Winter Camping Checklist: Cold Weather Gear to Pack

The temperatures are dropping and snow has already arrived in many places. In addition to staying inside near a fire with a good book or enjoying a show, many people love to get outdoors to appreciate the tranquil beauty that nature shows off in the colder months of the year. While there are unique challenges associated with camping in the cold, it allows for amazing adventures that shouldn't be missed when properly prepared for.

Winter camping brings its own benefits (fewer people to compete for camping spots, more space and options to camp, beautiful snow-covered views) and also its own challenges (keeping warm, driving in snow, proper hydration and nutrition). Proper preparation can mean the difference between an awesome experience and a miserable one; it could also mean the difference between survival and death. Thus, it is very important to think ahead and create a checklist when you plan your winter camping trip.

This article will cover things you'll need to bring with you to ensure that you have a good winter camping experience. Remember, more gear is required in frigid weather than in the warmer seasons, so don't skimp on your gear and setup. Read more below the checklist to get some camping tips on how to make the most of your camping experience in winter conditions!

Winter Camping Checklist

SAFETY

  • First aid kid
  • Personal items (toilet paper, lip balm, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, toothbrush, etc)
  • GPS / personal locator beacon
  • Fire starters
  • Spare batteries
  • Compass
  • Map
  • Whistle

WATER AND FOOD

  • Water bottles
  • Ample food
  • Cooking supplies
  • Snacks
  • Fuel for cooking
  • Mugs and cups
  • Dishes and bowls
  • Fire starters


CLOTHING

  • Warm hat / headwear
  • Moisture wicking long underwear
  • Snow wear (jacket and pants)
  • Hiking boots
  • Extra socks
  • Fleece (jacket and pants)
  • Plenty of layers
  • Gloves
  • Hand warmers

CAMPSITE

  • Properly rated sleeping bag
  • Sleeping bag liner (to supplement sleeping bag if needed)
  • Insulated sleeping pad
  • Insulation Tent for RTT
  • Headlamp and extra batteries

WHAT SHOULD I BRING TO GO CAMPING IN THE WINTER?

It is better to over-prepare than to under-prepare when the weather is potentially deadly. This is particularly true when you have plenty of room inside your vehicle for gear storage, as opposed to if you go on a backpacking trip. So don't skimp when it comes to bringing along clothes to give you extra warmth, or you'll regret it when you put on damp socks on a freezing cold morning.

One of the most important pieces of gear to bring with you is a sleeping bag. You need to ensure that it is properly rated for the temperatures you will be camping in so that it will sufficiently keep you warm. If your sleeping bag is not rated enough for the conditions you'll be camping in, you can also add a sleeping bag liner. Sleeping bag liners can extend your sleeping bag's rating by ten to fifteen degrees; however, if this is not enough to keep you warm, you will need to invest in a new sleeping bag with a proper temperature rating.

Layering is key to staying warm when camping in cold weather. In addition to a heavy coat or jacket, you need to make sure that you have a base layer that will retain body heat, such as long underwear. Try to avoid cotton, as it can't wick moisture and can actually make you colder when it's wet; instead, go for fleece which is much more appropriate for cold weather. Long underwear, an extra pair of socks, a waterproof jacket, and liner gloves are vital pieces of gear when camping in cold weather. Remember that your hiking boots will likely get wet from melting snow, so extra pairs of socks are crucial.

In addition to camping equipment fit for the other seasons (first aid kit, water bottles, toilet paper, fire starters, extra batteries, trekking poles, and duct tape) other items to add to your winter camping gear checklist are snow pants, hand warmers, an ice axe, and personal items such as lip balm. An important thing to keep in mind is a way to urinate in the middle of the night so that you don't have to leave the warmth of your tent. Many campers will pack along an extra water bottle that they can designate for urination; just make sure to distinguish between the bottles before drinking!

In the colder temperatures, you're going to burn more calories than normal so make sure you have brought enough to eat. White gas is ideal for cooking in colder temperatures; it's also a good idea to fill a water bottle with hot water to provide even more warmth inside your cozy tent. Bring along some waterproof matches as a backup, just in case.

HOW DO YOU SLEEP IN A TENT IN THE WINTER?

To comfortably sleep in a tent in the winter, you must ensure that you've got proper insulation. In addition, you've got to make sure that your tent can withstand the wind and snow, similar to a special 4 season tent that backpackers use. While iKamper does not currently make a roof top tent specifically for winter camping, the materials used are better than the standard ground tent.

In contrast with ground tents, iKamper roof top tents are made of thicker fabric and have  rainflies for added protection against snow. The canvas on iKamper roof top tents is made of 300gsm super density poly cotton canvas, which is water resistant, breathable, insulating, UV resistant, and built to last. This material prevents you from getting too hot on a warm day and too cold when it's chilly out. Although it's heavier than traditional tent fabric, it is quieter thanks to its weight and insulation properties. The polycotton canvas is water resistant, but one should make sure to dry out the material before closing the hardshell. Each iKamper roof top tent also comes with a detachable waterproof rainfly. To read more specific fabric care information, including weathering instructions, visit this page.

Inside your roof top tent, you can use the Insulation Tent, which is specifically designed for the colder months of the year and the best iKamper accessory for winter camping.. The quilted,  double-layer Insulation Tent helps keep out the winter chill and retains heat inside your roof top tent to maintain a cozy environment. It easily attaches to the inside of your tent and setup takes less than five minutes. For more information and customer reviews, check out the Insulation Tent here.

Another piece of gear to consider adding to your checklist is an insulated sleeping pad. While it is advantageous that a roof top tent is situated above the cold ground and has a sturdy floor to assist in insulation, an insulated sleeping pad can help keep you warm in freezing temperatures. Some insulated sleeping pads are filled with down to ensure the coziest of sleeping environments.

To provide even more shelter from freezing winds and snow, the Annex is a great addition to your winter camping setup. The Annex is great for taking off dirty clothes and shoes, but it also serves another purpose of creating a wind barrier between your roof top tent door and the frigid outside.

The Annex is made of waterproof construction and adds significant living space to an iKamper roof top tent. It provides a covered area for protection from rain, snow, pests, and harmful UV rays. The three sides of the Annex can be converted into canopies, allowing for the cool breeze to blow in when the weather is ideal and to help with ventilation against condensation buildup. There are currently five different models of the Annex, as each one is unique to the tents that they mount onto. You can read more about the Annex here.

HOW COLD IS TOO COLD TO CAMP IN A TENT?

The answer to this question really depends on the comfort level of the camper; as long as there is adequate heat generated and retained inside a well-insulated tent, you will likely be fine. However, if there are extreme conditions, it might be best to find an alternative to your roof top tent. There are four season backpacking tents which are made specifically for harsh winds, extreme snow, and high elevations. These tents have different architecture than roof top tents to provide more insulation by way of extra layers, and have special shapes designed to shrug off snow. They are also designed to have more ventilation to mitigate condensation.

Hardshell roof top tents do have one advantage in winter conditions: when the shell is facing the direction of the wind, you won't notice it as much as you otherwise would in other types of tents. However, if the wind is strong enough to rock your vehicle, you will feel the tent sway with it. Keep this in mind when planning on camping in extreme weather and plan accordingly.

Another solution against the winter conditions is one that must be used with caution. In addition to properly rated sleeping bags, some campers employ small heaters to keep the wintry weather out. If you choose to go with this method, ensure that you follow the manufacturer's instructions and warnings; not following these instructions can lead to fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. Do your research on these items before taking one along and using it in an enclosed space, such as your Annex or inside your roof top tent.

WHAT IS THE BEST TENT FOR WINTER CAMPING?

While the Insulation Tent will help keep you toasty and warm, the advantage that hardshell roof top tents have against wind makes them the most ideal tents for winter camping. The 300gsm super density poly cotton canvas used on all iKamper roof top tents helps reduce wind noise, but the hardshells do a much better job than the canvas can; strategically parking your vehicle and setting up your tent so that the hardshell faces the wind will help reduce the noise and the shaking from the wind. As stated above, however, your vehicle itself can still be vulnerable to rocking as a result of strong winds.

For a list of all iKamper roof top tents, check out our products on this page. If you still have questions regarding using a roof top tent for winter camping, we encourage you to join the iKamper Community on Facebook where iKamper owners share their experiences, tips, and recommendations for camping in all sorts of conditions. We also encourage you to reach out to our customer support team who are happy to answer any questions you may have by email them at support@ikamper.com.

As always, we hope this article has been informative and of use to you. Thank you for being a part of the iKamper community and remember to Love People and Love Nature!

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