Camping out in the cold weather can be infinitely relaxing, with all of the snow, ice, and sleet, the quiet of this sleepy season can be peaceful for the soul. But you want to make sure that when you go, you have everything you need on your cold weather camping checklist, as forgetting certain things can make a trip mighty miserable. And there’s nothing more disappointing than being cold and miserable, too.
Shelter from the elements
When it’s cold out, taking refuge from the elements is an important thing to prepare for. Even clear, sunny weather can unexpectedly turn into rain, sleet, or snow.
Because of the cold, you’ll want to find a location that is especially good for a heat source, such as a campfire. If you choose a campfire, you’ll also want to make sure that there is plenty of fuel around, such as wood.
If you start to get cold, don’t suffer it out as it will only get worse. Instead, try putting a hot water bottle heater into your camping bag, or get up and do some exercises to raise your blood pressure, heart rate, and bodily heat generation.
- Tent: a 4-season tent, so it can handle winter
- Tent footprint
- Tarp: comes in handy for all sorts of things
- Tent necessities: extra rope, extra stakes, tent repair kit just in case
- A 4-season sleeping bag, so that it can handle winter
- Optional vapor barrier liner for your sleeping bag in extreme temperatures
- Extra clothing layers: you can take them off or put them on as needed
- Extra clothes: extra changes of clothes in case the other ones get wet
- Hot water bottle heaters
You’ll want to dress appropriately, but flexibly for the weather, even if it means bringing along extra things.
With your clothing it’s important to remember not to stay in wet clothing. You’ll want to change out of them as soon as possible and let them dry. If it’s extremely cold, place the clothing that you will wear inside your sleeping bag.
This acts as insulation to help keep you warmer, and when you get up, those clothes will be nice and warm for you to change into. In a similar vein, you’ll want to make sure that all of your clothes will be inside your tent, so that they won’t be frozen in the morning – especially shoes.
When you dress, don’t over-layer to the point where you feel like your clothing is tight. You want to make sure that you are not restricting blood flow to anything. A lot of novice campers put too many layers of socks and then wear their boots with not enough circulation.
- Long sleeved shirt
- Long legged pants made of fleece or wool
- Sweater made of fleece or wool
- Long underwear made of fleece, wool, or polypropylene
- Hiking boots or waterproof shoes suitable to the terrain
- Socks made of wool, fleece, or synthetic material
- A shell jacket, insulated jacket, or parka made of puffy material or down
- A warm hat, such as a stocking hat made of fleece or wool
- Gloves or mittens made of fleece or wool, optionally water resistant
- A warm scarf, such as wool
- An optional face-cover like a ski-mask if it gets extremely cold
- A raincoat, rain boots or rain boot covers like gators
- Sunglasses and hat
- Chemical or electronic hand warmers
Camping necessities pouch
You should bring these things no matter what kind of camping trip that you are going on.
- Swiss army knife or other multi-tool, but at the very least a pocket knife
- Sunscreen – yes, even in winter!
- Aloe vera for sunburns
- Insect repellant with DEET
- First aid kit
- Hand sanitizer gel or hand sanitizing wipes
- Map of your area
- Light source such as flashlights, lanterns, or headlamps – winter means less daylight hours
- Wind burn and frostbite preventative such as vaseline
Remember to bring extra ice to put in your watercooler if you’re bringing cold items. This will help keep your food preserved and from spoiling from being left out. If the weather is below the freezing temperature, you should be fine without it, though.
Every cold weather camping checklist should include food and proper cooking tools, everything that you will need to save, cook, eat, deal with leftovers, and dispose of waste.
- Water cooler to fill with ice
- Cooking tools: Pots, pans, spoons, tongs, spatulas
- Eating tools: knives, forks, spoons, paper plates, plastic cups, disposable bowls
- Food safety and cooking: Aluminum foil, Plastic wrap
- Salt, pepper, other seasonings
- Cookers: Portable camping stove and its propane fuel
- Fire starters: Matches or a lighter
- Trash bags
Because you’re going to be out in the elements, it’s important to bring along the right kind of food. Buying whatever is available from the nearest fast food will make your tummy full immediately, but it won’t suit you well in the long run. You’ll want food that is low in sodium, low in sulphur, and low in processed chemicals.
If the weather is going to be below freezing, you will need to make sure that you are eating more than you normally would, because your body is burning more calories at a higher rate to help keep you warm. But you don’t need to over-do it, either.
It also helps if your meals are warm ones. They help your body feel a little warmer and help cheer up your spirits.
- Ready to eat dehydrated meals
- Snacks like granola bars
- Foil packet meal ideas
- Overnight meal ideas
- Mostly-prepared meal ideas
- One pot meals
- One skillet meals
- Vacuum sealed meals
Cold weather camping checklist
Remember to stay warm, know your area, stay on the trail, and don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help if you need it. Keep drinking water throughout the trip even if you don’t feel thirsty, so that you won’t get dehydrated. Have a safe and happy winter trip!