Winter can be a lot of fun and adds a lot of variety to the times you can go camping. In an effort to make cold-weather camping even easier, we’ve consolidated the best winter camping tips. Check out our tips, let us know what you think, and let us know what else you would add.
1. Bring proper clothing
This is one of the most important winter camping tips when planning a cold-weather trip. You need to make sure you will have warm clothing that is suited for the weather conditions you will have. If you are cold your entire camping trip, you will have a bad time. We find it helpful to bring clothing that will work in temperatures a little colder than expected.
2. Bring extra blankets
We always bring at least a few extra blankets. There are many times that an extra blanket will come in handy, but we often use them for a little extra warmth while sleeping. We have sleeping bags that are good in cold weather but adding an extra blanket inside your bag is a nice way to ensure you stay nice and toasty.
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3. Use hand warmers
Hand warmers are a great way to keep you warm while outside the tent. Your hands are often the first things that get cold, and are often hard to warm back up. Having a couple of hand warmers in your pockets is a great way to keep your hands feeling warm.
4. Use a heater in your tent
Having a heater inside your tent is a great way to keep warm while camping in cold weather. This will be very easy to accomplish if you are camping in a campground that provides electrical outlets. Simply grab a space heater like this one and bring an extension cord. You can then run this heater all night, and it will keep your tent at a more reasonable temperature.
If you do not have access to electrical outlets, then you have a couple of different options. First, you could get a propane tank top heater. That one is good for larger tents, but if you are in a smaller tent, I’d recommend getting the smaller one. Likewise, Mr. Heaters come in a large Big Buddy size and a smaller Little Buddy size.
Use these heaters to warm up your tent before you go to bed and then again when you wake up in the morning. A word of caution with these types of heaters. These heaters are at risk of producing CO2, which can and does kill people. We do not recommend running these heaters while sleeping and when you are running them, ensure you have decent ventilation inside the tent.
Another option you have for heating your tent is to get a portable generator and run an electric generator. This is definitely the most expensive option but is the safest way to run a heater in your tent without access to an electrical outlet. There are a lot of great portal generator options, but we really like the Westinghouse iGen2200. It runs quietly and has a good long run time.
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5. Bring waterproof shoes or socks
Keeping your feet dry will go a long way to keeping you warm. We recommend bringing waterproof shoes/boots or at least waterproof socks. I can tell you from experience that you won’t have much fun when your feet are wet and cold all day.
6. Use bags in kid’s shoes
This is one of our favorite winter camping tips. It comes from a time when we camped in the snow and forgot our kid’s boots. Without proper footwear, our kid’s feet ended up getting soaking wet and cold. Instead of keeping the kids in the tent all day, we used some extra Ziploc bags to keep their feet dry.
We put some dry socks on the kids and then put each foot into a Ziploc bag. We then put their shoes back on and pulled their pant legs down over the rest of the bag. While this is not the most ideal situation, it did keep their feet dry and allowed them o continue to play in the snow.
7. Put an extra tarp over your tent
Placing an extra tarp over your tent will help you in several ways. First, it is a great way to provide an extra layer of protection against rain/snow. Additionally, the extra layer helps to keep more heat inside your tent and keep you a little warmer. We always bring an extra-large tarp to place over our tent and have been grateful for it on multiple occasions.
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8. Use a hot water bottle in your sleeping bag
A great way to add a little extra warmth to your sleeping bag is by using a hot water bottle at the foot of your sleeping bag. You can quickly warm up some water over the fire or on your cookstove and pour it into the water bottle. This water bottle will go a long way to helping you feel warm in your sleeping bag.
9. Create a covered area in front of your tent
Having a dry covered area right outside your tent is important to help keep you and your tent dry as you are coming in and going out of your tent. Some tents come with an attached awning, but if yours doesn’t, you can either use a simple popup canopy or and tarp tied between trees.
10. Bring a sleeping bag rated for cold weather
A good warm sleeping bag will be a very important piece of gear. You need to ensure that everyone has a sleeping bag rated for the temperatures you will be experiencing. We personally like to have sleeping bags that are rated for lower temperatures than we will actually experience. It’s a good way to ensure you’ll stay warm at night. You can check out our review of camping sleeping bags to find some great options.
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11. Use a bunting for small children
As parents all know, it is often impossible for small children to stay under blankets or in a sleeping bag. For young kids, we recommend using a warm bunting. It’s basically like a wearable sleeping bag for toddlers. They make it super easy to keep them warm at night or even during the day if they get cold.
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12. Bring hot drinks
You’ll want to find ways to stay warm throughout the day. One great way to do that is to bring hot drinks. Whether that is coffee, hot chocolate, warm apple cider, or whatever other drink you want, a warm drink will go a long way to helping you stay warm.
13. Bring carpet for the tent floor
Having a way to add a little insulation to the floor of your tent will also help to keep you warm. We have some extra carpet we bring along and put on the tent’s floor. It helps keeps our feet warm while walking around without shoes. It also provides a comfortable place to play some games in the evening before we go to bed.
14. If camping in the snow, pack it down
When you are camping in the snow, you will definitely want to pack down the snow where you will be setting up your tent. If you set up your tent on snow that hasn’t been backed down, your tent’s floor will be very uneven as you walk around. Additionally, you don’t want to risk ripping the floor if you sink down too far while inside the tent.
15. Warm up your clothes in your sleeping bag
No one likes having to put on cold clothes in the morning. A great way to avoid having to put on cold clothes is to pull them inside your sleeping bag 5 minutes before you get up. The warmth from your body inside the sleeping bag will warm your clothes up and make it more comfortable when getting dressed.
16. Remember insulation below your sleeping bag
One great winter camping tip that we recommend is adding some insulation below your sleeping bag. Often a decent sleeping pad will take care of this, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add a little extra. If you are using a thin sleeping pad, adding an extra blanket under your pad will ensure you won’t be affected by the cold ground. We use a thicker foam pad that does a great job and providing insulation and comfort.
17. Bring extra wood
Bringing dry wood with you will ensure you are able to have a warm fire. If it has been snowing or raining, you will have a hard time getting a fire going, which is a great way to stay warm during the day. Remember, there are some areas where you are not allowed to bring in outside wood. Do a little research ahead of time to ensure you are permitted to bring your own wood.
18. Bring an extra towel for condensation
Condensation will collect on the inside of your tent walls. Depending on the humidity and how many people are in your tent, condensation can become a little bit of a problem. We will typically bring an extra towel or two and use them to quickly wipe down the tent walls in the morning. This prevents any water build-up and keeps our stuff dry.
19. Vent your tent in the morning
Venting your tent in the mornings is another great way to help reduce condensation inside your tent. After everyone is up and dressed, we will typically open the windows as we wipe down the tent walls. This is the best way to get all the humidity out of your tent so that it doesn’t continue to collect on the inside of your tent.
20. Use a smaller tent
We typically camp in a large tent, which gives us lots of extra space, but for the purpose of staying warm, a smaller tent will do better. With a smaller tent, there is less ambient air inside the tent, and so it will warm up quicker and is easier to keep warm. Additionally, having everyone a little closer will help to keep each other warm.
21. Go to the bathroom before you go to bed
There is nothing worse than having to get up in the middle of the night and tromp through the snow to go to the bathroom. We always make sure that everyone goes to the bathroom before bed. This is especially important for our kids. We have learned from experience that it is no fun having to help kids get up, put on their warm clothes, and go to the bathroom while camping in cold weather.
22. Plan good winter activities
Planning some good cold-weather activities will help everyone to have a great time. We often like to plan activities that get everyone moving, so they stay active and so that it keeps everyone warm. Our kids end up complaining less when they are running around vs. when they are simply sitting around getting cold.
We went camping in December one year only to discover there was a burn ban in effect. It was 26 degrees, there was snow on the ground and we had to put our fire out. What a cold evening that was! I never would have thought to check ahead of time for a burn ban in the Winter. But, apparently the air quality was low so all outdoor burning was restricted.
Thank you for your great Winter camping tips! It’s great to see that I’m not the only one who likes camping in the snow.
Rather than a hot water bottle, I find fist-sized rounded rocks while hiking or walking around the campsite. Then I put them near the fire to warm up before bed. I put them in an old sock(s) and shove ’em to the bottom of my sleeping bag.