The outdoors is open year-round, so make the most of it by learning how to camp in winter. True, it’s not as easy as camping in other seasons, but in return you get unmatched rewards: snow-hushed wilderness, beautiful winterscapes, and total solitude in even the most popular summer destinations.
Winter camping does require skill and planning, though, to stay comfortable in colder temperatures and stay safe in changing conditions. Here’s what you need to know to extend your camping season year-round.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- How to plan a successful winter camping trip
- What essential gear to pack
- How to pitch a tent in the snow
- Tricks for staying warm
Planning and Preparation
A successful winter camping trip starts well before you leave home.
- Finding a site: Developed car campgrounds, pullouts on public land, and the backcountry are all great options for a winter campsite. But keep in mind that many campgrounds close in the winter or shut down services like running water or bathrooms. Also be mindful that many backcountry roads (like Forest Service roads) aren’t plowed in the winter, so you might not be able to drive right up to your favorite summer spot. Research your options so you know what to expect.
- If you’re new to winter camping, start with a car campsite close enough to civilization that you can bail if something goes wrong. Car camping also makes it easier to pack cold-weather gear.
- Look for a campsite that’s close to a source of non-frozen water—it’s much easier to get water from an open lake or running river than to melt snow.
- Check the weather forecast carefully. You’ll need to be prepared for the expected nighttime lows and any chance of storms. Also call rangers at the relevant land management area for current conditions at your campsite. Reschedule if the weather looks worse than you’re prepared for.
- Finally, look for a campsite that has good eastern exposure. You’ll appreciate catching the first rays of sun on an icy morning.