When snow falls and temperatures drop; campsites get less crowded. Naturally, the fear of being cold prevents even the most avid campers to set up their tents in the freezing weather.
But there is no reason why you should cancel your camping adventure only because it’s too cold outside. When you invest in the right gear that keeps you comfortable and warm, you can have a great time camping outdoors even during the winter season.
In addition to having all the essential winter camping gear, you must bring all accessories that you would need throughout your camping adventure to withstand cold temperatures.
Another important aspect of winter camping is to decide whether you are planning a trailer or a tent camping adventure. Both types of camping work with different checklists. Trailers are highly recommended to camp in winter since you may not be able to use a propane or gas heater in the tent during the cold season.
If you are planning as a couple, you may not require a lot of gear to fuel your camping pursuits. However, when you are heading out with a large group of people, make sure you have packed all the basic equipment to enjoy an exciting winter camping experience
Here is our checklist for a memorable winter camping trip.
Build a Campfire and set up the Tent
Building a campfire can boost morale, keep everyone warm, and offer a great place to cook. This is also a perfect place to boil the water for drinking, dispose of any trash, and a great gathering spot.
Preparing the tent. Ensure that the snow is evenly packed down before pitching the tent. This will allow for better sleeping and more even ground. Always, vent the tent as this will help with concentration issues. And, sleep with your boot liners. If you don’t have boot liners, then put the boots into a waterproof bag and sleep with them that way. This will allow them to stay warm and any condensation will not freeze up. And, sleep with your devices as well, this will help prevent them from freezing which can cause damage. And, a bottle of thawed water isn’t a bad idea either, just ensure it’s not in a place if you were to roll on it, it would spill everywhere.
Ultra-warm Sleeping Bag
There is no camping without a sleeping bag, especially in winter. When you want to curl up and close your eyes after a long hike, a warm sleeping bag welcomes you with the warmth and comfort you seek.
Invest in a good sleeping bag that will keep you toasted and soothe your tired muscles. Choose a sleeping bag that gives you a temperature rating below than what you are likely to experience on a campsite. This is because the assigned ratings are usually approximations.
Buy a sleeping bag that is large enough to suit your built. Make sure your sleeping bag has enough space to let you layer up in freezing cold conditions.
You will also have to choose between a natural down and synthetic fill. Consider the climate of your campsite before buying a model. Synthetics are recommended in went environments whereas natural down is more appropriate for dry winter.
Never settle for cheap or mediocre sleeping bags that fail to provide the comfort you are looking for to keep you warm on a cold camping night.
A four-season tent is another indispensable item that you must include in your winter camping checklist. Purchase a robust model that offers the maximum protection against the forceful winter winds. A good winter camping tent has solid walls to keep you insulated and provides a covered place. It also serves as a valuable shelter to keep all your gear safe and accessible.
Since you will need some extra room to stack accommodate winter accessories; invest in a product that offers maximum capacity. This will help you to stores all your supplies and additional clothing items without carrying too many bags. Go for a 70 or 80 plus liter bag to let you enjoy multiple camping nights in the cold.
Telescoping or Folding Shovel
First-time campers can easily forget this handy tool, which serves a great deal for scooping out snow. You can also use it for gathering snow for melting water and to create a snow shelter in case of an emergency.
Your winter camping venture can never go wrong when you have the right clothing gear to keep yourself warm and safe. The only thing to remember about camping in winter is layering.
Go for moisture-wicking and long-sleeved base-layer, a fleece mid-layer, and an outer shell, which can also be a puffy jacket. You must also include other winter accessories such as a wool hat, gloves, or mittens. Carry an extra pair if you lose any of these accessories along the trip.
It is also recommended that you go for wool or synthetic socks to manage moisture throughout your camping trip. Most campers opt for wearing two pairs of socks. You can wear a liner-style to wick the moisture and then layer it up with a thick wool pair for adding some comfortable cushioning.
Moreover, also include waterproof boots in your checklist, particularly with removable liners. Campers can also choose plastic boots if they are fond of skiing. Opt for gaiters to add extra warmth to your footwear. Campers like to sleep wearing wool socks that keep their toes warm in a sleeping bag. This also relieves tired and achy feet after a tiring day of trekking.
Carry extra jackets, socks, base layers, and hats to keep you and family protected. Always check for weather updates before planning a winter camping trip so you have no chances of being caught in unexpected weather conditions.
Snowshoes or Skis
It is not uncommon for winter campers to rely on skis or snowshoes to move around. These are efficient for staggering through the drifts and also serve as deadmen-style weights to anchor your tent.
If you are camping in the winter with the snow, there is a big chance that you are going to need snowshoes, backcountry skis, or some other form to walk through the snow. The waterproof hiking boots can only do so much. Getting a good boot is key to keep you warm, so be sure to the research needed to find a good boot for the chosen gear.
And, you can decide the backpack or sled. If you are headed out for a couple of days, the packs can get quite large to ensure warmth and safety. Sometimes, it’s better to have a sled can make travels more comfortable. This is great for moderate terrain, however, for steep terrain be careful the sled isn’t so heavy it’s unmanageable.
Cooking and Eating
Regular campers are aware of the fact that butane gas canisters are useless in winters since they freeze.
This is why most campers prefer busing a large liquid-fuel camp stove to cook throughout the camping experience. These are also more reliable and easier to light. When it comes to food; it is important that you pack all vital ingredients to provide you enough fuel during the entire camping venture.
It is natural for the body to burn more calories in an attempt to keep your core temperature at a healthy level. Make it a point to pack healthy ingredients and prepare meals that keep you fuller for longer periods of time.
Drink plenty of water so you don’t get dehydrated. You can also prepare chicken broths, soups and snacks at home and freeze them before your camping trip. This way you can just heat them up for fixing a quick snack or dinner if you are camping for just a day.
It is also highly recommended to start off the day with a power-packed white chia porridge breakfast. You can also have oatmeal or eggs to give you enough calories to sustain the cold.
When you are camping in winter, make sure you have fatty and carb-rich recipes to keep you warm inside your tent. If you plan to ski or hike throughout your camping trip; make sure you are carrying enough food to help you enjoy all these activities without feeling drained out.
Moreover, cooking isn’t a great idea on a cold and chilly night when all you want to do is to curl up inside your sleeping pack. Save your cooking and preparation time by planning simple recipes that do not take too much of your time. You should also make it a point to conserve fuel in case you need it for melting snow for water.
There are plenty of freeze-dried meals that are immensely popular amongst winter campers. They are easy to prepare and will also help you to use as less fuel as possible.
Making Food and Water
When camping in the winter the body has to use a lot of fuel to keep warm. So, eating large amounts of food and finding yourself hungry more often is normal. When hiking and camping in the winter, there is an unlimited amount of refrigerator space, since it’s cold out. Packing things such as meat and cheese and other perishables is not a problem. Take extra sources of cooking stoves and lighters. In the cold, these things have a tendency to malfunction. So, having a backup plan is a great idea. Fuel will burn far more quickly in the cold, plan accordingly. It is always better to overpack the first few times then find yourself running out of ways to cook or stay warm.
Water doesn’t seem like it would be an issue in the winter. After all, there is snow everywhere that you can drink. However, it will need to be boiled first. The filter and chemical purification don’t work well in the snow and cold. And, don’t drink the snow, this will take a lot of energy from the body to convert the snow to drinkable water. Once you have the water purifier you will have to dig a hole to keep it in liquid form, keep the water in motion or put the bag close to your body so that it doesn’t freeze.
Other Items to Add to your Checklist
Apart from insulated and waterproof clothing, a good food supply to fuel your camping adventure, and other important accessories; there are many things you would need to camp out in winter. You must keep things dry during the entire trip. This is why it is recommended that you keep matches in a plastic airtight container or a ziplock bag. Moreover, keep some duct tape on hand which is immensely helpful when you are outdoors.
We all love solar power. But this is not the time to rely on your solar-powered devices to offer any convenience. Go for traditional and conventional charging methods to keep your devices alive when you are camping out in winter. Don’t forget to keep spare batteries for your flashlight or torch in case you have to spend more time as expected at a campsite.
This may sound silly, but have you thought about a trial run in the backyard? This would allow you to determine how much fuel you should take and identify things that could go wrong. After all, you are steps away from home, and so it’s a safe way to camp as well. If you have never tried camping in the winter before this checklist is surely going to help. But, there are minor and simple things that could go wrong that weren’t mentioned or touched on. So, a trial run could help with knowing exactly what to pack. And, will assist if that sleeping bag is warm enough and how to dress. With that said, let’s look at the other suggestions for packing and surviving a winter camping trip.
Use Winter Camping Gear
There is a difference between summer and winter camping gear. There are special tents and sleeping bags that are rated for winter camping. Ensure you have a 4 season tent. This is super important as the sides will need to hold up under the weight of the snow. Getting one with steep sides will allow the snow to fall off easier as well. Get a good sleeping pad with an R-value of 5 or more, as the cold ground can suck the heat right out of you. And, get a great sleeping bag! This is very important, as sleeping cold is not an option.
If it isn’t economically viable, take 2 or 3 and extra blankets work in a pinch. And, ensure that the sleeping area stays dry. And, put on a vapor barrier on your sleeping bag. Condensation can be a real issue when camping in the winter. This is especially true when the head is covered in the sleeping bag. Having a barrier between the cold and the sleeping bag will allow the condensation to not sink into the fiber. There are vapor barrier sleeping bags that prevent this.
Use your camping pillow as a seat when sitting on the ground. Sitting on the cold ground can really suck the heat out, but sitting on the pillow helps. Ensure there is a proper barrier between the pillow and the ground as it will not get wet. And, with the depleting hours of daylight, pack extra batteries. The cold and long low light hours can take a toll on the headlamps and flashlights.
Staying warm is the key to enjoying a fun-filled camping adventure in freezing cold. Moreover, also pay attention to conserving fuel and carrying all the necessary items you would require to protect yourself from the freezing cold. Campers who plan to camp in an RV or trailer must make sure they have winterized their vehicle to sustain the freezing temperatures. This is important for preventing freezing water lines at low temperatures, which can be a nightmare for campers.
One of the best ways to stay warm is to light up a campfire. Since it is difficult to find firewood on the ground in the winter season; make sure you have enough to keep you warm on a cold chilly night.
Camping in the winter can be a lot of fun. Just be prepared and ready to stay warm and dry. Keeping the gear as snow-free as possible will help with this as well. And, take breaks as needed and don’t overdo it. Your body is trying to keep warm as well as staying in motion.
I have been camping and going outdoors for over 15 years! My first experience was when I joined the scouts. There I learned a lot. From building a campfire to set up a really big tent. Then I know this is awesome. Around 2005 I also started Geocaching. This is a lot of fun. And every time we go camping we look at the map to see if there are some nice caches around.