If done right, winter camping will reward you with the most amazing sceneries and experiences that you’ve encountered so far.
But in order to enjoy them, you need to be prepared to face freezing temperatures and all other “perks” that come with this.
Here are some useful tips that you will help you stay warm when camping during winter:
1. Bring your 4 or 5 season tent
If you didn’t know this yet, tents are being rated differently depending on the season that they’re meant to be used. (Here’s a more detailed guide about this)
For winter camping, a 4 season tent is a must.
They usually have a double layer of fabric, that will help retain some of the heat. Also, waterproofing and breathability are superior to other types of tents.
Have around $1000 dollar to spent on a winter tent?
Then you really want to go for a 5 season tent (also known as an expedition tent).
These usually come pre-insulated and they’re designed for extremely cold weather.
2. Use a sleeping bag for winter camping
Just like tents are being rated by season, so are the sleeping bags.
You’ll find that a 4 season sleeping bag is much more appropriate for cold weather camping than what you’re used to.
Yes, it will cost you a little bit more but it will make up for it with the extra warmth that it provides.
To make it work great, keep in mind the following:
- Keep the sleeping bag dry – A quick guide on how to achieve this
- Don’t over-compress it – it will lose most of its insulation value if you do that. Re-loft the sleeping bag if you feel it needs it.
- Always ventilate it after using it
3. Add extra insulation if necessary
Remember that your tent is just a thin layer of fabric that has probably very little or no insulation whatsoever.
And if you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on an expedition tent, some DIY tricks can help sport out this problem.
Adding insulation layers to your tent (quick guide) is an easy process and won’t cost you too much.
Just remember that you still want to maintain some kind of ventilation, otherwise you’ll end up with other issues that will make things worse.
4. Always keep the campfire going
In the wilderness, this is what will keep you warm.
Therefore, you MUST keep it going for as long as you can.
Take some time during the day to gather as much firewood as you can to keep the campfire going through the night.
Also, make sure it has enough oxygen and never over stuff it firewood.
Choose its location to be as close as possible to your tent, but don’t overlook the safety factor.
Keep the tent entrance open as long as the fire is burning. This will allow the heat from the fire to find it’s way inside your shelter.
Even more, this will help with ventilation issues.
5. Use a safe tent heater
Now, there are debates about how safe tent heaters are.
And fair enough, one could argue that most of them are dangerous to use. And it’s not always the device’s fault, but it’s the user that makes mistakes and gives them a bad rep.
So are there any safe alternatives?
You can consider ceramic heaters and some electric heaters. These are fairly safe heating devices to use inside a tent. (find out more about them)
6. Keep condensation out of your tent
Tent condensation is your worst enemy, especially during the winter.
It will get your tent and your clothes wet, it will make you really feel that cold air.
Fortunately, there are some easy solutions that you can quickly apply to get rid of tent condensation forever. (here’s a detailed guide on what you need to do)
In a nutshell, you have to:
- always ventilate your tent
- never leave wet gear inside
- bring a small dehumidifier if necessary
7. Keep your kitchen outside the tent
To this day, people are continuing to cook inside their tent whenever it’s a little too cold outside.
For some reason, some aren’t bothered by all that smell that will 100 percent get impregnated in all the fabrics: tent, clothes, sleeping bag, etc.
But the major problem with cooking inside your tent during wintertime is again, condensation.
Your tent is made out of a breathable material, but when cooking, there is simply too much water evaporated at once for it to escape rapidly through the fabric pores.
8. Use gear that is right for winter camping
Now, we’ve touched the most important winter gear: insulated tent and sleeping bags.
But this doesn’t mean that other gear is not that important.
For example, surely you’re not planning to only bring a sweatshirt with you.
Here’s what winter camping gear is mandatory:
- as many pairs of socks as you can – these are getting wet so often that you’ll definitely need to change them very often
- waterproof jacket – remember, in the wintertime, there are big chances that you’ll get either snow or heavy cold rain.
- waterproof boots – for the same reason as the above
- wool blankets – one it’s fine, but two it’s better
- warm clothing – make sure you have at least two of each, just in case one get wet. And it will, for sure.
9. Make sure your campsite is wind protected
It’s common sense to admit that heavy winds are often encountered in the wilderness during winter.
Therefore, you must plan ahead and only set up camp where there is enough wind protection. This could be near natural or man-made wind barriers.
Windbreaks could be a great solution for this if you don’t mind carrying extra equipment with you.
Some people even build walls made out of snow. This won’t cost you anything if you’re lucky enough to get some snow. It’s also a pleasant activity to do.
10. Set up camp facing south
The worst part of winter camping is the morning.
Especially when you wake up, the campfire has gone out, and it’s the coldest morning that you’ve ever encountered.
This is where setting up the campsite facing south helps.
During wintertime, when the sun is at it’s lowest, this helps with getting as much warmth as possible from the Sun.
11. Enjoy hot meals
This is when you need to start counting the calories.
The more, the better.
You see, when trying to keep you warm, the body will use a lot more energy to do that.
This means you need to make sure you’re eating enough food for this to be sustainable.
Having some hot meals doesn’t really help with keeping you warm, but it plays a trick on your mind to make you feel like it does.
After all, that’s what comfort food is all about.
12. Consider using alternative heating ideas
Creating heat is not difficult by any means.
The problem is how you utilise this heat to keep you warm.
And if you decided that tent heaters are too dangerous inside a tent, perhaps it’s time to use that brilliant mind of yours to find alternative solutions.
It could be anything from heating rocks, water bottles and so soon.
There’s even a detailed guide about safely heating a tent that goes through many of these unique ideas.
13. Stay hydrated
I know what you’re thinking.
Dehydration during winter season? Is that really a thing?
Well, according to this article, the sweat will evaporate faster during cold weather, therefore, making you lose fluids quicker without even realizing that.
You’ll probably get less thirsty and you won’t realize you’re becoming dehydrated.
Make sure you drink plenty of liquids, pure water is great but you can top up with an electrolytes drink or even a warm cup of tea.
14. Always wear dry clothes
I’m sure this goes without saying that dry clothes will keep you warm.
That’s why we’re suggesting you bring on a couple of spare sweaters, pants, socks and so on.
And when it comes to the ones that are already wet, take some time to get them out of your tent and put them out to dry.
It doesn’t need to be near the campfire, anywhere that’s windy works great.
15. Take extra care to cover the extremities
The myth that we’re losing 40% of the heat through our head has been busted, but that doesn’t mean we’re not losing heat at all through or extremities.
You’ll always want to cover the hands, feet and the head.
Keeping your feet warm is perhaps the most important thing, as that area of the body suffers the most when it comes to cold weather.
16. Sleeping on the ground is better than on air mattress
Yes, air mattresses can be very comfortable. But this is not the case during winter.
Because you are going to sleep on a bed of freezing air.
As we all know, cold air tends to stick to the bottom of the tent, while the warm air always rises and escapes through the fabric.
So what should you use instead?
A sleeping pad or any kind of rigid foamy insulation.
These are few of many winter camping tips that you can use to stay warm. If you have your own techniques to stay warm, that you’ve tried and tested during the years, please share them with us in the section below.