Winter Camping Tips

The following list of items are essential for winter camping:

  • a warmer than usual sleeping bag, or sleeping bag liner, or double your sleeping bag
  • long underwear
  • hiking boots with wool socks and possibly snow boots – NO COTTON SOCKS
  • air mattress
  • tent
  • additional insulation (layers) above and below the sleeping bag


If you know you will be on snow of 2-3 foot depth, carry a snow shovel to aid in fixing a tent space and digging out a kitchen trench. Dig a trench about 2 feet deep and 2 feet wide. Sit on one side of the trench (on a pad), place your feet in the trench , and use the other side as a table top.

Put on dry socks as soon as camp is set up. Socks that are wet from hiking will not keep your feet warm for long.

To make putting frozen boots on easier the next morning, open them as wide as possible when you take them off at night. That will keep them from freezing in a closed position.

Insulated booties with closed cell foam insoles will keep your feet warmer around camp than wearing your hiking boots.

Carry a closed cell foam pad to sit on in camp. Frozen ground or a shelter floor will quickly pull body heat out through your rear end. You can also use your sleeping pad to sit on.

An insulated coffee mug will keep hot drinks hot much longer than regular cups. Large insulated mugs can also be used for soups, etc at mealtime.

Keep plenty of hot drinks available as you sit around camp in the evening. The extra fluids are helpful and the heat is welcome. Limit alcohol intake as alcohol thins your blood and inhibits the body’s ability to warm itself.

Avoid caffeinated drinks before going to bed. They may keep you awake and will tend to send you to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Snack before you go to bed so that your body will have enough fuel to generate heat during the long winter night.

Exercise for a few minutes before getting in your sleeping bag. This will warm up your body and make it easier to warm up a cold sleeping bag.


Increase the comfort range of your sleeping bag by putting it inside of a bivy sack. Other options include cloth liners, vapor barrier liners or space blanket bags, and doubling up bags. Vapor barrier liners should only be used in temperatures well below freezing. Doubling up bags should only be done if you still have enough room to be comfortable in the bag.

Always use a pad under your sleeping bag in the winter. Many people suggest two pads. Insulating yourself from the ground is more important than insulating yourself from the cold air.

Sleep with a stocking cap or toboggan or balaclava on your head to help hold in your body heat. Cinching up your mummy bag so that only your eyes, nose, and mouth are exposed is another way to hold in heat.

Don’t breathe inside your sleeping bag at night. Breathe through a stocking cap or bandana instead. Moisture from your breath will wet your sleeping bag and reduce its insulating ability.

Putting a bottle of warm water in the foot of your sleeping bag will help keep your feet warm during the night. Don’t forget to seal it well.

Putting a bottle of warm water in your boots will help keep them from freezing overnight. It helps if the boots are then put in a stuff sack instead of being left out in the open.

To keep your boots from freezing at night, put them in a stuff sack (you can use your sleeping bag stuff sack) and put them inside your sleeping bag at the foot of the bag. A long sleeping bag is helpful if you do this. You can also put the boots in a sack and place them between your sleeping bag and the pad underneath.

Do not attempt to dry large articles of clothing such as pants or a sweater in your sleeping bag overnight. Too much moisture in your sleeping bag will wet the bag insulation and make you cold.

Vent your tent as much as possible at night to reduce condensation on the inside of the tent walls. The few degrees of warmth trapped by a sealed up tent are not worth the trouble of wet clothes, sleeping bag, etc that result from the condensation.

Put sealed water bottles in your sleeping bag to keep them from freezing at night. You can also put them beside your sleeping bag, away from the tent wall, to keep them from freezing.


Stay warm longer in the morning by staying in the sleeping bag as long as possible while cooking breakfast, packing, etc. (Don’t use a stove in a tent.)

Warm up socks, clothes, etc before putting them on in the morning by pulling them into your sleeping bag a few minutes before you get out of the bag.

To prevent your feet from getting cold when you put on cold boots in the morning, remove the insoles and warm them up in your sleeping bag or inside your coat before putting your boots on.

Remove part of your insulation layer before starting to hike so that you don’t overheat. Hiking will produce heat that you don’t have while standing in camp, so you may feel cold after removing the insulation layer and before you start hiking. But as soon as you start hiking you will warm up.