Surviving Cold Weather Camping: The DO’s and DONT’s For Beginners

cold weather camping

Surviving Cold Weather Camping: The DO’s and DONT’s For Beginners

Cold weather camping is really not for everyone but I personally love it because of the many perks I think it affords me.

First there are fewer stinging bugs to worry about and obviously less crowds to tussle with – making it a peaceful and blissful enjoyment of beauty. But at the same time cold weather camping is not for faint hearted!! If you are not well prepared it can not only be a lot more challenging but can also be deadly especially when confronted with freezing temperatures (and possible frost bite), unpredictable weather, snowy and less traverse-able landscapes  etc.

So if you are to enjoy, let alone survive your cold weather camping trip you need to know the DO’s and DONTs of it and that is where reading this article becomes every bit worthwhile.

Here are the key points to keep in mind while you are cold weather camping:

  • Making camp in the snow? 

Choose a spot that is protected from the wind and free from the avalanche danger, then prepare your tent spot by packing down snow.

  • Hydration and calories: 

Accurate hydration and nutrition will keep you warm. Prepare hot and healthful breakfasts and dinners and delight in quick appetizers and lunches.

  • Use the right gear for winter camping: 

You will be needing a sturdy camping tent, two sleeping pads, a camping stove suitable for cold temperatures and a warm sleeping bag.

  • Put on warmer clothes: 

A waterproof jacket, the fleece pants, mid weight base layers, a puffy coat, and pants are standard. Not to forget the important accessories including gloves, sunglasses, a pair of warm socks and a hat.

  • Avoid cold injuries: 

Hypothermia and frostbite are the deadliest concerns while cold weather camping. So make sure you pack the right pair of winter boots that will protect your feet from the biting cold.

  • Bonus tips: 

Doing jumping jacks, filling a bottle with hot water and always trying to eat warm food maybe may be other good ways to stay warm on a cold night.

While you are cold weather camping you should go prepared and be packed for the worst case scenarios in mind, do not just rely on the weather forecasts (they are known to be way off). Pack “emergency” extra clothes that should be mid weight and blankets and also be prepared to prolong your journey if the weather conditions are too bad to drive back home.

cold weather camping

Want to make your trip more creative and a memorable one? We’ve got some great trip down here:

1. The Cold Weather Camping Kitchen:

One of my favorite and most looked forward to time during the cold weather camping is setting up fire and getting ready to have a warm meal. Sitting around a hot fire, making a meal or roasting game meat refreshes your spirits and body after a cold day.

But if you really want to have fun you can actually create your own kitchen using your shovel to dig out and shape the snow in a way to make your seats, tables, cooking surface, and even build your very own storage cabinet.  You can be creative and use your imagination to make it fun stuff that will add to your experience and memories. These will be great pictures to share of social media and with friends – and may be entice them to join you next time.

2. The LNT Rule: (Leave No Trace)

Even during the winter times, it is highly important to follow the “Leave No Trace” camping rule. You don’t want to go a camping site and find trash strewn all over the area, do you? So clean up after yourself. It’s not only common courtesy but trashing the any camping site may end up hurting you big time in the pocket when you get a citation for improper waste disposal. 

Always keep in mind to:

  • Stay at the deep snow covers when possible.
  • While camping on the snow, remember to pack out the human waste and toilet papers in a plastic bag.
  • If you are having a fire use the dead downed wood. Bear in mind to not cut or break the limbs of dead, live or downed trees.
  • Be respectful to the wildlife and view them from a good distance. Winter are usually a vulnerable time for animals.

3.  Melting the snow for drinking water: 

While you are cold weather camping, you may come across the lakes and creeks that are frozen solid or may be buried underneath the snow, which means you will surely be needing to melt snow in order to get drinking water.

Here are some tips to melting snow get drinking water?

  • Designate some space for gathering the clean white snow.
  • Light your camping stove as high as possible.
  • Put some water in your cooking pot and add the clean snow.
  • As the snow starts melting add some more.
  • You can make as much water as you need, keep in mind to not get a lot as while moving around, carrying heavy water bottles will become a burden.
  • But it is best for you to fill up your bottles at night so that they are ready to go for your next day.

4.  Essential gears for cold weather camping:

The classic rule of a cold weather or winter camp out is to stay dry and warm. Whether you have the right gears for your trip usually shows when you are out in the cold for a prolonged period.

Here we are sharing with you some details of the key items:

Camping tent:

It is important to have a shelter that is able to handle your cold weather camping. While choosing a tent for your winter camping trip, do keep these important things in mind:

  • The classic 3 season backpacking tent will work best if you are making the camp below the tree lines and you are not forestalling particularly any stormy weather.
  • For those heavy snowfalls and high winds, a 4 season tent is suggested. The 4 season tent has some sturdier poles and is designed with the heavier fabric than the 3 season tent so that they are capable of withstanding heavy snow loads and powerful gusts of wind.


Cold weather camping and backpacking requires some extra gear and bulkier, warmer clothing, so in that case you will be needed to use a larger backpack than the one you typically do in the summertime. Try to pack as lightly as you can, but at the same time make sure you are fully prepared for the winter conditions.

Some rough guidelines for a 2 to 4-day trip:

  • The Lightweight: a minimum of 65 liters or 3,967 cubic inch backpack.
  • The Deluxe: a minimum of 80 liters or 4,882 cubic inch backpack.

Sleeping Bag:

To make sure that you are comfortable on your cold weather camping trip. It is a good idea to use a sleeping bag that is rated at a minimum of 10°F lower than the coldest temperature you are expecting to encounter.

When picking a sleeping bag, think through these things:

  • Cold weather sleeping bags are delivered with some generous amounts of synthetic insulation or goose down. The goose down sleeping bag is a widespread choice due to its greater warmth to weight ratio. Just make certain to keep it dry because when damp, the goose down loses plentiful of its insulating ability.
  • Winter sleeping bags are well known because of their draft tubes placed behind the zippers, the draft collars over the shoulders and also the hoods to keep the heat inside the bag.
  • If you are not sure if your sleeping bag is adequately warm, don’t you worry. You can surely add a sleeping bag liner. These enhance the extra warmth while also minimizing wear and keeping your bag cleaner.

Sleeping Pad: 

A sleeping pad delivers the essential cushioning and insulation.

Here is some useful information about the sleeping pads:

  • Use two pads:

For your cold weather camping trip, use two full length  sleeping pads to save you from losing the body heat on snowy surfaces. Use the locked cell foam sleeping pad next to the ground and the self-inflating pad over you to get the best insulation from that cold ground.

  • Consider the R value: 

Pads are rated by the R value, this is the measurement of insulation, varying from 1 to 8. The higher is the R value, the better is its insulation. The pads designed for winter or the ones for all season usually use an R value of about 4.0 or higher than that.

Backpacking Stove: 

Most of the liquid fuel stoves and even some of the canister stoves are a great option for the cold weather camping.

  • The Liquid fuel stoves 

These run on white gas, which when burned is hot and clean and accomplishes well in below freezing point temperatures. But they have a tendency to be slower and heavier to boil as compared to the canister stoves, and you will typically have to prime them before you start cooking.

  • Canister stoves 

Canister stoves are quick to boil, light weighted and compact, but not all of them will work the best for you while cold weather camping. If you decide to use a canister stove for your winter camping, make certain that it has a built in pressure regulator. In the cold weather, canisters can probably depressurize and in result produce a weak flame. A pressure regulator will help you combat this problem.

  • Snow shoes, skis or and snowboards: 

If there are a few inches of snow on the ground, hiking is definitely the fine way to get around. But if you are heading to an area that gets a lot of snow, you will be needing some form of flotation to your traveling easier. These are the main options that you will have:

Snow shoes: 

If you are not a snowboarder or skier then the snowshoes are without a doubt your best bet to get around on the heavy snow.


For smooth topography, cross country touring skis work the best. For the steeper slopes you are supposed to bring along your back country skis.


You can make use of a split board that separates in two length ways, fundamentally becoming skis for climbing hills. You may also carry a typical snowboard in your backpack and use the snowshoes for traveling uphill.

Final take

When it comes to surviving even the worst case cold weather camping, better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. Make checklist of what you will need and remember your DOs and DONTs.



Camping & Hiking Essentials
Shop Camping Tents & Shelters » Shop Sleeping Bags »
Shop Backpacks » Shop Men’s Hiking Shoes »
Shop Women’s Backpacking Boots » Shop Women’s Hiking Shoes »
Shop Women’s Hiking Boots » Shop Men’s Hiking Boots »



Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: