper as you will wake up cold and damp.

Eat a meal before going to bed

After eating, more blood flows to your digestive tract. Your heart rate and metabolic rate goes up, as does your body temperature. Additionally, you tend to feel a bit tired while your body is digesting your meal. Alcohol has the opposite effect as it lowers body temperature and can cause night sweats. Eating a meal before creeping into your sleeping bag will improve your chances of a good night’s sleep.

Eat an evening meal to increase body temperature. Avoid alcohol.