You’re considering braving the cold and heading out for a winter camping trip. Winter camping is appealing for a variety of reasons, though it comes with special risks to consider requiring a unique set of camping gear.
Starry nights and empty campsites sound like a dream come true from a winter camper’s perspective. It’s no wonder why some campers prefer camping in winter!
Keep reading about our winter camping checklist where we go into detail about all the essentials you need to bring on your wintery camping trip.
Winter Camping Checklist: Shelter & Sleeping Essentials
When you’re first deciding to try winter camping, the most important part is deciding what will be your shelter, so you can stay safe and warm on the coldest winter days. Winter camping looks different when you’re sleeping in an RV with a built-in furnace vs. a tent.
If you are braving the cold in a tent, selecting one of the best winter tents for cold weather is a must. Small tents are better for winter camping than large ones because they are better at retaining heat!
Blankets are excellent insulators that protect you from the cold, so you can never have enough blankets when winter camping. Check out our favorite five camping blankets.
Add a waterproof camping blanket like the YETI Lowlands Blanket to your winter camping checklist. Water falls right off this blanket, which will help keep you dry when the snow starts melting or during a winter rainstorm. It’s a great blanket to line on the bottom of your tent.
Extra Sleeping Pads
We recommend bringing two sleeping pads on your winter camping trip if you’re tent camping. One should be a closed-cell foam pad and the other should be a self-inflating air pad. This setup provides the best insulation from the cold ground.
Winter Sleeping Bag
A warm winter sleeping bag will make your nights a lot cozier. We’ve selected the best winter camping sleeping bags and also provided an overview of what to look for in a warm sleeping bag for your winter camping checklist.
Winter Camping Checklist: Heat Essentials
The best portable heaters for camping run on propane. Propane heaters, believe it or not, will keep you warm all night with minimal fuel.
Not all portable heaters are safe for use inside your tent, so it’s extremely important to choose one that is if you are tent camping.
A cozy fire is the best way to stay warm on a cold winter day, but damp wood takes longer to catch fire and may not catch fire at all. You don’t want to sacrifice a fire when you’re winter camping, so fire starters are an imperative essential on our winter camping checklist.
Some fire starters are only good at starting fires and aren’t safe for cooking, so your winter camping checklist needs to include starters that are safe for cooking like these fire starter squares.
Heated Survival Vest
Survival vests protect your core and allow you extra pockets to carry first-aid items and other essentials when winter hiking. They’re an essential extra layer when winter camping to add to your winter camping checklist.
A heated vest is especially useful when winter camping because it can keep you warm longer. The TIDEWE Men’s Heated Vest can keep you warm for 10 hours on low, and it comes with a 10000mAh power bank to charge the vest.
If you are RV camping in frigid weather, you’re at risk of your pipes freezing. Frozen pipes can burst and flood, causing permanent damage to your RV. To reduce this risk, plug heat tape into an electrical outlet then wrap it around your pipes to keep them warm.
Winter Camping Checklist: Clothing
Waterproof and Warm Footwear
Keeping your feet warm is the easiest way to keep the rest of your body warm. Warm feet open up your blood vessels and allow heat to move faster to the rest of your body.
Waterproof gloves are a must-have item on your winter camping checklist. Like feet, dry and warm hands will help keep the rest of your body warm.
These OZERO gloves are windproof, waterproof, and anti-slip. They also have sensitive fingertips, which will allow you to use your smartphone or other touchscreen devices.
A winter trapper works better than other hats because they protect not only your ears, but they protect your neck. The CHOK.LIDS Waterproof Winter Trapper also comes with a mask that can be connected for added warmth to your face.
Temperatures fluctuate in the winter with warm winter days sometimes coming as a surprise, so it’s important to pack layered clothing that allows you to layer up and down as needed. Layered clothing will also help you keep dry.
Winter time is prime hunting season in many states, so it’s important to prioritize wearing bright-colored clothes if you are camping in an area frequented by hunters (or if you are a hunter), so you are not mistaken as prey. You may also opt to wear a bright vest so you stand out.
Synthetic pants are a great top layer because they will shed water and keep you dry. A windproof jacket is an essential winter camping checklist item because it will work to protect you from heavy drafts and breezes.
Wool hoodies like the Icebreaker Quantum III are great apparel to wear for mountain, skiing, and hiking adventures. It’s warm enough to keep you comfortable on its own or to use as a layer under your windproof jacket.
Winter Camping Checklist: Safety and Emergency Supplies
Backup Generator or Power Bank
Even if you’re camping in a campground that provides electricity, the power can get knocked out there just like it can at home. If you’re RV camping, you can keep your RV furnace going with a generator designed to power RVs. A gas generator or propane generator is required to run your RV’s heater.
We recommend reading all about the best portable power for camping to help you decide the best generator or power bank for your camping needs
Tent campers will need enough power to charge phones or charge a battery-operated heating blanket. If you want to run a space heater for any amount of time, you will need a low-watt heater paired with at least a 1000W heater like the EF ECOFLOW Portable Power Station.
You never know when you’re going to lose your phone signal when camping, so we always recommend coming prepared with a survival radio, so you can stay connected to the outside world at all times and stay in the know about upcoming winter weather advisories.
Regardless of what type of camping you’re doing, you need a portable starter. You never know when cold temperatures will kill your vehicle’s battery.
We recommend a lithium jump starter like the NOCO Boost HD, which will jump cars, trucks, and RVs up to 8-liter gasoline engines or 6-liter diesel engines. It’s versatile and multi-functional because it works not only as a car starter, but you can use it as a power bank or flashlight also.
Roadside Safety Kit
This pre-packaged Roadside Safety Kit comes with many of the items mentioned in our ultimate winter camping checklist, including jumper cables, flashlights, and so much more.
It also comes with ponchos, tire inflators, a thermal blanket, soap, disinfectant wipes, and everything you could need in an emergency on the road when winter camping.
These jumper cables will require another vehicle to get yours started, so we still recommend bringing along the NOCO Boost HD (mentioned above), which will boost your vehicle’s battery without needing another car’s battery.
Don’t get caught camping without a shovel. You never know when you might need to dig yourself out of your campsite.
We recommend a collapsible shovel like the Crescent Collapsible Snow Shovel, which can be extended from 20 to 33 inches. Its ergonomic design will allow you to easily move snow, mud, and rocks out of your way.
Winter Camping Checklist: Other Essentials
Warm Food and Drink
Plan to bring food to cook hot. Winter camping is not the time to pack cold sandwiches ahead of time (unless you plan to heat them over the campfire) nor is it the time to try dieting.
You need plenty of nutrient-dense, high-calorie food to keep your body warm. Your body will burn plenty of calories trying to stay warm–did you know shivering can burn 100 calories in just 15 minutes?
We have countless breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes for you to try in our Camping Food section. You should also plan to drink lots of coffee or hot chocolate. An easy way to make coffee while winter camping is with a French press.
Plenty of Light
It’s no secret that it gets dark sooner in the winter, so you need to be equipped with plenty of light to keep your campsite lit up. You will need to bring flashlights and a headlamp for finding your way around your tent or if the sun goes down when you’re hiking.
These tactical flashlights will illuminate the whole area, and they’re waterproof and safe for use in the rain. Plus, they’re strong enough to survive a 10-foot drop!
A headlamp is a great way to add extra light or free up your hands. Headlamps also help others see you in the dark, so they’re a win-win for everyone’s safety. We like the Foxelli LED Headlamp because it’s lightweight and can last for 45 hours on three AAA batteries.
It’s also a smart idea to string battery-operated lights around your campsite. These camping lightbulbs are waterproof and incredibly bright.
Staying hydrated is important for all types of camping and keeping your water thawed in the wintertime can pose a challenge. We have a couple of solutions.
However, storing water when camping can get heavy, so if you’re looking to drop some weight, we recommend packing a microfilter water bottle like the LifeSaver Wayfayer Water Purifier, which can allow you to melt snow and filter it for safe drinking.
Download Our Winter Camping Checklist
We recommend downloading our winter camping checklist to keep track of everything you need for camping in the winter!
Winter Camping Checklist
- Shelter–tent, RV, camper, car, van, truck, cabin
- Weather or survival radio
- Pack essential gear
- Extra blankets
- Extra sleeping pads
- Closed-foam pad
- Self-inflating air pad
- Winter Sleeping Bag
- Multi-layered clothing (and bright-colored if camping or hiking in areas where hunters frequent–you could also wear a bright vest around your coat to stand out)
- All clothes should be breathable and should not constrict movement
- Waterproof boots
- Windproof winter jacket
- Synthetic pants that shed water
- Several pairs of waterproof gloves
- Winter trapper
- Tall wool hiking socks
- Wool hoodie
- Wool-based layered leggings
- Thermal underwear
- Pack food and drink to eat warm
- Hot chocolate and coffee
- Hot meals for cooking over a camp stove or fire
- Bring high-calorie foods like cheese, pasta, bread, and meat–remember, winter camping is not the time to start your diet because you will burn plenty of calories in the cold!
- Fill several large insulated water bottles or insulated jugs that won’t freeze
- Microfilter water bottles can filter melted snow into drinkable water
- Light–it gets dark earlier in the winter, so light is even more important when winter camping
- Battery-Operated Lightbulbs
- Best Camping Generators
- Portable Starter for Your Vehicle
- Roadside Safety Kit
Wrapping Up the Ultimate Winter Camping Checklist
You’re ready to start prepping for your winter camping trip with our winter camping checklist. Before you leave for your trip, be sure to read our Complete Winter Camping Guide to be even more prepared for braving the cold!