Cool Campers Camp in Winter: Tips To Join the Club

Hot Drinks, Fire and Mittens
Hot Drinks, Fire and Mittens

Camping in Winter Can Be Awesome (Not Crazy) if You Prepare with These Tips

I’ve written a lot about camping (check out my "Get Your Butt Outside" tips here and here), because I think camping is the best. But it's winter… in the Midwest… it's too cold for camping, right? Wrong! Camping in the winter can be just as fun, and even more rewarding, than camping in warmer months (when everyone else is doing it!).

My husband and I have camped with wind-chills below 0* and have not only survived but have gone back for more. Most of our friends think we’re slightly ridiculous, but if you’re prepared and plan ahead it can be wonderful: you get to spend some much needed time outdoors after being cooped up all winter, you have the campground to yourself and you get to test your skills (I’m looking at you Bear Grylls!).

Tempted? Here are a few tips if you want to join the cool camping club:

Build a roaring fire. Winter is not the time to pretend you’re an Eagle Scout. Forget the flint and get yourself a fire log – it’ll get your fire burning in no time.

Eat plenty of high-energy food. Food fuels your body which is especially important when you're spending time in frigid weather and burning more energy. And calories don't count when you're being this badass.

  • Load up your dutch oven with something hot and tasty  (try chili or a similar one-pot, slop-style meal) and eat up.
  • Keep a Snickers bar by your bed and eat it if you wake up chilly (I’m not kidding - this is the stuff dreams are made of). It will jumpstart your insides and help level out your body temperature.

Bring ample hot beverages. Hot drinks raise your internal temperature – keeping you warmer longer, so when you're done eating, move on to drinking.

  • While hot apple cider and hot cocoa are tasty, I recommend herbal tea. It’s soothing and won’t fill you up or sweeten you out.

Layer the ‘eff up. This is no joke (thus the use of ‘eff above). Layers can make or break your experience. You will need protection from both the low temps and harsh wind, so plan accordingly with a variety of materials.

  • Start with a wicking material base layer (think running gear) to keep you dry. Avoid a cotton base layer or you can become a sweaty, frosty mess.
  • Go beyond your core – the rest of your body needs layers too. Consider tights, sweats and wind-resistant pants.
  • Always wear a hat and gloves (or for even more protection – mittens).
  • Bring extra clothes and plan on changing your base layer and socks when you go to bed and when you wake up - you don’t want to be sweaty. Ever. Sweat is a total buzzkill when you're enjoying wintry weather.

Prepare a bed fit for a king. As you know, your body shuts down when you sleep - help it out and prepare a snuggly space to get some shuteye.

  • Bring a legit sleeping bag and if its not rated high enough bring lots of extra blankets. But don’t just put the blankets on top of you – stick some in the sleeping bag with you. This will insulate you even more and create a cocoon of heat.
  • Plant hand warmers throughout your sleeping bag. This will make it much nicer to crawl into and provide comfort throughout the night.
  • Keep your clothes for the morning in the sleeping bag with you. It will make you cozier throughout the night and make your morning a lot nicer.

Don’t be too proud. If you get cold, like bone-deep cold, sleep in your car or pack up your ish and go home.

  • This picture of my foot (#nofilter) is from a couple years ago when I acted tough and opted to stay out when I knew it was getting bad. I learned my lesson - let me learn it for you too!
Cold Foot Bad
Cold Foot Bad

When I asked my husband for his insight he suggested gentlemen should pee in a bottle and then snuggle with said bottle. Not to be outdone, women can purchase a Shewee and join in the fun. I don’t know if I  endorse that, but it’s an idea. See – winter camping is a whole new adventure already!

Hungry for more? Check out more great ideas from Boy Scout Trail.