How to Camp in the Winter

Rilor Staff
Update: September 14, 2020
Table of Contents

Learning how to camp in winter is undoubtedly awesome. It is a one-of-a-kind experience that you should try even at least once in your lifetime. 

Mother Nature during the snow and cold season is serene. If you are in the right place, you can describe the surroundings as majestic. Everything is calm and placid. No bugs. Not utter disturbances or whatsoever. 

But of course, utter preparation is essential to ensure that the adventure will be pleasurable. Keep in mind that the temperature, visibility, and terrain can influence the outcome of any winter camping trip.

How To Camp In Winter: The Basics

  1. Dress For The Cold

Clothing is essential for your survival during a winter hike. You should never disregard it, as you might suffer from hypothermia and frostbites if you are too nonchalant. 

One layer of clothing is not sufficient for a winter hike. It requires at least three layers so that you remain comfortable and insulated.

Clothing Layers

  • Base layer - This is the one that is directly in contact with your skin. Wear lightweight shirts and undergarments that are made from either wool and polyester. Do not choose a garment made from cotton as it doesn't wick off moisture.
  • Middle layer - This part serves as primary insulation. The middle layer should be able to retain your body heat and prevent it from leaving. 

Thick jackets are the best choice here, as they have excellent insulating capabilities. You can either opt for jackets made from fleece or synthetic. If you are going to get fleece, make sure that it weighs substantially. Get a pair of long underwear or fleece pants for your legs. 

  • Outer layer - The outer layer serves as the exterior shell that provides ample defense against the elements such as the rain, wind, and snow. It is essential that that shell is both breathable and waterproof to ensure your utmost comfort. Shells have to be durable, too. You have a good time if the moisture can pass through it or if it prevents your sweat from being wicked. 
  • Don’t hesitate to overpack. You need extra clothes to ensure you remain dry all the time. 

Essential Accessories

  • Gloves and mittens - Wearing gloves and mittens can help protect your fingers and extremities from frostbite. It is one of the reasons why you should wear them all the time. Pick insulate gloves that have waterproof and breathable shells. Opting for mittens is also good as it allows you to warm your fingers. But at the same time, you will lose dexterity when your hands are covered by them. 
  • Winter hat - A winter hat is among the amenities that you shouldn't forget. Your head and neck are sensitive to the low temperatures; hence, you should protect them at all times. You can try a synthetic or wool beanie here. That should work fine. For your face, get a balaclava.
  • Socks - Your feet deserve protection, too. They require an appropriate level of insulation and comfort to ensure that you can survive the hike. When choosing socks, get something that is not made from cotton. A polyester sock is already sufficient. Be mindful of its thickness, too. Make sure that it won't interfere with the fitting of your footwear. 
  • Glasses and goggles - Even if it is winter, wearing goggles and glasses is still a must. After all, you still need to protect your eyes from the elements. If the weather is somewhat foggy and cloudy, picking eyewear that has colored lenses is beneficial. It will help you contrast your surroundings. 


If you are expecting a terrain that is covered by snow, wearing a pair of simple hiking boots should be enough. However, if the snow is too deep already, a mountaineering boot must be your priority. It is waterproof and provides maximum levels of insulation. You can use gaiters to prevent the snow from entering your boots. 

  1. Pack The Essential Winter Camping Gears

It is not enough that you know what to wear. You also have to know what to carry, secure, and prioritize in any winter adventure. Of course, I have to emphasize that these gears should be durable, tough, and temperature-resistant.

Never forget to pack the following items:


The tent is your shelter in the wild. But since we are dealing with low temperatures and unfavorable external conditions, your tent has to be some kind of "special."

  • Get a 3-season or 4-season tent - It is imperative that your tent is capable of handling the various elements that the winter season can bring. You have to anticipate that storms and blizzards could come anytime in the day. Specifically, a 3-season tent is suitable if the ambiance is not that unruly. However, if you are expecting strong gusts of winds and torrential rains, a 4-season tent is a must. 
  • Space - Be mindful of the space of the tent. If you are camping alone, acquiring a one-person tent is acceptable. But if you want space for yourself and other gears, there's nothing wrong if you are going to pack a two-person tent. For those who are planning to camp as a group, it is ideal that the tent you get must be a person bigger than your actual count. For example, for two campers, a three-person tent is a suitable choice. 


The backpack is indeed a piece of outdoor equipment that you should prioritize is any winter hike. Keep in mind that you will be bringing a lot of stuff for this particular excursion. Hence, it is ideal if the backpack you carry is both spacious, organized, and easy to handle. 

As a recommendation, you should pack items that would help you last two to four days. Meanwhile, here are some of the sizes of backpacks that are fitted for a winter hike. 

  • Lightweight - 65-liter capacity
  • Deluxe - 80-liter capacity

Sleeping Bag 

You will not experience the pleasure of a winter camp if you are going to stay a night or two. Of course, this is where sleeping bags come in. When choosing a sleeping bag for winter jaunts, it is necessary that its temperature rating is 10 degrees Fahrenheit than the actual external temperature. 

  • Insulation - A sleeping bag does not create heat; it just traps them. Therefore, insulation proves to be a crucial part of its construction. You can either choose a down fill or synthetic insulation in this case. The biggest perks of down insulation are its lightweight design, compressibility, and loft. But once it gets wet, its capacity to insulate is drastically reduced. Synthetic insulation does not suffer from this, but it is heavy and has a lower warmth-to-weight ratio than down. 
  • Drafting - Drafting is one of the reasons why your body loses heat while you are inside a sleeping bag. You will know if a bag is suited for winter and low-temperature hikes if it has draft tubes and draft collars on its hood and shoulders. 
  • Get a sleeping bag liner if you want added insulation!

Sleeping Pad 

It is not sufficient to have a sleeping bag alone. You also need a sleeping pad for better cushioning and insulation. It is a bad thing if you will just lie directly on the floor of the tent. It will send a lot of discomfort throughout your body. 

It is ideal if you pack two sleeping pads. Doing this will prevent your body from losing its heat, especially if you are camping in the snowy terrain. The combination of a closed-cell foam pad and a self-inflating pad drastically reduces the coldness emanating from the ground.

Furthermore, be mindful of the R-value of a sleeping pad. It ranges from 1 to 8. The higher the number, the stronger is the ability to insulate. For winter camping, get sleeping pads that have an R-value of 5 or higher. 


Cooking is still essential in a winter camp. That's definite. You need to fill your tummy with warm delicacies so that you can combat the cold. 

Of course, backpacking is useful when it comes to this task. Fortunately, there is a myriad of stoves that you can choose from. Specifically, they just vary on the fuel they use. 

A liquid-fuel stove is excellent for low temperatures. It has a clean burn, too. However, this is somewhat heavy. Moreover, it is slow in cooking, too. 

Meanwhile, a canister stove is both lightweight and compact, which is ideal for any camping and backpacking adventures. But at the same time, it doesn't do well in the cold weather. 

Given the complexities, I think bringing a liquid-fuel stove is suitable in low-temperature applications. If you still opt for canister stoves, make sure that they have a pressure regulator to enhance its flame generation. 


You might want to consider a sleep if the destination is pretty distant. You can put your items there so that you drag them conveniently.  

Other Survival Amenities

  • Flashlights
  • Snow shovel
  • Headlamps
  • Repair kits
  • First-aid kits
  • Compass and maps
  • Radios and walkie-talkies
  • Firestarters and matches
  1. Be Wary About The Weather

There are times when camping in the winter is not a good idea. For instance, blizzards and strong winds can make things difficult for you. These things might even trigger avalanches, and that's not something that you don't want to encounter. 

Always be on the lookout for the weather forecast. Always plan ahead and never miss any reports coming from the weather station. These are the information that could potentially save your life from danger. 

If the weather out there is terrible, cancel the trip. Find some other day where the coast is clear. Always remember that camping is for leisure and fun. It is not done for thrill-seeking and putting your life at stake. 

  1. Remain Dry

If you want to fight off the temperatures during the winter season, your body must be dry all the time. Sweat and moisture can amplify the coldness you can feel. 

Keep in mind that water is an excellent conductor of heat. It causes a rapid drop in the temperature of your body by cooling it down. 

This is one of the reasons why you need to pack extra clothes during your trip. Once you start perspiring, stop and peel the layers of your clothing. In this way, you can regulate your body heat. 

Furthermore, this also highlights the importance of waterproofing and waterproof gears. As much as possible, you must protect your skin from being breached by water. Don't let the snow touch your feet or any of your extremities. 

  1. Stuff Your Tent 

You can optimize the insulation of your tent by filling it with your camping utilities. You see, too much space diffuses the heat in the air. If the content of your tent is just you, then expect that you can feel chills. 

If you deem that your tent is roomy, you should put your camping equipment there. Of course, you just have to leave the wet ones outside. In doing this, you will be able to trap the warm air in a limited space, allowing you to feel cozier. 

It is also a good idea to keep your gadgets close to you. I have to inform you that low temperatures can suck up the juice of batteries. Hence, they should be kept warm, too. 

  1. Do Some Exercise

Keep in mind that sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and tents don't create heat. If they have insulating capabilities, then the best they can do is to trap heat, not create it. 

It is actually your duty to heat your body so that you can fend off the coldness. Aside from setting a campfire, it is also a good idea to stretch and do some exercises. Your body heats up while doing physical activities. 

You can run or repeatedly jump until such time you are feeling the heat growing inside you. If you are sweating, change your clothes. After that, slip inside your sleeping bag so that you can maintain cozy body temperature. 

  1. Consume Food From Time To Time

The process of digesting and breaking down of nutrients also generates body heat. If you are feeling cold, it is wise to eat some snacks. Doing this can kick start the metabolism of your system. 

Energy bars, chocolates, and jerkies can provide you with calories. An hour before bedtime, have warm intakes. A bowl of soup or a cup of milk can undoubtedly prevent you from shivering. 

Tips in Cooking During A Winter Camp

  • Make it simple - You don't need to be flashy when it comes to outdoor cookouts. As long as you can create the right delicacies to keep you warm, then there's nothing that you have to worry about. Simple meals mean fewer dishes to clean. 
  • Cut short the lunch breaks - For lunch, you don't have to settle in one place to cook. You have to be on the move so that your body will not succumb to the cold. Instead of cooking, just pack sandwiches and other protein-rich foodstuffs. In fact, you can dig in while you are on the move.
  • Secure your supplies - You don't have to worry about bears here, as they are hibernating during winter. However, there are still active critters that are happy enough to feast on your food. To prevent this from happening, you have to secure your rations to your backpack. Alternatively, you can also hang them on trees by stuffing them in a sack. 
  • Hydration is essential - Drink water from time to time to ensure that your system is always on its top condition. 

  1. Pick The Right Campsite

The success of winter camping is also dependent on the conduciveness of your campsite. 

There are preferences when it comes to this matter. But if we are talking about comfort and safety, several guidelines can be taken into account. 

The general idea that you have to be in an area where there's natural protection against the elements. Don't camp on the bottom of hills and cliffs as they are prone to landslides and avalanches. 

You also don't want to settle on the top of a mountain or hill. These are places where the winds are strong

Ideally, the choice here is an area where the ground is flat. If there's snow, compress it by walking or stepping. Stuffed snow provides minimal insulation than dispersed snow. 


These are the methods that can ensure that your winter camp is splendid and free from any inconveniences. While it is true that dealing with low temperatures is an arduous task, it is not impossible either. You just have to come prepared.

Do you know other tips on how to camp in winter? If yes, share it with us in the comment section below! 

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