Camping is no longer just a summertime adventure–and that goes for all kinds of camping. Yes, there are many places and ways to enjoy winter tent camping, as well! But tent camping in the winter does come with its own pros and cons, risks, and rewards.
In order to experience a safe and fun winter tent camping adventure, there are some essentials to have on hand and tips you need to know. Read on for a roundup of the most crucial information about winter tent camping…including necessary gear, learning how to pitch your tent in the snow, some safety essentials, and more.
Essential Items for Winter Tent Camping
There’s no doubt the look and feel of winter tent camping can vary greatly from place to place based on things like elevation, terrain, the time of year you go camping, and so forth. However, there are several items that are essential for winter tent camping. You want to make sure you have these all checked off before you strike off on your camping trip.
Winter Camping Tent
Many of the parameters for winter tent camping vary greatly from those of summer camping. One of the key elements to a safe and enjoyable winter tent camping experience is the type of tent you have–and for this reason, your summer camping tent might not do the trick.
All sorts of tents are graded for different types of use, and some for various seasons. Certain tents are designed and ventilated to help keep you cool during hot summer days. The kind of tent you want for winter tent camping will do the opposite, keeping you insulated and warm in the harshest weather.
You also want your winter camping tent to be extra sturdy against the elements and keep you dry even in snowstorms and other harsh, inclement weather. With all of this considered, choosing the best winter tent is a crucial step for ensuring a safe and fun winter tent camping experience.
Winter Camping Gear
Eating good, nutritious food is a must during your winter tent camping adventure. You need to keep your belly full and your body nourished, as any kind of winter activity will burn more calories than a warm-weather counterpart.
For cold-weather cooking, camp stoves are often the best option. They allow you to heat up and cook food with relative ease. This helps ensure you don’t have to worry about cold, damp kindling, or expending a ton of extra energy building a fire before you eat.
Choosing the best camp stove for winter tent camping will ultimately come down to your personal preferences and what camping meals you intend to cook. The key here is to do your research and choose a suitable camp stove that you can easily pack along in your gear, as well as operate with minimal hassle.
As a general rule, you want to aim for simple, hot meals while winter tent camping. Try to keep it calorie-dense and confine your cooking to a single pot if possible. This will help save you both time and energy spent on cleaning dishes, and the caloric intake will help you feel more comfortable and fueled up in the cold weather.
Always remember to store your food properly while camping in winter. While bears tend to be the most notorious animals for raiding food stores–and it’s true they hibernate during the winter–there are many other animals still active in the cold months who would love a taste of your meal. You can either store your food in your vehicle or use odor-proof storage bags for your food.
Experts also advise having a backup camping stove in case your primary stove should fail. While you have the option to cook your food over a campfire in the event of a camp stove malfunction, this can be far more taxing and stressful in the cold, often damp conditions of winter.
While you want to be mindful of how much gear you pack for your winter tent camping excursion, there are several safety items you never want to go without in the cold months. These include a camping first aid kit, a waterproof headlamp, a reliable multi-tool, an emergency whistle, a tent repair kit, some sunscreen (yes, sunscreen is essential in the winter to avoid snow-induced sunburn!), and hand and body warmers.
Bear in mind that this is just a brief roundup of useful safety items for winter tent camping. There may be other items you personally want to bring along, such as extras of prescription medications in case you become delayed or stranded by inclement weather during your camping trip.
You should also consider bringing extra changes of clothing to swap out in the event that some of your clothing gets damp during your winter tent camping adventure.
Having the right sleeping bag is crucial for winter tent camping. Since not all camping sleeping bags are created equal, you don’t want to wind up with one that’s graded for warm weather and aims to keep you cool while you sleep. Instead, you want a sleeping bag that will keep things toasty in your tent during those deep winter nights.
Be sure to take time to look at the best winter sleeping bags and choose one that best suits your needs, camping setup, and gear weight. This is definitely an area you don’t want to skimp on when it comes to winter tent camping, as the right sleeping bag can make or break the comfort and even safety of camping out in the wintertime.
In addition to choosing the right winter camping tent and winter camping sleeping bag, there are other ways to help ensure your space stays properly heated during winter tent camping. If you have enough room in your gear, a tent heater is a great option to help beat the cold.
There are many tent heaters to choose from, so take some time to do your research on the best tent heaters out there and choose one that fits your needs. It shouldn’t take up too much space in your tent or weigh down your gear unreasonably, so making the right choice on a heater is essential for your winter tent camping comfort.
Winter Camping Clothing
Of course, choosing the right winter camping clothing is a crucial part of staying comfortable and safe while you camp during the winter. The key to this type of gear is layers. You want the right ones made of the right material to ensure you remain warm but not too hot and protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia.
To start with, you want a base layer of moisture-wicking material close to your body. Yes, this includes underwear if you can find some! For your legs, consider fleece-lined pants, athletic wear, or for the ladies, even leggings.
Your mid-layer is focused on retaining body heat. A well-insulated vest or a fleece or wool jacket should do the trick for your perfect mid-layer.
The key elements of your top layer are that it needs to be waterproof and windproof. A good hiking jacket or a puffy coat will often do the trick here. Just make sure your top layer leans into practicality over fashion and that it’s made of the right moisture-proof materials.
Footwear is crucial for protecting some of your most vulnerable parts from frostbite. You want to aim for moisture-wicking, warm socks, such as thick wool socks. Your footwear should also be sturdy and waterproof, so be sure to look for the best winter hiking boots that will suit your foot and hiking needs.
Keeping your hands warm is just as essential as protecting your feet during winter tent camping. You want to make sure you have the right winter gloves that will allow you to use your hands to pitch camp, make food, and more, while still protecting your fingers from frostbite.
Your head is another vulnerable spot to keep warm during your winter tent camping adventure. You want to make sure you have a sturdy winter hat. Often, a lightweight fleece cap will do, as these can stretch to fit just about any head shape. However, you may find you prefer a winter hat with ear flaps (and even a visor!) for added protection from frostbite.
Essential Tips and Tricks for Winter Tent Camping
Know How to Camp in Snow
When it comes to winter tent camping, often you just won’t be able to avoid camping where there’s been a recent–or heavy and lingering–snowfall. The key here is to know how to camp in the snow properly so you stay as safe and warm and enjoy your camping trip as much as possible.
If you are pitching camp in an area with snow on the ground, you will want to select a sheltered spot that’s as far removed from any avalanche danger as possible. Pack down the snow before you lay down your tent mat and pitch your tent. This will help ensure your body heat does not melt the snow and lead to saturated clothing or damp gear.
If necessary, you can build a wall of snow around your tent to protect it from the wind. Alternatively, you can dig out the snow a couple of feet down and build your tent in the hollow to reduce the impact of the wind. Just be sure not to completely bury your tent, as it still needs ventilation.
Using specifically designed snow stakes is also a smart move when camping on snow. This will help ensure your tent stays put regardless of melting snow, shifting climate, or strong winds.
While you are laying your stakes and chiseling away snow and ice from your camp spot, be sure to avoid sharp edges like ice picks or exes, the edges of stakes or skis, or even your winter crampons coming into contact with your tent.
You might think that pitching your tent on the snow in the first place seems counterintuitive, and your instinct may be instead to aim for a camp spot on top of vegetation. However, the best practice for winter tent camping is to pitch camp on either packed snow or bare ground and use snow stakes.
Choosing a spot that is also exposed to the sunrise will allow for the maximum amount of time to warm yourself, your tent, and your belongings each day. So, you want to be mindful of the sunrise and sunset as well when choosing where to set up your winter tent camping gear.
Stay Hydrated and Nourished
Dehydration may seem like more of a concern when camping in warm weather, but it’s actually a great concern during winter tent camping and other types of outdoor activity in the colder months.
Dehydration greatly increases the likelihood of suffering from frostbite and hypothermia. And when you are performing strenuous activities in the winter, such as hiking, pitching camp, and the like, your body burns more calories than in the cold months.
With these risks in mind, it’s wise to ensure you bring enough food and drink along on your winter tent camping adventure to ensure you can remain well-hydrated and properly nourished throughout.
Wear Proper Winter Attire For All Your Activities
We have already looked at crucial winter camping clothing to help keep you safe and warm during your winter tent camping adventure. But there are some other items you might consider depending on other winter recreations you plan to enjoy during your camping trip.
It’s vital to ensure you have the specific winter attire suitable for your specific winter activity. This holds true whether you are enjoying some winter hiking, going snowshoeing, or braving the cold for a more rugged winter backpacking experience,
Make Sure You Have Winterized Gear
Even if you have a lot of camping gear already on hand, you want to ensure every item is graded to withstand colder temperatures. There’s nothing quite as disheartening as arriving at your winter tent camping destination only to find that some of your gear is unsuitable for the cold weather conditions.
Be sure to inventory your supplies ahead of time and swap out any warm weather-specific items for their cold-weather counterparts. This will help save you from having to scramble to improvise on unusable gear.
Using an inventory process will also help ensure you aren’t lugging dead weight out to your winter tent camping site. This is especially crucial when you will likely already be carrying more–and heavier–gear than normal to beat the cold.
Be Aware of Potential Weather Hazards and Other Risks
When winter tent camping, the weather can often turn at a moment’s notice. And if you are camping somewhere mountainous or somewhere with unfamiliar terrain, the hazards can increase.
When picking a spot for your winter tent camping, you want to be sure to pick a safe area to stay. Take stock of the area and look for any hazardous trees with limbs laden down by snow. These can become dangerous if the snow falls on your tent or, worse, if the limbs break off.
You want to pick a spot that’s private, protected from the wind and other elements by elevation or trees, and if possible, near a water source. Depending on if you are in an area with inclined terrain, avoid camping on or below a slope, as avalanches can happen in these spots with very little warning.
If a snowstorm were to arise during your camping excursion, you would also need to be able to find your way back to your campsite as easily as possible. So, you will want to make a note of memorable landmarks around your winter tent camping site as well.
Know How to Prevent and Treat Cold Weather Injuries
Of course, you want to take every precaution while winter tent camping to avoid injuries of any kind. With this in mind, it’s crucial that you brush up on your skills for how to both prevent and treat the kind of cold weather injuries that can make your winter tent camping trip a slog–and possibly even a dangerous excursion.
Wrapping Up The Essentials of Winter Tent Camping
Feeling prepared for a fun and safe experience in winter tent camping? Bulk up your knowledge even further with our winter camping checklist and our roundup of the best winter camping gear. These comprehensive guides will help you have everything you need to enjoy an amazing winter tent camping adventure.
- About the Author
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Renee Dugan is a lifelong writer, professional editor, and lover of the great outdoors.
A Midwest girl born and raised, Renee has always enjoyed the deep, life-giving inspiration that connection with nature brings.
In addition to channeling the awe of outdoor life into her prolific novel-writing career, she currently enjoys sharing it with her son and spreading knowledge of safe, fun outdoor life with Beyond the Tent readers and anyone she can help face-to-face.
Renee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org