“The fire is the main comfort of camp, whether in summer or winter.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Winter camping is a great way to experience nature at its most quiet and peaceful. Camping in the winter can indeed have you snowing and hoeing up bushels of fun. It’s a great way to step outside your comfort zone and appreciate the beauty and splendor of nature in the process.
But camping in cold weather has all sorts of challenges. So whether you’re a seasoned camper or planning your first winter adventure, it’s important to do research and plan out each step.
Here are several items to keep in mind when planning your next winter camping trip.
For Some, Winter Camping is the Best– Here’s Why
Your camping game changes in the winter. A change of seasons almost makes a world of difference. First and foremost, you avoid the rush of tourists and other campers, so you get to enjoy a much more serene and tranquil time with nature.
There’s also no need to scramble to get your tent door zipped up to keep the bugs out during the winter. That’s because most pests are a lot less active during the colder months, so winter may be just the right time to hit the backcountry.
Campfires are best appreciated during the winter. And with it comes the more quality connections you get from spending more time telling stories and doing a bit of bonding over s’mores, some games, and your favorite warm beverages.
Last– and certainly not the least– are all the awesome winter activities you can only enjoy in the snow. That means being able to break out all your fancy winter toys for a bit of cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and sledding, among many other activities.
Planning Your First Winter Camping Trip
That being said, camping in cold weather does have its own set of challenges. So you must make extra preparations for your camping trip, the least of which is bringing along all the essentials to keep you warm and comfortable throughout your escapade.
What Do You Need For Winter Camping?
Whether you’re planning a weekend adventure or camping for just the night, having the right winter supplies is crucial and will help ensure your comfort in cold-weather settings.
While snow-covered landscapes can be visually enthralling, casual winter camping trips can quickly turn dangerous—or uncomfortable at the very least—if you’re not adequately prepared with the proper gear to suit your upcoming excursion.
The gear, equipment, and other items listed below should be considered among your most essential even out of freezing temperatures or harsh winds as they will help you keep safe and warm:
Winter Camping Equipment
- 4-Season Tent
- Cold-Weather Sleeping Bag
- Insulated Sleeping Pad
- Stove and Fuel
- Stove Platform
- Utensils and Cookware
- Heavyweight Down or Synthetic Insulated Jacket
- Hardshell or Ski Jacket
- Hardshell, Softshell, or Ski Pants
- Warm Socks
- Sunglasses and Goggles
- Water Bottles
- First Aid Kit
- Sunscreen and Lip Balm
- Balaclava or Neck Gaiter
- Disposable Hand Warmers
- Personal Hygiene Items
- Lighters or Waterproof Matches
- Knife or Multi-Tool
- Ice Axe
If you’re expecting to do a bit of traveling on foot, you should also pack the following winter travel and safety gear:
- Backcountry Skis or Snowshoes
- Backcountry Ski Boots or Mountaineering Boots
- Backpack or Sled
- Avalanche Beacon
(Source: Switchback Travel)
How Do I Keep Warm When Winter Camping?
A little preparation and knowledge are all it takes to keep your winter camping experience warm, comfortable, and safe. Needless to say, keeping warm (and staying warm) is the key. Here are some tips to make your cold-weather camping experience a lot more enjoyable:
Invest in wicking socks and light to heavyweight wool socks to keep your feet warm. By wearing a pair of wicking socks such as sports socks under your wool socks, warm air in between accumulates which helps keep your feet warm. Be sure to have an extra pair in your gear and not use the ones drenched in sweat.
Lower the walking sticks as often as possible and pump the blood to your fingers to prevent them from getting dirty. To do this, bring your arms down near your sides, swing your hands outward at a 90-degree angle to your hips, and swing your shoulders up and down hard.
Make keeping your clothes dry your first priority. Take woolen socks and dry them by the campfire after hiking. Put the boots in a plastic bag and take them to the store overnight. Avoid wearing cotton near your skin at all costs. It would be better to carry extra weight and dry layers than to suffer in a wet one.
Remember: it’s important to sleep in fresh clean clothes when camping in cold weather. So bring separate socks and base layers just for bedtime.
Don’t skip your sleeping bag. Make sure you have a high-quality bag rated for the nighttime temperatures you’ll be sleeping in, and always sleep on a high-quality earth pad that provides insulation and a barrier between your body and the cold ground.
Pack extra sleeping pads. Two sleeping pads are better than one at a closed-cell foam pad under your air pad to keep the cold at bay. Also, to add warmth to your sleeping bag, pick up a liner for this winter camping trip as well. Besides, they help keep your sleeping bag cleaner as well.
Pack bottled water that is safe to store and drink hot liquids. Heat the water with your camp stove and fill the bottles; this will prevent them from freezing during your hike. You can also sleep with hot water bags in your sleeping bag for extra warmth, and slip hot bags into your hiking boots to warm them up while you eat breakfast.
Bring a small piece of removed foam or a pad of old dirt so you have something to sit on top of or around the fire pit.
Prepare hot beverages when you can. The warmth of a piping hot mug of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate is always welcome, especially in cold weather. Have a look at one of our featured articles, “What Are The Best Hot Beverages That I Can Prepare When Winter Camping?”
(Source: Camping Habits)
More Winter Camping Tips
Safety first! Whether you choose to go winter camping in a tent or in a camper, always choose a safe site. Pick a campsite in open areas– so avoid sites where dead trees or limbs might fall. This also keeps you relatively far from possible avalanche danger.
Related article: “How Do I Choose a Great Campsite for RV Camping?”
If you must use a tent during your winter camping adventure, stomp out a tent platform to firmly pack up the ice beneath your feet. This keeps you from sticking into the snow overnight. Also, if the conditions are light and dry let the snow settle and refreeze for half an hour before you set up your tent. Don’t forget to attach the velcro tabs on your rainfly to the tent poles in guying out your tent to increase its strength in wind and snow lows.
Whether you’re setting up a nice outdoor shed alongside your RV or a tent for your camping use, one of the best things about winter camping is building a lounge in the snow (where folks can hang out, build a fire, and cook and stuff). Also, you can give yourself some extra space by digging out a vestibule.
Remember: As days are shorter this season, long winter nights are a great time to hang out with friends. So make sure to bring some games and extra batteries for your lanterns and headlamps for when the sun goes down. Pack some games and cards to pass the time.
Stop every few minutes to hydrate and eat something. You burn more calories in the cold, so bring dense, nutritious, non-frozen foods to eat during your hike and keep them close to your body so they stay warm and are easier to chew. Reward yourself with comfort food, like a peanut-filled Snickers bar.
You can conserve water by using clean snow for washing up or even for consumption. So choose a clean area nearby for gathering snow for your personal use.
When it’s time to pack up follow Leave No Trace principles to pack out all your food and waste and break down any structures you’ve put up.
What Sort of Activities Can You Do (While Winter Camping)?
Aside from having an awesome time around the campfire– doing some cooking, enjoying hot beverages, or making smores, you also have a plethora of other activities depending on where you’ve decided to camp out.
Campgrounds open for the winter usually have recommended activities in the snow, including:
- Hiking and sightseeing
- Ice fishing
- Cross-country skiing
- Sledding and snowboarding
- Snowball fighting
- Ice skating
- Guided tours in snow vehicles
Don’t forget to check out nearby attractions or tourist spots for other highly-recommended local winter events and activities.
Also: one of the obvious activities is seeing nature at a time when most people don’t. Especially when you have clear skies at night, it’s quite the time to enjoy the glory and splendor of the winter skies and stars.
Can You Use an RV in the Winter?
A well-equipped and well-stocked recreational vehicle is perfect for a winter camping adventure. Most modern-day motorhomes and travel trailers have been built to be able to withstand colder temperatures, making them ideal for camping in extreme weather conditions.
Even if your RV motorhome isn’t equipped with the latest technology, there are still a few easy ways that you can make your home a lot more comfortable during the winter season.
Read more about using an RV for winter camping in our article, “How Do I Spend The Winter In An RV Camper?”
A Final Word About Winter Camping
Winter camping, while not for everyone, certainly has its perks. If winter is like frozen toes, wet socks, and snow shovel injuries, winter camping is probably not high on your “fun” list.
But surprisingly, the reasons to consider a winter camping trip are plentiful: a camping adventure without pests (as most of the wildlife is wintering), the trails are practically empty, and you are rewarded for a slow trip across the snow-covered landscape in an RV.
For your next winter camping experience, get in touch with our team at Adventure in Camping. Take your pick from the largest and newest trailer fleet in the business, including over 15 different models. We will then deliver the RV of your choice to one of over 80 campgrounds in the Eastern Sierras including Bishop, Mammoth Lakes, Devil’s Postpile area, June Lake, and Lee Vining.
It’s a unique and easy way for you to enjoy your next RV winter camping experience. Give the Adventure in Camping team a call today at (760) 935-4890.