5 Essential Pieces of Gear for Winter Camping

While camping is one of the most popular outdoor activities, most people only tend to do it during the warmer months of the year. But, if you're feeling a bit adventurous – and like to have the backcountry all to yourself – the winter can be a great time to go camping too. Of course, in order to stay warm and comfortable, you'll need to take a bit of extra gear with you during that time of the year. To that end, here are five essential items you shouldn't leave home without during a winter camping trip.

  • 01 of 05

    4-Season Tent

    Mountain Hardwear EV2 Tent
    Mountain Hardwear

    If you camp with any regularity, chances are you already own a tent. But unless that tent has been specifically built to provide shelter during the winter months, it probably isn't up to the job of accompanying you on your cold-weather adventures. Instead, you'll need a 4-season tent, which despite its name is usually only used in one season – winter. 

    4-season tents tend to have sturdier walls and poles to help them withstand high winds. They also are warmer on the interior to keep its occupants more comfortable too. If you're going to spend the night outside in cold conditions, investing in a good winter shelter will be a must.


  • 02 of 05

    0º Sleeping Bag

    Eddie Bauer Kara Koram Sleeping Bag
    Eddie Bauer

    A good tent is only part of the solution for getting a comfortable night's sleep. You'll also want a warm sleeping bag as well. That means you should look for one with a temperature rating of at least 0º Fahrenheit (-17º Celsius). Chances are, it'll still be warmer than that inside your tent, but you'll want a sleeping bag that provides a bit of wiggle room in case the mercury drops further than you had originally expected. 

  • 03 of 05

    Winter Sleeping Pad

    Therm-a-Rest NeoAir All Season

    If you're going to be sleeping on the ground during the winter, you'll definitely need a sleeping pad with a high "R-value." That's a scale that measures the warmth of the pad, allowing you to find one that is specifically designed for use in cold environments. A sleeping pad helps to get you off of the ground and serves as a buffer between the floor of the tend and the outside of the sleeping bag. This allows you to stay warmer and dryer in any season, but it is crucial to your comfort in the winter in particular.

  • 04 of 05

    Winter Layers

    Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Jacket
    Mountain Hardwear

    You won't be spending all of your time at camp, which means you'll need warm winter clothing – in a sensible layering system – to keep you warm while out hiking, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, or whatever other activities you intend to take part in. That begins with a set of good baselayers, which sit next to the skin and keep you warm and dry by wicking away moisture. Next, you'll want a good insulating later – such as a down jacket – to provide warmth, and a shell layer (both jacket and pants) to repel the elements. When each of these items is used together, they provide a good level of protection from the cold, making it much easier to be outside for extended periods of time. 

    PS: Don't forget warm socks, gloves, and a hat too!

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Winter Boots

    Lowa Renegade Ice GTX Boots
    Lowa Bots

    As you can probably imagine, the boots you wear for your summer hikes aren't going to cut it during the winter months. Instead, you'll need warmer footwear that is designed to hold its grip on surfaces that are often slick and wet. Winter boots will keep your feet comfortable and dry too, allowing you to stay out on the trail for a longer period of time and generally enjoy your winter camping experience much more fully. 

As you can see, winter gear is understandably more expensive than the items we use throughout the rest of the year. But that's because we put more demands on those products as well. In order to stay warm and dry – and ultimately safe – in the backcountry, that gear must perform at a higher level. That means it's going to go cost more too. But, if it is all worth it if you're a winter camper, as it results in a much more pleasant experience all around.

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