5 Tips for Winter Camping

Planning a cold-weather camping trip? Check out these tips to maximize your winter excursion
Thereโ€™s something special about camping in the wintertimeโ€”itโ€™s quiet and pristine, with scenery thatโ€™s blanketed in layers of snow. However, it can also be a little daunting to trek into the wilderness in the middle of January. How do you stay warm? What should you wear?

To help you answer these questions, we reached out to winter camping expert Meghan Young, cofounder of PNW Outdoor Women. The outdoorswoman explained that cold-weather camping is not as hard as it sounds. โ€œWinter camping takes a bit more preparation than a casual summer trip, but with the right gear, you likely have all the skills you need to make it a fun, comfortable adventure.โ€

Read Youngโ€™s top winter camping tips below.

Tips for Winter Camping


1. Dress in layers

One of the best ways to stay warm when youโ€™re camping in the wintertime is to learn how to layer for cold weather. According to Young, the key is to determine your activity level ahead of time and factor that in. If youโ€™ll be relatively immobile, for example, start your adventure bundled up, and then peel off layers as needed. On the other hand, if youโ€™ll be doing high-intensity activities right out of the gate, wear sweat-wicking baselayers and stash a warm down jacket in your backpack for later. This gives you greater control over your body temperature and prevents you from getting your baselayers sweaty, which can make you cold and miserable. โ€œIf you start to get chilly, donโ€™t just tough it out,โ€ Young explains. โ€œAdd a layer, have a snack, or walk around until you get toasty again.โ€ Itโ€™s also a good idea to reserve a dry set of baselayers and a warm pair of socks that never leave your tent to use for bedtime.

2. Try the โ€˜hot water bottleโ€™ trick

Another great way to stay warm in cold weather is to use your outdoor water bottle as a hot water bottle to keep you warm while you sleep. Simply fill your bottle with hot water and tuck it into your sleeping bag when youโ€™re going to sleep. The warmth from the bottle will keep you warm and toasty, especially if you place it around your feet, belly, or other spots where you tend to get cold. Just triple-check that the top is tightly closed, Young warns. โ€œIf itโ€™s too hot for you, consider covering it with a balaclava or extra piece of clothing so you can snuggle up next to it.โ€

3. Donโ€™t cover your face at night

While it may be tempting to bury your face underneath your sleeping bag to feel cozy and warm, Young cautions against doing so, explaining that it can actually make you colder. โ€œAs you breathe, you exhale condensation that can be chilly and damp,โ€ she says. โ€œYou donโ€™t want to put that into your sleeping bag.โ€ The outdoorswoman suggests using a balaclava to keep your face warm and protected while still outside your sleeping bag.

4. Wear a vest

Keeping your core warm is another key tenet of winter camping. According to Young, wearing a high-quality insulated vest is a fantastic way to do this without adding a lot of bulk. โ€œItโ€™s a relatively small, easy way to add insulation and warmth to your core so your body can push heat to your extremities,โ€ she says. You also want to be sure to bring your warmest winter jacket and the best winter boots you can find.

5. Load up on carbs before bed

Diving into a big bowl of campfire ramen right before bed isnโ€™t only deliciousโ€”it can keep you warmer while you sleep. It takes more energy to get warm than to stay warm, Young explains, so anything you can do to spike your body temperature right before bed will help. In addition to foods like bread or pasta, sugary snacks work great. โ€œYou can also take a short walk or do jumping jacksโ€”anything to get your blood circulating before you get in your sleeping bag.โ€
Ready for winter camping? Check out Columbia Sportswearโ€™s cold-weather gear.