Headed camping this winter? While cold-weather adventuring can offer incredible, snowy views and unique opportunities, it also requires great care be taken to ensure a safe trip.
To help with your next excursion into the cold, Outsider.com has gathered the dozen items you’ll need to add to your camping arsenal to make for a warm, enjoyable, and unforgettable trip – for the right reasons.
But first, let’s touch on a few vital basics for winter camping that’ll keep you on the right track.
Winter Camping: Essential Knowledge
- Plan for Shorter Days: With winter comes much shorter days, and far less daylight. Whether you’re planning to take hikes during the day, or need daylight to set up camp, remember to plan accordingly within your timezone.
- Never Winter Adventure Alone: This goes for even the seasoned pros – it’s never advised to hike or camp alone in the winter. If you’re intimately familiar with your surroundings, there can be exceptions, but entering a harsh environment solo drastically increases chances of fatality during winter camping. If you have to go alone, be sure someone knows where you will be, and has as-up-to-date information on your daily whereabouts as possible.
- Dress in Layers For Winter Cold: Remember that your gear and clothing keeping you dry is as important as warmth in winter. Dressing in layers also allows for adapting for temperature and activity needs.
- Eat & Hydrate Appropriately: Our bodies burn calories much faster in the cold as rapidly lose body heat, and our requirements for hydration change drastically in winter, too. Bring high calorie foods along, and make sure to stay hydrated by bringing & drinking plenty of water around the clock, as well.
- Have a Compass & Paper Map for Your Destination: Winter weather is unforgiving and cellphones, no matter how much we love them, are unreliable. Have a paper map ready, or purchase one upon arrival, so you can navigate with a compass in an emergency.
- Bring Surivial Essentials Along: Our shopping list below will help with this, but be sure to bring a first aid kit customized to your camping party’s needs – a fire-starting tool or device – and a knife or multi-tool.
Essential Winter Camping Items for a Safe, Enjoyable Trip
Now, onto the fun part – shopping! Alongside brushing up on safety essentials, these items from Amazon will ensure your winter camping toolkit is ready to keep you warm and happy, as well.
- Best Deal: Nalgene Plastic 32 oz Reusable Water Bottle
- Best-Reviewed Item: A18 model Carhartt Acrylic Watch Hat
- Staff Choice: RoverTac Campers’ Multitool
- Most Vital Item: Everything on this list! Seriously, winter camping requires full-tilt preparation!
Low-Temp Rated “Mummy” Sleeping Bag – $34.99
For winter camping, your dad’s old parachute sleeping bag from the 70s won’t cut it here. For cold overnighting, you’ve got to have a low-temperature rated sleeping bag. We can’t stress enough how important this is. But if you’re here – chances are you get it.
Amazon has a lot of cold-rated bags available. For our part, we recommend the WINNER OUTFITTERS mummy bag seen above. It’s affordable, compact, and durable, with over 3K reviews and a near-solid 5 star rating. And at $34.99, their price is also hard to beat.
Many campers, however, are Coleman fans. The brand has a strong history with quality items. Their own Coleman cold-rated mummy bag is also exceptionally well rated on Amazon. For this one, you’re looking at a price tag of $49.99.
Both are worthy investments. Mummy bags are designed so you sleep comfortably. They also keep you warm from top to bottom. Each uses special quilting construction to eliminates potential cold spots. The full-length draft tube blocks heat loss through the zipper and prevent cold entering. In addition, a box-shaped foot gives you extra room to move your feet. When you’re done, it’s easy to put it away in the stuff sack.
- Special quilting construction to eliminates potential cold spots
- Full-length draft tube blocks heat loss through the zipper and prevent cold entering.
- Portable in “stuff sack”
- Not for claustrophobics
- Limited-range of movement for tossy sleepers
Closed-Cell Foam Sleeping Pad – $29.99
Firstly, having any old sleeping pad or yoga mat won’t cut it for cold-weather camping. For anything close to ground-freezing temperatures – which is 36* and below – a normal, non-closed-cell mat will suck the body heat right out of you. This’ll not only leave you cold and miserable, but is also a fast track to illness. Hypothermia is a real threat with winter camping, as well.
REDCAMP’s Closed Cell Foam Camping Sleeping Pad will do the trick. According to over 300 5-star ratings, this affordable thermal mat gets the job done. The thermal capture surface on foam camping mat reflects heat back to your body. It also amplifies the warmth of the heat-trapping nest by 20%.
- Reflects heat back to your body
- Amplifies the warmth of the heat-trapping nest by 20%
- Not-thickly padded, concentration is on heat-retention
Dual Arc Electric Lighter Zippo Insert – $14.97
This dual-plasma arc beam lighter is windproof, rain/snow-proof, and cold-proof, making it perfect for winter camping. Winter itself is designed to thwart a regular lighter for all the former reasons, too. But now you never end up in this situation again. Simply insert this arc lighter into a flip-top lighter case and you’ll always have a fire starter in your winter tool kit.
- Battery Recharges in one hour, lasts over 100 uses
- Clean, electric alternative to fossil-fuel products
- Does not fit to all Zippo models
- Requires Zippo lighter case sold or possessed separately
Layers, Layers, Layers: Starting with Socks – $9+
Layers, layers, layers. While a jacket usually seems obvious, the trick to successful cold weather adventuring isn’t actually wearing the biggest, warmest things you can find. It’s layering.
For cold weather & winter camping, you need to be able to regulate your own temperature. For example, inexperienced campers will throw on a t-shirt with a huge winter coat over the top and call it ready. This, however, leaves you absolutely unable to reach any sort of middle ground in a tent or while sleeping, cooling off, etc. Layering allows for you to meet in the middle to keep your temperature comfortable in any situation.
A great place to start for this is with wool socks. Unless you plan to sleep in your boots (please don’t), your feet are absolutely going to freeze in any sleeping bag without the right socks. The Carhartt® Arctic Wool Boot Crew Socks “will shield you from the cold tundra of winter!” And they’ll do it for a decent $18-26 depending on your size. They’re sold as a one-pair pack. These crew-cut style sit at the calf, as well.
Carhartt is another excellent brand you can trust for outdoor, rugged quality. They provide the same socks for women at almost half the price, too. Carhartt Women’s Extremes Cold Weather Boot Sock are $9-20 depending on size.
“This boot sock keeps you warm, dry and protected in all environments, even extreme cold. Acrylic/Merino Wool blend regulates temperature so you are completely comfortable no matter where you are.”
Price: $9-26 depending on size
- Acrylic/Merino Wool blend regulates temperature
- Proven Carhartt brand
- Pricey for a single pair of socks
Long Underwear, A.K.A. Long Johns – $15.99+
In addition to wool socks, long underwear is the way to go for winter camping. Taking the place of old-school long johns, the new wave of polypropylene and spandex wearables make for super-insulating underwear without sacrificing breathability.
For adventuring women, Amazon has the highly-rated MANCYFIT Thermal Underwear sets for $15.99 to 39.99. Price differs according to the size and color you want. There’s a lot of options here, too.
“Perfect for cold weather, comfy stretch softwear in normal thickness is lightly fleece lined, lightweight but warm, works excellently during your winter activities like snowboarding for added warmth and thermal insulation.”
For the men, we recommend Thermajohn Men’s Ultra Soft Thermal Underwear, which sits at a decent $25.99 while on sale. This “2 Piece thermal set is ultra-soft, warm, comfortable and great to add an extra layer of warmth under your clothes.”
- Added warmth and thermal insulation
- Super-insulating underwear without sacrificing breathability
- Ultra-soft & comfortable
- Hard to size without trying on
- Can cause to overheat if worn during warm days
Waterproof, Insulated Gloves – $29.99
Right off the bat – make sure your gloves are waterproof. If there’s any chance of your hands getting wet, you’ll want to keep them as dry as possible. As a result – dry hands are warm hands. If there’s even a chance of encountering snow, you’ll absolutely want waterproof gloves and gear, as well.
These Carhartt W.P. Waterproof Insulated Glove are a solid deal at $21.95. In addition to keeping your hands dry, the insulation will keep you cozy on brisk hikes or on cold nights.
“The Carhartt WP Glove is waterproof and sweat wicking. As a result, they keep your hands warm and dry. Your hands are your tools, as well. Protect them with the glove designed to outwork them all.” And PRO-TIP: Be wary of any glove that says “water resistant.” This is NOT the same thing as waterproof.
- 100% Waterproof**** and sweat wicking
- Insulated for cold weather & winds
- Insulation makes for larger, clunky gloves
- No touch-sensitive pads for device use
Wind-Proof Tent & Ground Anchors – $25.49
With cold weather comes windy conditions. Nothing is worse than your tent being ripped out of the ground by frigid winds. And it happens a lot more often than you think it will without the right gear. Don’t settle for the cheapo’ standard plastic stakes that come with most packaged tents.
Corkscrew anchors like the 7Penn Spiral Ground Anchors above are super-easy to ground. The included bar allows you to screw them right into the soil. In addition, their corkscrew shape places them firmly into the earth. As a result, they can’t come flying out of the soil when your tent becomes a sail.
- Super-easy to ground
- Included bar allows you to screw right into the soil
- Cannot be tugged out by high winds
- Expensive sets
- May not work in rocky terrain
RoverTac Camper’s Multitool – $23.99
In addition to space-saving, they often include tools you didn’t think of, too. One last tool to add to your winter tool kit is RoverTac’s high-rated multitool. You never know when you’ll need any of the tools included – and chances are – you will. Further, their stainless steel design makes for a durable set you’ll have on-hand for years to come.
- 14 total tools, including hammer, axe, pliers, knife blade and saw
- Also includes assorted hex wrenches
- Further, offers safety lock
- A bit bulky, also can be tough to find good hanging spot on pack
- Smaller than some competing products
Nutrient-Dense Snack Bars – $14.38
Fibers, amino acids, natural sugars, and proteins are all things your body thrives off of when hiking. If you’re out camping in the cold, however, your body needs even more of these to function and keep warm.
These Quest Nutrition Chocolate Mixed Nuts Snack Bars (Pack of 12) are a solid way to go.
Amazon sells a box of 12 at $14.38 – which is a good deal compared to most other brands. Quest’s bars, too, are packed with more than other bars that just put in “protein” and call it a day. As mentioned, Quest’s recipes pack in tons of fiber, amino acids, natural sugar, proteins, and carbs to keep you all toasty and warm.
As a good rule of thumb – always take more than you need. Staying warm is hard work for the human body in the cold. This box of twelve would be good for a two-day, two-person stay. If you plan on being out in the wilderness of a week, however – you’ll want at least 24 bars.
- Far more than just a “protein bar”
- Fibers, amino acids, natural sugars, and proteins
- Small, thin, easy to pack
- Small size also means these are snack bars, not meals
Plastic, Wide-Mouth Water Bottle – $10.65
For this one, we’re calling in the big guns for reinforcement. Your Tervis or favorite metal water bottle is not your friend on cold hikes, period. In addition, those used to hiking with drink bladders will find them freezing. Both may do okay for temperate ventures. Any true-cold nights, or for winter camping, however, and you’re going to be in trouble.
According to SectionHiker.com, “Hydration bladders and hoses freeze in winter, even insulated ones. You’ll want to carry wide-mouth 1-liter bottles instead because the lids are less likely to freeze and they’re easier to open while wearing gloves. The best winter water bottles are wide-mouth because they don’t crack like the clear ones when they get cold or you pour boiling hot water into them. Don’t even think about bringing a metal bottle on a winter hike. You’ll be laughed at before you’re kicked off the hike.”
PRO-TIP: Sleep with your water bottle inside your sleeping bag with you if you’re in freezing temperatures. Lukewarm water is far more drinkable than a frozen water bottle. It’s also a lot easier to drink than frigid water in frigid weather.
- lids are less likely to freeze
- Easier to open while wearing gloves
- Don’t crack when they get cold
- Can pour hot water into
- No insulation provided
- Not as durable as metal alternatives
Stocking Hat w/ High Coverage – $16.99
Finally, you’ll want a stocking hat that has high coverage. Simple but effective ones – like this classic Carhartt – work great. With a foldable flap, this cap adjusts to be able to cover your ears or uncover them as needed. This is invaluable in protecting said ears from the cold – and your ear canals from damaging icy winds.
Price: Amazon sells the A18 model Carhartt Acrylic Watch Hat for a solid $16.99.
It comes in a huge variety of colors, as well:
- Plenty of style options
- Proven, highly durable Carhartt weave
- Dozens of color options
- Foldable flaps for adjustable coverage
- Thinner material may not be suitable for freezing cold
- Hand-wash only
AOKIWO 126 Piece Emergency Survival Kit – $36.99
Finally, if you’re a camper – in any season – you have a first aid kit. Plain and simple.
*** The best advice we can give you, however, is to create your own first aid kit. Each individual requires different items (medications, epi-pens, etc) for different situations, so even if you grab an extensive kit like this – be sure to customize it to the needs of every person in your party before every trip. ***
Fortunately, AOKIWO has an incredible Amazon camping deal in the form of this survival kit. Basically, it comes with everything you’ll need for on-site first aid before customization. In addition, you’re getting a ton of items that U.S military veterans recommend for survival.
- 28 pieces of survival gear, 16 pieces of medical supplies, also has 10 pieces of fishing tools
- 4-in-1 EMT pouch
- Extended use beyond camping
- Lack of instructions, also some come in languages outside of English
- Multiple reviewers leave complaints about compass quality
And don’t forget a nice pair of hiking boots!
As more and more people head into camping and hiking due to the COVID-19 pandemic – it’s never possible to be over-prepared, either.
Whether this was your introduction to winter camping or you’re a cold weather pro, we hope the items listed here go a long way in making your next adventure as enjoyable (and warm) as possible.
If you’re also looking to get your toolkit and vehicle ready for winter camping, check out our Everything You Need from Amazon for the Perfect Winter Tool Kit, as well.
A happy, safe winter to you from all of us here at Outsider.com!