Do you think camping is only an adventure for warm summer weekends? Think again! Winter camping brings many surprising rewards — no bugs, no people, and if you have the right camping kit to keep you warm and dry, winter camping can prove to be a thoroughly exhilarating experience. Here are 10 winter camping tips to help you brave the cold and enjoy the outdoors when the thermometer plummets.
Choose the Right Tent
There are thousands of tents on the market today, and it may seem daunting to choose one that will keep you warm and dry in winter weather. Four-season tents are much more substantial than their three-season counterparts. They usually have less mesh, tougher poles, and waterproof floors. Your four-season tent should be a little bigger than your three-season tent, as you may need extra room to keep your gear out of the elements. While it may be tempting to find the most inexpensive tent suitable for your needs, that is rarely a good idea. Remember your tent is your home when camping, and it is also the last line of defense between you and the harsh winter elements. You may be able to score a three-season tent for under $200, but your four-season shelter will likely set you back $500 or more. Our favorite four-season tents are made from the North Face or Nemo. You can find a decent selection on REI.
Choose a Toasty Warm Sleeping Bag
If you will be sleeping in below-freezing temperatures, you need a sleeping bag that can handle those conditions. Sleeping bags are made with either down or synthetic insulation. Down sleeping bags are lighter, but synthetic bags are more water resistant. If you are backpacking long distances to camp, choose a down bag, but store it in a waterproof stuff sack. Synthetic bags are fine if you aren’t hauling it on your back for any length of time.
Sleeping bags come with a temperature rating. When choosing your bag, look for the lowest temperature that you will possibly encounter, and then go 10 degrees lower for good measure. Bags go down to -50 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you are a cold sleeper, take it into consideration when choosing your bag. As with the four-season tents, cold-weather sleeping bags will be significantly more expensive than warmer bags. Here is a selection of winter bags from REI.
Insulate Yourself from the Ground
Round out your perfect winter sleeping kit with an insulated sleeping pad. If you sleep directly on the ground or on a pad that offers little insulation, you will be robbed of warmth and very uncomfortable. The ability of your sleeping pad to resist the cold is measured in R-value. Technically, this is the measure of thermal resistance. The higher the R-value, the warmer you will be on your winter camping trip. For winter camping choose a sleeping pad with an R-value of at least 3.5 and up to 6.
Clothing for Winter Camping
Layer up with warm, thermal clothing before going to bed. A mid-weight base layer, followed by a layer of fleece is a great combination. You should also wear merino wool socks and a wool beanie to keep your head toasty. You can add a down puffy jacket if temperatures call for it, but don’t wear so many layers that you restrict your circulation.
Bring along insulated mittens, liner gloves, a neck gaiter, and insulated boots for outdoor activities, and be sure to bring your boots inside before going to bed. There’s nothing worse than slipping into frozen boots in the morning!
More Tips for Staying Warm While Camping in the Winter
- Drink a winter warmer before bed – Have a hot cup of tea or hot chocolate in the evening after dinner, or indulge in one of these awesome hot drinks for winter camping.
- Put a hot water bottle in your sleeping bag – After making your hot drink, fill a water bottle with hot water and immediately stick it inside your sleeping bag. Your feet will thank you.
- Vent your tent – While it may seem counterintuitive to ventilate your tent overnight, it will help keep the inside of your tent dry and reduce the build-up of condensation.
- Make sure your camp stove can handle the cold – Not all camp stoves are created equal. Camp stoves that run on liquid fuel (white gas) are best for cold-weather cooking.
- Pack down the snow under your tent – Loose snow tends to melt more quickly, so either dig out a spot in the snow for your tent, our pack it down before pitching.
- Use snow stakes – Regular tent stakes just don’t stay put in heavy or deep snow. Invest in snow stakes so you don’t have to deal with a collapsed tent in the night.
Ready to give winter camping a go? We’ve got a few more months before spring wildflowers and black flies appear.