Camping in 50-degree weather: How to be smart about it

by | Oct 1, 2022 | Weather

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If you’re planning on going camping in 50-degree weather (10°C), don’t expect to have the same camping experience as you would in warmer weather.

50°F is actually quite cold, which means you’ll need to take a few extra precautions to make sure you’re comfortable camping in these conditions.

Is 50 degrees too cold for camping?

No, 50-degree weather isn’t too cold to go camping.

Some people (like ourselves) go camping in extreme cold temperatures down to 10 degrees (-12°C)

But 50 degrees can definitely be too cold if you don’t have three-season gear or warm enough clothing.

Your gear and clothing dictate how cold camping will be for you.

If you don’t have the proper gear, camping in cold weather can range from mildly uncomfortable to dangerous.

Depending on the conditions (wind, rain, etc.), 50-degree weather can even be too cold for camping with proper gear and clothing.

Is 50 degrees too cold to sleep in a tent at night?

Again, no it isn’t.

As long as you have a good three-season or four-season tent plus a sleep system (sleeping bag, air mattress, etc.) that’s designed to be used in 50-degree weather, you’ll be fine camping in a tent at 50 degrees.

Why camping in 50-degree weather can be riskier than camping in freezing cold weather

Rain dripping off leaves on a tree in fall.

You might think that the colder the temperature, the more dangerous camping becomes.

But that’s not always the case.

Camping in 50-degree weather can actually be more dangerous than camping in freezing cold weather for a few reasons:

  1. It’s more likely to rain.
  2. You’re more likely to sweat.
  3. You may be more likely to struggle with or dismiss your body moisture level.


A hiker wearing a rain jacket in the rain.

At 50°F, you’re most likely camping in the shoulder seasons—spring or fall.

Sure, you can see these temperatures in some places in the summer, but they’re less likely.

You can also see these temperatures sometimes in the winter during mild spells.

Spring and fall tend to see more rain than other times of the year, which means you have a higher chance of getting wet.

This is not good, because being wet and cold is a recipe for hypothermia.


A close-up of sweat on a person's skin.

Because 50-degree weather isn’t terribly cold, you may find yourself sweating as you do certain activities—like hiking, setting up camp, and processing firewood.

This is especially true if you’re camping in the spring or fall and the temperature fluctuates throughout the day.

When you sweat, your clothing gets wet.

Once you stop working hard and your body starts to cool down, that wet clothing can make you very cold, very quickly.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to get hypothermia while camping in 50-degree weather because they’ve sweat and then cooled down too much.

Your body temperature can drop even if it’s warmer than 50°F (10°C) if you’re out in wet and windy weather.

If you’re in water that’s 60°F (15°C) to 70°F (21°C), you’re also at risk for hypothermia.

Hypothermia is a serious medical condition that occurs when your body temperature drops below 95°F (35°C).

Symptoms include shivering, confusion, slurred speech, and exhaustion.

If not treated, hypothermia can cause you to lose consciousness and potentially die.

Managing your body moisture level is key

A man taking off his outer layer of clothing while camping.

When you’re camping in 50-degree weather, you absolutely must stay aware of your body moisture level at all times.

Failure to do so could result in hypothermia.

Here’s what you need to do:

Dress in layers. This should include a base layer, an insulating mid layer, and a waterproof/windproof outer layer.

Make sure you avoid cotton and choose materials that insulate well even when wet—like wool and fleece—for your base and mid layers.

We recommend merino wool for your base layer.

Make sure your outer layer is waterproof and breathable. Water resistant won’t cut it.

Ideally, you want a rain jacket and rain pants with a waterproof rating of at least 10,000mm and breathability rating of at least 5,000g or m2.

Gore-tex is typically your best bet.

Check out the following chart for a summary of what waterproof and breathability ratings mean:

Waterproof Rating (mm)Water ResistanceWeather Conditions
0 – 5,000Water resistant onlyLight rain/drizzle
6,000 – 10,000Waterproof under light pressureLight to moderate rain
11,000 – 15,000Waterproof under medium pressureModerate rain
16,000 – 20,000Waterproof under high pressureHeavy rain
20,000+Waterproof under very high pressureThe heaviest of rains
Breathability Rating (g/m2)Level
0 – 5,000Low levels of physical activity
5,000 – 15,000Medium levels of physical activity
15,000High levels of sustained physical activity

Remove or add layers as needed. If you start to sweat, take a break and remove a layer of clothing.

If you start to feel cold, put on a layer of clothing.

Bring a change of clothing. You need at least one extra pair of base layer clothes and ideally mid layer clothes too in case they get wet.

Extra socks are a must too to keep your feet warm.

Make sure your footwear is waterproof. Hiking shoes/boots, rubber boots, or winter boots are a good choice.

You can bring a more casual pair of shoes for when it’s dry and you’re at camp.

Build a tarp shelter. You should ideally have at least one for when you’re just hanging out a camp, but adding another one over your tent is always a good idea to add an extra layer of rain protection.

The overall idea is to stay dry.

It doesn’t take much moisture for your body to cool down and become hypothermic.

If you start shivering, then you know you’re getting cold and you need to take action.

How do you stay warm camping at 50 degrees?

A man lying inside a tent and looking out at the mountains.

Staying dry is the first step, but it’s not the only one.

Here’s what else you can do to stay warm:

Dress in wool, fleece, and down. These materials insulate well and wick moisture away from your body.

We prefer merino wool for our base layers, wool for a mid-layer, and down for an outer layer (if it’s not raining).

Pick a campsite and tent spot that’s sheltered. If you’re camping in the mountains or on a lake, make sure you’re not camping on an exposed ridge or right on the water.

If you’re camping in the forest, try to find a spot that’s sheltered by trees.

Get the right tent. You need to know the difference between a three-season and four-season tent, plus all the different ways you can insulate your tent.

Make sure your sleeping bag is rated for sleeping in 50-degree weather. The best sleeping bag for 50-degree weather is a three-season bag with a comfort rating of at least 20°F (-5°C) just in case the temperatures dip lower at night.

Add an optional sleeping bag liner to boost warmth. If your sleeping bag is designed more for summertime temperatures, you can beef up the warmth factor by adding a sleeping bag liner, which is a thin, insulated piece of fabric that you slip inside your sleeping bag.

It can add an extra 10-15°F (5.5-8.3°C) of warmth to your bag.

Sleep on an insulated air mattress or sleeping pad. This is vital because the ground will steal your body heat quickly.

A camping mattress with an R-value of 3 or more is a good choice.

Optionally bring a portable propane-powered heater. These aren’t necessary, but they can be a nice luxury item to have.

Just make sure you use it safely and don’t leave it on all night.

Adjust accordingly to the temperature changes and weather conditions

A couple walking along their campsite on a sunny day.

The tricky thing about camping in 50-degree weather is that the temperatures and conditions can be all over the place.

If 50°F is the forecasted daytime high, then you can bet that there’s a good chance that the temperatures could fall into the 40s or even 30s (below freezing) at night.

On the other hand, if 50°F is the forecasted nighttime low, the temperature is probably going to be in the 60s or 70s during the day.

It might even feel warmer than that—especially if the sun is out.

Wind and overcast conditions, however, can make the air feel colder than it actually is.

So, even if the temperature is in the 50s, but it’s windy and cloudy, you’re going to want those extra layers to help cut the wind chill.

A “warm” 50-degree day might actually feel like it’s in the 60- to 70-degree range if it’s very sunny out with no wind.

A “cold” 50-degree day, however, might feel like it’s in the 30- to 40-degree range if there’s cloud cover and high winds.

This is just one more reason why dressing in layers is so important.

In addition to layering up or down based on your activity level, the weather conditions can also dictate whether you need to add or remove layers.

Camping in 50-degree weather can be an absolute pleasure

A tent and camp chair on a campsite at dusk in the mountains.

Spring and fall—the time of year where you’re likely to see temps in the 50s—are some of the best times to go camping.

Sure, it’s colder and you can’t exactly go swimming, but there are fewer crowds and doing any physical activity is much more comfortable when the air is cooler.

In the spring, you’ll get to see the earth come back to life.

Plants and animals are coming out of hibernation, flowers are blooming, and the leaves on the trees are starting to grow. It’s a beautiful time of year to be outdoors.

And in the fall, you’ll get to see the leaves change colour as they prepare for winter.

The landscape feels calm and quiet—except for maybe a few squirrels that are still busily preparing for the cold months ahead.

As long as you’re prepared for the cooler weather and dress accordingly, camping in 50-degree weather can be an enjoyable experience that’s totally safe.

You might even prefer it to camping in warmer weather.

Check out our cold weather camping checklist for all the gear and clothing items you’ll need.

It’s free to download!

So, get out there and enjoy nature!

It might be a little on the chilly side, but it’s totally worth it to experience all that camping has to offer in these cooler temperatures.

Next up: How to stay warm in a tent without electricity

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Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

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