The Essential Guide to Camping in the Winter - My Family Travels

Winter camping can be great fun, waking up with frost covering the tent and a beautiful misty sunrise. But it can also be a truly miserable experience if you end up cold and tired due to poor preparation or supplies.

Tent with snowshoes outside the flap in surrounded by a snowy, winter wonderland.
Winter camping is growing in popularity, despite its challenges. Photo c. The Dyrt

According to the app Dyrt, the interest in camping in winter grew by 40% during the pandemic. So, if so many families are willing to tackle the challenge, here are some tips to make sure you have a lovely winter camping experience.

Essential Tips for Camping in Winter that Could Save Your Night

1. Sleeping
There is nothing worse than waking up cold in the night, because it’s very hard to get back to sleep! Make sure you have a good four-season sleeping bag as a starting point. You might also want to consider a cotton or silk sleeping bag liner for an extra layer. A sleeping mat will not only help with your comfort but will also give insulation from the cold ground.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River in winter. Photo by Jake Frank for NPS.gov
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River in winter. Photo by Jake Frank for NPS.gov

2. Clothing
Lots of layers are the order of the day to keep warm. You should take as many of the following as you like: thermal base layer, thin long sleeved tops, thin fleece and thick fleece. All these items should be made of wicking fabric so that any moisture is drawn away from your body.

You should also have waterproof coat and trousers so that you don’t get wet and a down jacket is a good idea for when you are in the tent. Obviously, you should take hat and gloves too, and keep these handy at night time as you might want to wear them while sleeping if it’s really cold!

Always take slightly more clothing than you think you’ll need – it’s better to have carried in a couple of extra items and not needed them than to have spent the night shivering for the lack of one extra layer.

Eating Well While Camping in Winter is Important

3. Cooking
A good stove is vital when winter camping. You need hot food and hot drinks to keep your energy and temperature up. Whatever system you go for, don’t forget to take along extra fuel — running out of gas is a pest at the best of times but it is potentially dangerous in winter when you need hot food and drinks to stay warm and well.

Take lots of high energy, easy-to-prepare food – Wayfarer packets and other instant meals are excellent for winter camping as they are quick and easy to make.

Snowmobile and snowcoach tours at Yellowstone National Park
Add more adventure to your winter camping with a guided Snowcoach or snowmobile tour. Photo at Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone by Neal Herbert for NPS.gov

Prepare for the Camping Adventure of a Lifetime

4. Caution
Notify friends before departure of your camp site location, and which routes you may be hiking. Camping off the grid is one of life’s great pleasures, but do carry a charged cell phone in case of emergency.

Follow these four suggestions (this National Park Service video is helpful, too) and you’ll be able to enjoy your winter camping trip without worrying about the cold.

Have a great trip, wherever and whenever you go!

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