Camping in the winter can be a truly magical experience. There's something about being in the great outdoors amidst all of the cold (and possible snow and rain) that can make you feel more alive than ever before. However, if you're not prepared for it, camping in the winter can also be a recipe for disaster. To make sure your winter camping trip goes as planned, we’ve put together a list of do’s and don’ts on how to camp in the winter successfully.
Do Dress for Success
One of the most important things you can do to stay comfortable on a winter camping trip is to dress properly. Layering is key—you want to be sure to have a base layer (such as thermal underwear), an insulating layer (like a fleece or wool sweater), and a waterproof outer layer (a coat or snow pants). You’ll also want to pack extra socks and gloves, and make sure your boots are waterproof.
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Do Be Prepared for Anything
In addition to dressing properly, you’ll also need to be prepared for other eventualities. If you’re planning on doing any hiking, bring along a map and compass (and know how to use them!). It’s also a good idea to bring along some emergency supplies, including a first-aid kit, a fire starter, and extra food and water.
Do Choose your Campsite Carefully
When you’re choosing a campsite, pay attention to the wind direction—you want to make sure your tent will be sheltered from the wind. Also, look for an area that’s elevated, since cold air settles in low-lying areas. Lastly, avoid camping too close to bodies of water, since they can create dangerous ice conditions.
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Do Use Sleeping Bags and Pads Designed for Cold Weather
Sleeping bags and pads designed for cold weather will help you stay warm at night. They are made with materials that trap heat better than standard sleeping bags and pads. Be sure to look for sleeping bags and pads that are rated for temperatures below freezing.
Don’t Forget Your Snowshoes or Skis
If there’s even a chance of snowfall during your trip, make sure to bring along your snowshoes or skis. Snowy conditions can make hiking difficult, if not impossible. And while you could trudge through the snow without them, why make things more difficult than they need to be? Snowshoes and skis will help you get around camp with ease—and they might even come in handy if you find yourself needing to make an emergency exit.
Do Bring Extra Food & Water
When you’re camping in the winter, you need to make sure you bring enough food and water for everyone in your group. Keep in mind, it takes more energy to stay warm in the cold weather, which means you’ll need more food than usual. And since water can freeze, it’s important to bring extra so you have enough to drink if your water supply freezes solid. Long story short, if you think you’ve packed too much food and water, maybe pack a little bit more.
Don’t Forget Your Hat & Gloves
Your head and hands are two of the places where you lose the most heat, so it’s important to keep them covered when you’re camping in the winter. A hat will help keep your head warm, while gloves will help keep your hands warm and dry. If you forget either one of these items, you’re likely to have a pretty miserable time.
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Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen & Lip Balm
The sun reflects off of the snow, so you can still get sunburned even in the middle of winter. If you forget these seemingly insignificant items, you could end up paying for it in more ways than one.
Whether you’re an experienced camper or just getting started, following these dos and don’ts will help ensure that your winter camping trip is safe, comfortable, and enjoyable. So what are you waiting for? Grab your gear and hit the trails!