Winter Camping Basics: Top 7 Tips You Should Know

We often relegate camping to the summer or for nice weather only, but winter camping can be an incredible experience if you’re properly prepared. Before you head out on your camping trip in winter, you should learn the winter camping basics. Keep on reading to get our top 7 tips you need to know.

winter camping basics and tips

  1. Making Your Campsite

    One of the biggest differences between winter and summer camping is the likelihood of snow. Once you find your site, take a minute before setting up camp. Look around and see if your potential campsite has these things:

    • Hazardous Vegetation:

      You won’t want to setup underneath dead trees, or where limbs are likely to fall. Check the flora of the area well first before pick your campsite.

    • Protection from the Wind:

      This includes anything that blocks the wind, like a hill or some trees. If you can protect your campsite from strong winds that could improve your camping experience. Don’t forget to check dominant wind directions first, that will help you to arrange your campsite.

    • Risk of Avalanche:

      Setting up at the base of a steep mountain slope isn’t the best idea for winter camping. If you are planning to camp in a snowy area make a deep research about the risk levels before choosing a place to camp. If you do not camp up the middle of a steep incline or near the edge at the top of an incline, that will increase your chances of survival.

    • Get Sunlight:

      If you’re in a valley or canyon, you’ll be the last person to get warmth from the sun, so look for a spot where you’ll get maximum hours of sunshine. You can chose a slightly inclined southern slope for the steepest sunlight angle (this will be the best) or you can pitch your tent on a plain land, but don’t forget to rotate the longest side of your tent to the South.

    • Access to Water:

      If you’re at a campground, there should be accessible water. If you’re out on your own, you’ll need to determine the closest source of water; you may even need to melt snow.

    • Landmarks:

      Wintertime makes everything look different, which can be disorienting; so locate landmarks that you could spot in a snowstorm.

  2. Pitching a Tent in the Snow

    winter camping tent how to set up in snow
    If you’re an experienced winter camper, you may want to build an igloo or other snow shelter; but if you’re a beginner, you’ll want to pitch a tent. Before setting up your tent, pack down the snow. Do this by walking around with snowshoes or boots to press it down.

    Once you’ve packed down the snow, you may build a snow wall to reduce the wind. To secure your tent in the snow, you may need more than standard tent stakes. You can use snow stakes or sand bags filled with snow to secure the tent in the wind. Another way to keep your tent secure is to avoid ripping your tent by keeping out sharp objects, like axes or skis.

  3. Outdoor Kitchen

    Depending on how much snow you have, this is a great opportunity to make an amazing kitchen! With a shovel you can make a cooking surface, a table and chairs, or whatever else you’d like. You can also set up a pop-up shelter, for a roof with some lights, and even for hanging pots and pans.

    This will help make an outdoor living room and a place for everyone to hang out in while you’re doing meal prep. You should also put a tarp down in your outdoor kitchen/living room to keep everything clean and dry.

  4. What to Eat and Drink

    In the cold, your body burns a lot more calories, and therefore needs more calories. Camping and hiking can be physically demanding, so you’ll want to eat and drink a lot to keep up your body temperature and energy level. Plan some easy-prep hot meals, like instant oatmeal for breakfast or freeze-dried lunches and dinners. If you’re hiking during the day, you’ll probably feel pretty warm because you’re moving. Once you stop moving your body can cool down quickly. So, take short lunch breaks with easy-to-eat foods that you can snack on as you go.

    In the wintertime, it is easy to get dehydrated because you may not feel thirsty. Keep your water bottle full at all times, and take time to stop and drink throughout the day. You may even like to set a goal for drinking enough water. Keep in mind that depending on the temperature, your water bottle may freeze, so use an insulted bottle. When you’re at camp, it is a great time to warm up with some hot drinks, like hot chocolate, coffee, or tea.

  5. How to Melt Snow

    Packing in enough fresh water can be very inconvenient, depending on where your campsite is situated. Fortunately for snow camping, you have access to lots of fresh water. To melt snow, find an area with plenty of clean, white snow. Ignite your camp stove and put some water in a pot. You put the water in first so that you don’t scorch the snow, which can have a bad taste. Then add snow gradually until you have enough.

  6. Winter Camping Gear

    Having the right gear can really make or break your winter camping experience, so here are some things that you’ll want to bring along, should be selected for extreme weathers:

    winter camping gear what you need for a winter camp

    • 4 Season Camping Tent:

      As mentioned before, if you’re not making an igloo, you’ll likely have a tent. Camping takes you away from home for days and nights at a time. For this reason, you need suitable shelters to house you on these adventures. There are some types of camping tents, with each one being most suitable for a different kind of camping.

      Different tents will come with ratings for seasons, such as whether it is a three-season or four-season design. If you expect major wind or snowfall, pack a four-season one. Also consider getting a tent with extra space since you’ll have more and heavier gear along.

    • Winter Sleeping Bag:

      Sleeping bags are the most common bedding accessory that campers purchase because they are readily available, versatile, and easy to use. You can use them as beds, and you can transform them into blankets when the need arises. As for portability, the sleeping beds fold up into a compact size and are lightweight enough for you to carry them easily. Most if not all sleeping bags are designed for single-person use. Individual sleeping bags enable you to ensure your personal comfort while sharing your camping experience with other people in the same tent.

      Sleeping bags come in various styles and offer various features that accommodate varying camping styles. For instance, some work well in hot weather and others work well in cold weather. Comfort levels and temperature ratings differ widely.

      Sleeping bags come with ratings and will usually specify the maximum temperature they’re rated for. Think about getting a sleeping bag that is rated for more than the coldest temperature by about 10° F. For example, if you think it will be 30° F at night, get a bag rated for 20° F. Down sleeping bags can be extremely warm, but only if they’re dry. You can also use a sleeping bag liner if you don’t think your bag will be warm enough.

    • Insulated Sleeping Pad/Mat

      Camping grounds can get chilly, especially at night. Therefore, you need something that will elevate you from the ground and provide you with comfort while you sleep. Until recently, camping on the ground was far less comfortable then it is now. But sleeping pads have changed the game. They provide an insulated cushion for the floor of your tent, and most of them are lightweight and bulky.

      To ensure the best outdoor camping experience, you should get a sleeping pad that meets your particular needs. There are three main types of sleeping pads available: (1) air pads, (2) self-inflating pads, and (3) closed-cell foam pads. Each of the above mentioned provide different levels of comfort, but they also have their unique drawbacks.

      You should insulate yourself from the underlying snow. Insulated foam pads or inflatable pads can help you from the cold and snowy ground. Your insulation above the ground should be a least 1/2 “. You can use a thick pad or you can use two 3/8” summer pads together if you don’t have a thick winter pad.
      Related: Best Camping Sleeping Bags

    • Winter Blankets

      Many people prefer camping in warmer seasons because they find no pleasure in camping during in cold weather. But if you are an all-season camper, you need to ensure that you’ll be warm when the weather gets cold. Even at home, you need the best blankets to keep you warm at night. Since that is the case, you certainly need a good camping blanket when you’re away from your home in the great outdoors!

      Blankets come in various styles, tailored to a wide range of camping needs and preferences. Thicker styles are suitable for extremely cold conditions. Lighter styles are best for backpackers since they are lightweight and compact.

      Winter camping blankets will help you to retain your body heat and protect you from wind and rain. You can use blankets either inside or outside your tent to cover yourself. Blankets can be also used to lay under sleeping pads and sleeping bags to insulate you more from the cold ground.

      See also: Which To Use? A Sleeping Bag Or A Blanket?

    • Camp Stove

      Making a camp fire is possible in some areas; but in winter time firewood can be difficult to find. That makes camping stoves better than camp fire for a winter camping. For cold weathers, white gas stoves are the most effective ones, but in most conditions alcohol or canister stoves also work fine. Above all, your stove should have good heat output and you should protect your stove from the wind and snow .

  7. What to Wear

    As with all camping, you’ll want to dress in layers to regulate your temperature. This could include: midweight base layers, fleece pants and/or a sweater, a down or warm synthetic jacket, a waterproof jacket, and snow pants. If you’ll be in the snow, bring waterproof or weather-resistant boots. A warm hat, wool socks, gloves, and sunglasses are also essentials for winter and snow camping.

    winter camping cloth layering system

Now that you know what to pack and how to organize your winter camp, you are ready to explore one of the most beautiful seasons nature has to offer.

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