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How to Camp in the Winter

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Updated November 2023

The snow is falling, the days are shorter and it’s officially sweatpants season. Time to put away the camping gear until next summer, right? Wrong!

Winter camping is highly underrated, and it happens to be one of our favorite times to get out as a family. Let’s dive into why winter is a great time to go camping, plus we’ll go over some tips on how to do it in comfort!


There are a number of challenges that come with camping outside of peak season. Preparation will be the key to your success!

· Temperatures are considerably lower. The proper layering system is necessary if you plan on camping in freezing temperatures. Plus you’ll need to make sure you have a sleeping bag rated for the temperature you’ll be sleeping in.

· Accessibility can be affected by winter weather. In Western Washington our mountains get a blanket of snow, which can limit where you can camp if your vehicle isn’t properly equipped.

· Activities will likely change due to weather conditions. Dips in the river won’t feel the same as they do in the summer time. There are a number of winter activities, like snowshoeing, that can take the place of the typical summer camping activities.


There are a number of key items you don’t want to forget when you embark on a winter camping adventure.

· Sleeping bags that are rated for the temperatures you plan on sleeping in are necessary. You want to make sure that you purchase something that will keep you comfortable, not barely get you by. Our family uses a variety of sleeping bags, all catered to our specific needs. Patrick prefers his goose down quilt, Amanda loves her goose down mummy sleeping bag and the boys thrive in their children’s synthetic down mummy sleeping bags. We also love taking our electric blankets for the really cold nights. All you need is a battery bank to plug it in to!

· Proper clothing layers are key to winter camping success. Like our sleeping bags, each of us require a unique layering system. Do you run hot? Cold? Is your climate damp and cold or dry with a side of frostbite? All of these things come into play when choosing your layers. (I’ve listed all of our clothing layers below)

· Waterproof storage solutions are a must if you want to keep your gear dry. No one likes a wet sleeping bag or soggy food. We personally use these totes to hold everything from our clothes to kitchen gear to safety gear.

· Make sure you top off on gas and propane before hitting the trail. Speaking from experience, it’s not fun to pull out your dinner ingredients to find that you have no propane. I also can’t imagine hiking your family to civilization after running out of gas would be the kind of memory you were looking to make.


There are a few extras that might not be necessary, but they make camping A LOT more comfortable!

· Diesel heaters are a great way to keep your tent toasty warm on frigid winter nights. The heaters are relatively quiet and efficient. Check out this heater option available on Amazon!

· Awnings or canopies are a great way to add some dry living space to your campsite. Washington is very rainy, so our 270 degree awning is a lifesaver! The awning doesn’t collect water the same way canopies do, so you don’t have to worry about it collapsing.

· Propane torches make for a quick campfire! We’ve been using a propane torch to ‘easy button’ our campfires for years. Whether your fingers are frozen or you just don’t want to waste time nurturing the embers, propane torches will get your campfire roaring in just minutes!


Our layering system reminds me of Goldilocks. Papa Bear runs hot, Mama Bear runs cold and the Baby Bears run right in the middle. Our layering system has taken years to master! I’ve listed everyone’s specific clothing choices below so you can skip all the trial we went through!

Before we dive into the list of layers, it’s important to understand the function of each layer.

1. Base Layer - underwear layer responsible for wicking sweat off your skin.

2. Middle Layer - insulating layer responsible for retaining body heat.

3. Outer Layer - shell layer that protects you from wind, rain and snow.

Patrick’s Layers

1. Base Layer

2. Middle Layer

3. Outer Layer

4. Extras

Amanda’s Layers

1. Base Layer

2. Middle Layer

3. Outer Layer

4. Extras

Boys’ Layers

1. Base Layer

2. Middle Layer

· Patagonia ¼ Zip Fleece

3. Outer Layer

4. Extras

Time to get out there and create lifetime memories! If you need ideas for camping meals, be sure to check out our camping recipes! Happy camping!

*This post contains affiliate links. We earn a small commission when you make a purchase through our links, at no additional cost to you. These funds help fuel our adventures, which we love sharing with you!

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