Winter camping can seem like an intimidating prospect to those unaccustomed to the cold and the dark, but it doesn’t have to be. With proper preparation and planning, you can camp comfortably in any environment, even winter. Follow this guide to learn everything you need to know about winter camping, from deciding where and when you want to camp to choosing the right gear to keep warm and dry.

Pick the right gear

You want to be prepared for the winter camping experience, but you don’t want to break the bank. Here are some of our favorite pieces of gear that every camper should have to survive a cold-weather camping trip.

Tent – This is one of the most essential pieces of gear you need to camp in any season. Tents can range from simple two person tents with just enough room for you and your significant other, or large family tents that hold up to eight people. A few things to consider when buying a tent are what kind of weather conditions will you be camping in? Do you need a tent with sturdy poles or stakes? Is it best to purchase a tent before or after other gear? The answer really depends on how many people you’re looking to house in your tent.

For example, if you plan on camping with three or four people, then you may only need a small 2-person tent. However, if you’re planning on going solo on this winter adventure then chances are a larger 4-person tent would be the way to go so that you’ll still have plenty of room to store all your clothes and equipment.

In addition to picking out a good sized tent, it’s important not forget about investing in a quality sleeping bag as well! The last thing anyone wants is spending their night shivering under thin sheets while everyone else snoozes away warmly next to them inside their sleeping bag.

Layer your clothing

If you know what to pack and how to layer your clothes, winter camping can be a lot of fun. Here are the basics.

Layer your clothes so that you’ll have the appropriate gear for any temperature change you might experience during the day or night.
Dress in loose-fitting layers that will trap air and provide insulation from the cold ground when sleeping on snow or ice.
Wear a head covering to help keep heat close to your head (a hat) and protect your ears from frostbite (earmuffs).
Wear gloves or mittens with a waterproof coating so that you can handle anything without worrying about getting your hands too cold (wet).
Put on gaiters before you put on your boots to make sure snow doesn’t get inside your boots
Store all these items in the best bag possible–maybe one made specifically for winter conditions–so they don’t get wet

Stay hydrated

If you’re a cold-weather camper or hiker, make sure to bring plenty of water. If you’re in an area with snow or ice on the ground, you’ll want to keep your boots outside of your tent when you’re sleeping so they don’t get wet. You’ll also want to keep a watertight container inside your tent for extra storage space. Make sure that the container is large enough so that it can hold both food and water.

Protect your skin

It’s time to start thinking about protecting your skin from the harsh winter elements. But before you go out and buy a bunch of new clothes or a fancy sleeping bag, take the time to do some research on what will work best for you.

There are many resources available online that can help you understand what kind of clothing system would be best for your activity level (isolation versus base camp) or geographical location (east coast versus west coast), but in general most people should have clothing layers consisting of a baselayer made from wool or synthetic fiber; an insulating midlayer made from fleece, down or fleece/synthetic combination; and a shell layer made from Gore-Tex®, nylon or polyester fabric.

Be prepared for emergencies

Always have a first-aid kit on hand. Pack a blanket in case it gets cold. Always tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Wear appropriate clothing – there’s no use investing in expensive winter gear if you don’t know how to use it! If the snow is deep, consider bringing snowshoes or skis.

Get a good night’s sleep

A good night’s sleep is essential for a successful camping trip. If you’re used to sleeping in a warm room with the air conditioning on, it can be difficult to get comfortable in the cold outdoors. And even if you’re used to roughing it in the wilderness, your body may need time to adjust to spending nights without modern conveniences like electricity and running water.

To prepare yourself for an overnight stay at an unfamiliar campsite, pack all of your essentials into one bag so you don’t have to spend too much time digging through your luggage at night when you need something more than just your toothbrush. The only things you’ll want inside are clothes that will keep you warm during the evening hours when temperatures tend to drop.


Winter camping is an invigorating break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There are many things to consider before you embark on your adventure though. The key to a successful winter camping trip is preparation. Be sure to pack enough food for the duration of your stay, start a fire in advance if it’s below freezing outside, and always check the weather forecast before heading out. If you follow these easy steps you will be ready to enjoy winter camping in all its glory!