Winter camping has a lot of perks — fewer crowds, early nights and early mornings, the tranquility of pristine snow-covered landscapes, a quiet lake with the view of snow-capped mountains in the background, a warm fire... the list goes on. While the thought of camping in freezing temperatures seems overwhelming, keep in mind that with some know-how of tried and tested winter camping tips and tricks, you won’t suffer a miserable night camping in cold weather. Read on to set yourself up for a successful adventure.
Winter Camping Tips and Tricks: 5 Pointers from the Pros
1. Layer Up with the Right Materials
One of the most obvious tips for winter camping is to layer up — but let’s talk about exactly how to do this. Wear a close-fitting base layer to trap your body heat, an insulating layer that you can easily take on and off throughout your trip depending on the temperatures throughout the day, and an outermost layer that will keep you protected from the snow, wind, and rain.
For the base layer, you can use polypropylene long underwear, while the insulating layer can be in the form of a lightweight fleece, wool sweater, or a down jacket. Meanwhile, the outermost layer should be made with fabric that has waterproof and weatherproof lining.
Also, prepare your wool or synthetic winter hat, fleece gloves, goggles and glasses, and non-cotton socks. If the snow is just a few inches thick, traditional hiking boots will do. However, if you’re camping in deeper snow, use winter or mountaineering boots that are insulating.
2. Bring the Right Type of Tent and Practice Pitching it in Advance
Before we get to winter tent camping tips, let’s talk about what specifically you need.
If you’re camping below tree line and not expecting stormy weather, a three-season backpacking tent can work just fine. However, if you anticipate high winds and heavy snowfall, you need a four-season tent because it has sturdier poles and thicker fabrics for better protection. Also, we recommend you get a tent with extra space for one more person so you can stow your gear inside.
When it comes to setting up your tent, the first thing to do is to pack down the snow by walking or stomping around in your boots. The logic behind this is that loose snow may melt from your body heat, making the ground uncomfortable for sleeping.
Standard tent stakes may also not do well in snow, so use stakes designed for snow so they won’t get blown away by strong winds. Another important reminder is to stay away from anything sharp that can rip your tent. Having a tent with a tear is one of the worst things that can happen to you during your winter camping trip.
3. Don’t Forget Your Winter Camping Essentials
You’ll find tons of tips for camping in the snow, but everything can be summed up into the golden rule of winter camping: Stay dry and warm. Packing the must-have hiking gear is a crucial factor, so don’t forget the following winter camping essentials:
- A lightweight backpack that’s larger than your typical summer camping bag. Winter camping means bulkier clothing and extra gear. While you should still pack lightly, make sure that you’re prepared for harsh weather conditions.
- A sleeping bag that is rated at least 10°F lower than your expected coldest temperature to ensure a comfortable night. You can always vent your sleeping bag in case you get too warm. Adding a sleeping bag liner is also an option if you’re unsure if it’s warm enough. This extra layer can add around five to 25°F of warmth.
- Use two sleeping pads for better insulation and cushioning. A closed-cell foam pad must be placed next to the ground, while the self-inflating pad should be positioned on top. Check the R-value of your pads, because the higher the R-value, the better the insulation. Look for sleeping pads with an R-value of about 4.0 or higher.
- Pack a liquid-fuel stove or a canister stove to prepare hot meals while winter camping. Your body will use a lot of energy when you’re trekking in the cold, so make sure to eat and hydrate well to keep your body warm. Consider calorie-dense foods that are simple to cook, and hot beverages such as tea, coffee, or cocoa.
- A comfortable outdoor chair with a higher seat. You can fold up and carry PARKIT’s outdoor chairs like a backpack. This is recommended for winter camping because it keeps you higher off the snowy ground and will help you stay warmer. Not to mention that the height also makes it easier to get in and out of. Durable and stable, it comes in five different designs to suit your style, with a versatile cup holder that can secure cans, coffee mugs, and canteens.
4. Stay Warm for Bedtime by Moving Around and Filling a Bottle with Hot Water
This is one of the best winter camping tips and tricks we can give you. Don’t just crawl into your sleeping bag cold. Get moving and exercise with something simple like jumping jacks or jogging in place. This will get your heart pumping and your body will feel warmer. After exercising, get in your sleeping bag and zip it tight.
Other cold-weather camping hacks to keep yourself warm include filling a bottle with hot water and keeping it close to your tummy or between your legs, as well as emptying your bladder so your body will use less energy to stay warm.
5. Keep Your Electronics and Boots Warm
Cold temperatures can zap the battery power of electronics. Stow your cellphone, headlamp, GPS, and extra batteries in your pocket or sleeping bag when you’re not using them.
Also, remember to keep your boots inside your tent so they won’t be too cold when you use them in the morning. Some boots have removable liners. If yours have these, put them in your sleeping bag together with your socks and boot insoles to keep them a few degrees warmer.
Heading out into the cold underprepared is a recipe for disaster. By following the winter camping tips and tricks shared in this blog, you’ll be able to stay comfortable easily.
Get all the gear you need and you’ll endure even the most extreme and unexpected weather conditions. Follow these cold-weather camping tips, stay smart, play it safe, trust your intuition, and make your winter camping more about fun and enjoyment and less about battling the cold.