Camping in cold weather doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. What determines your enjoyment when it comes to enjoying winter camping is being prepared with the right equipment and tools.
Having the right gear can make winter camping a lot more enjoyable than summer camping because normally there will be a lot less bugs to contend with thanks to the colder temperatures.
We’ve put together a list of all the gear that you should have to guarantee a great cold weather camping experience. Some of the items listed may not be necessities but our objective is to provide you with an excellent camping experience and include necessities as well as extras that enhance the overall outcome.
Questions To Ask Before The Trip
Before you go on your camping trip, there are a few things that you will need to determine. These things will affect the supplies and type of camping that you do.
- Who is going on the camping trip? – If only adults are going on the trip, things can be a lot more basic than if you have children accompanying you. Children can do very well camping, even in the cold, when the right supplies are brought along. If the children are young, a long hiking camping trip is not recommended as they can get tired and require being carried which makes it much more difficult for the adults. Save the hiking camping trips for teens and adults only. For more information on some great tips for camping with children, check out this article.
- What type of camping trip will it be? – If you are taking children, you will have an easier and better time if you make it a car camping trip. This means that the supplies can be loaded into the car and trunk and you can pull right up to your campsite. This is a great type of camping for kids since you can bring a lot more supplies and not have to worry about having to carry them a mile or more to the campground. Some campsites even have electrical hookups and water for those who enjoy that type of comfort camping.
- How long will you be camping? – The length of time you will be at the campsite also plays a part in the amount of supplies you will need to have a great time. Is this just a weekend trip or will you be camping the whole week? Know ahead of time how long you will be camping so you allow for plenty of food, drink and supplies.
- What will the average temperatures be on your trip? – Although you may not be able to get an exact on the weather for your camping trip, you can get an idea of what the highs and lows will be and whether it will be a dry time or have the potential for rain and/or snow depending on where you are camping. It is important to know this information so you know how to dress and what supplies to bring.
- What amenities does the campground have? – Get information about the campground you will be camping at before you go. Does it have bathroom facilities? Water and electric hookups? A general store? Laundry? Showers? You will need this information when you are packing for your camping trip. Some campgrounds have a lot of amenities and can even have game rooms, pools and restaurants. The more you know about the area you are going to, the better prepared you can be.
Camping Supplies That Are Must Haves
There are many different supplies that you will need on your camping trip. We will cover the necessities first. These are supplies that you should absolutely have on every camping trip regardless of where you are going.
- Family Sized Tent – Make sure that the tent you have or purchase has plenty of room for everyone. Some campers even get more than one tent if the kids are not too little. The main thing to remember is to make sure that there is plenty of room for everyone that is going to be in the tent to lie down comfortably. You also want to make sure that the tent is waterproof with no leaks and that it has zipper doors for added security. A tarp tied over the top of the tent can help keep rain off.
- Sleeping bags, Pads and Air Mattresses – When camping in the wintertime, you want to be sure that you will be warm at night. Purchasing a sleeping bag that is designed for use in very cold weather is the best way to guarantee this. This is not the time to let the kids bring their sleepover character bags; these will do nothing to keep them warm. You want to ensure that the temperature range for the sleeping bags is well within the range that the sleeping bag says it is good for. Sleep pads are also a great idea since they will provide a barrier between the cold, hard ground and the camper. Lay them on the floor of the tent and then put the sleeping bags on top of them. Adults may want to include air mattresses if there is room. Older bodies feel the hard ground a lot more than kids do. If you have the room to bring air mattresses, you will enjoy sleeping a lot more and wake up a lot more refreshed.
- Lanterns and Flashlights – Light is always important on a camping trip. It can be really dark outdoors at night without street lights and city lights to brighten everything up. Having a couple of lanterns and flashlights can calm nervous children and help you see what you need to see around the campsite when visibility is lower. Lanterns now come in LED versions that don’t require kerosene or lamp oil. These newer LED versions are much safer to have especially around children. It can be really fun for the kids if you get each one of them their own flashlight. This is really good for children who are afraid of the dark as well.
- Coolers – Since you are able to use your vehicle to hold the heavy items, bring several coolers; one for drinks and one for food. If you are staying a whole week, you may need several coolers to accommodate all the food and drinks you will need to last the entire week. Label the coolers with what is inside and make sure that you have plenty of room for all that you need. Appetites are always heartier when you’re outdoors, especially in colder weather. Make sure to account for this when making your food list. You may want to make sure your cooler is made of metal and that it has a lock if you will be keeping them outside. This will deter critters from getting into them.
- Camping Knife, Lighter, Duct Tape – It is very important to have a good quality knife and a lighter when you go camping. Lighting the campfire and cutting necessary kindling or other things will inevitably come up so having these items on hand is a necessity. Duct tape is great to have on hand, should the tent spring a leak or something else needs fixing.
- Camping Stove – A camp stove is a must have for cooking great meals all week long. You can cook on the campfire, but having a good quality camping stove can make meals more enjoyable and expand the menu that you can serve your family. Make sure that you have the propane you need for your camp stove as well as a couple of refills.
- Camping Pots and Pans, Plates and Cups – Don’t forget to pack all the utensils, pots, pans and plates you will need for your camping trip. If you want to use paper plates for eating that is fine but you will still need to bring pots and pans. It is also important to make sure that you have plenty of paper towels, toilet paper, Ziploc bags, eating utensils, serving utensils, and storage containers for leftovers.
Additional Supplies That Make A Good Camping Trip Great
The list above includes the foundational items that every camper needs. This list is for the additional things that can turn an average camping trip into one that has everything you will need and more.
- Binoculars – Using binoculars to check out the wildlife in the area can add a lot to your camping trip. Binoculars can be a lot of fun for young ones to use as well, but since most binoculars are on the more expensive side, be sure to show them how to use them properly and take care of them.
- Compass – If you plan on doing any hiking at all in the area, a compass is a must. Otherwise it is a great supply to have on hand just in case. A compass is very valuable for keeping track of where you are in the event that you get lost or when you are looking to travel in a specific direction. Compasses come in all shapes and sizes and quality levels. Don’t purchase a cheap compass or it could have a lot of trouble working properly.
- Camping Chairs – Having plenty of comfortable seating when you are around the campfire is a great way to truly relax. It is advisable to bring a camping chair for every person that is camping. Even though kids can be comfortable sitting on the ground, when it is cold, it is much more enjoyable not to be sitting on the hard, cold ground. Camping chairs fold up and fit into bags that almost always have a handle for easy carrying.
- Camping Toilet and Shower – If the campground you are staying at has facilities this will not be necessary, but you still may want to bring a good quality camping toilet and a way to make it private such as a freestanding barrier or block. This is especially important for those with very young ones that may just be potty training. Unless you are right next to the facilities, you will have to walk across the campground to get to the bathrooms. A little one may not make it that far so having a good, private camping toilet can save them the embarrassment of having any accidents. A camping shower can be really handy if your campground doesn’t have shower facilities. Just make sure you by the privacy tent.
An Important “Don’t Forget” List
- Stay Dry and Warm – Pack plenty of warm clothing, including socks, pants, shirts, heavy jackets. Bring hats, gloves, and scarves if the temperatures are supposed to be extremely cold. Dressing in layers is a good idea because if the day warms up significantly, you can take some of the layers off. Pack each person’s clothing in large storage bags or dry bags to ensure the clothing is kept dry, labeled with the person’s name on them. You can even pack them in outfits for an especially organized clothing situation.
- Bored Campers Are Not Having Fun – Bring along board games, cards, coloring books, paper and crayons, coloring pencils, Frisbees, baseball and gloves, football, bicycles if your vehicle can haul them on a rack safely, volleyball, badminton, and if you’re camping in snow, don’t forget trekking poles and even ski equipment. It can be a lot of fun to have plenty of activities to do and play with while you are camping, especially with children. The more activities you have the better the camping trip will be.
- A Picture is Worth 1000 Words – Cameras can be a lot of fun when it comes to recording the events of the camping trip. There are many different types of cameras that are available that make excellent camping cameras. You could even get an action camera for exciting in the moment action. Consider purchasing disposable cameras for the kids so they can take their own pictures throughout the trip. It can be a lot of fun to see the things that caught their attention. You never know when you might have a budding Ansel Adams on your hands!
- Food, Food and More Food – Food is one of the most important things you will bring on your camping trip. Make sure you bring plenty of food for everyone to eat more than normal. The brisk cold air increases the appetite so everyone will be hungry. Don’t forget breakfast foods, lunches, dinners and snacks for every day that you will be camping. Remember to bring snacks for the trip to the campground and back home again as well.