17 Most Essential Camping Equipment During Winter
Maybe you’ve camped in winter before and you’re taking on more challenging conditions. Maybe you’re planning your first-ever winter camping trip. Are you sure you have everything covered?
How do you know if your sleeping bag is warm enough? How do you plan to wash, yet avoid frostbite? How will you make sure you don’t get lost in the wilderness?
Read on to find out exactly what camping equipment to bring next season.
Essential Winter Camping Equipment
1. Four Season Tent
A good four-season tent protects you from wind, rain, snow and cold temperatures. A hard shell roof top tent is the best option for these conditions. Models like the Eezi-Awn Stealth or Blade will keep you warm and dry.
Even with an insulated tent, you need suitable sleeping bags or camping quilts. These items have degree ratings but they’re not accurate.
Instead, check the ISO standards or EN (European standards). They’re based on thorough testing and state temperature ranges instead of just giving a figure like -2 °F.
They tell you:
- The comfort range – an average woman can use the item at this range without feeling cold.
- The transition range – an average man would be fighting the cold but not shivering.
- The risk range – it’s not safe to use in these temperatures.
Find something with a comfort range suitable for the lowest temperatures you’ll experience. Military quality sleeping bags are one option. For extra protection, sleeping bag liners are a good backup for unexpected temperature drops.
Make sure you have enough layers of appropriate cold weather, outdoor clothing. Bring suitable socks and high-quality gloves to prevent frostbite.
3. Stove, Fuel and Platform
Next on our camping equipment list is a stove – but not just any type of stove. In extreme cold, you need a liquid-fuel stove, not one powered by gas. Liquid-fuel stoves perform more consistently in the cold because they more easily maintain the pressure they need to function.
A stove platform prevents the heat from melting the snow beneath it and creating an unstable surface. Platforms are even more important for liquid-fuel stoves because resting these stoves on snow affects the pressure regulation, more than for other types.
4. Snow Tent Stakes
As mentioned, hard shell roof top tents hold up well in strong winds. Softshells do a good job too but some owners like extra protection. If your softshell base has fittings for attaching guy lines, snow tent snakes provide a solid anchor in the compacted snow.
What’s the difference compared to standard tent stakes?
Snow stakes are around nine inches long with holes along their length. You tie guy lines through the holes. Snow fills the extra space in the holes, then freezes into place.
If you don’t have snow stakes, tie guy lines around other objects and bury them in the snow.
Electric heaters are good for milder temperatures. For real cold, catalytic propane heaters are the safest option. There’s no flame involved – chemical reactions generate heat and propane fuels the reactions.
6. Hand and Feet Warmers
In case you’re still not warm enough, hand and feet warmers will keep you going through the night. Otherwise, take them when you’re hiking, fishing or doing anything else away from the comfort of a campfire or heater.
7. Insulated Water Bottles
Use insulated bottles to stop drinking water from freezing. Another option are bottle insulators (a.k.a. bottle jackets). If using these, make sure they insulate the bottle lid as well.
8. Snow Shovel
With a rooftop tent, the odds of getting snowed in are slim. If your tent is mounted on a truck bed, maybe there’s a small chance. A snow shovel is handy to have in case snow builds up around the vehicle, and for rescue purposes.
9. Wilderness Wipes
Sometimes, it’s too cold to wash. Wilderness wipes keep you clean in those conditions. Some brands make compostable wipes so you can be clean and environmentally-friendly.
In many cases, you won’t need snowshoes. If you’re camping somewhere with deep snow, they’ll make life easier - even if you only want to explore the area around your camp. Instead of wading through deep snow, conserve your energy and walk on top.
11. Insulated Phone Case
Most cellphones have lithium-ion batteries. The cold slows down the chemical reactions which power these batteries, which is why a phone’s battery can rapidly drop at temperatures below 32°F (0°C).
This risks you losing GPS access and prevents you from contacting anyone in an emergency (unless you use radios).
Insulated cases for phones and other GPS devices reduce the odds of losing power. Other steps to protect battery life are:
- Switch your phone off when you’re not using it.
- Make sure it’s fully charged before leaving camp.
- Keep a portable power bank with you at all times.
- Keep your phone close to your body so your body heat will warm it.
12. Compass and Map
If the steps above are not enough and your phone or GPS loses power, a compass and map provide essential backup. When hiking, the light can play tricks and make you think you know where you are. Instead of getting lost in the wild, go back to basics.
13. Waterproof Fire Starters
Waterproof or stormproof matches can light after being immersed in water - if you drop your matches in the snow, you can still get a fire going. Keep any other fire-starting tools in waterproof containers.
You need good lighting no matter the season but with the darker days in winter, it’s more important. Headlamps are helpful if you need to use your hands.
If your lighting is battery-powered, bring spare batteries. (In fact, bring enough spare batteries for all your devices). Also, bring backup lighting in case of problems with your main light source.
15. Duct Tape
Duct tape will cover any holes in clothing or bedding, keeping the cold out and protecting against hypothermia and frostbite. You can also use it to cover tears in a tent. Rooftop tent fabric is heavy-duty and built to last, so the chances of tearing yours are slim.
Other uses for duct tape:
- Patching up leaks on water bottles and other containers
- Adding extra waterproofing to shoes
- A substitute for rope by twisting several pieces together.
- Covering blisters if band-aids aren’t available.
- A substitute for gaiters – wrap it around the top of your boots and up to just below the knee.
- First aid and emergency situations – use it as a substitute for medical tape; create tourniquets and slings, wrap sprains, use it for stabilizing splints and more.
- A substitute for snow goggles or sunglasses – stick two pieces of tape together and cut slits so that just enough light can get in to see.
- Facial frostbite protection – sticking duct tape to the face in extreme conditions can help ward it off. This could be over a face covering or on bare skin – just take care when removing it.
The list could go on!
16. Snow Goggles
Even if the sun’s not shining, the snow magnifies the effects of the light. To protect yourself from snow blindness, always wear snow goggles or sunglasses in snowy conditions.
17. Emergency Equipment
Like any camping trip, you’ll need a first aid kit. For winter camping, consider bringing emergency blankets.
There are some extra items you might want to include, depending on the location you’re headed to. If you’re camping anywhere with avalanche risk, avalanche gear is essential.
- Avalanche transceivers – to broadcast your location to others in your party, so they can locate you (or you can locate them), in case of an avalanche.
- Avalanche probes – to detect someone below the snow.
- Show shovels – to rescue a buried person.
Each person will need one of each item.
We’ve been through the most essential equipment for camping in winter. We included safety equipment like avalanche gear, items for keeping warm and other essentials to make life easier, like duct tape and water bottle insulation.
With all that snow around, you might be tempted to forego another essential – a fridge (or fridge-freezer). The snow won’t keep food cold when you’re on the road though.
No matter the season, a fridge makes camping more convenient. If it’s too cold to spend much time cooking, you can prepare meals in advance and quickly heat them. For easy access to your camping fridge, check out this drop-down fridge slide from Eezi-Awn, for units big and small.