Camping In The Cold For Beginners

Camping in the cold can be a great experience. Wintertime camping is my personal favorite time to go. Although, it can be a terrible experience for the unprepared beginner camper. Most people like to think they will be fine, but end up ill prepared and under geared. I have compiled some tips as we come into the winter months for the beginner or inexperienced winter camper. 


  • When choosing a sleeping bag. Make sure it is rated for at least -20. I find that even the -10 in -5 degree weather doesn’t work. You will still be cold. So make sure you are at least 20 degrees lower than you expect the weather to be on your trip.


  • Make sure to have a sleeping pad for cold weather. Even with a good sleeping bag, a sleeping pad is needed. A great inexpensive sleeping pad is Therm-a-Rest.


  • Bring lots of socks. They will get wet more than you think. Feet get wet, you get blisters, blisters suck. Especially when on long hikes.


  • If you are hiking up don’t wear too many layers. You will start to sweat and get hot. When you start to sweat you get wet and the moment you stop moving and cool down you are going to freeze. If you’re moving around and working up a sweat take off your layers until until you are warm enough. Stay as dry as possible.


  •  Some people say it’s too much weight, but I hike in a small wool blanket. I lay it on top of my thermo rest and I can sleep in my underwear. It insulates the tent remarkably. So if you want to be toasty at night, it’s worth its weight in a pack.


  • Bring some hot chocolate or coffee, or bring some Fireball.


  • Speaking of chocolate, bring chocolate. It’s a good pick me up when you get to your spot but you can’t eat anything of substance cause you have to make camp before nightfall. And unlike protein bars that get rock hard when frozen, chocolate melts pretty fast in your mouth.


  • Bring a wash cloth. You are going to get really dirty. And eventually that filth loses its charm on you. Bring a wash cloth and a tiny brick of soap, and boil some water and give yourself a cloth bath. Do it by the fire. It might not get you super clean but trust me it feels really nice to get some of the filth off of you.


  • Bring some hand warmers for when you have to pack up or use your hands for anything.


  • I wouldn’t try hammock camping if you’re not seasoned in cold weather camping. It’s fun though and lightweight, but temps above 40 are ideal.


  • If you get cold or your extremities are freezing, just move around. Do chores around camp. Just move.


  • Eat something before going to bed. Snickers, granola bar, etc. works best. You body will keep you warmer digesting the food.


  • Go to the bathroom right before you go to bed. A full bladder will make you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, but your body also has to work to keep that liquid warm inside of you


  • Whatever you plan on wearing the next day when you wake up should be placed in your sleeping bag. It will dry out and be warm when you put it on.




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