Regular camping or wild camping in the winter is a lot of fun if you do it the right way and have the right equipment. Just like all other seasons there are some things to keep in mind. There is a big difference between wild camping in the winter in the freezing cold compared to camping in the summer. In this blog post, we dive a little deeper into what you need to know before winter camping to keep it cozy and comfortable.
If you’re going to camp in the winter, you’ll need warmer clothes, a winter-proof rooftop tent, and a warmer sleeping bag. In extreme cases you may also need an extra heat source or a stove. If you are camping in environments where the temperature is at the extreme (think of everything below minus 10 degrees), it is vital that you keep a close eye on all equipment.
10 tips for wild camping in winter
Wild camping in the winter requires more from you and from your equipment. It is not only cold, but often also dark. Although you have undoubtedly already set up your roof tent in the summer, you will be surprised how laborious it is to set up the roof tent in minus ten degrees with cold numb tingling fingers.
It is therefore best to start wild camping in the winter only if you know your rooftop tent well. As long as you keep in mind that all steps are twice as difficult to perform in the winter you will be just fine.
1. Make sure your rooftop tent is winterproof
If it is really cold outside, you preferably need a so-called 4-season rooftop tent that can withstand all weather conditions and temperatures. When purchasing a rooftop tent, you will see whether the model can also be used in winter conditions. A somewhat heavier fabric is often used with these rooftop tents.
Make sure that when you buy a softshell tent that you always look closely at the material that is used. Preferably you want to buy a roof tent that consists (largely) partly of ripstop material. This fabric is made from a combination of polyester and cotton which ensures that the tent is not only strong, but also insulates well. Would you like to wild camp more often with the rooftop tent in the winter? Then maybe you want to consider a hardshell rooftop tent. These are easier to set up and to break down.
2. Stay warm!
When wild camping in the cold, especially in sub-zero temperatures, it’s important to stay warm. Try to avoid sitting down for too long and make sure you put on warm clothes and stay active. Would you like to sit down for a longer period of time? Then make sure you light a good campfire. Keep in mind that it cools down quickly in winter and that you should always be prepared for this. Sometimes a cold wind suddenly picks up and if you have not made the right preparations, your stay can suddenly get a lot more uncomfortable. The general rule is: once you get cold, it can be a challenge to get warm again.
Therefore, always stay around the campfire and feel free to put on as many layers of clothing as possible. The more layers, the more heat is retained. Also keep in mind that when it is wet and cold it is much more difficult to start a fire than in the summer. So prepare yourself for this. Soon there will be a blog post online in which we explain the best way to light a campfire when only wet wood is available.
Finally, make sure to wear warm gloves and a hat when you are outside.
3. Warm sleeping bag
A warm sleeping bag is of course preferred in winter and preferably one that can handle many degrees below zero and is for all 4 seasons. In the winter you can’t really afford to sleep in a sleeping bag that can’t withstand the freezing cold.
If you don’t have a winter sleeping bag, you can always use two sleeping bags or add a blanket to your sleeping bag. The most important thing is that you don’t go out with a standard sleeping bag and when you want to sleep you discover that your sleeping bag does not insulate enough to keep you warm. The last thing you want is to lie awake all night because it is too cold.
4. Warm clothes
It may sound obvious, but it’s always worth mentioning: it’s incredibly important to wear warm clothes when going wild camping in the winter. Everything you do becomes more difficult when you are cold. So make it nice and comfortable for yourself and put on lots of layers of clothing.
If you want to go wild camping more often in the winter, it is advisable not to skimp on clothing. Buy targeted outdoor clothing that is made for winter conditions so that you are well protected. In addition, it is good to combine your clothing with undergarments made of wool or synthetic material that warms well, breathes and keeps you dry.
6. Stay dry
Staying dry in winter is certainly not an easy task. Try not to get soaked unnecessarily because in the cold it is quite difficult to get wet clothes dry again. Moisture is the worst enemy of heat, and the wetter our clothes are, the faster the body cools down.
During snowfall, make sure that no snow can get into your jacket by zipping everything up well, don’t wet your gloves unnecessarily and wear a good pair of winter boots that can withstand wet weather when hiking in winter .
Also make sure you have a good set of underwear and socks. Good socks ensure that you avoid wounds or blisters on your feet . Another tip is to wear something over your boots so that no water or snow can get in. Is it going to rain really hard for a while? Then set up a slightly larger camp with, for example, a tarp and continue traveling when the weather clears up.
7. Drink hot drinks (coffee, tea, hot juices or chocolate milk)
An easy way to stay warm and most importantly feel warmer is to drink hot drinks. You can drink whatever you want: from coffee and tea to hot juice or just hot water.
8. Take the opportunity to warm up when the sun comes out
Winter has much shorter days than summer, but in good weather the sun can really warm you up despite these shorter days.
9. Choose a strategic wild camping spot where you are sheltered from the wind
Choose your wild camping spot with care. In winter it is advisable to look for a place where you are sheltered from the wind. Trees or hills can provide excellent protection and help greatly to make it more comfortable. In winter it is colder, which means that the cooling effect of the wind is many times greater. A few seconds of strong wind is sometimes enough to make it considerably colder and as we wrote earlier: once you get cold, it is sometimes a challenge to get it warm again.
10. Have a bottle of warm water in your sleeping bag (or other heat source)
One way to quickly get a warmer sleeping bag is to warm up some water and put it in a water bottle. Put the water bottle in your sleeping bag and you will notice that you get warm considerably faster. This makes it much easier to get up to temperature in your sleeping bag, especially during colder nights.
You can heat up water fairly quickly on a gas stove and if you do that just before you crawl into the sleeping bag, almost no heat is lost. As long as you stay in the sleeping bag and have the zippers closed, you can retain the heat well and for a long time.
Things to help keep you staying warm when wild camping in winter
- Warm gloves
- Warm vest
- Rain jacket
- Well-insulating and waterproof(!) shoes
Things that make wild camping and hiking in winter easier
- Gas kitchen
- Hiking poles
- Ways to keep an eye on the weather forecast
Frequently asked questions about camping in winter
What is the difference between a rooftop tent that is suitable for winter and a regular roof top tent?
A roof tent that can withstand winter conditions often has a thicker fabric and therefore insulates better. They are often also double ventilated, so that less condensation forms on the inside of the tent. This type of roof tent is often a bit heavier, but they retain the heat better and work better in winter conditions.
How can you dry wet clothes in winter while camping?
The easiest way is to stretch a clothesline at a safe distance from the campfire so that your clothes can dry, but not catch fire.
Can you camp in the winter with a regular rooftop tent?
Yes, in winter you can camp with a regular rooftop tent. You have to be aware of the limitations and that it does not work as well as with a rooftop tent that is also made for winter conditions. Especially with wild camping in the winter, it is extra important to always use common sense. If something doesn’t feel right or if you have the feeling that the weather is getting too extreme, skip a night and try to find a hotel.
Wrapping things up
Wild camping in the winter requires some extra preparation and is quite different from camping in the summer. However, it is a very rewarding feeling if you can camp comfortably in winter as well. The campfire that keeps you warm together with the somewhat unpredictable weather makes wild camping in winter a magical experience. I can recommend it to everyone to try!