7 Winter Camping Basics

Camping in the winter is a whole different experience compared to camping in the summer and it requires you to consider and plan for conditions that you may not be used to if you’ve previously only camped during the warmer months.

But don’t let that hold you back from enjoying winter camping and all of the fun activities you can take part in – skiing, sledding, tubing, skating, snowshoeing, and more!

If you’re new to cold-weather camping, check out our 7 tips to help you get started:

Dress in layers.

Dress in a tight-fitting base layer to trap body heat and then an insulating layer that you can put on and remove as you try to warm up or cool down during the day. Top that off with a weather-proof jacket that protects you from wind, snow, and rain.

Avoid wearing cotton while camping in the winter because once it gets wet, it’ll make you cold faster than standing naked in the snow!

It’s also important to dress strategically for bed. Your sleeping bag will help keep most of your body warm, however, it’s wise to wear a hat at night as well, because we lose a significant amount of heat via our heads. Seasoned campers may even wear a balaclava to bed, as they do not slip off easily like hats, and they also keep your face and neck warm.

Consider also wearing hand warmers, heated gloves, and heated boots.

Choose your campsite wisely.

Set up camp in a location that is sheltered from wind and is not at risk of being hit by an avalanche.

Pitch the right tent.

Choosing a tent can feel overwhelming, which is why we created a handy guide! You can find it here. Generally, if you’re camping in the winter, you will need a 4-season tent because they are designed to withstand heavy rain or snowfall, low temperatures, and high winds.

Get some shut eye.

A good night’s rest is always important. When you’re camping in the winter, you’ll need a few essentials to sleep soundly:

Two sleeping pads. We recommend investing in two sleeping pads to protect you from the cold ground and snow. A great combo that experienced winter campers will vouch for is a closed-cell foam pad underneath a winter-grade sleeping pad, both with reflective fabric.

A sleeping bag AND a quilt. To stay warm in the winter, you’ll need a winter sleeping bag. We also encourage you to add a featherweight quilt to the sleeping bag for added warmth without a lot of extra weight.

Eat and drink a lot.

Your body burns extra calories as it works to keep itself warm, so eating and drinking is especially important when camping during the winter months. Try snacking during the day and then at night, focus on consuming foods high in protein and fat to keep you sustained longer. Drinking a lot of water is also important, because dehydration will only make it harder for your body to keep itself warm.

Don’t hold it.

Your pee, that is. If you’ve got to go, go! Like we said above, you need to drink plenty of water when camping in the winter (and any other time of year), which means that you’ll need to go to the bathroom a lot, as well. If the urge to go hits you, listen to your body. Holding it in actually burns valuable calories because your body is working hard to heat the urine stored in your bladder.

Read up on cold injuries.

It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite before you plan on spending an extended amount of time outdoors in the winter.

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