Our Favorite Cold Weather Camping Tips

If you click and purchase with one of our links, we earn a commission. Thanks.

Banner ad for growing food all year round with container gardening

Are you looking forward to camping in the cold season? If yes, then you should definitely read this article. This guide will give you some useful information regarding winter camping.

Winter camping is a great way to enjoy nature at its best and is an essential camping experience. The weather conditions are perfect for outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and sledding. But we need to make sure to bring along extra gear to make sure you are prepared for extreme cold on our camping adventures. 

Of course, we have to be ready for a cold night as we will be experience colder temps than summer camping.

There are several things that you need to consider before going out into the wilderness. Read this article to get some helpful cold-weather camping tips.

Checklist Of Cold-Weather Camping Gear

You don’t want to arrive at camp unprepared, especially if you’re going to be spending the night outdoors and protect against heat loss. 

The last thing you want is to freeze during the night because you forgot to bring a sleeping bag. Here are some essential items to pack for winter camping trips.

  • Proper clothing
  • Tent
  • Sleeping pad
  • Properly rated sleeping bag
  • Extra blankets and rugs
  • Shovel and chains
  • Hand-Warmers
  • Firewood
  • Gas Stove
  • Food
  • Drinks
  • Weather Radio 

Check The Weather Conditions And Hazards Before Your Trip

If you’re planning a winter camping trip, check the weather forecast before you leave home. Make sure you know what kind of weather to expect so you can pack and plan accordingly.

We all understand we have to be ready for colder temperatures but don’t forget to be ready for winter precipitation. 

For example, on New Year’s Day 2022, we knew it was going to be cold. But the 48-hour forecast before the weekend didn’t have any precipitation. 

However, on New Year’s Day night, we got a sudden sleet storm. Heck, we narrowly missed a snow band.  While you can always dress in layers to keep warm, an ice storm is very dangerous. I’ve been in situations where even the fire department can’t respond to calls because the ice was so thick.

Dress in Layers

It’s important to dress in layered clothing to regulate your core temperature. 

Start with a breathable base layer.

Your mid layer should be wool or fleece. Wool is a great general fabric for cold weather because it retains most of its heat even if it gets wet. The mid layer is the foundation to protect you from cold temperatures and retain your body heat. The mid layer is essential to heat retention. 

Your outer layer can be a winter coat.

Don’t forget a good winter hat, gloves for when you need to use your fingers, mittens for maximum warmth, and plenty of wool socks. 

Why Do We Say "Cotton Kills" When Camping

Cotton loses all of its ability to keep you warm when it gets wet, which is very easy in cold rain or snow. And when it gets wet, it takes a very long time to dry. 

Thus never wear cotton as a base layer. 

Change Your Clothes Before Bed

Start by wearing only wear a base layer in your sleeping bag because your sleeping bag and blankets are designed to trap your body heat. You will be surprised how well even a wool blanket will work if you are covered up. 

You also want to make sure you have dry clothes on. If your day clothes are damp or sweaty, you should change them before you go to bed. 

Though make sure you are wearing thick socks, a beanie hat, and gloves, in particular, if you are not in a mummy sleeping bag. 

However, I will keep extra layers close by. In particular, on nights where I start out in a short-sleeve shirt. If I have been moving before climbing into my tent, I will be warm and thus will often start out in a short-sleeve shirt to avoid sweating. 

But a couple of hours later, I need a long-sleeve shirt on. 

Bring A Closed-Cell And An Inflatable Sleeping Pad

When car camping, I like to bring multiple sleeping pads with me regardless of the weather. A closed-cell sleeping pad goes under my inflatable sleeping pad. The reason for this is that this will add a layer of protection between the ground and your inflatable to reduce the chances of the inflatable pad being punctured. 

In cold weather, by layering your sleeping pads, you will increase the insulation and thus will be warmer. If you are sleeping on a cot, you don’t need 2 sleeping pads. 

If you are sleeping in a hammock, you need an underquilt to prevent cold drafts aka cold butt syndrome. 

Get A Sleeping Bag Rated For Ten Degrees Colder Than You Expect

 

The most common complaint about sleeping bags in cold weather is that the sleeping bag didn’t keep you warm enough. 

Most likely this is because your sleeping bag wasn’t rated for the temperature. Always check your sleeping bag’s temperature ratings.

And get a sleeping bag rated for at least 10 degrees colder than the lowest temperature you expect. 

Bring A Sleeping Bag Liner Or Woobie

A woobie is a military nickname for the poncho liner. You can buy a poncho liner without needing to go to the surplus store. 

A poncho liner is a versatile piece of equipment because you can configure it into a poncho shape that is worn under your poncho. It adds insulation to your poncho. But can be reconfigured as a blanket as well. 

A sleeping bag liner is designed to fit within a sleeping bag. A sleeping bag liner, will give you another 10 degrees of warmth. 

You can use a woobie or a sleeping bag liner by themselves in warmer weather and leave the winter sleeping bag at home. 

Hand-Warmers Are Your Secret Weapon

Hot Hands hand-warmers are my secret to staying warm in a tent in cold weather. Once you expose the packets to the air, they will start to heat up via a chemical reaction. 

The packets will get to around 160 degrees so be careful with them. They could burn you if they are in direct contact with the skin. 

Many people like to put them within their sleeping bag foot box. I’m a side sleeper and put them under my side. 

I also stick one in the folds of my beanie hat. 

Place Rugs On Floor

Bring rugs or moving blankets to place on the floor of your tent. Another option is to purchase foam floor puzzle pieces for toddler rooms because they pack up small. 

This will provide a layer of insulation to the floor of the tent as you walk or crawl around within the tent. The rugs will also help make the tent fill cozier than the drab plastic of the actual tent material.

Keep a Survival Blanket Nearby

 

If you don’t have enough blankets and your sleeping bag isn’t keeping you warm enough, deploy a survival blanket. 

These are thin blankets that have mylar on one side. Mylar is material created by NASA to assist with keeping spaceships from overheating. The material is thin and lightweight and reflects 95% of the infrared energy it receives. 

There are several ways to deploy the survival blanket in your tent. 

One way is to place it between you and your sleeping pad. Do not place it under the pad because it won’t be as effective. 

You can also wrap your entire body up like a burrito. 

Another option is to bring a poncho that has a mylar coating because it will be easier to keep your body wrapped up in the mylar. Plus you can use the poncho when you are outside the tent. 

Be Careful With Portable Heaters

You can purchase tent heaters. Tent heaters come in both electric and propane options. Be careful with these heaters within your tent. While modern heaters have many safety features, you are still running an open flame in your tent. 

With the propane versions, I would invest in a portable carbon monoxide detector as well for extra piece of mind.

Eat Just Before Bed

Another option to keep you warm is to eat more food. By having more calories on hand, your body can use these calories to create heat to keep you warm. 

Hot Water And Warm Beverages

You can fill a water bottle with hot water before you go to bed and place it in your sleeping bag to heat it up. This hot water bottle will assist in keeping you warm as the nighttime temperature drops while you are sleeping. 

And nothing is better than treating the morning sun with a nice cup of coffee or hot cocoa. Remember, even in cold weather we need to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated. 

Go Potty Before Bed

While it is important to stay hydrated in the outdoors, unless you have been hiking several miles, you are unlikely to be severely hydrated. Thus stop drinking fluids an hour before you go to bed to avoid the dreaded middle-of-the-night potty break in the winter. 

And before you go to bed, make sure to relieve yourself. Your body has to keep the fluid in your bladder warm. By emptying your bladder, that energy can be directed to your core. 

Keep Your Electronics Warm

If you use a sleeping bag, make sure it has enough space for your phone. And keep anything else electronic sensitive to the cold wrapped up. 

Have A Reliable Way To Start A Campfire

A campfire in cold weather isn’t just nice for ambiance, it’s essential to keeping you warm. And in the worst-case scenario, to keep you alive. 

This is not the time to practice your bow drill fire-making skills. Use lighters or waterproof matches plus reliable firestarters such as Duraflame Firecubes on hand. I prefer the Firecubes because they’re cheap, small, reliable and less messy than cotton balls soaked in Vaseline. 

As well as dry wood to get the fire started. Heck, I’d bring along an artificial fire log as well.  

Stay warm this winter season by following these tips.

This article is a great resource for anyone who wants to go camping in the cold weather! However, it’s not just about figuring out how to stay dry and make sure you have the right tent; we also talk about picking clothing that will keep you warm, as well as deciding on what kind of sleeping bag best suits your needs. These are all important factors when considering whether or not camping during colder months is something worth doing. 

 

 

Banner ad for growing food all year round with container gardening
Pinterest image for Our Favorite Cold Weather Camping Tips