#FearNoWeather Guide: Our Winter Camping Checklist
Last month, REI got us thinking about why we don’t go winter camping as often as we should. Sure it can get cold—especially at night—but there are benefits, too. After all, insects go dormant so you don’t have to worry about mosquito bites. And more often than not, your group will have the campsite to yourselves.
We don’t have to fear the weather, but can’t take it for granted, either. Temperatures can and often do drop below freezing this time of year, including in traditional hot spots like the desert of Arizona. That means preparation matters, which is why we made a winter camping checklist.
The Winter Camping Checklist
When it comes to a winter camping checklist, the main goal is to have everything you need to stay warm and dry, which means you want clothes that are going to wick moisture away from your body, and it doesn’t hurt if your clothes are windproof and breathable.
Wearing layers will help create insulation to keep you warm, and it will also give you the flexibility you need to make adjustments based on weather fluctuations and energy output throughout the day.
The base layer is the layer that rests against your skin and helps to keep you dry. Clothing made with Merino wool helps to wick or transfer the moisture from your skin.
The insulating layer fights against the cold by helping you retain heat through insulation. Fleece is a great fabric for insulation, and it comes in three different weights (lightweight, midweight, and expedition-weight).
The shell layer protects you against wind and wet weather, and when those shells are waterproof and breathable, they help keep you dry inside and out.
Don’t forget accessories like hats to keep your body heat from escaping through the top of your head, gloves to keep your hands warm and dry, and socks to do the same for your feet. When it comes to socks, it’s not a bad idea to wear a thin layer (to wick the moisture) beneath a thicker layer. And if your boots are waterproof and breathable, just be sure to bring an extra pair of to be safe.
Critical Winter Camping Clothes:
- Base layer
- Fleece or similar insulation layer
- Boots (waterproof and breathable are preferred)
Optional (But Recommended) Winter Camping Clothes:
- Waterproof pants
- Long underwear
Shelter and Bedding for Winter Camping:
- 4-season tent (never forget the rainfly)
- Down/synthetic waterproof sleeping bag (be sure to bring a bag that tests for colder than the planned temperature where you’ll be camping)
- Insulated sleeping pad
- Ground cloth or footprint (to keep the tent floor dry)
Additional Winter Camping Essentials:
- Nutrition (more food than you think you’ll need)
- Headlamp/lantern (including spare batteries)
- Fire (matches or fire starters)
- Lip balm and sunscreen
- Hatchet/axe (for breaking down dead and downed wood)
- Personal locator beacon (in avalanche country)
- First-aid kit (bandages, gauze, ibuprofen)
- Sled (carry more supplies without stressing your back)
Put a “Check” next to each item on that list and you’ll be golden! Now you’re ready to set out for a winter camping trip.
Plan on making this a #FearNoWeather kind of winter? Here’s some other reading material you’ll want to peruse before heading out:
- Gear for the camping addict
- The cure-all for cold hands syndrome
- A hiking aficionado’s guide to gear
- What to do when buying snowboard boots
Play it safe, and don’t be afraid to call it quits if the temperature is too much to handle!