How to Successfully Camp in the Snow

How to Successfully Camp in the Snow

Winter can seem like a more challenging time to go on a camping trip, but camping in the snow is entirely possible—in fact, it can even be a lot of fun! But if you’re planning to sleep outside in snowy weather, you’ll need to pack the right gear and take some safety precautions.

Fortunately, we know all about how to camp comfortably in all conditions, and snow is no exception. Below, you’ll find our tips on how to successfully camp in the snow.

Camping in the Snow: What Should You Expect?

Snow presents unique challenges for campers. Here are a few factors you’ll want to consider:

  • Wind: A gust or two can be irritating for campers in any season—but when the weather is snowy, wind can do more than blow your tent over. Wind can also blow considerable amounts of snow into your campsite, making your gear wet and buying exposed objects.
  • Avalanches: Not all snow falls gently—and if an avalanche occurs, you don’t want to be in the way.
  • Hidden Hazards: Snow can make rough or uneven terrain look smooth and flat, but don’t be deceived! Crevasses, hollows, and water hazards are just a few of the things you’ll want to make sure aren’t lurking under a thin layer of freshly fallen white stuff.
  • Orientation Challenges: Retracing your steps in the snow might sound easy—unless more snow starts falling. If you’re going to camp in snowy conditions, you’ll need other ways to make sure you know where you are (and how to get back to where you’ve been).
  • Extreme Temperatures: Snow cover changes ambient temperatures. If you’re in a snowy area, always assume you’re going to feel colder than you would in the same conditions if no snow was present.

Cool (But Not Too Cool) Tips for Snowy Camping

Here are a few ways you can prepare yourself for camping in snowy conditions:

  • Drink More Water: Your body still loses moisture in the cold—but since you’ll be sweating less, you might not notice. Make sure to drink water on a regular schedule to avoid accidental dehydration.
  • Eat Well (and Often): Your body also burns more calories in the cold, so you’ll need food that provides more energy. Nuts, chocolate, and energy bars make great snacks throughout the day. You’ll also want to cook plenty of hot and hearty meals for breakfasts and dinners.
  • Look Out for Frostbite: Learning the signs of cold-related injuries like frostbite and hypothermia can save your life—or the life of a fellow camper. You can also help prevent these conditions by avoiding factors that increase their likelihood (such as alcohol consumption).
  • Keep Moving: Remaining active during snowy weather will prevent the cold from making you tired and help your body produce more heat. However, it will also cause you to burn more calories and lose more moisture (which is why eating right and hydrating are so important).

What to Pack for Successfully Camping in the Snow

Knowing how to adjust your routine for camping in cold weather is one thing, but you’ll also need specific gear if you plan to camp in the snow. Here are a few items we consider essential:

4 Season Tent

A 3 season tent isn’t going to cut it if you plan on dealing with significant snowfall during your trip. 4 season tents, on the other hand, are built to handle extreme winter conditions. These tents are structured to let large amounts of snow pile up on top without collapsing, and are typically made from more durable fabrics so that they won’t rip and leak heat.

Winter Sleeping Bag

Make sure your sleeping bag is rated for at least a few degrees lower than the coldest temperature you plan to sleep in, and ensure that it fits snugly. Empty space in a sleeping bag makes it easier for your body heat to escape and prevents you from staying warm overnight.

2 Sleeping Pads

Camping on snow requires additional tent insulation to prevent heat loss through the floor of your tent. Double up on your sleeping pads, and make sure to use insulation with higher R-values.

A Winterproof Stove

Not all portable stoves are suitable for camping in snowy weather. You’ll need a stove that is resistant to cold weather, and it’s also wise to choose a model that produces significant amounts of heat so it can pull double-duty as a source of warmth. Consider the type of fuel your stove uses—wood produces a lot of heat but is harder to pack and carry, while liquid fuel often burns better at high altitudes.

Warm Clothing

Last (but certainly not least), make sure to pack appropriate snow clothes. We recommend warm socks, snow boots, mid-weight base layers, fleece pants, a warm coat, a waterproof shell (jacket and pants), a hat that covers your ears, thick gloves, and sunglasses.

Campsite Setup Tips for Camping in the Snow

Before pitching your tent in a snowy region, follow these tips to ensure your safety:

  • Stay Out of the Wind: Pitching your tent near trees (as long as they don’t look damaged or unsteady) is an excellent way to shield yourself from blowing snow while you sleep. If you’re camping in an open area, try building a wall of snow around your tent instead.
  • Avoid Avalanches: Don’t pitch your tent near rock walls or steep inclines if you think snow (or anything else) might slide down them. The last thing you want is to get buried under a drift while you sleep.
  • Pack Down the Snow: Prevent yourself from sinking into a drift overnight by packing down the snow at your campsite before pitching your tent.
  • Look for Landmarks: Snow that falls overnight can change the appearance of a campsite and disorient you in the morning, so try to choose a site with at least one or two obvious landmarks nearby.
  • Have Water Nearby: You don’t want to camp directly on ice, but having a water source nearby can prevent you from having to melt snow for drinking water if you run out.

Ideal Sites for Camping in the Snow This Winter

Here are some of our favourite snowy winter campsites:

Plamondon Whitesands

A family-oriented RV park and campground with onsite water near Lac La Biche.

Mossbank RV Park

A quiet campground located near numerous recreational facilities.

Bruderheim Starlight Campground

A peaceful and relaxing campground near Bruderheim Sand Hills.

Wagons West RV Park

A clean and quiet campground with 62 full-service sites.

Knouff Lake Wilderness Resort

One of the oldest 4-season run resorts of its kind in British Columbia.

Cogburn Family Wilderness Resort

A safe and enjoyable family-friendly campground.

Campbell Valley Camping Experience

A destination campground located on 5 acres of private property.

Don’t Let a Little Snow Stop You from Camping

Successfully camping in the snow can be easier than you think, as long as you’re prepared. Use the tips above to make sure your next winter camping trip is snow problem at all.

 

Fun Things to Do While Camping in Winter

Fun Things to Do While Camping in Winter

Most people go camping in the summer, but you shouldn’t let a little snow keep you away from exploring the wilderness! Winter camping can be just as rewarding—and it offers unique opportunities to enjoy yourself if you know how to take advantage of them.

We’ve put together a list of ways to make the most of your next winter camping trip, based on our experiences in the great outdoors. Find out what to bring and how to plan your days for an absolutely unforgettable cold-weather camping experience.

Fun Things to Bring on Your Next Winter Camping Trip

There are plenty of things you can do on a winter camping trip without much equipment, and we’ll cover those shortly. For now, though, consider investing in some of the gear below to make your winter camping trip dynamic and exciting.

Sink Your Teeth Into Ice Climbing

Frozen waterfalls don’t just look beautiful—they can also provide plenty of thrills for those of you daring (and skilled) enough to climb them. Be warned, though: you’ll want to buy climbing equipment if you don’t have it already, and we don’t recommend this activity for the inexperienced. Don’t worry, though; we’ve got plenty of less-intimidating activities coming up!

Cook Campfire Comfort Food In a Dutch Oven

Warm meals taste even better in cold weather, and you can make a whole range of delicious dinners and desserts when you buy a Dutch oven for your winter camping trip. Check out this list by Fresh Off the Grid to find some recipe inspiration.

Sleep in the Snow with a Winter Sleeping Bag

Sleeping in the tent is all well and good, but getting some shuteye with the winter sky directly overhead and waking up to a fresh layer of undisturbed snow can be deeply invigorating. Choose a sleeping bag that offers appropriate seasonal protection, then turn yourself into a human burrito.

Take a Walk Through the Wild with Snowshoes

Snowshoeing can be a surprisingly effective exercise as well as a wonderful way to enjoy walking through a winter wonderland. Find snowshoes for men, women, and kids so that every member of your family can enjoy this fun and easy winter camping activity.

Up Your Dessert Game with an Outdoor S’more Maker

S’mores taste even better on chilly winter nights, but you’ll want to spend less time making them and more time eating them in cooler temperatures. Use an outdoor s’more maker to streamline the process so you can enjoy these high-calorie camping delicacies faster and s’more easily.

coking smores on the campfire

Fun Things to Do on Your Winter Camping Trip

Don’t worry; you don’t need to break the bank on new gear to have a great time camping in Winter. The following activities require minimal investment, but offer maximum enjoyment.

Scour the Snow for Animal Tracks

There’s still plenty of wildlife around in winter, but you’re more likely to see animal tracks than animals themselves. Learning to recognize the different prints left by rabbits, raccoons, and other furry creatures can provide hours of entertainment on a cold-weather walk—just make sure not to disturb any habitats you find!

Build an Igloo

This skill is both fun and practical to learn if you camp in winter often. These snow fortresses offer surprisingly effective protection from the elements when done right, and are much easier to construct than you might think once you learn how to build them.

Visit a Hot Spring

There’s no such thing as a bad time to soak in a natural hot spring. That said, we especially love the contrast between warm hot-spring water on our bodies and cold winter air on our faces—so if you’re able to camp near a hot-spring this winter, we thoroughly recommend the experience!

Build a Snowperson

Little kids will love this one—but honestly, who doesn’t love this classic winter pastime? All you need is a carrot, some buttons, and maybe an old hat or scarf to give your creation a little personality of their own.

Have a Snowball Fight

We couldn’t resist putting this at the end of our list. After all, it’s practically impossible to see fresh snow and not want to throw it at your friends or family members—and where can you find fresher snow than in the wild? Grab a few handfuls and turn it into your own personal arsenal (just make sure to stay safe and check your snow for sticks and rocks before you start throwing!).

Snowshoeing in the winter

Make Winter Your Favourite Camping Season

Camping in the winter might be cold, but it also comes with the chance to have fun in ways other seasons don’t offer. Try our tips above to get the most out of your next winter camping trip, and please reach out to us if you have winter camping ideas of your own to share!

 

Check Out These Campgrounds You Can Book Through The Winter

Essential Winter Camping Gear

Essential Winter Camping Gear

Those who truly love camping love it year-round. Weathering the winter winds can be just as rewarding as sleeping under the summer stars. Of course, the keyword there is “weathering” — so if you’re going camping in the cold, make sure you pack the proper equipment!

The following items will help you stay prepared for the elements on your next winter camping adventure. Read on to discover what you’ll need, and how it will keep you and your party protected.

See also:

What Makes Winter Camping Different?

Camping in the winter will be colder than going during other seasons — but that’s not all that makes it different. In addition to planning for extreme temperatures, you’ll also need gear built for environmental conditions such as ice and snow. Winter campers in backcountry regions will also need protection from howling winds, freezing rain, and avalanches — you know, all the fun stuff!

Finally, make sure you carefully study the area you plan to camp in before leaving home. That’s common sense for campers at any time of year, but in winter, it’s especially crucial since emergency help will likely be harder to reach and will take longer to arrive if you need it.

The Winter Camping Gear You Can’t Go Without

This gear can be useful on any camping trip — in fact, we don’t even recommend that you go camping in the summer without it. However, winter camping trips usually require specific versions of the items listed below, or additional knowledge on using them. Read carefully, so that you’ll know the difference between a sleeping bag that will save your life and one that will just turn you into a frozen burrito for bears.

Warm Clothes

Layers are the law when it comes to camping — but in winter, you’ll need to choose them extra carefully. Just throwing a sweater and some wool socks over generic long underwear won’t necessarily be enough to stop a chill from seeping in through the fabric. We recommend the following three-layered approach:

  • An inner layer of thermal underwear made from moisture-wicking merino wool or synthetics
  • A mid-layer made from either flannel or fleece
  • A top layer that offers strong protection against wind and moisture (such as a ski jacket with a GORE-TEX membrane)

As a general rule of thumb, winter campers should avoid clothing made from cotton. Cotton fabrics can absorb as much as 27 times their weight in water, and don’t hold body heat nearly as well as synthetic or merino wool products.

Extra Food

As we’ve mentioned in other posts, high-calorie food is your friend when you go camping in the wintertime. The more energy you consume, the more heat your body can produce while burning it, making fat- and protein-rich foods ideal. Stock up on bacon, pre-cook a pot of chilli, and pack a few frozen beef burritos — you’ll need to eat roughly double your regular daily caloric intake to keep your energy up. Yum!

Clean Water

What, did you think you could just melt snow to make water? Well, you can — but only if you have a way to purify that water before you drink it. Bringing water purification tablets and a portable stove will allow you to top up your supply if you’re camping in a snowy region. That said, it’s still a good idea to fill your canteens and hot water bottles before embarking.

Shelter

Pay special attention to your tent and sleeping bag while packing for a winter campout. It’s vital to take a tent that is rated appropriately for the conditions you expect to face.

We strongly recommend taking a 4-season tent, as they are made from stiff materials and generally designed to be more compact. These qualities make them sturdier in high winds, less likely to collapse under snowfall, and better at insulating heat.

Mummy bags are generally better for cold-weather camping than standard rectangular sleeping bags. The extra room in a rectangular bag may seem more comfortable at first, but your body will have to produce more heat to warm the excess air between you and the bag as you sleep. Mummy bags are much more snug, meaning you’ll lose less heat at night.

Finally, make sure to carry an emergency shelter on your person to use if you get separated from your campsite and can’t find your way back. Tarps and spare blankets can serve this purpose in the spring or summer, but it’s a safer bet to carry a bivy sack in winter.

Firestarter

You always need a way to start a fire when you’re camping, but winter campers can’t always rely on finding firewood at their campsite. Snowy tinder will most likely be too wet to burn, so you’ll need to bring your supply or pack an artificial heat source. Portable stoves will also help you melt snow into water, as mentioned above.

A Knife

There’s no such thing as a knife just for winter, but you’ll want any utility knife you bring on a winter camping trip to satisfy a few criteria. Firstly, you might want to bring a knife with a brightly-coloured handle so that it won’t get lost if you drop it in the snow. Secondly, consider bringing a knife with a padded grip so that you’ll be able to use it comfortably in the cold.

First-Aid Supplies

Winter first-aid kits should come with a few items not found amongst typical medical supplies. Most of these are for preventing hypothermia by raising a person’s body temperature. You’ll want:

  • Hand warmers
  • A mylar blanket
  • Waterproof matches
  • An instruction manual for dealing with hypothermia and frostbite

Finally, make sure you take along a safety whistle and a pack of flares. You’ll need them if you become separated from your party or need to be found by a search and rescue team.

Navigation Tools

Don’t count on electronic navigation tools when you’re camping in sub-zero temperatures. Battery-powered devices are notoriously unpredictable in the cold, so take a map and compass along — and make sure you know how to read both of them. Pace counting beads can also help you determine how far away you are from your campsite if a blizzard obscures your tracks or covers up landmarks.

A Headlamp

Flashlights are great for lighting your way in the dark, but they’re not as good for helping you work in dim conditions — since you need an entire hand just to hold them. Lanterns are a great alternative when you can rest them on solid ground, but they’re more likely to sink or tip over when you put them in snow.

Headlamps provide reliable and controllable illumination while leaving your hands free. Just remember to take an external battery pack if you’re camping in the cold since these devices can be just as susceptible to battery problems as an electronic GPS.

Sun Protection

We know — now that summer’s over, you’ve already stowed away the sunscreen. Well, you’d better dig it out of the closet and pack it into your winter camping supplies, because the sun still shines in the wintertime.

What’s more, snow and ice can reflect up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays into your eyes and skin from unexpected angles, causing damage and obscuring your vision during potentially dangerous activities. Besides sunscreen, always bring a pair of polarized sunglasses on a retainer leash, plus a sun-hat and SPF-rated lip balm.

With Winter Camping Gear, Details Make the Difference

While you might enjoy camping in any season, not all of your gear will serve you year-round. Learning how to augment your regular loadout will ensure that you stay protected from bad weather and ready for action — even in the harshest environments.