Everything You Need to Know (and Buy) for Cold-weather Camping

Yes, you can actually stay warm while enjoying the outdoors in winter.

Winter is upon us, and that means it's time to return to some of our favorite seasonal outdoor activities, including hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and more. And if you want to go camping this winter, it's more doable than you might think — if you prepare, that is. Below, we've compiled our top five tips for camping in cold-weather climates. From wearing waterproof clothing to bringing an insulated sleeping pad to packing down snow underneath your tent, there are plenty of ways to prepare for a winter camping trip that will be sure to keep you comfortable (and warm).

campers cooking by a campfire

Keep reading for our top tips on cold-weather camping.

1. Make sure you have seasonally appropriate gear.

No matter what time of year you're going camping, the right gear, from tents to portable stoves, will make all the difference. If you'll be setting up camp in a cold climate, make sure to pick gear that's specifically designed to stand up to the elements and perform in colder temperatures. Items like sleeping bags and sleeping pads, for example, are often labeled by season, so you can choose an all-season or winter option for your cold-weather trips. Here are some of our must-haves:

  • L.L.Bean Down Sleeping Bag with DownTek, Rectangular 0°, llbean.com, $319
  • Geertop 4 Season Camping Tent, amazon.com, $113
  • Coleman Portable Butane Stove, amazon.com, $30
  • HotHands Toe, Hand, & Body Warmer Variety Pack, amazon.com, $12

2. Dress warmly — and in layers.

Men's navy winter parka
Courtesy of Zappos

From ultra-warm jackets to fleece-lined leggings to waterproof hiking boots, there are plenty of winter clothing essentials that will make your cold-weather camping trip much more comfortable. We love the North Face Altier Down Triclimate Jacket, for example, since it features a water-repellant and windproof shell, as well as goose down insulation in its inner layer.

3. Store your electronics properly to avoid freezing.

In order to protect your electronics, including cell phones, portable chargers, and headlamps, store them in your sleeping bag to keep them from getting too cold, REI recommends.

4. Set up camp and sleep on a flat surface.

If you're camping in a snowy environment, you'll want to find a flat surface, and, if you can, one that has wind protection, like trees or a nearby hill. REI's Expert Advice column suggests packing down snow beneath your campsite, since loose snow can be easily melted by body heat. Similarly, building a wall of snow around your tent will help reduce wind impact.

5. Don't forget a sleeping pad.

orange insulated camping sleeping pad
Courtesy of Amazon

We've already emphasized how important it is to pack winter-ready gear on your camping trip, but let's focus on one of the most important items to bring: an insulated sleeping pad. Sleeping on snow and ice can be quite cold, but a sleeping pad that's designed to trap in body heat will help you out in the warmth department. The Klymit Insulated Static V Sleeping Pad (amazon.com, $70) is a great option, since it's lightweight and easy to pack, and its design limits air movement and heat loss for both comfort and warmth.

6. Consider car camping.

If it's simply too cold outside, considering camping in your car. You'll be able to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors without braving frigid temperatures.

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