Cold weather camping

How To Prepare For Cold Weather Camping

4 minutes

How To Be Comfortable Camping In The Cold

When you are thinking about camping in the Winter or early Spring, you need to be prepared for some cold weather.  It may be nice during the day, but when the sun goes down, the temperature will drop.  Cold weather camping can be fun, but you need to be prepared.

The two areas that you need to focus on when you are preparing to camp in cold weather are:  equipment and clothing.


You need to be concerned about how your tent and sleeping bag are rated.  This can make a huge difference in your comfort level in cold weather.

Tents are divided into two main categories:  three season tents and four season tents.  Four season tents are usually dome tents.  You rarely see a flat roofed or cabin tent that is designated for winter camping because snow can pile up on a flat roof, causing it to collapse.  This is also the reason four season tents come with extra poles to provide more support on the tent itself in the event of snow.  Three season tents are suitable for Spring, Summer and Fall, but not for Winter.  Because snow is not an issue, you will see more cabin tents that are three season tents.  The Coleman Weathermaster 3 room tent is one that I have reviewed and I think it’s a great tent.

Sleeping bags are also rated for cold.  They will state:  20 degrees, – 0 degrees, 40 degrees and so on.  The degree number is the lowest temperature that particular sleeping bag is designed for.  If you tend to be cold, pick a bag that is below what you expect the temperature to be.

Sleeping bags fall into two categories:  synthetic and down.  Here the pros and cons of both.


  • Down will keep you warmer than synthetic bags.  The down traps your body heat and keeps you toasty.  It also wicks away moisture which helps to keep you warmer.
  • Down is very lightweight.  It is the choice of backpackers who are always looking to minimize the weight of the load they are carrying.
  • It is extremely durable and if cared for, will last a lifetime.
  • It compresses down very tightly to fit into a carry bag.
  • The downside of down (no pun intended) is that if it gets wets it no longer can keep you warm, and it takes a long time to dry.
  • Your down bag is difficult to clean at home.  You need to take it to the cleaners to have it cleaned.
  • Down is also much more expensive than a synthetic bag.  If you don’t camp all that much, perhaps a synthetic bag would be a better choice for you.


  • Synthetic bags will continue to insulate you even when they are wet.
  • They also dry quickly.  In the sunshine, the drying time could be less than an hour.
  • They are less expensive than down.  There are many different designs to choose from.  If you are just starting out camping and don’t know how you will like, it would be best to invest in a synthetic bag.
  • Synthetic bags are easy to clean.  They can be put in a washing machine and dryer without any damage.
  • Some of the cons are that they are heavier than down bags.  It just takes more material to get the same loft as down bags.
  • They are harder to compress.  They just don’t squish down as much as down bags do.  If you are car camping, this is not a problem.  But if you are backpacking, this could be an issue.
  • They will not last forever.  The synthetic material will wear out eventually and will have to be replaced.


When you planning your clothes for your winter camping trip, think layers.  Consider at least three layers.

  1. The first layer is that which is next to your skin.  Choose synthetic fabrics like Thinsulate or polypropylene.  There are many synthetics fabrics to choose from.  They are lightweight and will wick moisture away from your skin.  In the winter time, wet is your enemy.
  2. The next layer should be designed to trap your body heat.  Wool is a great choice because it continues to insulate even when wet. Fleece or any kind of piled fabric is also a good choice.
  3. The outer layer must be waterproof and windproof.  It should be made of tough material to protect you from cuts and scratches while hiking.  Your birding adventures are no fun if you get tangled in thorny underbrush.  Look for jackets that have shielded zippers.  Nobody wants cold metal touching their skin.
  4. Don’t forget neck scarves, hats that will keep your ears warm and gloves or mittens.

Cold weather camping can be a lot of fun, but you must be prepared.  If you follow the suggestions above, your camping experience will be enjoyable and one that you will want to repeat.

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