Winter Camping Tips

Top 20 Winter Camping Tips

(Last Updated: February 6, 2019)

A common notion that many campers have is that it is not possible to go for cold weather camping, and even if you choose to do it; you will have a heck of a hard time. However, the truth of the matter is that it is possible as long as you have the right gear and you do proper planning. In fact, camping during winter can be a fun way of taking a break from your hectic schedule. Here are some winter camping tips that you need to know.

1. Check weather conditions and hazards

The most important thing when thinking of winter camping is preparation. Before you even go on a camping trip, take the time to check the weather. Find out the expected high and low temperature and if there are any storms expected. Make the right choice of a camping location where you can easily reach, and have enough time to organize your camping site. No matter what the weatherman says, prepare for extreme conditions.

2. Carry the necessary supplies

How you prepare for the camping will determine the kind of experience you will have. You don’t want a situation where you get to the camping site only to realize that you left behind your matchbox. If you do not want to forget anything, create a winter camping gear list of the items you need to carry with you. Some of the must-have camping supplies during winter include:

  • Lighting equipment. These could include headlamps, lanterns, candles and extra batteries.
  • Portable power pack. In the winter weather, all electronics will lose power faster. Therefore, it is advisable to carry with you a portable power pack.
  • Camp chair. This is one of the important winter camping essentials if you do not want to sit on the snow
  • Extra stove for melting your drinking water
  • Blankets
  • Lighter, wood, and papers
  • Sleeping bag
  • Nutrient-packed snacks
  • Tent brush
  • Urination device
  • Bottle insulator

winter camping hacks

3. Preparing your site

When camping in winter, carry with you a small shovel that will help to clear the snow at the campsite. Dig an area in the snow to shield you from the wind. By packing down snow under the tent, you will have an even sleeping surface. Make sure you get to the camping site at least 2 hours before sunset so that it doesn’t get dark as you still prepare your site. Carry with you a tarp that will cover anything that will remain outside in case it snows. When choosing a camping site, avoid tree branches that are heavy with snow.

4. Melt snow for drinking water

You do not have to carry fresh water when there is a lot of snow outside. If you would like to keep your backpack light when doing cold weather backpacking, carry the necessary water treatment and melt the snow instead of carrying water. But make sure you boil the snow after melting it to get rid of dirt and bacteria.

5. Choose the right clothing

Remember to carry clothing that will keep you warm. These include a warm jacket, thermal underwear, wool socks, warm boots, and gloves. You can dress in layers to regulate your body temperature and this can make a lot of differences in temperatures that are extremely cold. It is important to not only dress for the cold weather but to also maintain your body heat.

Avoid clothes that are made of cotton and instead choose merino or synthetic base layers. One advantage of wool is that it is a great choice for keeping you warm and also for trapping heat. This makes it the right choice for the damp conditions.

6. Sleep with your boots in the sleeping bag.

Wear boots that are waterproof and whose soles have great traction for the snowy trails. Avoid leaving the boots in the tent vestibule as they will be frozen in the morning. If the boots have a removable liner, keep the inner boots on your feet and the outer boot close to your sleeping bag. Otherwise, you should wrap the boots in a plastic bag and place them inside the sleeping bag.

camping in winter

7. Choosing a winter tent

The choice of a tent is a great consideration when camping in cold weather. One of the winter camping ideas is to choose a 4 –season tent. This can be quite helpful on that extreme winter weather. Choose the double-wall tents as these are warmer and can provide better ventilation which will translate into less condensation. This will also help you to avoid snowflakes or water drops over the sleeping bags. Bear in mind that it is better to sleep on the snow rather than the ice or rocks. This will provide you with a comfortable sleeping surface. Since snow is a bad conductor of heat it is also a good insulator.

8. Making a fire

One of the winter camping hacks that will help to keep you warm is to make a fire. Ensure that you have carried enough wood as it can get really cold in the winter weather. In most camping sites, winter is offseason and this means there may be no wood available for sale. To prevent the fire from collapsing due to the melting snow, make a hole or make use of a fire pan.

9. Use a foam pad and bag liner

An important thing is to understand is how to insulate a tent for winter camping. In order to get that extra warmth, make sure to have a foam pad under the inflatable sleeping pad. This can also act as a seat as it will not get soggy during the snow. It is also advisable to know the temperature you expect and carry a sleeping bag that is rated for camping in the winter. To get that extra layer of warmth, make sure that your sleeping bag has that a liner.

10. Use a hot water bottle to warm up

It can take time to warm up the cold sleeping bag if the only source of warmth is your body heat. This is why it may be advisable to do some prior warming. You can do that by boiling water and putting it in a tight container. Allow the water to cool down and double check that the container is completely sealed. Place the container in the sleeping bag for a period of 20 minutes prior to going to bed. This heat will make going to bed at night to be more enjoyable. Alternatively, you can chuck hand warmers in your sleeping bag before going to bed.

winter camping basics

11. Reduce the ambient space of the tent to insulate it

If you are doing cold weather camping with your buddy, put your friend’s sleeping bag close to yours. Body to body warming can be effective in helping your remain warm in those cold weather conditions. For better insulation, put the sacks containing your stuff and any extra gear around the inside perimeter for the purpose of further insulation. You can create that radiant barrier by duct taping the space blanket. In case there is excessive condensation inside your tent, you can avoid using the space blanket. A lot of moisture will do harm to your camping gear.

12. Avoid breathing deep into the bag

If you breathe in the sleeping bag, that moisture will remain trapped inside. This is why you should not burrow or breathe inside the bag. A good idea would be to cinch the draft collar before closing the hood down the nose and mouth. This will ensure that you have a blowhole through which you can breathe. This is particularly important if you are using the down sleeping bag. Bear in mind that a down bag will be killed by condensation. A wet bag has the ability to lose insulation and can take time before drying. This can serve to dampen the adventure.

13. Use lithium battery

One of the winter camping basics is to use a lithium battery in all your electronic gadgets. One advantage of lithium batteries is that they work consistently in cold conditions and will continue working in lower temperatures. This is on top of the fact that they weigh less and last longer. These are usually the best batteries for camping in winter.

14. Have a pee bottle

When you get cold, you will have that desire to urinate more often. It can be quite inconveniencing disrobing and undoing the sleeping bag at 0 degrees F. If you are a woman, you should consider the various accessories that can make it possible for you to pee while standing. By having a well-marked pee bottle, you will remain warm and this will be quite convenient for you. Make sure you do not confuse the pee bottle by marking it well. Therefore, carry your pee bottle when cold weather backpacking.

winter camping ideas

15. Layer underneath instead of the top

A common mistake that campers make is to think that when the weather gets cold, all they need to do is to take every blanket, rug or sleeping bag and layer it on top. This is not always a wise decision. You should not underestimate the amount of heat that is lost below the ground. Your heat is absorbed by the cold weather and there is a need for a good roll mat. Avoid wearing all the clothes you have; In fact, it is wiser to wear less as you will have nothing to warm you in the morning.

16. Hiking in winter

To keep yourself warm while camping in cold weather, you need to find a fun activity. Snow hiking is quite different from its summertime counterpart. Before anything else, you will need to ensure that you have layered up well. Make sure you have with you:

  • Thermal underwear that acts as the base layer
  • The insulating layer that will keep you warm
  • The outer shell that acts as the waterproof, windproof and a breathable layer to protect you from the weather.

Most of the winter clothing is usually voluminous and this is why you need to make the right choice of a backpack for winter camping and hiking adventure. Choose a backpack that is big enough to fit all your necessities while at the same time remaining light.

17. Choose the wide-mouth bottles

This will ensure that pouring the water you make from snow is easier and less messy. In case it is already freezing cold on the outside, use some insulating cover for the water bottle and keep it upside down to prevent the lid from freezing shut. You can also wrap the bottle in warm clothes before storing it in your backpack.

18. Wear hats and gloves

Almost half of the body water is lost through the head in cold weather camping. To keep your feet and fingers warm, wear toe and hand warmers. While outside, you should wear a windproof hat. On the inside, a knitted hat will keep you warm. Also, carry a pair of gloves with you. It can be quite difficult for you to do anything with your hands cold.

cold weather camping

19. Consume a hot meal

Your body will require a lot of fuel to generate heat when camping in the snow. A good hot meal that is rich in carbs and fat can go a long way in regulating your body temperature before going to bed.

20. Drink water

Many campers avoid drinking water while camping in cold weather because of the cold. They forget that the dry weather will cause them to lose a lot of water while breathing. This is definitely among the key cold weather camping trips. Therefore, make water to be part of your meal.


The cold winter weather can cause you a lot of discomforts. However, if you are a survivalist, this can be a good challenge for you. As long as you are well prepared and understand what you are doing, you can have a good understanding of what you can do and what your limits are. Even though pitching the tent in the cold winter months is not every person’s idea of having fun, it can still be comfortable and enjoyable. The key thing is to ensure that you are well prepared and have carried with you enough camping gear. Use the above tips to understand how to winter camp.

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