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Camping In The Winter? Here’s How To Keep Warm


Camping in the winter is a thrilling experience but one you must be prepared for. Naturally, going camping in the winter poses different problems than camping throughout the rest of the year, most prominently the threat of the colder weather. However, the icier temperatures don’t have to dampen your winter camping experience. Here’s how to keep warm when camping in the winter for a holiday you’ll remember.

Can You Camp In The Winter?

Although it may sound like a radical idea, you can absolutely camp in the winter! Cold weather camping can be a lot of fun. It is the perfect way to savour the quiet moments in scenery only winter can provide, and the prospect of snow makes the idea even more thrilling.

However, it’s important to know when camping in the winter may not be safe. Usually, -1 to -4 degrees Celsius (30 – 40 degrees Fahrenheit)[i] is deemed too cold for camping, particularly if you are inexperienced or unprepared.

Camping In The Winter Gear List

If you’re sure that camping in the winter is for you, you must take along the right equipment. Since cold weather camping presents different issues than camping in warmer climates, you must take different gear to accommodate any potential problems, especially if it’s your first winter camping experience. Your gear list should include:

  • A Camping Friend – Having a buddy there to help is essential if anything goes wrong. Anyway, who else can you enjoy wintery campfire singalongs with?!
  • A Sleeping Pad – A sleeping pad provides vital insulation for your body from the freezing ground temperatures. Find out more below.
  • Sleeping Bag – You’ll need a warm sleeping bag with a lower-limit temperature rating to ensure it will protect you from the harsher nights.
  • Gloves, Hat, Scarf and Socks – You need to get the basics down before investing in even warmer clothes! Good quality gloves, hats, scarfs and socks are the basis of keeping warm when camping in the winter.
  • Base Layers – The layer of clothes closest to your skin is the most important to keep warm, so you’ll want base layers made of fabrics such as wool or synthetic polyester.
  • Nutrient Rich Snacks – Foods brimming with nutrients will give you more energy and help your body push through your daily adventures and the cooler temperatures.[ii] 

How To Keep Warm When Camping In The Winter

Once you’ve prepared yourself for camping in the winter, it’s time to put all your equipment to good use! There are several ways you can preserve heat during each stage of your camping trip, and being prepared for every eventuality before you go is the best precaution. Here’s how to keep warm when camping in a few simple steps.

Check Before You Go

Naturally, the first step to any outdoor trip is to check the weather conditions before going, which is even more important when camping in the winter. As well as knowing the temperatures and conditions you may have to deal with, you can also make yourself aware of any weather trends or fluctuations in the area. On top of this, you can also find out if there are any hazards, such as trail closures or terrain changes, that you should be aware of. The best ways of doing this include checking the local weather reports, the site’s social media page (if available), or contacting local authorities.

Before you leave for your trip, ensure that you have a plan in place for where you will be and when. Then, let people you trust know where and when you will be and when you expect to return.

Secure Your Location

When you’ve made it to your camping location, find a relatively dry, flat and sheltered area – this will be your campsite. If there is any snow, clear it away as best you can to expose the dirt, then flatten the site to guarantee proper drainage and a secure location. Before you move on, ensure that you smooth out the ground area of your tent where you will be sleeping. This will help reduce the potential of heat loss due to cold exposure, which can lead to the early stages of conditions such as hypothermia or frostbite.  

Insulate Your Tent

Once you’ve set your tent up, there are a couple of things you can do to insulate it right away. First, press your backpacks and spare gear around the inside of the tent’s perimeter. This will help insulate the tent walls and groundsheet and bolster your tent’s support.

You can also create a radiant barrier to keep warm air inside the tent. To do so, simply secure an emergency blanket onto the ceiling of your tent. However, if you find extreme condensation on the inside of your tent in the mornings, take this blanket down. The excess moisture could damage your camping gear and freeze your tent’s inside.

Finally, you can get the most successful insulation by sleeping close together with your camping buddies. Body-to-body warming is very effective for keeping warm when camping in the winter because it decreases the body’s exposure to cold air. So, ensure that you place your sleeping bags close together for guaranteed warmth.

Bring A Sleeping Pad

Even the warmest of sleeping bags can benefit from a high-quality sleeping pad. An insulated pad placed between your sleeping bag and the ground will help insulate you and your sleeping bag against the cold ground beneath the groundsheet. You can get self-inflating air mattresses, however, these will only insulate down to just below freezing. So, for extra comfort and warmth, add a durable coated pad beneath your self-inflating mattress.

Bring A Hot Water Bottle

A hot water bottle will work just as well in your tent as it will in your home. Ideally, you should take a stainless steel water bottle with you when camping in the winter. This is because harmful chemicals can result in water when certain materials are heated[iii], and stainless steel hot water bottles will produce heat more successfully. To best protect yourself against the cold, sleep with your hot water bottle next to your stomach, neck or inner thigh. These areas are home to some of the most important blood vessels and veins and will need the warmth to keep your blood pumping.

Pack A Fire Pit

small fire pit will be your new best friend when camping in the winter. As long as the snow isn’t too thick and the temperatures aren’t too freezing, you will be able to use a portable fire pit wherever you may be camping. A fire pit removes the need to build a campfire from scratch and gives you a source of warmth as well as a way of cooking and warming up food.

Ensure you choose a lightweight fire pit that requires little maintenance. This way, you will be able to carry and use it without much hassle.

Keep Yourself Dry

Keeping yourself dry may sound obvious when camping in the winter, but you have to protect your clothing and gear from liquid as well as your skin. You could prevent spills by drinking from a reusable straw – again, stainless steel would be best for this.

However, the most important thing you should do to keep yourself, your clothes and your gear dry is controlling the morning frost. Even with your tent’s door cracked open, water vapour can still gather and condense on your tent’s inner walls, and when this melts, it will soak all your belongings. So, keep all your gear covered and ensure that any ice is brushed out before it melts. Also, dry out your equipment (and tent, if possible) daily as long as weather conditions permit.

Sleep In The Right Clothes

man camping in winter

Although there are rumours that sleeping naked in a sleeping bag when camping in the winter will keep you warmer, this is a huge myth! When sleeping, wearing the right clothes is particularly important because your body temperature will drop as you prepare to sleep. Ensure that when you sleep when camping in the winter, you:

  • Wear wool or synthetic fabrics
  • Protect your extremities with warm socks, gloves or hats
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothes that could restrict blood flow

Try and avoid running too warm (moisture can get trapped in your sleeping bag, causing a drop in overall body temperature as you cool off. If you find yourself running warm, try using a vapour barrier).[iv]Avoid wearing cotton clothes at any point during your trip. Cotton clothing can actually drop your body temperature and serve as a channel for developing bacteria. On top of this, cotton is not a moisture-wicking material. Moisture-wicking materials, such as polyester work to redistribute moisture, which helps keep you dry when sweating.

Protecting Yourself When Camping In The Winter

As an experience like no other, camping in the winter is an incredible activity that every avid camper should try at least once. But, with adequate preparation, the right gear, and plenty of precautions taken, you can enjoy camping in the winter just as much as you do throughout the year. And, with our tips, you’ll be just fine!

Have you been camping in the winter? Do you have any advice for those who want to try it out? Let us know!


  [i] https://explorerchick.com/journal/how-to-stay-warm-in-a-tent/

[ii] https://www.switchbacktravel.com/winter-camping-checklist

[iii] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/exposed-to-extreme-heat-plastic-bottles-may-become-unsafe-over-time

[iv] https://www.backpacker.com/skills/beginner-skills/winter-camping/cold-weather-camping-sleep-better-than-a-hibernating-bear/

Anna Sharples

Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches - a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.

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