How To Stay Warm Winter Camping

Camping doesn’t have to be restricted to only the warm months of the year. 

Winter camping provides unique experiences and stunning scenery, often with fewer crowds to compete for permits and campsites. While low temperatures generally deter people from setting up camp under winter skies, there are plenty of ways to combat the cold and make your campsite home base for skiing, trekking, and all-weather adventures. 

You can take charge of your next camping quest with the proper knowledge and gear. Follow these tips to stay warm in your winter set-up.  

Essential Gear for Winter Camping

Staying warm when camping in winter is not optional — it’s a necessity.

Without essential camping gear for subzero temperatures, you’re putting your life at risk.

Frostbite and hypothermia are painful — and potentially deadly — outcomes of exposing your body to extreme cold.

By purchasing quality equipment and following the steps outlined below, you can enjoy the winter scenery safely and enjoyably.

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Invest in Quality Camping Gear

High-intensity weather calls for high-performance gear. While you can some money on some accessories, consider investing in quality pieces for main gear like your sleep system and tent, as well as multifunctional items. 

Higher-grade gear can also serve as years-long investments if taken care of properly, saving you money in the long run. 

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Insulating Your Tent / Sleeping Bag

Proper insulation in your tent and sleep system will ensure you stay warm at night. Add protection from the cold ground by adding a thicker ground tarp as a footprint or a secondary cover on top of your tent’s fly to act as a windbreak. 

Choose a quality sleeping bag rated for lower temperatures. Insulate your sleep system by adding an inflatable or closed-cell sleeping pad with a high R-value. A sleeping pad’s R-value measures its capacity to resist heat transfer. It can range from a general rating of 2 (average) to 5.5+ (high, suitable for winter camping). A sleeping pad with a high R-value can add degrees of defence to your sleep system. 


Keep Moisture Out of Your Tent and Sleeping Bag

Too much condensation or moisture inside your tent and sleeping bag can damage gear and render it unusable when you’re out in the backcountry. 

In the morning, check the inside of your tent for any moisture, as water vapour can condense on a tent’s inner walls overnight. Remove any frost from the exterior of your tent—once the ice melts, it can soak through. 

If the daytime brings more sunshine, consider inverting your tent and letting it air dry throughout the day to remove any leftover moisture. 

Take a Portable Power Station on Your Next Camping Trip

Hand warmers and water bottles can help, but they won’t last through the night. Especially if you are camping with multiple people, a portable power station is a game changer for staying warm when winter camping.

EcoFlow’s RIVER 2 portable power stations and solar generators provide a quiet, portable unit to power your electronics, safety devices, and light sources. Best of all, they can run a small camping heater to keep you warm through the night—just make sure the space heater is safe to use inside your tent!

With multiple options to suit your needs, you can pair your power station with portable solar panels for a fully renewable energy source. 

Access to off-grid power lets you extend your camping stay comfortably through cold nights. 

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Use a Camping Stove

You can’t have a warm meal without something to cook it with, and while campfires can make a great atmosphere, you never know if the site or weather conditions will allow for them. 

Some campsites have rules and regulations around open flames, either seasonally or year-round, and rain and wind can quickly snuff out any chance of a usable fire.  

It’s almost non-negotiable to camp in the winter without a reliable source of heat for cooking. A camping stove is essential for boiling water and cooking calorie-rich meals. 


Bring Extra Blankets

Adding an extra insulating layer like a packable down camping blanket is a great multipurpose way to stay warm around the campsite. Use it as a throw blanket, shawl, or ground blanket, or throw it over your sleep system as a quilt inside your tent for extra warmth. 

What to Wear for Winter Camping

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Layered Clothing

One of the best ways to combat harsh weather is to layer your clothing. Effective layering allows you to add and shed articles as needed. 

Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, like merino wool or synthetic fabric. Avoid wearing cotton—it traps odour, bacteria, and moisture. It can be almost impossible to dry under the wrong conditions. 

Add a mid-layer over your base to insulate your core with a fleece or down jacket, and top off your system with a shell or rain jacket to trap the heat and block rain and wind.

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Put Hand Warmers Inside Your Sleeping Bag

Hand warmers are a quick, multi-purpose warming solution. Activate one or two hand warmers and throw them down in your sleeping bag to serve as tiny, makeshift heaters for yourself. 

Use Hot Water Bottles to Stay Warm

If you’re without hand warmers, you can put hot water into temperature-safe bottles for the same effect. Bring water to a low boil, pour it inside a leak-proof, high-temperature-resistant plastic bottle, and stow it inside your sleeping bag near your core. 

Don’t Sleep in Too Many Clothes

There is a sweet spot when dressing for nighttime. Bundling up too much at night can cause you to sweat, making you feel even colder as your body works to cool itself off. Too little clothing, and you reduce the amount of insulation between your skin and the cold air. 

Bring a separate wool base layer set designated solely for nightwear, and focus more on insulating your sleep system and tent. 

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Protect Your Extremities

Protecting your hands and feet is vital in cold weather. 

Reduce prolonged exposure to cold air, rain, and snow during winter activities. Equip yourself with the right-sized gloves and spare socks, but avoid any tight-fitting clothing that may restrict blood flow to the outer ends of your limbs. 

Protecting your extremities is just as important as protecting your core. According to a 2014 study, our hands and feet are incredible temperature regulators that act as insulators, radiators, and evaporators for our entire bodies. 

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Keep Your Head Warm 

Bundle up with beanies or hooded puffer jackets. Keeping your head warm helps retain overall body heat and allows for a more comfortable experience while active during the day and at night while you sleep.  

Food and Drink Considerations for Winter Camping

You are what you eat — and that’s never truer than when you’re camping in frigid temperatures!

Healthy, hot food and drinks can help you feel warmer in subzero conditions. Beverages like coffee, tea, and hot chocolate can warm your hands as well as your body.

Avoid alcohol, as it can lead to dehydration and constrict blood flow, resulting in lower body heat.

When it comes to food, eggs are nutritional powerhouses and rich in Vitamin D. Pack them well to avoid mishaps — or prescramble and keep them cool. Peak sunlight is often in short supply in winter, and darkness depletes natural stores of Vitamin D.

Root vegetables and grains are easy to carry and naturally cold-resistant. And never underestimate the warming power of a good soup!

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Warm Food and Drinks

Few things feel better after a long day at camp than a hot meal and drink. While dry camping foods work for the summer months, our bodies expend more energy than usual when exposed to extreme highs and lows.

Eating and drinking plenty of high-energy, warm foods will replenish the fat and calories that your body uses to generate heat. Eating well makes you feel good and keeps you warm. 

A RIVER 2 Pro portable power station can easily power an electric camping stove and kettle or coffee maker to help keep you happy and warm. Add a portable solar panel to generate your own clean energy off-grid.

Tips for a Successful Winter Camping Experience

“A body at motion stays in motion; a body at rest stays at rest.”

Sir Isaac Newton was referring to physics, but he may as well have been giving you a winter camping tip. 

Engaging in physical activities in extreme cold is one of the best ways to stave off the dangers of subzero temperatures. 

If you’re outfitted with the appropriate winter gear and clothing outlined above, do your best to stay in motion. 

Remaining immobile in the cold increases your chances of developing hypothermia and suffering other adverse outcomes of cold weather camping.

Stay Active to Keep Your Body Warm

Keeping your body moving in the daytime regulates your core temperature and keeps you functioning. Even doing a quick set of jumping jacks or stretches to get your blood pumping before bed will warm you up before getting in your sleeping bag.

However, avoid doing a full-body workout to the point of breaking a sweat. Perspiration is one of the main ways our bodies can lose heat—and wet clothes from sweat will keep you colder longer. Keep active just enough to maintain a comfortable level of internal heat. 


How cold is too cold for winter camping?

Anywhere at or below 0 degrees Celsius (30 degrees Fahrenheit) is considered too cold for 3-season tent camping. Without the proper equipment or preparation, sub-freezing environments can threaten your health and safety. However,  4-season tents, durable gear, and tent-safe heaters can help campers withstand heavy drops in temperature and stay comfortable.

How do you stay warm in a tent in freezing weather?

Make sure to purchase a tent and sleeping bag rated for 4-seasons to withstand harsh weather, temperatures, and environments. Also, insulate the inside of your tent and sleep system. You can bring a space heater and portable power station to stay warm and safe in freezing weather

Is 12 degrees Celsius too cold for camping?

While on the chillier side, 12 degrees Celsius (53 degrees Fahrenheit) is not too cold for camping! As long as you bring the right gear and supplies to stay warm and fueled, you can comfortably camp at 12 degrees Celsius. 

How do you keep a tent warm without electricity?

Insulate your tent and purchase a tent suitable for the number of people sleeping in it. Too much space, such as a 4-person tent for two people, will make it harder to insulate. Also, pack a well-insulated sleep system (sleeping pads, sleeping bags, pillows) with a high R-value. 

Can you use a space heater in a tent?

Yes! As long as the space heater is tent safe, it is the easiest and most powerful way to stay warm when camping in the winter. A tent-safe space heater will bring the comforts of home out into the backcountry and keep you warm all night long.

Final Thoughts

Many people mistakenly think of camping as strictly a warm-weather activity.

In fact, winter can be the best time to avoid crowds and enjoy the spectacular scenery.

As glorious as outdoor adventures in subzero temperatures can be, the risks of camping in the cold shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Without essential gear, clothing, and supplies, your idyllic winter camping dream could turn out to be a nightmare.

One of the best ways to ensure you stay safe and warm off-grid is to bring a solar generator

A lightweight option like the EcoFlow RIVER 2 w/110W easily fits in your backpack to keep your portable electronic devices charged. It can even run small camping appliances.

Contrary to popular belief, solar generators work just fine in winter because they generate electricity from sunlight — not heat.

No matter what your off-grid camping electricity needs, there’s an EcoFlow solution for you! 

EcoFlow is a portable power and renewable energy solutions company. Since its founding in 2017, EcoFlow has provided peace-of-mind power to customers in over 85 markets through its DELTA and RIVER product lines of portable power stations and eco-friendly accessories.


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