To thrive and survive in the cold weather camping game, you need the right core. Whether you are an experienced camper or going camping in cold weather for the first time, working through all you need to pack is essential. Here is the best cold weather camping checklist to make your adventure more comfortable and less about battling the cold.
Winter camping requires more and different camping gear than what you need to pack for summer. It is true that camping out in cold weather is more adventurous and you need more planning on gear. It is based on a reliable camping checklist covering up with,
- Winter Camping Equipment
- Cold-weather clothing
- Travel and avalanche safety gear
- Furthermore, you will need additional
If you forget something to take for summer camping, you can somehow manage but for camping in cold weather, you should not make any mistakes. Anything you miss can turn your times miserable.
What to include in the Cold Weather Camping Checklist?
|Winter Camping Equipment||Cold-weather clothing||Travel and avalanche safety gear||What you need extra|
|4-Season Tent||Winter Jacket||Backcountry Skis or Snowshoes||Food|
|Cold Weather||Hardshell Jacket||Backcountry Ski Boots or Mountaineering Boots||Water Bottles|
|Sleeping Bag||Hardshell or Softshell Pants||Navigation||First Aid Kit|
|Insulated Sleeping Pad||Baselayers||Backpack or Sled||Booties|
|Stove and Fuel||Midlayer||Poles||Camera|
|Utensils and Cookware as needed||Warm Socks||Probe||Sunscreen|
|Sunglasses or Goggles||Eco-friendly soap|
|Skincare products, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.|
|Aloe Vera Gel|
|Hand sanitizer and wet wipes|
|Balaclava or neck gaiter|
|Lighters and waterproof matches|
|Knife or multi-tool|
|Pens and Papers|
Winter Camping Equipment – Pack and Pack!
The tent is the shelter and what gives you the protection. In cold weather, a tent is a place you can stay warm and protected and the option is a 4-season tent. It protects you not only from freezing temperatures but also from winter storms and high hail.
Check for the finest balance and extreme weather protection. But if you look for an option to use year-round, look for durability together with low weight.
Note: have extra rope, extra stakes, and tent repair kit
Cold-Weather Sleeping Bag
Choosing the right sleeping bag is very important to stay warm during cold weather. So pick a winter-specific sleeping bag that is lightweight and extremely warm.
Insulated Sleeping Pad
The barrier between you and the cold ground is a sleeping pad. So it is as important as choosing your sleeping bag. Check whether it is lightweight, warm, and comfortable. We prefer using a closed-cell foam pad, under the air pad to increase warmth. You can sit or stand on the foam pad on breaks or when inactive at the camp during cold trips.
Stove and Fuel
In cold weather, your body works harder to stay warm and meals are very important.
We recommend a reliable stove that can quickly boil water for you and can stand up to the severe winter features including gusty conditions. Better you take all-in-one canister stoves that are easy to use. You can keep the fuel in your jacket to warm up before starting cooking.
And consider a stove that can easily fire up with gloves on.
If you are setting up the Stove in snow, you always need a platform. We prefer the easiest DIY option here. Cut 5×5-inch foam square (I used an old foam sleeping pad to make the square) and cover it with aluminum foil. This will reflect the heat.
Utensils and Cookware
You have different options here in regards to different factors, the number of campers, etc. Many of the campers use an all-in-one stove system to eat food and boil water. There, you only need a mug or cup. You can choose a lightweight option here either titanium or aluminum. There is a wide range of cookware too and it is up to you to choose the essentials that fit the budget.
Headlamps for many activities
On winter trips, a reliable headlamp is a must. Daylight hours in winter are short and you need light to do many more activities. Find a bright, easy-to-use, rechargeable, and durable headlamp. Make sure you can easily manage it with gloved hands. Make sure you have backup power too as battery power can go down easily in cold weather.
Cold-weather clothing to stay comfortable and warm
Winter Jacket – Stay warm
When the temperature outside goes down and the wind howls, the winter jacket is the only insulated layer. There are so many jacket options in the market to support the warmth-to-weight ratio. Make sure you choose an option that fits your budget along with filling power and building quality. Look for one that can protect you from cold conditions. You can additionally pack a fleece jacket to stay warmer together with an insulated jacket.
Hardshell Jacket for extra protection from cold
If you are in winter camping, a Hardshell Jacket is a good option to put on when especially when snow turns to sleet and rain, strongly wins and when you feel like having extra protection on you.
If you are planning to spend more time in snow, doing activities, it is important to have a waterproof layer. While these are a bit pricey options, you can alternatively try a waterproof rain jacket together with your softshell jacket. But when it comes to weather-resistant quality, hardshell jackets score more. In fact, they are highly waterproof, windproof, breathable, and heavy-duty.
Hardshell or Softshell Pants for Extra Comfort
Just like you choose your jacket to match with the weather outside, pick heavier, warmer, and more weather-resistant pants. Depending on your plans in cold weather, you can either choose Hardshell Pants, Softshell mountaineering, or ski pants. They are made of added insulation rather than hiking pants to keep you warm at the same time comfortable.
If it is freezing, you can add a heavy weight fleece or something like synthetic puffy pants only if your budget allows.
Baselayers generally stay on for the whole of a winter camping outing, so think about all the comfort. My personal recommendation is for Merino wool which is comfortable and odor-resistant.
If you find the temperatures drop below the low teens, it is better to have mid or heavyweight baselayers and think about both at the top and bottom. And with how many days you are going to get exposed to cold, pack extra as they are worth packing with you.
Midlayer is between the baselayer and the shell which is highly important to fit, balance warmth, and breathability. We found people in love with synthetic options but still with packing issues. Find one with good insulating power and comfort.
Gloves to keep hands comfortable and warm
When picking gloves, think about how it’s fitting on cold weather adventures and more chances you can make your gloves in the days ahead. Just like me!
For some, gloves are not as concerning as other cold-weather clothing. But personally, I think gloves bring extra protection and warmth making you easily engaged in work. Especially think about the ease of handling the stove.
You can choose the best glove pair from a wide-ranging collection and they come in different sizes and colors. And for men and women, there are many options to go. So check out the features and get the best gloves for cold weather exploits and complete your winter kit complete.
Warm Socks to Stay Warm
Wearing a pair of dry socks can help you to stay warmer. We recommend you to have 1 pair of socks per day and it is worth the extra weight. This is not only to protect you from cold but also to give protection over possible non-temperature-related injuries like trench foot or frostbite.
The best options include Merino wool or you can pick any other wool-included options. They are comfortable to wear for a long day out too and good when you sleep.
Hats – Protect your head and cover up your ears
Wearing a hat when getting exposed to cold weather is a must. You can either have a lightweight, thin hat in less cold and could wear another warmer option when out doing activities or uncovered to snow. Especially if you are hiking, skiing, you can wear multiple hats until you feel comfortable.
Sunglasses or Goggles
Sunglasses or Goggles are listed in the end giving them optional for you. But these are very important to prevent sunburn on your eyes, especially at height.
For the most coverage, go with performance-focused sunglasses or glacier goggles. If your plan is to ski steep lines, we appreciate using a good pair of goggles.
Travel and avalanche safety gear – For adventurous winter campers
Backcountry Skis or Snowshoes
If you love cold weather adventures and camping in winter, it is so common to see snow on the trails. Here’s your regular pair of hiking boots that will not work. So lightweight backcountry skis are ideal for skiers. There are designs from lightweight to powerful designs that make you ready for efficient climbing.
If you are non-skiers, the best option to cover up your feet is a good pair of snowshoes. Look for waterproof hiking shoes to keep your feet dry and comfortable. There are different models including recreational snowshoes, backcountry models, top trails, running designs, and more.
Backcountry Ski Boots and Mountaineering Boots
Some go camping in winter to travel on skis, and a pair of backcountry ski boots are the perfect fit for touring bindings. If you like skiing steep lines, go for a slightly firmer boot. But if you go with lightning-fast climbs, you can fit in the best with an ultra-lightweight option. Among many boot options, you can try various pairs from different styles. Make sure they fit in with ski plans and comfortably on their feet.
For mountaineers, the option should always be well controlled, protective, and supportive. Your Mountaineering Boots should support well when carrying loads and should hold supportively on snow and slippery rocks. And check whether they can keep your feet warm and easily fit on skis and crampons.
Maps, Apps, or GPS: Navigation
If you are out in cold weather, you should not risk yourself with navigation. Especially in winter, it is a challenge with weather conditions. According to the landscape, snow tends to change and affect more. So be prepared with the Map, have GPS, or use an app to find the navigation.
An app is a smart option to track location. Make sure they have offline map viewing support too.
Backpack or Sled- Pack everything for camping
Most of the things included in the cold weather camping checklist are heavier and bulkier for which you need the right backpack. We prefer a larger pack with a capacity of 50 to 70 liters. If you are planning to stay a couple of days and you have a lot in your pack, sled and bulky duffle will make you travel with everything you need.
A sled set up will be fairly pricey but it is really good to take your things with no pain and troubles on knees and backs.
Pair of Poles to hike comfortably
For both downhill and backcountry use, you can buy strong, comfortable, light, and durable Poles from a wide-ranging collection. These are not considered essential but they can add stability and comfort to your experience. Ski poles in winter camping help in taking turns properly, pushing you along the flat section of the trails and in more ways than you should experience in your way.
For me, poles are helpful to keep balance and I recommend a lightweight pair that can fold and extend.
Beacon / Transceiver
Beacon is also known as Transceiver which is for transmitting your location. This is not essential winter camping gear for all but for avalanche and ski patrol professionals; this is an important piece of gear as it helps to find buried victims. There are different options from entry-level transceivers, intermediate-friendly types, and feature-rich selections.
The probe is important to add to the cold weather camping checklist for those who take Beacons. This can help with locating someone under the snow once the beacon has sent the signals. This is useful for evaluating snow depth and measuring snowpack.
Shovel for snow-scaping needs
In winter camping, shovels are a must. This is useful in numerous ways to protect your camp and also helpful in digging a victim out of the snow. Simply put, for anything you need to handle snow and especially to protect your camp, a shovel is useful. Even for fun in the snow, you can use your shovel in different snow digging activities.
Choose a shovel that is lightweight yet durable. Thankfully, there are different options for you to choose from to fit your needs and budget.
What do you need extra to take in a Cold Weather Camping Checklist?
Food – Pack as much as possible
Camping in cold weather will possibly burn double the calories as usual. So pack more and more food when camping in winter to stay fueled. Consider taking hot meals and freeze-dried meals that you can make easily. And there’s no harm in packing plenty of snacks, energy bars, and more you can easily arrange and love to eat. Also, choose a good and convenient food storage method for you.
Note: we pack more meals than planned as it may sometimes take more days than expected. Take this as a tip and plan to pack up
When camping, bring enough water from home or on the way as you may face various troubles when it comes to refilling water. In winter camping, the only way to have water is to collect melting snow. So as you may find trouble especially in refilling water in cold weather; my tip is to bring enough water and keep them insulated in the pack.
First Aid Kit – Have a personalized first aid
No matter what weather you go camping in, a personalized first aid kit is a must. Do not get complex with that; just have some pain killers and personal medications together with bandages, duct tape, bad aids, and things you feel like you will need. If you experience any complications when exposed to cold weather, include them too in your first aid kit.
Camera to make memories
Winter camping is picturesque and never forgets your camera. If you are fine with carrying extra weight, you can bring all the camera accessories with you to capture winter landscapes. If not, you can use your high-end mobile phone to capture super convenient shots.
There are pants and mountaineering boots that come with gaiters built-in. If not, add a pair to your pack to camp to keep the snow out of your boots. We recommend taking gaiters that can lengthen just below the knee (full-height gaiters) for their best use.
Personal items and extras to pack for winter!
We covered the essentials to pack when planning for cold-weather camping. And below are some of the things useful for me and hope for you too. They include some personal hygiene products, things useful for technical adventures, and more that can make you comfortable throughout the journey. How can your cold weather camping checklist be completed without these?
- Sunscreen (even in cold weather this is very useful to have)
- Lip balm
- Eco-friendly soap
- Skincare products, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.
- Aloe Vera gel for cold weather burns
- Hand sanitizer and wet wipes
- Balaclava or neck gaiter
- Insect repellant
- Safety pins (useful in locking bandages)
- Lighter or waterproof matches (bring two lighters as they can be useful)
- Plastic spoons
- Ice axe
- Knife or multi-tool (useful when opening food packages, in unexpected fixes, etc)
- Pen and papers
- Torch with extra batteries
The cold weather camping checklist ends this way, opening you for a great adventure ahead. Think seriously about staying warm, know well about the area, stay on the track, and enjoy. Take food sufficiently and drink water throughout the trip to avoid getting dehydrated in cold weather.
Note: Here we bring the essentials and things to consider optional. Make a tailored list of your trip centered on your camping considerations including weather, difficulty, period of stay, and the number of people involved. You can get the complete cold weather camping checklist from here
Have a happy camping trip and don’t forget to take your favorite snaps home!