Who says camping can only be done in warmer months? Snowy landscapes offer plenty of fun, recreational activities for those of you who like to get out and brave the cold! So if you can't wait for the snow to start flying, here are some tips for winter camping to keep you safe and somewhat warm while you’re in the elements!
Since tent camping and RVing offer very different accommodations, let's approach them differently when talking about the supplies you'll need to stay warm.
When tent camping in the winter, you are going to need a 4-seasons tent. These tents are heavier and built for winter camping. They have a strong exterior skeleton to help hold it up and can handle faster winds and snow fall, unlike a normal tent. This tent will help to protect you from the elements and keep you a bit warmer than a typical tent. Research different tents to find out what they're rated and choose one based on where you’re planning to winter camp. There are some extreme places that will require a much stronger tent than others.
You don’t want to bring just any sleeping bag when you’re headed out into the snow and cold. While many sleeping bags are pretty thick, there are others that are specifically made for winter camping that will keep you much warmer and drier than the others.
Like a tent, sleeping bags will have a temperature rating. The standard sleeping bag that is meant for typical summer camping is usually temperature rated for about 35 degrees and above. You can also get what is called a 3-season sleeping bag which is meant to be used in spring and fall as well as when temps are a little cooler. These have temp ratings between 10 and 35 degrees. For winter, you will want one that is rated for 10 degrees or lower to help keep you comfortable and also keep you from getting frostbite! You can even get one that has its own hood to keep heat from escaping!
You obviously won’t need swimsuits for this trip, unless you plan to do a polar bear plunge! For cold temperatures, you typically want to dress in 3 layers. These layers are: the base layer, the middle layer, and the outer layer. This may seem like a no-brainer since most of the time all three layers are typically worn, but you need to put a bit more thought into them when headed out into the snow.
Your base layer is usually your undergarments, but don’t just throw on a pair of boxers and call it good! This base layer can be one of the most important layers that you put on! Buy underwear made of synthetic or merino wool. These types of fabrics dry quickly as they push moisture out into the other layers. This helps to keep your skin warm and dry even if trudging through the snow has you working up a sweat.
Your middle layer is your basic clothing, but for winter camping you will want to think of this as your insulation. Fleece and micro fleece work well as they are not too bulky and retain heat well!
The outer layer is what will protect you from the wind and water. Think laminates, polyurethane-coated fabrics, and thick coats with vents! They are breathable but still warm at the same time! Choose ones that are labeled as fireproof since you may be huddling around a fire for warmth at some point.
Your boots are one of the most important articles of clothing you’re going to put on. Choose waterproof and insulated boots for the best protection. If you can find a pair with the removable insoles, this can come in handy as you can take them out and sleep with them on to keep your feet warmer at night.
Don’t forget all the small essentials, such as hats, gloves, scarves, thick socks, etc. It would be helpful to pack some petroleum jelly to put on any exposed skin! This will help you avoid windburn and frost bite. Don't forget to pack lithium batteries for all electronics, especially the flashlight! These types of batteries will perform much better in the cold weather.
Be sure to bring extra food and water along on your camping trip! In the winter you are more likely to become stuck or stranded, and much less likely to be able to find your own food in this event. Carbs are your friend in the cold weather, as they will help give you energy for moving around and help keep you warmer. Make these Homemade Granola Bars ahead of time and bring them along for an instant boost of sugar and protein. Also, bring along some sort of GPS device in the event that you get lost in all the blinding-white snow.
RVing in Winter
An RV offers the warmth and comforts of home that a tent doesn't. Not only are you surrounded by walls in an RV, but you can turn on your heater, switch on a fireplace, and pull shades to keep cold drafts out. An RV offers shelter from the cold! Here are a few tips on using your RV in the winter.
On the outside
If you’re traveling in a motorhome, towing with a diesel truck, or have diesel generators, make sure you get a diesel fuel supplement. This will help keep your diesel from gelling and plugging your filters. For a motorhome, make sure to keep your engine block heater on to protect it!
Make sure to fill your propane tanks all the way, and bring extra propane if possible. You’ll go through it quickly in cold temperatures and you don't want to run out! If you don’t have room to store extra propane, locate a place nearby where you can refill them.
If you’re going to be RVing for long periods of time in the winter, you will want to invest in a skirting for your rig. This acts to insulate the undercarriage of your RV by keeping freezing winds and snow out. If you’re only RVing for a little while, you can pack snow around the bottom of your RV as a barrier and insulate it that way.
To prevent your hoses from cracking and freezing, put them away after using them for filling and dumping. If they are left out, any water left in them will freeze and put your hose at risk of cracking. Your hoses will last longer if they are properly stored between use.
When it snows, you’ll need to get on top of your rig and shovel it off. Also remove snow from awnings and slide outs. The weight of snow can cause damage to an RV roof, can cause problems with slide-out mechanisms, and can tear down an awning if it's open. Snow can also block vents on the roof, so make sure to clear them off.
Vent covers are a smart addition to your RV! They help keep snow out of vents. In the winter you may need to open a vent if moisture starts to collect inside your RV and needs to be released.
To save money on expensive propane, use electric space heaters for warmth. This will not only stop you from having to use as much propane, but this also gives you more of a primary and backup heater. You can set your electric heaters to whatever you find comfortable and the propane heater to around 40 or 45 degrees. This way if your electric heaters fail, the propane will kick on. Another benefit of skipping the propane is that you won't experience the humidity build up that propane creates inside an RV. Just use caution when using a space heater, as they can be a fire hazard if the come into contact with flammable materials. Make sure you don't set a space heater near drapes, cushions, pillows, blankets, or anything else that could easily heat up and catch on fire.
Even though you'll be inside a warm, cozy RV, you will want to bring extra blankets, warm pajamas, thick socks, and slippers. These will keep you warmer and help you conserve energy at night.
Close your RV's shades to keep the heat in, especially at night. If you want more insulation, put bubble wrap over them or add a plastic window shrink film that creates an air-tight seal. Windows and stairwells are prime culprits for letting in cold air!
Now that you are ready, you just need to pick your destination. Just be sure you aren’t too far out to call for help if needed, and never go alone! Stay warm, safe, and have fun!!!