Cold Weather Camping Checklist To Keep You Warm and Alive

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If you are going camping or hiking this winter, you must have a comprehensive cold weather camping checklist.

Ok, I have already shown you how you can insulate your camping tent for warmth. As a true outdoor enthusiast, you know very well that nothing is ever going to keep you indoors. Not even the snow!

You also need to eat hot food all the time. Thus, you want to bring your backpacking and camping stove. You can make hot piping coffee while camping and keep yourself warm. If the weather is truly cold as it can get when camping in December, you will also need the best tent heater for camping.

But while you need to be careful when camping in spring, summer and fall, you have to be extra careful when camping in the cold. You see, in cold weather, your biggest enemy will be the weather. If you can conquer the camping cold, you will have the time of your life. And it is not too hard!


Cold weather camping checklist – things to include

Making a comprehensive checklist for camping in cold weather is not hard at all. Here is everything that you need to know about it.

Carry all of your cold weather camping gear

Bring all of your cold weather camping gear. A man is as good as his gear when he is exposed to the elements. Therefore, get your camping gear list out. Go over it again. See whether anything is missing.

Camping in the cold requires you to be extra careful. You have to mind what you wear. If you do not wear your layers correctly, you could sweat too much. Sweat will form a cold layer against your skin, which would in turn cause hypothermia. You are sure you do not want that.

Anyway, preparation is paramount. For cold weather camping checklist, do prepare with a more thorough eye than you would in summer.

Try to anticipate what the weather will be like. Rain, sleet, snow, strong winds and even blizzards are possible during winter. Thus, you will bring all the necessary gear.

It is much better to bring more gear and not get to use it than fail to bring whatever gear you need. Take time to prepare your cold weather camping checklist. That way, you will not leave anything behind.


Winter camping tent/shelter – cold weather camping checklist

We have talked about this exclusively in the insulating a tent article. If you are not going to buy a 4-season tent, you had better learn how to insulate what you already have.

From using blankets, camping tent heaters and an air mattress for sleeping, you need to check your shelter needs carefully. Sleeping on the hard cold ground is not pleasant at all.

You also need to learn how to pitch your tent and where to pitch it. Choose a sheltered place, away from the wind and the sleet. This can be behind a rock (depending on the direction of the wind) or behind a grove of wood.

Disposable heat packs are great for cold weather camping. Make sure you park some with your tent.

The tent should be staked to the ground. When you are camping in cold weather, the weather can turn with little or no notice and bowl you over. You do not want that to happen! Stake the tent.

You will need a tent footprint, which will protect your tent against damage. When you have a tent footprint, your tent is not going to be in direct contact with the ground. A good footprint is waterproof, will last a long time and is not easily pierced by things.


Winter camping boots

With cold feet, even sleep proves elusive. You have to wear the warmest boots for winter camping and hiking. Find out the insulation of the boots before ordering yours online.

Winter camping boots insulation is measured in grams. The higher the better but starting at 200g is much better. Insulation can be natural or synthetic. Do remember to check that one out.

During winter, the trails will be slippery. Thus, you should go for shoes with deep and rugged treads.

It can be a tad hard to choose the best winter camping boots. However, I have put together reviews of several good boots for winter. You can check this article for more information.

You will also need to wear socks. There are the main socks, the liner socks and you should also bring an additional pair as backup.

When buying your winter boots, just remember to order them a size bigger to accommodate the heavy winter socks.

You can find the best socks for camping in winter on

You may have to sleep with your boots on to prevent morning hypothermia. Such boots should come with a removable liner. If they do not, you may not sleep in them.


Cold weather sleeping gear

Here is where you have to be very keen. Camping in winter is better in the day, but at night it is a different matter altogether.

Your tent is already set up, staked and secure in a sheltered place. Now, you have to get your sleeping gear ready.

It is camping, and sleeping gear can be heavy. You do not want to carry too much with you. At the same time, you do not want to sleep with just the sleeping bag between you and the hard cold ground.

You can check out my articles on:

Air mattress for camping

Comfortable ways to sleep in a tent

Foam sleeping pad for backpacking and camping

Self-inflatable sleeping pad

Cold weather sleeping bag

The secret to keep warm when camping in winter is to layer up an hour before going to sleep. That way, you do not have to get out of bed to layer up in the middle of the cold night.

When you get back from hiking or from outside and into the tent, get out of your wet clothes and if possible, keep them outside the tent. That way, they will not suck out the warmth that your tent heater is generating.

When choosing a sleeping bag, one with down fill will do very well. Always choose one whose rating is 10° F above the temperature of the place where you are going camping. That way, if the temperatures should dip further, you will be safe.


Clothing for camping in the cold

The cold weather camping checklist cannot be complete if you do not include a set cold weather camping clothes. You already know about the shoes and the socks.

So what will you wear?

First, you will need thermal underwear. Underwear is right next to the skin and if you choose thermal underwear, it will prevent the cold air from getting to your skin. It will also prevent the warm layer of air between your skin and the underwear from escaping.

A pair of long johns would be perfect for winter camping. However, make sure they are not made of cotton. It takes too long to dry. Synthetic fibers dry faster.

You will need a base layer bottom, a sports bra is good because it is made of synthetic fibers. You will also need to wear a base layer top.

For the mid layer, you can wear a fleece jacket will be good. You may also wear a sweater made of wool or a light puffy jacket.

For the topmost layer, everything has to be waterproof. Thus, buy a pair of waterproof hiking pants, waterproof jacket, gloves or mittens. Cold hands cannot do their work.

You may also want to cover the neck with a neck gaiter. Buy a heavy hat to protect your head too. This is very important.

What you should remember when going through the clothes in your winter camping essentials checklist is that the layering should be too much or too little. It should be just enough. You will also have to sleep in your layers because in winter, the nights get even colder.

If your clothes do not get wet, do not get out of them. Stay in them, sleep in them if you want as you have already generated the heat that you need.


Lighting, safety and protection during winter camping

Your winter camping checklist will never be complete without including essential items like a backpacking hatchet, a camping and backpacking knife, the best flashlight for camping and a lantern. These things are easy to buy. Be keen not to take too many items with you and make your backpack too heavy.

You should bring a portable travel charger with you. That way, you can keep your smartphone juiced so that you can communicate with family. Everyone gets worried when one of their kin is out there in extreme weather. Let them know of your destination, and call in a safety report every now and then.

You might also want to bring a snow shovel. You never know when you might want to use it to bring out shovel out extra snow from your tent door. It is also a good safety tool that you might want to keep close at hand. A shovel is a very good for digging your way out of the effects of an avalanche.

Carry your hiking poles for support on slippery ground. Also, you will be carrying heavier gear on you back. You will find the support of the hiking poles very important as it helps you hoist yourself over different terrains.


Camping food and drink

You will definitely need to bring a camping stove with you. You will need to cook hot coffee and cook your trail food as well. One of the best ways to keep warm when camping in winter is to eat hot food.

The good thing with bringing a stove is that you not only get to eat hot food, but you also warm your tent. Liquid fuel stoves burn cleanly without any emissions. You may need to carry a backup fuel for your stove. You can read about different types of camping stoves that will suit your needs perfectly.

When camping in cold weather, you need to eat more calories. That way, your body gets busy metabolizing these calories and produces heat. Make hot coffee, and pour it into your travel coffee mug for keeping coffee hot. It will stay hot for a couple of hours, and you can use it to replenish your energy when hiking.

Note that not all stoves work well when camping in extreme cold. For example, you may not have much use of a wood burning camping stove unless the area you are going camping has wood. If it has, bring this stove to cook with and keep you warm.

You may also want to learn how to start a fire in the wild. You see, camping in cold weather requires you to know some survival tactics too.

Carry more than enough food, coffee, and dry rations. When you are camping in cold weather, you feel hungrier and you eat and drink more. Besides, it is good practice to always be prepared for any eventuality, including being unable to go home in the time you had planned.


Other items in your cold weather camping checklist

You should bring items for your personal hygiene. Bring also a change of clothes. You can change into dry ones when you come from hiking in the cold weather.

Bring some rope. It always comes in handy to secure your items against animals and rodents. You may also need to hang personal gear up in a tree to prevent a bear from getting to it.

Remember o carry a well equipped first aid kit. You never  know when you could need it. Besides, you also want to toss in some Vaseline or other petroleum jelly, which is very good for applying as balm if you have an open wound. This jelly protects the wound from frostbite.

There is no need to carry your backpacking water filter along. Carbon and other chemical filters do not work well when it is cold. To cook or get drinking water, just boil some snow.

Carry an extra blanket. You can use it in your tent if you need it. However, also be careful not to make your camping backpack too heavy because the going is two or three times harder in the snow than when there is no snow.

It would be smart to couple up with another person for camping in the winter rather than do it alone. That way, you can watch over each other, and the going will be easier since you will not have to carry as much camping gear as you would alone. For example, both of you can use one camping stove.



These are just a few of the winter camping essentials that you will need to make your winter camping a success. You should do a thorough study of the area where you are going to camp before leaving. That way, you will know what you need to take with you. You will also know the kind of clothing to wear.

If you are beginner camping in cold weather enthusiast, choose a camping site that is close to home. That way, if the cold should feel too much, you can always go home. Later one when you have gained more experience, you can try dry camping in winter.

For all of your trouble, you will be rewarded with the best unadulterated view of the surroundings. You will also have solitude because many people do not camp in winter. Just ensure that your cold weather camping checklist is as comprehensive as possible. Ensure that you do not leave anything that can make your camping successful behind.

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