A glowing blue-green tent is illuminated in the dark on a starry winter night in a deserted area with snow everywhere.
OUTDOOR LIFE

5 Tips for Winter Camping

Planning a cold-weather camping trip? Check out these tips to maximize your winter excursion
There’s something special about camping in the wintertime—it’s quiet and pristine, with scenery that’s blanketed in layers of snow. However, it can also be a little daunting to trek into the wilderness in the middle of January. How do you stay warm? What should you wear?

To help you answer these questions, we reached out to winter camping expert Meghan Young, cofounder of PNW Outdoor Women. The outdoorswoman explained that cold-weather camping is not as hard as it sounds. “Winter camping takes a bit more preparation than a casual summer trip, but with the right gear, you likely have all the skills you need to make it a fun, comfortable adventure.” Check out our list of camping hacks for tips and tricks to help dial in your camping experience.

Read Young’s top winter camping tips below.

Tips for Winter Camping

A woman with long braids wearing a black puffy jacket walks through a wintery landscape.

1. Dress in layers

One of the best ways to stay warm when you’re camping in the wintertime is to learn how to layer for cold weather for cold weather. According to Young, the key is to determine your activity level ahead of time and factor that in. If you’ll be relatively immobile, for example, start your adventure bundled up, and then peel off layers as needed. On the other hand, if you’ll be doing high-intensity activities right out of the gate, wear sweat-wicking baselayers and stash a warm down jacket in your backpack for later. This gives you greater control over your body temperature and prevents you from getting your baselayers sweaty, which can make you cold and miserable. “If you start to get chilly, don’t just tough it out,” Young explains. “Add a layer, have a snack, or walk around until you get toasty again.” It’s also a good idea to reserve a dry set of baselayers and a warm pair of socks that never leave your tent to use for bedtime.
A close-up image of the view outside an orange tent showing beautiful snow-covered trees.

2. Try the ‘hot water bottle’ trick

Another great way to stay warm in cold weather is to use your outdoor water bottle as a hot water bottle to keep you warm while you sleep. Simply fill your bottle with hot water and tuck it into your sleeping bag when you’re going to sleep. The warmth from the bottle will keep you warm and toasty, especially if you place it around your feet, belly, or other spots where you tend to get cold. Just triple-check that the top is tightly closed, Young warns. “If it’s too hot for you, consider covering it with a balaclava or extra piece of clothing so you can snuggle up next to it.”
An adorable Golden Retriever cuddles up inside a tent with his face exposed on top of several sleeping bags.

3. Don’t cover your face at night

While it may be tempting to bury your face underneath your sleeping bag to feel cozy and warm, Young cautions against doing so, explaining that it can actually make you colder. “As you breathe, you exhale condensation that can be chilly and damp,” she says. “You don’t want to put that into your sleeping bag.” The outdoorswoman suggests using a balaclava to keep your face warm and protected while still outside your sleeping bag.
A woman in a red Columbia Sportswear vest and grey hat hikes up a frosty hillside with a man in a blue winter jacket behind her.

4. Wear a vest

Keeping your core warm is another key tenet of winter camping. According to Young, wearing a high-quality insulated vest is a fantastic way to do this without adding a lot of bulk. “It’s a relatively small, easy way to add insulation and warmth to your core so your body can push heat to your extremities,” she says. You also want to be sure to bring your warmest winter jacket and the best winter boots you can find.
A man in an olive-colored jacket stands with a woman in a blue puffy coat as he eats a Cup of Noodles and they laugh together.

5. Load up on carbs before bed

Diving into a big bowl of campfire ramen right before bed isn’t only delicious—it can keep you warmer while you sleep. It takes more energy to get warm than to stay warm, Young explains, so anything you can do to spike your body temperature right before bed will help. In addition to foods like bread or pasta, sugary snacks work great. “You can also take a short walk or do jumping jacks—anything to get your blood circulating before you get in your sleeping bag.” (For some recipe ideas, check out these amazing campfire meals.)
Ready for winter camping? Check out Columbia Sportswear’s cold-weather gear.