Deer Camp doesn’t require a lot of fancy accommodations, but if you want to avoid things like dying, it’s worth covering the basics. At the very least, you’d want a tent in good condition, and a zero-degree rated sleeping bag. Mummy bags are pretty good for keeping the grim reaper at bay. I know from personal experience.
My Personal Experience
In 2009, my dad and I shared his pop-up camper. There was no precipitation that week, thank goodness, but it was very cold. The heater was broken. There was a piece of a control board somewhere that wasn’t soldered on properly. My dad had found it, but this was deer season and nothing comes before the kill. We spent the first few nights in a camper that was warmed only by what little body heat happened to escape our sleeping bags.
Finally, the day before we left, he and I both had our deer and decided to get the heater fixed. We drove into town, and after stopping at several shops, found a place that didn’t just have the tools, they fixed it for us for only a few bucks! That night, I noticed my dad didn’t turn on the heat. He muttered something about not wanting to waste the propane before falling asleep. Funny, since I thought we’d been conserving fuel the whole week!
That night was the coldest. The next morning I woke up with a layer of glass-like ice on my pillow. Every breath I’d taken overnight had frozen to my pillow! My not-deadness is a testament to quality sleeping bags.
Past the Basics
After a sturdy tent and zero-degree sleeping bag, consider a couple of “luxuries” that will greatly improve the experience.
First, you really want an air mattress if you’ll be in a tent. Even if a mattress seems unmanly, you want something between yourself and the ground, or you’ll lose a lot of heat. Small ones are cheap and comfortable.
The next luxury is a space heater. Coleman makes one called the BlackCat that you can buy online for under $50 shipped. Its main benefits over other space heaters is that it uses propane (no electric outlet required) it’s geared toward smaller spaces, and is engineered to not burn you to death in your sleep.
Personally, I forego a lot of modern hygiene during deer season, and part of that is (spoiler alert) keeping the same underwear on for more than a day in a row. There, you can’t unknow that, so try not to think less of me this November. I generally only strip off the outer layer camo overnight, and leave all my long underwear and undershirts on while I sleep. You’ll thank me in the morning when you can get out of your sleeping bag without crying.
There’s nothing wrong with a good pop-up camper, and if you can get one, you can disregard a lot of my advice above. You’ll still want a zero-degree bag, no matter what. Heaters, if you even have them, can break. You’ll do just fine though, without an air mattress. But comfort is important, too. A good night’s sleep is key to good hunting, and if you’re like me, being over-pampered with pillow-top mattresses stuffed with between one and five gajillion support coils 11.5 months out of the year makes it hard to go 100% cold turkey.