Winter Camping Tips to Keep You Safe and Warm

Winter Camping Tips to Keep You Safe and Warm

Aristotle once said, “To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand in the cold.” What he failed to mention is that you can do more than just stand in the cold. You can go backpacking and camping during the cold season and experience the beauty of snow as much as you want. Of course, extra precaution is necessary to stay safe and warm. To do that, some winter camping tips may be in order.

One of the most important things to consider when camping during the winter season is how to stay warm. The winter camping tips below will help you do just that.


Winter Camping Tips

Choosing Your Camp Spot

Setting camp may be a tad more difficult in winter than it is during the other seasons. The ground is likely covered in snow and the days are a lot shorter.

Once you reach the campsite, take some time to choose the best spot to pitch your tent. There are the usual considerations in choosing your camp spot. These include the presence of a natural wind block such as a hill or a group of trees. Speaking of trees, you should avoid setting up under or near those that look like they’re going to fall on you. Look out for dead limbs or branches heavy with snow. It’s also a good idea to find a spot near a water source that’s far from other campers if you value some privacy.

You should also think about the possibility of an avalanche. Never set camp on or near a slope. Look for a place where the sun rises so you get some sunshine and warmth early in your day. Also, make sure you’re camping on the solid bare ground even if it’s covered in snow. Avoid pitching on vegetation.

You must remember to set camp before it gets dark. That will be sooner than later since daytime lasts shorter than 12 hours in winter. In comparison, a day in summer lasts more than 12 hours. Even if you have a campfire, flashlights, and headlamps, you’ll still find it hard to set camp in the dark. Pitching your tent and arranging all your stuff accordingly should be two of the first things you do once you reach your destination and find the perfect camping spot.


Setting Up Your Tent

You’ve probably wondered what it’s like to live in an igloo. It’s unlikely that you’ll build one so you’re better off simply pitching a tent on the snow. Before anything else, make sure you bring a tent that can withstand extreme weather.

You should first pack the snow down by tramping or stomping on your chosen spot. This will keep the snow from melting due to your body heat and stepping on soft snow and ripping your tent.

Crua Tri Luxury Winter Tent
Crua Tri Luxury Winter Tent

You can also dig down the snow before packing it and pitching your tent. This will create a wall of some sort to block the cold wind. Another option is to build an actual wall of ice beside your tent. It doesn’t need to be as high and sturdy as “The Wall” in Game of Thrones but it should be high enough to block the wind.

It may be difficult to use standard tent stakes. Bring snow stakes instead. Secure your tent properly so it won’t blow away or rip when there’s a strong wind.


Keep Warm and Cozy

A tent may not be enough to protect you from the cold. Bring a sleeping bag, preferably one that is insulated and has a black interior. If you don’t have an insulated one, you can buy a thermal sleeping bag liner.

Coleman Adult Mummy Sleeping Bag
Coleman Adult Mummy Sleeping Bag

Bring insulated sleeping pads to avoid sleeping on the frozen ground. More heat is lost while sleeping due to conductive heat loss. If your sleeping pads aren’t enough, use a foam pad or simply place your extra clothes under you.

Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic Foam Camping Sleeping Pad
Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic Foam Camping Sleeping Pad

When it’s not snowing, you can flip your sleeping bag inside out and place it over your tent to let it dry under the sun. The black interior will absorb solar energy better so it will dry faster.


Dress for the Occasion

Most lists of winter camping tips agree on one thing – layer up. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to wear 257 T-shirts all at once, which is the Guinness World Record if you must know.

Wantdo Men's Mountain Waterproof Ski Jacket
Wantdo Men’s Mountain Waterproof Ski Jacket

It’s often recommended to bring warm clothes whenever you go backpacking or camping even if it’s summer. That’s because it may get too cold at night. You need the right kind of clothes for your winter camping. Choose the ones that trap body heat. Pack extra clothes, socks, beanies, gloves, balaclava, and thermal underwear. Winter camping is one occasion in which it’s perfectly fine to have excess baggage. Also, avoid cotton clothes.

uYES Women's Thermal Underwear Set
uYES Women’s Thermal Underwear Set

Stay Dry

You need to avoid two things with regard to staying dry. First, avoid getting soaked in water. If it rains or you foolishly jumped into a river or any body of water, dry yourself up immediately. Get out of your wet clothes and wear warm ones.

You should also avoid getting soaked in your sweat. Don’t push yourself too hard when it comes to physical activities as you may sweat too much. Takes things slow. If you work out a sweat, change into dry clothes as soon as possible.

Kingshow Women’s Globalwin Waterproof Winter Boots
Kingshow Women’s Globalwin Waterproof Winter Boots

Wear the appropriate footwear. Some shoes will leave your feet wet from all the snow. Use waterproof footwear such as boots, gaiters, and snowshoes. You can also apply waterproofing to your hiking boots.

Before hitting the sack, make sure to bring your shoes inside the tent. If you leave them outside, they will be frozen come morning. Put dirty footwear in a plastic bag before bringing it inside.


Don’t Hold Your Pee

The cold weather will make you want to urinate more often. It’s easy to hold your pee instead of heading out into the cold, especially if it’s in the middle of the night. Doing so will only burn up calories just to heat the pee in your body. What you can do is keep a bottle to urinate in without leaving your tent. This only works for men, however. For women, you can use female urination devices (FUDs) or those inventions that let you pee while standing up.


Winter Camping Checklist


Whether you’re winter camping or backpacking, you need the right kind of bag for the job. First, you need lots of space for your extra clothes and gear. A backpack with at least 65 liters of capacity is good enough but larger than that, say 85 liters, is better. Keep your pack in the 4 to 5-pound range. Heavier bags will take their toll on you.

Petzl Nomic Ice Tool
Petzl Nomic Ice Tool

Your backpack should also have lots of external compartments, attachment points, and gear loops. You’ll need a place to hang your ice axe and other winter camping gear.


Food and Water

Nutrition and hydration are two of the most important things you must address while winter camping. Bring plenty of water as well as items you can use to procure and sterilize water. You won’t regret packing coffee or tea. A good cup of Joe in the morning is something you’ll look forward to after a long cold night. You’ll also need to eat lots of calories to keep your body warm. Pack energy bars and meals you can eat hot, as well.


Fire Starters

You need fire to keep you warm, boil water, and cook your meals. Make sure you have what you need to start a fire and keep it burning. Pack waterproof matches, lighters, magnesium flints, and other fire starters. You also need fuel such as tinder and kindle.


Portable Stove, Cookset, Bowls, and Eating Utensils

Nothing keeps the spirit alive and the body energized than a hearty meal and a hot cup of coffee. You can have all these if you bring a portable stove, pots, pans, and other items for cooking, eating, and drinking.


First Aid Kit

Accidents happen when you least expect them. A first aid kit will come in handy in such tragic circumstances.


Sun Protection

OutdoorMaster Ski Goggles
OutdoorMaster Ski Goggles

The sun will come out even if it’s winter. Make sure you’re ready for its rays by packing sunscreen and a pair of sunglasses or ski goggles.


Snow Gear

OUTAD Traction Cleats/Crampon
OUTAD Traction Cleats/Crampon

Skis, trekking poles, crampons, and an ice axe are just some of the things you’ll need for your winter camping or backpacking adventure. A snow shovel will also be necessary for digging through the thick snow. Aside from your tent and sleeping pads, you need items for an emergency shelter such as a thermal blanket and tarp. You should also wear a watch with an altimeter. This will help you keep tabs on how far you’ve gone up the snowy mountain.

LEKI Super Micro Trekking Staff
LEKI Super Micro Trekking Staff

Other Winter Camping Gear

There are a number of survival gear you can possibly bring to winter camping. These include a multi-tool, signal mirror, emergency whistle, paracord, knife, notebook and pencil, camera, binoculars, maps, compass, and GPS.

Grizzly Gear Emergency Survival Mylar Thermal Tube Tent
Grizzly Gear Emergency Survival Mylar Thermal Tube Tent

You should also have a repair kit for your tent and other gear. Hygiene and sanitation kits are also important for obvious reasons you should also bring forms of communication. Bring your mobile phone along with an extra battery pack. You could also use a satellite phone, and two-way radios if you belong to a group. Electronic devices lose power fast in the cold. Stuff them inside your sleeping bag when you call it a night so they will stay warm.

Self Pro Balaclava
Self Pro Balaclava

You’ll be spending lots of time inside your tent, especially with the nights being longer. A book, crossword puzzles, a music player, or a coloring book and crayons will keep you sane. The crayons can also double as a candle in case you run out of things to burn.


There are tons of other winter camping tips and hacks you can and should learn before you pack your bags and head out into the cold. Share what you know in the comment section below. As for camping and survival gear, check out the TC1200 tactical flashlight from 1tac. You can also learn more camping tips such as this one about car camping over at The Gentleman Pirate

Car Camping Tips: What to Bring, What To Do and Where to Park
Car Camping Tips

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Gentleman Pirate Club aims to share valuable knowledge and tips on how you can prepare and survive emergencies and other dire situations. We think of different scenarios and show you the many ways you can survive them. We also believe in self-sufficiency as a way to prepare for whatever lies ahead. As our ship sails in these waters, we look for valuable treasures. When we spot one, we tell you where it is.

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