In theory, there is no problem camping in 50-degree weather. After all, there are people who go winter camping when it is below the freezing point. That’s why summer camping is fine for amateurs but camping in the fall as the nights get chilly may be inadvisable unless you’re experienced and have the right equipment in tow.
So, is 50 degrees too cold for camping?
Camping at 50-degree temperatures can create problems if you aren’t prepared. If you’re taking a generic sleeping bag and tent, the answer is yes unless you bring extra insulation. This means you need an extra quilt or blanket if you’re not sleeping in a sleeping bag rated for below 50 degrees F.
If you are taking your family camping, take shelter of some form. You don’t want to risk the kids getting sick because they didn’t zip up their sleeping bags after going to the bathroom.
And it is dangerous for a toddler to be out all night in the woods at that temperature. They could die of hypothermia at those temperatures assuming they were just wearing their pajamas.
How Do You Prepare for 50 Degree Weather?
Let’s be honest. That roaring fire is warm when you’re sitting by it, but it won’t heat up the campsite enough to make things comfortable for you to sleep.
One solution is to wear extra layers of clothing to sleep in addition to sleeping inside a sleeping bag. Another option is having a double-layered sleeping bag.
You need just as many layers to sleep in a tent in 50-degree weather as you do if you were sleeping in an unheated house that was the same temperature.
A winter sleeping bag that is rated for 30 degrees and lower is fine, too, though this means you’ll have to be careful not to overheat. If you sweat too much in the sleeping bag, your body is not just dehydrated, but you could get cold.
Wear enough layers to be comfortable but not hot enough to sweat. This means you may need to add and remove layers during the night just as you do during the day. Take blankets you can add or remove as needed to remain warm enough.
Can You Sleep in 50 Degree Weather without Shelter?
Summer camping is perfect for sleeping in an open hammock. You could also sleep in a sleeping bag on the ground, exposed to the sky and open air. Protection in these temperatures tends to be from insects or rain. Once the temperatures drop, you need protection from the elements.
This is why you need at least a covered hammock to trap your body heat around your body, reducing the risk of hypothermia. You could sleep in a hammock inside of a tent.
You should sleep in a sleeping bag inside of your tent. This provides several layers of protection. First, the sleeping bag is on top of at least the tent and tent pad, preventing the cold ground from sucking up your body heat.
Second, the tent protects you from high winds and sleet that rip away from your body heat, as well, increasing the odds of hypothermia. Third, it prevents you from getting wet, something that renders your insulating blankets useless.
If you’re sleeping in a tent at 50 degrees, you don’t have to have a hat on or a sleeping bag with a hood to prevent heat loss through the head. However, that would make things more comfortable. It also protects you should temperatures drop to the freezing point.
Why Is 50 Degree Weather Harmful?
Young children and adults with trouble regulating their body temperature like the elderly can die from hypothermia when temperatures hit 50 degrees.
That is why they need protection from the elements. When a healthy adult is exposed to 50-degree weather, the body is stressed as it tries to remain warm. Wrapping up in a blanket and sleeping in a sheltered location can help conserve body heat. However, if you don’t have enough insulation, you’ll suffer.
You’ll wake up because you’re shivering so hard or when your body tries to force you awake in an effort to find a way to get warm. You won’t sleep well, and that makes it impossible to function well during the day.
At a minimum, have blankets in addition to your average sleeping bag and get up of the ground. This could take the form of an air mattress, mattress pads or cot.
Should You Be Prepared for Colder Weather at Any Time?
The answer is yes. For example, camping in the desert year-round requires bringing gear for cooler temperatures. It may be 100 degrees F in the day, but at night, it could hit 50 degrees even in August.
In the mountains, it can get 80 to 90 degrees F during the day, but temperatures at night could hit 40 degrees F. This means you’re at risk of hypothermia in the mountains year-round.
Note that camping in the spring or fall in the mountains requires winter gear, since it could easily drop to below freezing in April or September no matter the summer-like temperatures during the day.
Do You Have to Take Extra Precautions to Keep Warm if You Take a Heater?
Some people think that camping with a propane heater or staying in an RV with electric heat eliminates the need to take blankets and cold-rated sleeping bags. This is a mistake.
First, you might forget to load up on full propane tanks before you leave to go camping. Second, you might use up your propane fuel cooking or the gasoline you used for the generator to run the electrical appliances like the heater in the RV. Third, the RV may get stranded somewhere.
Now you’re at a campsite or stuck on the side of the road longer than you planned. The RV does provide shelter, but it doesn’t have the means to keep you warm. Then you’re only left with your body heat.
Without extra blankets or heavy-duty sleeping bags to trap that body heat, you could suffer hypothermia in an RV when the temperatures dip below 50 degrees. And the same is true if you have a tent and a heater since the heater could short out or you ran out of fuel for it.