Winter Camping Trip Beginner Guide


You may be wondering, “Why would anyone even think of camping in snow?” “I mean, isn’t this too extreme?”

Well, camping grounds are not so crowded during winter, which makes the whole experience more peaceful and enjoyable – that’s why. Plus the lakes and rivers are frozen so you get to try a bunch of new activities like winter kayaking and ice skating. Those who know how to ice fish will find great joy in this trip as well.

So yeah, people do love winter camping. But that is mostly because they take enough time to plan, prepare, and get the right camping gear and gadgets for cold weather.

Camping in the snow can be dangerous if not done properly. One, therefore, needs to have a good plan and obtain all the necessary supplies. You just don’t wake up one day, grab your tent, and hit the road. Understand what awaits you and be ready for it, as this will go a long way in ensuring a safe trip and maximizing the fun of each day spent with the snowpacks.

Pre-Trip Planning

1. Choose Your Destination

…and do it wisely. If it is your first time camping in cold weather, you may want to start slow. Get a location that is close to home so that even if the trip doesn’t turn out as expected, you can always go back home.

Think about what you intend to do on this trip.

Do you plan to ride your kayak in the snow? Get your winter kayaking gear ready.

Drill some fish from the ice? Have your augers and fishing rods packed up.

Or get some ice skating lessons from a friend? Invest in good skaters.

It would also be wise to consider a spot that has access to firewood, just in case you need to get some campfire going or your heater jams.

2. Do Your Research

Now that you have a spot in mind and the activities you plan to do, get as much information as you can regarding your trip.

Check the weather forecasts. Is the place windy, wet all through, or completely foggy and gloomy? All these atmospheric conditions will rob the heat of your body, so get prepared for it by dressing right.

Also, find out how far your camping spot is located from social amenities like emergency services, eateries, etc. If you know someone who has visited the place before, fetch information from them. Know how the place is like in general, what is allowed, and what is not, what activities one can do, and if you are planning to go fishing, what fish species are available.

Having this information before you start packing up will help you create an effective camping checklist and get ready for what waits for you on the other side.

3. Hope For The Best But Prepare For The Worst

Don’t be contented because the weatherman said there won’t be anything more than drizzles; just be prepared for a storm. In short, have all the equipment you need to withstand any harsh situation that may be presented before you.

Bring extra drinking water. Fill your lunch coolers with more food than you think you might need. Pack backup clothes too, just in case.  If the roads are impassable, consider delaying your trip.

4. Inform Someone

Just like any other major travel, it’s difficult to predict what will happen on a winter camping trip. For safety, you should tell a friend where you are going, how long you will be there, and when you expect to be back, so they can raise the alarm if you don’t show up on the promised date.

If you have people who are willing to come with you, allow them. Peace sound nice but trips like these are safer and even more fun with a group of friends. If they know a thing or two about winter camping, even better.

Stay Warm

You will be spending long days and nights in ice-cold weather so have yourself dressed for it. The idea here is to keep yourself as comfortable as possible to make the trip bearable and warm clothing may just do the trick.

1. Layer Up

Doing more than a layer of clothing will retain more heat in your body and keep you warm throughout the day and night.

Start with a base layer. This one will act as a second skin and will prevent heat from escaping from your body. Clothes made of synthetic materials and merino wool would be a good option to consider.

After the base layer comes to the mid-layer that could be a fleece-lined jacket or heavy fleece pants. Lastly, you will need something for the outer layer. This must be highly waterproof, as you need to stay dry when you are outside the tent. A dry suit can be a great choice for your outer layer clothing.

Important tip:  Avoid clothes made of cotton as much as you can. Cotton absorbs and retains water, which will get you cold much faster than any other fabric.

2. Your Feet Is Important Too

You want every part of your body to stay warm, so bring something for your feet. You can start by investing in boots designed for cold weather camping. If you are an avid winter angler, your ice fishing boots could get the job done. Just make sure they leave enough room to accommodate some thick socks.

Speaking of socks, make sure to pack an extra pair just in case the one you are wearing gets wet. At night, put them inside your sleeping bag or near your heater so that they are a little warm when you arise for the next day. If you have some feet warmers, pop them inside your boots overnight to help warm and dry them up for the morning.

3. Wear A Hat And A Pair Of Gloves

Most of the heat from human bodies is lost through the head, so wearing a hat when winter camping is a must. Have a waterproof and windproof hat for the daytime when you are outside your tent and a knitted one for nighttime.

You will need to pack some gloves too, as you can’t undertake any activity when your hands are frozen. If you have some ice fishing gloves, you don’t need to get a new pair for this trip. Later when you have learned the ropes, you can invest in gloves designed for camping in cold weather.

4. Wrap Yourself Up At Night

In addition to wearing layers, you will also need to ensure that the sleeping bag you bring along can withstand extreme temperatures. There are cheap winter sleeping bags that can keep you warm throughout the night. If you are in a position to invest in one, do it, as this could make the difference between a good and bad night’s sleep.

On a side note, if you love to cuddle with your partner, you can get a double sleeping bag for both of you. Actually, this is one of the cheapest and most comfortable ways to keep warm in cold weather.

For extra insulation, add a sleeping pad or camping blanket underneath your bag. Try not to cover your mouth or nose while inside the sleeping bag so that no moisture collects from your breath and makes you cold.

Important tip: If you already know what you will be wearing the following day, put it on while you go to sleep so that it can catch some warmth and you won’t have to put on cold clothes in the morning.

Stay Safe

You don’t know what might happen on this trip, so try your best to stay safe by preparing for any scenario that might pop up. First off, have your camping first aid checklist ready. Make sure basic things like bandages, rubbing alcohol, disinfectants, and gauze pads don’t miss in your kit.

If you are on any medication, have it refilled before the trip. If you have a serious health condition that requires you to make constant visits to a health facility, make sure to talk to your doctor about it before packing for the trip.

Pack up additional safety equipment like a flashlight, camping knife, a whistle, and anything else that you find necessary to stash in a winter camping safety kit.  Remember to bring a compass and a GPS too just in case you go skiing away from your campsite and forget your way back. A map would also be an important tool to bring for when the GPS goes offline.

Keep Things Dry

Some things are only usable when dry so let them stay that way to get the most out of them. Let’s take a first aid kit for instance. There is nothing much you can do with a wet Band-Aid or soaked drug tablets. These things need to be kept as far away from water as possible to work effectively when needed.

The same case applies to your spare clothes. Nothing is frustrating than coming back to your tent all wet and finding that the clothes you had planned to change into are all soggy.

As such, it would be nice to bring a dry bag to keep things that need to stay dry that way.

Setting Up Your Campsite


1. Your Tent

The secret to successful cold weather camping is selecting the appropriate tent and a good spot. A four-season tent will be the most appropriate for this kind of trip. Even when you are not camping in the cold, you can use the tent in summer, spring, or any season in between.

However, get something that you can easily pitch and unhitch in snow. You may also want to buy tent poles strong enough to keep your shelter firm even in strong winds. Don’t forget a tarp for the rainy days.

2. Get There On Time

You want to set up your campsite before dark, so you should get to your spot on time.  Arriving early has its advantages. You get to choose a good spot based on the activity that brought you here and most importantly, you get enough time to organize your gear.

If you didn’t have a chance to familiarize yourself with all your equipment, before making the trip, getting there early gives you plenty of time to get yourself acquainted with your camping gear and set it up before the light fades. However, you may need to do things faster because days are shorter than nights during winter and you really don’t want to get caught out.

We strongly advise that you practice putting things up at home first before making the trip. This will make the setup much easier once you are on the campsite and give you the confidence you need to keep going.

3. Where You Pitch Your Tent

To set up your tent right, you must choose a good spot. The perfect spot to pitch a tent will be away from snow slides and any other potential risks like falling tree branches.

Check to see if there is a natural windscreen or you will need to install one. If possible, go for a spot that has a good water supply so you won’t need to melt the snow. Also, make sure there is a landmark nearby so you can locate your camp easily in heavy snow or the dark.

4. Pass Time Activities

You will be spending lots of time in the bag so make sure there are several fun activities you can do in the dark hours. Play games, read a book, or start a conversation with your tent mates.

If you are not in your bag, do something to generate heat in your body. Do some crunches, sit-ups, or knee bends – anything to get your heart racing. Just don’t be inactive, as it will only get you cold.

Eating And Drinking

It’s freezing, so you don’t need to eat or drink much, right? Wrong! As a matter of fact, this is the time your body needs a lot of food and water because it is working extra hard to release the heat needed to keep you warm.

1. Stay Hydrated

You may not see the sweat but this doesn’t mean you are not losing water from your body. There may be minimal evaporation but the dry winter air gets you losing a lot of water just by breathing.

To keep yourself hydrated, pack a lot of water in your backpack. You may want to keep your water bottles wrapped in clothes so they don’t freeze. If the water bottles are metallic, don’t fill them up to the top so that even if the water freezes, they won’t expand and break.

2. Eat Good Food

Whether your trip will take a day or a week, you will need to bring some food. For a day’s adventure, you can do with snacks but if you will be spending a little more time in the snow, you will eventually have to cook.

However, you don’t need to make your cooking all fancy as you would in summer so you really don’t have to bring your entire camping kitchen. A portable stove and a gas grill (if you will be roasting some fish) will be just fine. Just don’t forget a windbreaker to prevent the wind from putting off your cooking fire.

If you will be cooking some meat, have it prepped beforehand so you don’t have to bring unnecessary gear like chopping boards. It will also save you plenty of time, as there will be less cleaning required.

Always warm your food before eating. You don’t want to be eating frozen food in cold weather, as this could get you extremely cold. Have hot meals and beverages to keep your body heated up all the time.

3. Bring Spares

It is not uncommon for equipment to jam in winter camping. Never rely on a single stove or grill for your cooking as the cold could cause them not to work. To be on the safe side, have a backup plan. That way, you will never go hungry even if your initial appliances fail to work.

Globo Surf Overview

Even though winter camping trips are considered dangerous, if one has the right equipment, they can be so much fun. The above guide explains how you can prepare for snow camping to make your trip more thrilling.

Some people take more time to prepare than others but it all boils up to your camping experience and how much time you take to secure the required gear. If you already know how much cold will be waiting for you on the other side, you will be able to gear up properly and stay warm, and your stay on the ice will be less intimidating.

More Camping Reviews:


  1. 9 Important Tips For Winter Camping,
  2. 10 Tips For Your First Time Camping In Winter,
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!