If you're wondering how to camp in winter, you're not alone. Cold-weather camping isn't for everyone. But for the adventurous family, it could be a trip filled with quality time and all kinds of outdoorsy awesomeness. Before you start the planning process, check out the common questions that soon-to-be campers have about their winter wonderland retreat!
Where Can You Camp?
There are a bounty of camping options across the country. National parks, state parks, private campgrounds, and your own backyard are all possibilities, depending on the time of year. Once you narrow down the location, you have several types of camping to choose from:
- Tent sites. Unless you're a seasoned camper with older children who don't mind roughing it, this might not be your best bet during the frigid winter months. Families with young children may want to consider a more sheltered camping choice.
- RV camping. You don't need to own an RV to use one. Renting an RV is an exciting adventure for the family who loves road tripping. And the heated interior space is an ideal escape from the wild winter weather.
- Cabin camping. If you need a more homey setting, cabins offer a variety of comfort levels. Choose a basic structure for a no-frills experience, or go for luxe living with a heated cabin that's equipped with a full kitchen, shower, and all the amenities you have at home.
When Can You Camp?
Summertime campground options are plentiful. But what happens when the winter weather strikes? While campgrounds in more southern regions are often open year-round, national and state parks in the northern states may close during peak cold periods.
Regardless of the time of year, it's best to call ahead before heading to your chosen park. The campground staff can help you make reservations and will let you know if the site has a restricted winter schedule.
What Should You Bring?
Depending on where you're camping, who you're camping with, and what the local weather conditions are, you may need a varying degree of gear. In general, here's what cold weather camping requires:
- A four-season tent (if you're staying in a tent)
- Cold-weather sleeping bags
- Sleeping pads
- Backpacks with room for water and anything else you need to carry
- A portable stove
- A collapsible snow shovel
- A lighter or waterproof matches
- Water bottles
- Insulated bottles for hot beverages
- Heating pads for hands and feet
- A first-aid kit
Along with these items, you'll also need enough layers of clothing to keep you warm.
What Clothes Should You Pack?
Dressing the part is an essential component of figuring out how to camp in winter. Bring several layers of winter camping clothes for yourself and the kids:
- A base layer. Thermal underwear that wicks sweat away from the skin is the best option for cold, activity-packed days.
- A middle layer. Sweat pants, sweaters, turtlenecks, and jeans are easy options that allow for movement.
- An outer layer. Pack at least two coat options (in case one gets wet), along with snow pants.
- Socks. You'll need plenty of sweat-wicking, winter-weight socks.
- Hats and gloves or mittens. Keep everyone's heads and hands happy with warm outerwear.
- Boots and shoes. Bring waterproof snow boots or hiking boots for outdoor play. Also pack indoor shoes and slippers to wear while walking around the cabin or in your tent.
What Safety Measures Should You Take?
The low temperatures, wild wind, and snow all make winter camping potentially hazardous. Taking the proper precautions can save the day. Along with a first-aid kit, hand and feet warmers, and toasty clothing, make sure you know the cold-weather dangers to look out for.
Exposure to cold may cause frostbite or hypothermia. Signs of frostbite include numbness and unusually firm, waxy, or whitish skin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also notes that hypothermia causes shivering, confusion, memory loss, and exhaustion. Both of these issues require moving the affected person to a warmer setting, removing wet clothing, and seeking prompt medical attention.
Even though a weekend in a winter wonderland is family fun at its seasonal best, you need to prepare for this trip with warmth, comfort, and safety in mind. With the proper prep, cold-weather camping can be a memorable family experience.
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Why It's Good
Winter doesn't have to mean sitting inside in front of a screen. Cold-weather camping is an outdoorsy adventure that gets the whole family up, out, and active!