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How to Make the Most of Winter Camping

Winter is the perfect time to get out of our comfort zone and go camping. Of course, there are other options, such as glamping, which is essentially all of the fun without all of the preparations, but the challenge of winter camping is part of the fun. It's survival at its finest.

We're going to show you everything that you need for a fun, safe winter camping trip. It's not as easy as camping in the summer. You can't just throw up a tent, drop a line in the water, and have a good time. You have to be prepared to survive, all while having a blast.


Staying warm and staying comfortable in the cold

First and foremost, when camping in the winter, you need to keep yourself warm. Not taking the necessary precautions to keep yourself warm will result in, at the very least, a miserable experience but, at the most, death.


Set up adequate shelter

Unless you're staying at a cozy resort, you're going to need shelter.

When you first arrive at your campsite, get your shelter up first. This will provide you with a place to get out of the wind and snow to warm up. Hypothermia can set in quickly, so you must take regular breaks in your shelter depending on how cold it is.

You need to take a few things into account when setting up a shelter for winter camping. You'll need something that will protect you from the wind, as well as something to keep in heat and keep you dry.

If you're setting up a tent, make sure to choose a tent that is meant for winter weather, and make sure to set it up correctly so that it can withstand the wind and snow.


Make sure you have a heat source

Now that you have a shelter to protect you from the elements, you'll need something that produces some heat. This could be a fire or space heater.

4 people and 2 tents around a campfire under starry skies
Campfire is a great heat source for winter camping

Building a campfire during the winter months may be exceptionally difficult with wet wood and burning materials, so keep that in mind before you venture out.

If building a campfire is not an option, a space heater will work just fine if you have the fuel. There are plenty of heaters to choose from, whether electric, propane, or kerosene, all of which will suffice. The biggest hurdle would be ensuring you have the fuel to stay warm throughout your trip.


Layer your clothing to keep warm

Playing in the great outdoors during the chilly winter months requires you to dress appropriately. The best way to dress when winter camping is through layers. If worn correctly, layering allows you to regulate your body temperature regardless of the environment.

You'll need to wear three layers, and each serves a purpose.

  • Base Layer: This layer is closest to your skin and serves to wick sweat and moisture from your skin. Moisture on your skin will rapidly decrease your body temperature.

  • Mid Layer: This layer is the insulating layer. You'll want something loose but thick such as a wool sweater. The idea is to create a layer of air to help insulate your body from the cold outdoor temperatures.

  • Outer Layer: This layer is furthest from your skin and is exposed to the elements. The outer layer protects you from the wind, rain, and snow, allowing the other layers to do their jobs.

Cold weather can be deadly, so you must dress appropriately for your comfort and health.


Protect yourself from predators

While most animals' activity is significantly reduced during the winter, some are still on the prowl for food. Since it is winter, there might not be too much human activity to scare them off, leaving you as a potential food source.

kit fox sitting in snow
Kit fox sitting in the snow

What to watch out for

The southwest United States has its fair share of predatory animals; fortunately, some of those are hibernating during the winter. You'll have to make sure you don't stumble upon these critters while they're sleeping.

  • Snakes: The southwest is known for its rattlers. You can expect these critters to hide under rocks and other tight places to stay warm during this time of year.

  • Bears: You won't find Grizzlies in the south, but you may see black bears in the higher elevations. While not as fierce as their cousins, you will still want to steer clear of them.

  • Big Cats: Bobcats, pumas, jaguars, and ocelots can all be found in the southwestern US. In general, they'll stay away from you, but if desperate enough for food, they may find their way into your campsite.

  • Coyotes: These pests don't pose as much of a risk to people, but your pets might be at risk. Keep your eye out for coyotes, as they're plentiful down here.

If you spend enough time outdoors, you're bound to come across these animals. The best way to deal with them is to be prepared.


Prepare for wildlife encounters

As we've mentioned, the best way to handle the predators you might encounter is to be prepared.

The first thing you should do is stow away anything edible and trash. For protection against small critters you can use a rat sack. These animals are usually looking for food, not necessarily trouble. So if you can eliminate any reasons for them to come around, you'll have more minor encounters with them.

As a secondary measure, you need to protect yourself. If you're camping in an austere environment, you may consider bringing a firearm. A lesser but highly effective step would be to carry bear spray with you at all times.


The best activities for winter camping

It's cold, but now you're surviving just fine. You've done everything you needed to for staying warm, your winter-grade tent is up, and predators are keeping clear. It's time to have fun!

a group of people snowshoeing through a snowy pine forest
Snowshoeing is a great winter activity

The winter weather is great for getting out and enjoying nature. Here are a few activities you can try during your next winter camping trip.

  • Snowshoeing: Snowshoes will help distribute your weight evenly through its large surface area, allowing you to walk on top of the snow with ease.

  • Sledding: If you're in the hill country, there's nothing more fun than flying down a hill on a piece of plastic!

  • Ice fishing: Just because the lake is covered with ice doesn't mean your fishing license is useless; you need to take a different approach.

  • Cross country skiing: It's like running hiking trails, but better. You can cover vast areas on a set of skis.

Sure, the summer is what comes to mind when people think of camping, but don't overlook all of the fun you can have even when it's cold.


Final thoughts

Winter is an excellent time for people who want to get away from their busy lives and enjoy nature, but it can be a little challenging to figure out what you need to have a comfortable stay.

Hopefully, these tips give you an idea of how to make the most of your winter camping experience!

Check out our other blogs for more winter camping tips. We look forward to seeing you this winter!


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