Here in Canada, many of us embrace the cold by camping year-round. With the right preparation, setup, gear, and safety considerations, I’ve been toasty and comfortable while spending countless wintry nights in tents, yurts, rustic cabins, campers, quinzees, and igloos.
Having a winterized RV or camper is the first step toward getting into year-round camping. With the right gear, you’ll look forward to the cold and getting out there when the temperatures drop.
Safety Tips for Winter Camping
Before I get into the gear, there are some important safety considerations to keep in mind as cold weather camping requires more preparation than fair-weather adventures.
- New to cold weather camping? Did you just learn how to winterize your RV? Your first trip should be during forgiving temperatures and not at negative degrees or during a blizzard. This way, you can test your setup and make tweaks and improvements.
- Always check the weather at your destination. Will there be freezing rain, high winds, or any other severe conditions? Harsh weather will affect your stay and what you pack, but also your journey—driving a motorhome or towing a camper on icy roads or in high winds is not recommended.
- Even if you have winterized your RV, the cold will affect things like water lines, tanks, batteries, gas consumption, and more. Consider bringing extra gas, especially if places to refill may be closed for the season.
- Have a backup plan in place. Some stores and parks are only open during the summer season, so if things don’t work out, have an idea of where you can go for assistance or for a more comfortable stay.
The Best Gear for Winter Camping
Here’s a list of essential cold weather camping gear that I don’t go winter camping without.
Insulating layers, or the layer that’s closest to your skin, is imperative when winter camping. Two key tips: Merino wool is your best bet for fabric because it wicks moisture away (stay away from cotton), and consider layering up from head to toe. Having my neck covered with a soft neck gaiter gives me an extra feeling of warmth, and I always make sure I keep my feet warm with high-quality socks and boots.
Recommended insulated gear:
Fjallraven Polar Padded Cap: A wind- and water-resistant hat with earflaps that can be folded up in milder weather.
Fjallraven Bergtagen Neck Gaiter: A light, soft, and ethically-produced merino wool neck warmer.
Fjallraven Bergtagen Thinwool Long Sleeve: If you’re picky about the feel of fabrics on the skin, you’ll love this soft, fitted (but not too tight) top in merino wool.
Under Armour ColdGear Leggings: I always pack leggings because you can wear them around inside, outside if it’s warm out, or pull an extra pair of pants over it if it’s frigid out.
Darn Tough Socks: With different heights, thicknesses, and cushioning, you can’t go wrong with a pair of wool socks made in the U.S. These have a lifetime warranty and cool designs.
Waterproof and Windproof Exterior
The number of mid-layers you wear will vary depending on the temperature, but always have a reliable exterior shell that can keep you dry and unfazed by the wind. This is the layer you’d throw on without hesitation for that brisk walk to the beach at sunrise, shoveling snow, or when walking the dog in the pouring rain.
Recommended jacket shells:
Fjallraven Keb Eco-Shell Jacket: This jacket has a minimalistic design without sacrificing functionality—it has multiple pockets and ventilation zippers. I also love that the hood can fit over a helmet if you’re skiing, snowboarding, or climbing.
Arc’teryx Beta SL Pant: I always pack these lightweight, waterproof Gore-Tex pants to keep my legs and shoes dry.
Dryrobe Advanced Long Sleeve: Imagine the comfort of a bathrobe and the warmth of a fleece sweater that’s also waterproof and windproof. I throw on my Dryrobe when I need to get something from my tow vehicle or after a polar bear plunge in the lake.
Accessories for Added Warmth
As someone who gets cold easily, but loves spending time outdoors in the winter, I’m always on the look-out for anything that will make me feel extra cozy and comfortable.
Recommended cold-weather accessories:
Baffin Polar Mitt: Mittens are underrated and often overlooked, but they’re the ultimate hand-warming accessory. With wind- and water-resistant nylon and a leather exterior, you can wear a pair of lightweight gloves (or no gloves) and enjoy these little hand ovens.
Baffin Cush Booty or Baffin Campfire: Never feel the shock of the cold RV floor ever again with a pair of slipper boots. I love the Campfire model as it has a hard sole; they keep your feet so warm and cozy that you forget you’re wearing them.
Baffin Snogoose Boots: With a temperature rating of -40 degrees, these boots are waterproof, easy to pull on and fasten, and feature a snow collar if you’re camping in deep snow territory.
Rumpl Down Puffy Blankets: This lightweight travel blanket, with 600-fill duck down insulation, features an exterior fabric that repels water, stains, dirt, and odor. This blanket can also be turned into a cape-like poncho so you can free up your hands while being bundled up.
Ruffwear Highlands Sleeping Bag: If you don’t enjoy the cold floors of your RV or camper, then your pet might not either. This lightweight, packable sleeping bag is made with a durable, water-resistant shell and synthetic down-filled material to give your pup a cozy and comfortable place to sleep or hangout.
While hot drinks and food will help warm you up, there are some accessories that can help keep your meals at the right temperature longer. Not only will you enjoy a warm, comforting meal, but these accessories will help you save on electricity or gas from having to reheat it.
Recommended cooking gear:
Stanley Master Unbreakable Food Jar
Hydro Flask Tumbler and Hydro Flask Insulated Food Jar
Other Outdoor Essentials for Winter
Winter camping also means another great opportunity to use your gear for other activities, like snowboarding and skiing.
Recommended winter essentials:
Oakley Flak 2.0 XL with Prizm Field Lens: If you’re going to spend time outdoors in the snow, make sure you protect your eyes. Snow blindness is a painful condition that you want to avoid. I always pack snow goggles whenever I’m heading somewhere with snow.
Voile T-Wood Avalanche Shovel: These lightweight shovels are collapsible, so you can have more storage space. Best of all, this shovel has a saw (stored in the shaft when not used) that can be used to chop firewood.
Electronics and Gadgets
While these items might not keep you warm, they are some of my favorite electronic gadgets and accessories that come in handy on my winter adventures.
Cold Case Gear North Ridge Pouch: This aerogel-insulated and waterproof pouch prevents the cold from draining power from your electronics like cell phones and camera batteries when temperatures drop below freezing.
Ledlenser MH6 Headlamp: I never leave home without this focusable, USB-chargeable portable light.
MPOWERD Luci Color Solar String Lights: Add that dreamy, fairy lights vibe to your RV or camper with solar-powered string lights that change colors.
Togo Tip: If you’re not a fan of wearing headlamps on your head, you can attach it to a carabiner and clip to a jacket.
Prep Your RV for Cold Weather with These Items:
- Heated water hoses
- Anode rods
- Tank flusher kit
- Water heater bypass kit
- Water pump converter winterizing kit
- Blow out plug
- RV antifreeze
- Tire covers
- AC cover
- RV cover
- LP gas cover
- Trickle charger
- Water filter bypass hose (mfg specific)
- Fuel stabilizer
- Bug screens for furnace, water heater, and refrigerator
- Vent covers
- Vent shades
- Rubber roof cleaner
- Rubber roof treatment
- Rubber gasket treatment
With the right gear, planning, and safety considerations, you can continue camping while most RVers go into hibernation. After all, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear—and poor preparation.
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