15 Best Winter Camping Gear & Tips for Your Next Adventure!

Best winter camping Gear and tips Blog Header

Winter camping can be extremely fun and extremely dangerous. Sometimes the allure of camping in the winter is just to say you can do it. Other times camping in the winter is just some people’s way of life. Here at Online Outdoor Outlet, we do our fair share of camping in the winter. Most of our winter camping is done in temperatures well below freezing with snow on the ground. In this blog post, we wanted to share some of our favorite winter camping gear & tips for survival. These tips should make your winter camping trip the most enjoyable as possible.

1. Check the Weather Forecast

The first thing you should do before heading out on a winter camping trip is to check the weather forecast. This will not only help you prepare accordingly but also give you an idea of what to expect so you can choose your Winter Camping Gear. If you live in an area where the temperatures can plummet overnight you want to make sure you pack all the right gear. This also highly impacts the weight of your equipment that you must be bringing to keep yourself warm during the night when the temperature begins to fall sharply.

Essential Winter Camping gear

2. Avoid the Wind

As much as the cold during the winter can affect how your camping trip goes the wind magnifies the enjoyability of the trip. When selecting a campsite for your winter camping trip you will want to make sure you find a spot that is sheltered by the wind. This can be done by finding a natural low spot, a rock wall, or even a thick group of trees. If you are camping where there is fresh snow you can also build a windbreak all the way around your tent to push the breeze up and over.

It is recommended that you pack down the snow with your feet before setting up your tent or removing it completely; this ensures that there is no loose snow that will melt under your tent getting you wet potentially. Staying out of the wind on your next winter camping adventure will help you keep warm at night when the temperatures fall.

3. Chose the Right Tent for Winter Conditions

Having the right gear for the conditions is more important in the winter than any other camping season. The most important piece of equipment you should invest in is a 4 Season Camping Tent. These tents are built to keep you warm in the wind and cold that comes with winter camping. If you want to learn more you should check out our blog post on Best Winter Camping Tents. It covers everything from A-Z you should be looking for in a winter camping tent and how to keep them warm.

4. Use the Ventilation Flaps on your Tent even during the Winter

While this might sound absurd when trying to keep your tent warm, it is still a good idea to leave one of the ventilation ducts on your tent open. This prevents condensation from building up inside your tent, keeping you and your gear dry. Waking up with a wet sleeping bag in the middle of the night is the worst and makes it hard to get warm again if you need to move around. Keeping one of your ventilation flaps open during the night will help all of the condensations for your heavy breathing escape.

5. Choose the Right Type of Winter Sleeping Bag

Winter sleeping bags are an essential part of keeping you safe while winter camping. In areas where the temperatures are below freezing, you need to be extremely cautious when selecting a new sleeping bag for your Winter Camping Gear kit. For the most part, these sleeping bags are quite easy to come by, however, you need the right kind of sleeping bag if you want to survive the biting cold. A general rule of thumb is to bring a sleeping bag or quilt that is at least 10-15 degrees warmer than the coldest temperature you’re expecting. Below are our two recommendations for winter sleeping bags.

Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree Bag for Winter Camping
Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree Bag
Big Agnes Echo Park Synthetic Sleeping Bag for Winter Camping
Big Agnes Echo Park Synthetic -20-40 Degree Sleeping Bag

Apart from the temperature rating, you should also consider what kind of insulation the sleeping bag provides. Synthetic sleeping bags are always a better option than your average down fill ones as they are generally less expensive, lighter, and do not lose their insulating ability when wet.

Another couple of features for your winter sleeping bag are two-way zippers and a sleeping pad holder. These are really useful and should always be considered if they are available.

6. Always Dress Up in Layers when Camping During the Winter

An essential part of winter camping is your clothing. Your body emits heat which is your key resource, to maximize its impact you should always dress up in layers. Warm base layers, below some good mid-layers with some water-resistant clothing on top will keep you comfortable all day long. Loose clothing is always preferred over tight fits as it will not impact your mobility while keeping you warm. Our rule of thumb for winter camping clothing is 3 layers with a distinct purpose. Base layers to pull away moisture, a mid-layer for warmth, and an outer layer to keep the elements off of you.

7. Invest in some Wool Socks for Your Winter Camping Gear Kit

Frostbite happens more often than you think, and it always starts with your extremities so it is always a good idea to pack some extra pairs of socks. Sometimes your feet get wet from sweat or even worse a leaky boot. Merino Wool Socks are a great option to keep your feet warm. They are low friction, moisture-wicking, and most importantly when winter camping they offer protection from the cold.

You may also want to look into water-resistant socks. They are widely available and we recommend investing in a pair. However, if you don’t have any on hand; wearing polythene bags over your socks with a good rubber band seal on top will ensure your feet stay dry even if you step in a puddle or two accidentally.

8. Bring lots of Handwarmers

Handwarmers are one of those items that can significantly improve your winter camping experience, having a pair of them inside your jacket pockets or your gloves will ensure you avoid any discomfort in the biting cold. We have found that when using hand warmers they work best if you place them on the back of your hand inside your gloves. This heats up most of the blood flowing through your hands keeping the tips of your fingers nice and warm!

There are a lot of good options to choose from the traditional Hot Hands to electric hand warmers are widely available but are dependent on charging. Another great option is to use gel snap-activated hand warmers which don’t require charging and can be reused by just boiling them in water. 

9. Using Water Bottles for Warmth

This is a great pro tip from a seasoned winter explore. Before bed, each night fill up a plastic water bottle with hot water and toss it in the bottom of your sleeping bag. A glass mason jar also works great for this. The heat from the bottle will take the edge off of getting into a cold sleeping bag and also provide warmth all night long. Make sure the lid is on tight to ensure there are no questions of whether or not you had an accident in the night.

10. Add a Portable Toilet to Your Winter Camping Gear Kit

There is nothing worse than being in the cold elements with burning thighs from squatting too long. Portable toilets are not only great for keeping your camping spot sanitary but also help keep you warm when you do need to answer the call of nature. Portable toilets allow you to do your business quickly and get back to the warmth of the tent without being exposed for too long. As a good rule of thumb, you should always relieve yourself before going to bed, as your body has to spend extra resources keeping warm if you hold it in all night long. Below are our favorite portable toilets for winter camping.

PLAYBERG Folding Portable Toilet Seat for Camping and Hiking
PLAYBERG Folding Portable Toilet Seat for Camping
Green Elephant Portable Toilet for Camping
Green Elephant Portable Toilet for Camping

11. Bring an Insulated Bottle or Thermos

This goes along with tip #9. Always fill an insulated bottle or thermos up with warm water before bed to bring in the tent. If you are like most of us you always wake up in the night needing a drink after a long day of activities. If you use a traditional water bottle everything may be frozen solid leaving you wanting a drink even more. An insulated bottle will keep your beverage from freezing in the night leaving you plenty of water to stay hydrated. It will also be massively useful when you want to enjoy some soup, coffee, or hot chocolate the next day to have a thermos on hand.

12. Store your Electronics in your Sleeping bag

All your electronics like your phone and camera will be using a form of Lithium Polymer battery which does not react well to cold temperatures. There have been so many cases where someone forgets to throw their phone in the sleeping bag with them and they wake up with a dead battery. Usually warming up the phone will allow you to turn it back on in the case of an emergency, but don’t count on it. We always recommend getting an electronics bag and storing everything in each night.

14. Never go to Bed Hungry During the Winter

When you are subjecting your body to harsh temperatures you should avoid going to bed hungry. Always have a few snacks ready in your tent. The extra calories intake helps your body to stay warm during the night. We recommend foods with a higher than average fat content for your body to break down while you sleep. While we are not talking about loading up on delicious bacon right before bed it wouldn’t be a bad option. Dry nuts are great winter night snacks and you should always stock up before you head out for your trip.

15. Be Respectful and Leave No Traces

The final tip for winter camping success is to be respectful and leave no trace. During the winter months, most agencies groups don’t check the garbage and waste areas at campsites as often as the summer leaving them very full. Always be prepared to bring your trash back home with you with a portable trash can. Please do not pile your trash on top of the bin and leave it for someone else to clean up. There are lots of great portable trash cans for camping you can bring along to keep your area clean.

Another couple rule of camping etiquette is to always camp at least 250 feet from any nearby trails, water sources, or other camping groups. Always try to use downed wood for your fire instead of cutting limbs off live trees. It is also highly advisable to view the wildlife from a distance and not leave any food out in the open. Winter is a vulnerable time for animals, and having wildlife intrude inside your camp can be dangerous.

Winter Camping Gear Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed this list of the best Winter Camping Gear & Tips to Make the Most of Your Next Adventure. Leave us a comment below letting us know how you think we did with the winter gear referrals. Did we miss your favorite Winter camping gear?

As always thanks for taking the time to check out our outdoor gear guide. At Online Outdoor Outlet we are here to help you escape to the outdoors with the best gear. Having the best winter gear will make your next adventure more fun. Hopefully, this guide helped you find the best winter camping gear. Please share this post with your friends and family before you leave us. As they say, the more, the merrier! Happy Adventuring!

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