Cold Weather Camping Tips and Tricks

Tyler Odum, Dedicated Writer

Winter is coming, but that doesn’t mean the fun camping needs to stop.

Here are some cold weather camping tips and tricks to keep you warm this winter. You can add these tips and tricks to your next trip to help you stay warm, coming from a Boy Scout with lots of trips under my belt.  I’ve been in scouting since 1st grade and have spent every summer since camping. I started cold weather camping a year ago.  It’s great to get outside and spend some time in nature, just remember “there’s no bad weather, just bad gear”! 

First, you’ll need to look at your clothes. The key to staying warm is layers, layers, layers. You’ll want thermals, under armor, or long underwear as your base layer. Then on top of that, you’ll want something that’s NOT cotton! Fleece or sweatpants work great. Cotton will soak up water and that will make you cold. Your outside layer should consist of a wind and waterproof coat, like a good winter jacket. Fleece, waterproof winter gloves. A hat made from fleece, wool, or nylon. Snow pants are a must too! For your feet, you’ll want some warm wool socks and good waterproof winter boots. This is just the first step to staying warm and having fun while cold weather camping. 

My friend and I sitting around a campfire. Photo courtesy of Laura Odum.

Second, you’ll need to check your gear. Your sleeping bag should be rated for 0-20 degree weather. This rating doesn’t mean you’ll be warm, it just means you won’t freeze to death. A favorite type of bag is the “mummy bag”.  It covers everything but your face and makes you look like a mummy! It’s narrow to help keep you warm without extra air to heat your body. With a good rated bag, you’ll need some extra tips to stay warm and sleep well. You can use a blanket or liner to help keep the heat in.

Work the KP (kitchen duty) for dinner and you can heat some water and put that in a good heat-proof water bottle to put in your bag and warm it up before you get in! Hot hands, little single-use packets of chemicals that heat up when shaken, are a great way to keep your hands and fingers warm too. You should also have the smallest tent possible, this way you have less air around you to need to heat up. Having the proper gear can make all the difference in having a warm and restful night’s sleep. 

Most adults in my troop prefer sleeping in their tents. Mr. Mezger, Assistant Scout Master of Troop 337, said that was his favorite “because scouts usually hog the cabin”.  Mr. Venti, the Co-advancement Chair, said that quinzees were his favorite type of shelter. A quinzee is a giant, hollowed out, mound of snow with a small entrance, like an igloo but not made of blocks.

The best place around for cold weather camping is Tahosa High Adventure Base, which was luckily spared any damage in the recent Left Hand Canyon Fire. They typically get plenty of snow to make quinzees as well as other beloved activities! Jaiden Mayberry, a first-year with Scout rank, said his favorite cold-weather camping activity was “trying to build a snow fort”.

Troop 337 Scout Master quinzee, interior view
Scout Master quinzee, constructed by Troop 337, complete with lights to identify it as the Scout Master’s (Troop 337 )

Joseph “Joe” Lampo, Star Scout and Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, agrees that Tahosa is the favorite spot and says his favorite activity is “getting back in the sleeping bag”.

A few last miscellaneous tips and tricks. Remember to stay hydrated. Dehydration is a big concern because you’ll be using lots of water to create body heat. Drink plenty of water often to stay hydrated. Also remember that wet equals cold, and cold is miserable. If anything gets wet, change into different clothes. “If you start warm, you’ll stay warm.” Warming up by the fire may seem like a good idea, but the warmth makes your brain think that it doesn’t need to produce as much heat so you’ll leave it colder than before. If you need a quick warm-up, unzip your outer layer, stay close to the fire for a few minutes, then zip the heat in. Putting tomorrow’s clothes in your sleeping bag while you sleep will warm them up a bit so that you don’t have to wake up to freezing clothes. 

Follow these tips and tricks and you can have some of the best cold weather camping ever!