Winter camping

If you’re looking for a unique adventure as the cold and snow finally arrives in most parts of Canada, winter camping can be a great experience if you’re up for a challenge and are totally prepared for it.

Whether you’re winter camping in Ontario, Alberta, or anywhere else in Canada, these tips will help you have a successful and enjoyable winter camping trip.

Pick the right location

When selecting a winter camping destination, consider factors such as proximity, accessibility, and weather conditions. Some national and provincial parks have designated winter camping spots with yurts you can book, which are a great option if you don’t want to deal with a tent. Check weather forecasts for the location you book regularly so you can decide if you’re still comfortable going before heading out.

Buy quality winter camping gear

The key to staying warm and comfortable during winter camping has a lot to do with the right gear. If you’re not staying in a yurt, get yourself an easy to set-up four-season tent designed for snow and wind resistance. It’s also good to have a cold-weather sleeping bag rated for low temperatures, a sleeping bag liner, and insulated sleeping pads. Waterproof boots and quality gloves are also recommended.

Properly set up your camp

Choose a campsite that offers protection from the wind and has good drainage to avoid potential flooding. Avoid camping directly under trees laden with snow, as branches may break and fall. Clear the snow where you plan to set up your tent to create a level and stable surface.

Winter camping tent
Photo by David Schultz

Stay dry

Staying dry is one of the most important things when winter camping. Go with waterproof and breathable outer layers to protect against snow and freezing rain. Use a waterproof cover for your backpack, and consider bringing a pack cover to prevent snow accumulation. Pack moisture-wicking base layers to keep sweat away from your body and avoid cotton, which retains moisture and can lead to hypothermia.

Plan hearty meals and snacks

Your body burns more calories in cold temperatures, so it’s crucial to eat the right things when winter camping. Pack nutrient-dense and easy-to-prepare meals that provide sustained energy. Consider high-calorie snacks like nuts, trail mix, and energy bars. Ensure you stay hydrated by melting snow for water or using an insulated water bottle to prevent freezing.

Know how to make a fire in winter

Building a fire in winter can be challenging, but it’s essential for warmth and cooking. Pack waterproof matches, a reliable lighter, and fire starters. Choose a camp stove suitable for cold conditions and bring extra fuel. Familiarize yourself with proper fire-building techniques for snowy environments. Bringing a propane heater as a backup heat source is also a good idea.

Winter camping fire
Photo by Kezadri Abdelhak

Be prepared for the worst

Winter camping requires heightened awareness of safety considerations. Always inform someone of where you’re camping and your expected return time. Have emergency contact information printed out in case your phone dies. Carry a well-stocked first aid kit, and be ready for cold-related injuries such as frostbite and hypothermia. Familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of these conditions and take immediate action if needed.

If you’re not into winter camping, we have recommendations for things you should get for summer camping and tips for portaging with kids.

Featured photo by Nathan Karsgaard on Unsplash

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