COLD WEATHER CAMPING TIPS: THE ONLY GUIDE YOU WILL EVER NEED
Post summary: Giving you all the best cold weather camping tips and cold weather gear for your next adventure!
I recently went camping out in the mountains near my house and man was it cold outside. I have been becoming more and more of a mountain girl, which means colder nights camping.
After being freezing cold at night, I decided I should write a whole blog post on cold weather camping tips so that you don’t make the same mistakes I did.
This article is going to give you all the information you need! On top of giving you some of my cold weather camping tips, I will give you some of the best winter camping tents, the best sleeping bags for cold weather as well as my recommended cold weather hiking clothes.
PREPARATION FOR COLD WEATHER CAMPING: A QUICK NOTE
Camping in the winter is absolutely beautiful, but can also be extremely dangerous! You need to be even more prepared when camping in the winter, especially if there is snow.
If you are new to winter camping, as with being new to anything, start out slow. Make sure you are fully prepared. Begin with shorter trails, just like you would for your first backpacking trip.
Avoid places with potential avalanches and make sure to continuously check the weather prior to your camping trip.
As always, make sure to have a plan and make sure to tell someone where you are going. These are the basic steps to any hiking and camping trip.
Ok with all that being said, let’s get into the fun part of cold weather camping!
WINTER CAMPING TENTS
Shelter will be one of your most important pieces to the puzzle. There are a few key things to consider when it comes to choosing a winter camping tent.
The most popular tent that people purchase is a 3-season tent; however, if you plan to camp in colder weather or even in the snow then you need to get a 4-seasons tent.
So what is the difference? It can be confusing.
3-season tents are typically made for your day to day weather. Think warm weather, maybe some light rain and some cold nights. These types of tents are usually lightweight and pack down pretty small.
A 4-season tent is designed to withstand the most extreme weather. They provide thicker walls and protect you from heavy snow.
With that being said, unfortunately, 4-season tents tend to be more expensive, heavier, and not as “packable.” However, if you plan to do a lot of winter camping then it is probably worth the investment.
Below are some of the best-rated 4-season tents.
Nemo Equipment Inc. Kunai 2p
Black Diamond Eldorado 2P Tent: 4-Season
BEST SLEEPING BAGS FOR COLD WEATHER
Another key part of the package is getting a weather-appropriate sleeping bag for those cold nights. So, let’s talk about the best sleeping bags for cold weather.
If you are anything like me, you get cold at night. But, if you are like my husband you can sleep basically naked and be fine. So, how do you determine which sleeping bag to get then?
Well, there are two things you will want to look at when determining which sleeping bag to purchase: The EN comfort rating and the EN lower limit rating.
EN Comfort rating: This indicated the lowest temperature that the average woman will sleep comfortably in
EN Lower limit rating: Indicates the lowest temperature in which the average man will stay warm in.
Unless you are doing some crazy mountaineering you probably don’t need the < 0 degree F rating. Usually, a sleeping bag with -25 F to +5 degree F rating is good for your winter weather types of camping.
I personally have The Cat’s Meow sleeping bag from North Face and it keeps me so warm at night! It is rated as a 20 F synthetic bag, so not the best for snow weather, but good for normal camping.
The Marmot Ouray Sleeping bag is 0 F and will keep you so warm! The Marmot Xenon is another great option for cold weather camping type of trips!
Looking for a more budget-friendly sleeping bag that is still appropriate for winter camping? Check out the Kelty Cosmic Sleeping bag.
Remember! It is better to be warm at night than cold.
COLD WEATHER HIKING CLOTHES
If you have read my beginners guide to hiking or my beginners guide to backpacking then you know a lot of gear is needed to simply even get out there. Now add cold-weather gear on top of that.
Winter gear is usually thick and heavy. But, don’t let that deter you.
My recommendation is that you go camping with others and share the gear. This will help lighten the load so that you can pack warmer and thicker clothes.
How you dress will ultimately depend on the conditions, but let’s go over some of the basics of having the best cold weather hiking clothes.
When hiking or camping in the winter it is best to have the following three types of layers to start with: a base layer, an insulated layer, and a waterproof layer. This is the bare minimum and then you can always add on from there.
So, let’s talk about each layer.
You will want to start with a long-sleeve base layer like the Backcountry Spruces Merino Baselayer Crew – Women’s. Typically, Merino Wool is best.
For the lower body, it is best to wear a softshell pant like the Arc’teryx Gamma LT Softshell Pant – Women’s layered on top of a base layer like the Backcountry Spruces Merino Baselayer Bottom – Women’s.
On top of your base layer will be your insulation layer. If you are always cold like me then you will be adding multiple layers to your top off.
I usually start with my Patagonia Fleece Pull-over and then layer that with an insulated down puffy jacket like the Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hooded Down Jacket – Women’s.
And if needed I will do another layer that is more wind proof and/or rain proof.
BOOTS, SOCKS AND GLOVES
Frostbite is no joke! Our bodies keep our core warm first, meaning our little hands and toesies will get colder quicker.
AKA not good and we need to protect them.
How we can protect them is by having a solid pair of gloves, socks and boots that are snow proof.
First you will want to purchase a high-quality wool sock. These help with moisture reduction!
Next up, you will want to get yourself a pair of quality hiking boots made for the snow! Check out the Oboz Bridger 7in Insulated B-Dry Boot – Women’s or the KEEN Revel III boots.
Gaiters are also always a good idea for keeping snow out of your boots!
Another tip! Keep your boots in your tent at night to protect them from freezing overnight.
Gloves! My hands always feel frozen. I usually bring to layers. A thinner glove like the Black Diamond lightweight fleece glove and then a thick mitten like the Hestra Heli Mitten.
Lastly, don’t forget those toe and hand warmers!
You should plan to have a pair of designated sleeping clothes. Sleeping in clothes that you have sweat all day in will not keep you warm at night.
You should plan to have a breathable base layer, warm socks, and a beanie to sleep in at night.
I plan on purchasing the Kari Traa Rose Half-Zip Top – Women’s outfit set for my sleepwear. It is a base layer, but I will use it to sleep in.
TIPS FOR STAYING WARM IN A TENT
There are a few ways to keep you extra cozy at night when winter camping.
Let’s first talk about your tent set up. Where you choose to set up your tent for the night is just as important as the type of tent you purchase.
If possible, try to find a place that offers some sort of shelter from the weather. Try to find somewhere that blocks the wind or covers you from other potential elements like rain and snow.
Sleep under a tree if it is there!
This cold weather camping tip probably goes without saying, but I want to make you aware of it still! You will want to add a layer of insulation between you and the snowy ground when heading to bed.
Aka a sleeping pad.
So, let’s get into the best sleeping pads!
SLEEPING PADS FOR COLD WEATHER CAMPING
You will want to try to find one that has an R-3.5 or higher rating.
These types of sleeping pads already have insulation in them.
The NEMO Equipment Inc. Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad is a great option!
Another great option is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad. Again, this one has insulation already in it.
Some people even layer up on the sleeping pads for extra warmth. It is common to put down the lightweight Thermarest Z lite sol as your base layer if you find that you are getting cold with just the one sleeping pad.
The most important thing here is to make sure to bring a sleeping pad.
10 FINAL COLD WEATHER CAMPING TIPS
1.Use a closed-cell foam pad/Therma rest as a camping seat: This is perfect for any type of camping! Including car camping. The closed-cell foam pad is perfect to sit on while you are in the snow and don’t want to be cooped up in your tent or if you are pulling off the side of the road and cooking food and want somewhere to sit other than the ground.
2.Wear a neck warmer/gaiter: These things surprisingly keep you incredibly warm. I wear them out on hikes because they are so versatile and when I do wear it around my neck I feel so warm!
3. Warm the hands: Keeping your hand warm will also help keep your whole body warm! Make sure to pack enough hand warmers!
4. Grab a sleeping bag liner: You can always had a sleeping bag liner to your sleeping bag to increase the temperature rating by 10 degrees. Plus! In hot-weather the liner could be used as it’s own sleeping bag.
5. Pack on the fat: More fatty foods that is! Science lesson here! When you are cold your metabolism increases. Your metabolism processes fats slower than carbs, so you will want to pack on those fatty foods like peanut butter and nuts! Or grab my favorite new bar from grazerbar! Their peanut butter stampede bar is perfect!
6. Snuggle with your Nalgene: Have you heard of this one before? Try pouring hot water into your nalgene and putting it in your sleeping bag at night. It will keep you warm all night long!
7. Don’t get intoxicated: Contrary to popular belief large amounts of alcohol in your body actually decreases your core body temperature which would obviously not be good for camping in the cold!
8. Bring something to do: The sun goes down very early in the winter months, so make sure to bring some kind of activity to do in your tent until bedtime.
9. Avoid sweating: Ok, if you are anything like my husband then you basically sweat practically lifting a fork, but if you can avoid sweating right before bed this will help you stay warm.
10. Have fun and stay safe! Make sure you are extremely prepared before doing a cold weathering camping trip! Try these tips out and see if they help!
FINAL THOUGHTS FROM YOUR OUTDOOR LOVING GIRL
I would love to know if you have ever been on a camping trip in the snow! It takes a lot of preparation and a lot of gear, but it is so worth it.
Think about all the beautiful sites you will see!
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