If you are keen to try camping when the temperature drops, the first thing you have to do is to prepare. This way, your cold-weather camping will be fun and pleasant, not cold and gloomy. And with this list of winter camping tips, you’ll surely stay toasty throughout.
1. Pick the Right Bedding and Shelter
There may be several good winter camping tips, but this one is the most crucial. You need both to keep your body warm from the windy outdoors and cold ground. Both will also guarantee a good night’s rest. Here are a few more reminders to help you pick the right gear:
- Invest in high-quality bedding. Budget sleeping bags may be reliable for mild weather conditions. But if you plan to make camping in winter an annual activity, then buy the best bedding you can afford. For example, a down-filled sleeping bag may be pricey, but it has plus points for its high warmth-to-weight ratio and packability. Also, choose one with a hood and drawstrings that suits your height and body type.
- Pick the right tent size. Extra tent space means lots of room for cold air. A smaller tent or those with compartments should warm up faster. Canvas or polycotton tents are also better at reducing heat loss.
- Consider getting a liner or thermal blanket. Either add-on will enhance the insulating power of your sleeping bag. A mat will not add bulk to your bag, plus it will make you feel extra comfy. Make sure to check its R-value before getting one. The extra blankets will come in handy if you’re kids are tagging along on your camping trip.
- Be an informed shopper. A little research goes a long way. So, it helps to be familiar with tent and sleeping bag specifications (e.g., seasonality, temperature rating, filling material). This way, you get to buy the one that suits your winter campsite and budget. You can learn more about these in my sleeping bag and tent buying guides.
2. Pack the Proper Clothes
Winter rhymes with layer. And they also make a great team during cold-weather camping. So, make sure to bring thermal tops and pants, socks, shirts and a sweater or jacket that you can layer up. The most ideal is to wear up to three layers. For extra cold days, you might want to pack gloves and a beanie, too. You can also consider bringing heated gloves. Single-use or rechargeable hand warmers are available as well.
Picking the fabric material is also essential in staying warm while camping during winter. Try to avoid cotton clothing, for instance, as this does not wick moisture. It will only drop your body temperature. Choose merino wool, polyester, polypropylene clothing and other synthetic material instead. Also, as you move during the day, your body heat increases, which can cause sweating. Avoid this as much as possible by removing an extra layer when needed.
When it’s time to sleep, I also recommend changing into non-sweaty, clean clothes. That way, you’ll feel warm and keep your sleeping bag clean. If you want, you can stuff your clothes for the next day into your sleeping bag to fill empty spaces. One thing you should not include in your list of winter camping tips, though, is to sleep naked to stay warm. It’s simply not true. You’ll feel better and safer with the additional layer.
3. Have Weatherproof Fire Starters
Camping during winter is so much better with a campfire. It’s perfect for warming your hands and toasting marshmallows. But if you’re in Australia, make sure to do your research and choose a campsite without a fire ban.
Then bring a striker or portable flint with you. It’s a better choice than lighters or matches that can get damp. Cotton wool pads can also catch fire easily and stay lit as you set up large sticks on top. Gather enough wood at the start of your winter camping trip to give it time to dry as well.
4. Warm Yourself Up Before Bed
Nighttime is colder during winter, so you need to do some extra prep before hitting the sack. Add these to your bedtime routine:
- Enjoy a hot meal for dinner. This one is my favourite among these winter camping tips! Eating camp food is probably the highlight of everyone’s trip. But for winter, the ideal spread would have to be high in protein and fat. Our bodies take time to process these food types, making you feel warm for longer. So, enjoy those bangers, mac and cheese, and hot cocoa!
- Pack high-calorie snacks. Yes, having a midnight snack at winter camp is okay. Hooray! The best ones are those high in sugar, carbohydrates and fats, like chocolate, nuts, lollies and energy bars. Enjoy one of them before sleeping or when you wake up cold in the middle of the night.
- Drink warm beverages. Coffee or tea is extra delicious during winter. And at camp, you can have your favourite hot drinks at any time. However, try not to drink too much a few hours before bedtime. That way, you won’t have to get up to wee.
- Take a quick walk. Five to ten minutes should do. You can jump around the campsite, too, if you like. It doesn’t have to be a full-on workout. Just do simple stretches to get your metabolism going to warm you up.
5. Keep the Vents Open
There are still a few more winter camping tips you can do before sleeping. One is to open the vents of your tent partially to allow airflow. It may sound counterintuitive, but we release hot vapour when we breathe. If air cannot circulate inside the tent, moisture collects and can affect the internal temperature.
Similarly, do not burrow yourself too deep into your sleeping bag so moisture won’t get trapped. I also suggest shaking your bag upside down for optimum loft and heat retention. You can also fill a plastic bottle with hot water and slip it into your sleeping bag. Some suggest placing the hot water bottle at your feet to keep your toes warm. But you can also position it in your groin. That way, heat can travel down and increase your core temperature faster.
After camping, why not go winter surfing next? Australia has several surf sites, and I got a few convincing reasons why you should ride the waves despite the cold!