Camping in Cold Weather: Expert Tips for Tent Camping, Backpacking, and RV Camping

Camping in cold weather can be a lot of fun, but it’s important to be prepared so you don’t end up freezing your eyebrows off…literally! So if you’re a cold weather camping newbie, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered.

In this blog post, we will discuss a bunch of tips for camping in the cold. Whether you’re camping in a tent, backpacking through the woods, or RV camping, these tips will help keep you warm, comfortable, and with all body parts still unfrozen.

So put on your parka and snow boots, and let’s get started!

30 Expert Tips for Cold Weather Camping

1. Dress in Layers

One of the most important things you can do when camping in cold weather is to dress in layers. This will help you regulate your body temperature and stay comfortable. 

Start with a base layer of wool or synthetic material, then add a mid-layer of fleece or down. Top it off with a waterproof and windproof outer layer. Wearing layers also allows you to take them off if you start to get too warm. It’s better to have too many layers than not enough!

2. Bring a Warm Jacket

A warm jacket is essential for cold weather camping. Look for a jacket that is insulated and waterproof. Down or synthetic down insulation will be your best bet. 

If you plan on being active, make sure the jacket is breathable as well. You don’t want to get too sweaty and then have your clothes freeze when you stop moving!

3. Bring an Extra Camping Blanket

A camping blanket can be a lifesaver for cold weather camping. They are great for wrapping up in around the campfire or using as an extra layer in your sleeping bag. camping blankets are usually made from synthetic materials like fleece or down.

Check out my article with 15 of the best camping blankets around.

4. Pack Extra Clothing

Always pack extra clothing. This way, if your clothes get wet, you have extras to change into. It’s also a good idea to pack a few extra socks and underwear. You can never have too much clothing when camping in the cold!

5. Sleep With Tomorrow’s Clothes in Your Sleeping Bag

If you’ve ever camped in cold weather, you know the feeling of waking up to find your clothes frozen solid. It’s not a great way to start the day. But there’s an easy way to prevent this from happening. 

Just put your clothes for the next day in your sleeping bag with you. That way they’ll stay warm all night and be nice and toasty when you’re ready to get dressed in the morning. No more shivering as you pull on your layers!

6. Get the Right Sleeping Bag for Cold Temperatures

For cold weather camping, you need to make sure you have the right sleeping bag. Sleeping bags are usually rated by their temperature range, so make sure you choose one that will keep you warm in the conditions you’ll be camping in. Down and synthetic fill are both good options for cold weather camping.

EXTRA TIP! – Is your only sleeping bag a summer bag? Instead of spending extra money on a new bag, just get a sleeping bag liner. It’ll add an extra 10-15 degrees of warmth to your existing bag.

use a sleeping bag liner to make your current sleeping bag warmer for cheap
Source: Amazon

Here are a couple of good choices:

  • Sea to Summit Reactor Insulated Sleeping Bag Liner – This puppy will add up t 25 degrees F of additional warmth to your sleeping bag. Plus it’s available in several different sizes and even a fleece version that’s even warmer.
  • Coleman Fleece Sleeping Bag Liner – This soft fleece liner adds another 12 degrees of warmth to your existing bag. Then in the summer, use it by itself as a warm weather sleeping bag. 

7. Use an Insulated Sleeping Pad

Remember, your sleeping bag is only as good as the camping pad you use underneath it. Camping pads provide insulation from the ground, so make sure you get a good one! Insulated camping pads are best for cold weather camping.

Here’s one of my favorite insulated camping pads:

Sea to Summit Camp Plus Self-Inflating Foam Sleeping Mat – This is the one I have and it works wonders! It’s hard to beat what you get for the $100 price (depending on the size) — 3 inches of comfort, 4-season insulation from the cold ground, a lifetime guarantee, and it packs up small enough you can take it backpacking.

insulated sleeping pad sea to summit mat
Source: Amazon

*If you want a more comfortable version of a tent camping experience in winter, why not try YURT CAMPING! It’s so magical to be cuddled up in a yurt next to a wood stove with snow falling outside. Check out my article Camping in a Yurt: The Ultimate Guide for Families.

8. Bring the Right Camp Stove (Not all work in the cold!)

Some, like canister stoves, rely on pressurized fuel canisters to generate heat. However, these canisters don’t work well in colder temperatures. 

solo stove for winter camping stove
Source: Solo Stove

The pressure inside the canister decreases as the temperature drops, making it difficult for the fuel to flow. As a result, canister stoves may produce less heat or even fail to light at all in cold weather (20 degrees F or lower).

So if you’re planning on camping in freezing temperatures, you’ve got a couple of options:

  • Use your body heat to warm up the fuel canister before cooking (place the fuel canister in your sleeping bag, warm it up with your hands, or stick it in your jacket for a few minutes)
  • OR…bring along a different type of stove like a liquid fuel stove or a compact wood burning stove. Two good options below.

MSR Wisperlite Universal

Solo Stove Lite Woodburning Gasifier Stove (The Crazy Outdoor Team has been using this one for a while and it doesn’t disappoint. Read my two review articles to see how it works.

9. Don’t Burn Your Camp Stove In an Unventilated Tent 

That’s a great way to die. Here’s why.

When you burn anything in an enclosed space, you create carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a gas that is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. When you breathe in carbon monoxide, it replaces the oxygen in your blood and prevents your body from getting the oxygen it needs. You end up feeling dizzy, tired, and could eventually lose consciousness.

So no matter how cold it gets in your tent, don’t try to warm it up with your camp stove.

10. Bring Extra Fuel for the Camp Stove

With cold weather camping, you’ll probably use your camp stove more than usual (warming your hands, making hot drinks, thawing out frozen water bottles, etc.). This means you’ll need extra fuel! So make sure you bring enough canisters of fuel to last the entire trip.

11. Bring a Thermos or Hot Water Bottle to Bed

One way to stay warm at night is to bring a thermos or hot water bottle to bed. Fill it up with hot water before you go to sleep, and tuck it in next to you. This will help keep you warm throughout the night!

Speaking of thermoses…

12. Don’t Skimp on a Cheap Insulated Mug

The last thing you need on a blustery winter day is to find out the steaming hot coffee you put in your insulated mug when you left for your hike is now ice cold. Yummmm, iced coffee in the winter! 🤪

use thermos of hot water to sleep with at night
Source: Amazon

While Yeti insulated mugs are great, it’s hard to beat the quality and value of Stanley cups, mugs, and thermoses. They’ve been around forever and continue to make great stuff, like…

12. Avoid wearing cotton.

It doesn’t insulate when wet and will make you cold.

13. Wear Extra Wool Socks and Gloves to Bed

Another way to stay warm at night is to wear wool socks and gloves to bed. The wool will help keep your feet and hands warm, even if the rest of your body is cold.

14. Drink Lots of Warm Beverages

Warm beverages help keep your body temperature up and prevent hypothermia. Plus they help you stay hydrated. A lot of campers end up getting dehydrated in the winter because they don’t feel the need to drink as much as they do on a hot summer day.

drink warm drinks

So plan on having access to copious amounts of hot chocolate, hot cider, tea, and soup. Coffee is ok too, but it’s not the best for hydration.

Speaking of hydration…

15. Sleep With Your Water Filter

That’s right…on sub-zero nights, be sure to keep your water filter somewhere where it won’t freeze. That could mean inside your tent or even in your sleeping bag with you. 

If the water inside freezes, it’ll expand and could crack your filter or filter tubes rendering it useless. 

16. Eat Warmer Foods

Warm foods (especially soups and stews) help raise your body temperature from the inside out! Some great cold weather camping foods include:

  • Chili
  • Oatmeal
  • Stew
  • Soup

Check out these articles for some camp recipes:

17. Use Hand and Foot Warmers

If you’re camping in really cold weather, hand and foot warmers can be a lifesaver. These are small packets that you can activate and then put in your gloves, boots, sleeping bag, or jacket pocket. They’ll provide hours of warmth, so you can stay comfortable even in the coldest weather.

hand warmer
Source: Amazon

18. Practice Your Fire-Starting Skills

All campers should be able to get a fire going in a variety of conditions and not just to cook your mountain pies. In winter months, being able to get a fire going can mean the difference between freezing and surviving. 

Imagine you’re hiking in freezing temps and a friend on your group starts showing signs of hypothermia. You’re gonna need to get them warmed up fast. Will you be able to get a fire going on a windy day when all the wood in sight is covered with snow? What if your lighter breaks?

know how to start a fire

Here are some things that you should always be carrying so it’s easy to get a fire going in any situation. 

19. Remember to Leave No Trace

When pooping outside, you know how important it is to either pack out your waste or bury it in a cathole. So…burying it…does that mean you can just bury it in the snow? I mean, once it’s under the snow it’s out of sight, right?


In the freezing temperatures, your “deposit” won’t decompose. Come springtime when the snow melts, there’ll be a nice little package laying on the ground. 

So even in winter months, either pack out your waste in a WAG bag or dig down into the snow to reach the ground and then dig a cathole for your waste. 

See more in my Illustrated Guide to Pooping in the Woods.

20. Bring Extra Batteries for Electronics

When camping in cold weather, it’s important to bring extra batteries for all of your electronics. This includes flashlights, lanterns, and camping lights.

Because the days aren’t as long, you end up using your battery-powered lights more and batteries don’t usually last as long in the cold.

Speaking of lights…

21. Bring Extra Lighting

Cold weather camping usually means shorter days and you’ll usually end up having several hours in the dark before bedtime rolls around. So be sure to bring plenty of lighting for your campsite. 

string lights for camp light
Source: Amazon

If you’re backpacking, nothing compares to the handsfree practicality of a headlamp. You can drop big bucks on a headlamp but personally, I like the Energizer PRO LED Headlamp. It’s plenty bright, is water resistant, has an adjustable beam and several lighting modes. Plus, you can pick 2 up for just over $20!

If you’re tent or RV camping at a campground, string lights do wonders to light up your campsite and provide a relaxing ambiance. 

22. Learn the signs of hypothermia

If camping in cold weather, it’s important to know the signs of hypothermia. This includes shivering, confusion, slurred speech, and drowsiness. If you or someone in your camping party starts to experience these symptoms, get to a warm place and call for medical help.

23. Check the weather report often

When camping in cold weather, it’s important to check the weather report often. This will help you know when to expect cold weather and how to prepare for it.

24. Make sure someone knows where you’re going

This is especially true if you’re backpacking. Always, always, always let someone know where you’re planning on hiking and when to expect you back. Then be sure the person knows what to do if you don’t come back by a specified time. 

Even if you’re just going for a long day hike and expect to be back before dark, it never hurts to let someone else know. This is even more important when hiking in the winter since an unexpected night spent in the wild can be deadly.

Cold Weather Camping Tips for RVers

Here are a few cold weather camping tips specific for our RV camping family. Fortunately, RV winter camping is a little better than cold weather camping in a tent. Still, there are a few things you can do to make your winter camping trip easier and warmer.

25. Use skirting around your RV

Good RV skirting is a must for cold weather camping. It’ll provide extra insulation so you don’t end up with a cold floor and it’ll go a long way towards preventing your pipes and black tank from freezing. 

If you’re not going to be moving a whole lot throughout the cold months, you can get by with a cheap DIY skirting setup. Check out this article from for some ideas on how you can make some skirting out of 1” foam board.

But if you plan on moving around more throughout the winter, it is 110% worth investing in a set of Airskirts

airskirts for winter camping in rv

Airskirts are a complete set of inflatable, heavy-duty tubes that create a seal all around the perimeter of your camper, creating an insulating cushion of air that repeals wind and snow. 

The best part about Airskirts is that they require NO type of permanent installation – no putting holes, grommets, velcro, or duct tape to ensure a secure seal that will last all winter. 

Airskirts also set up in 30 mins (perfect for on-the-go RVers) using the included air pump. No more dreading set up/break down!

Read my full Airskirt review.

Or visit the Airskirt website.

26. Add some extra insulation to your RV windows

When it comes to cold weather camping in your RV, any little bit of extra insulation helps! And that’s especially true around your windows where you tend to lose a lot of heat. 

Fortunately, it doesn’t take a fortune to add some extra insulation to your RV windows. Just use 3M’s Window Insulator Kit. 

insulating windows for camper
Source: Amazon

It applies a transparent film over your windows and creates an additional airspace that works as an insulator. Just that simple piece of film helps in a bunch of ways.

  • Reduces condensation
  • Prevents frost build-up
  • Keeps heat in and cold out
  • Easy to install

Get your 3M Insulator Kit for your RV.

27. Use foamboards for extra window insulation

For really, really cold nights, it can’t hurt to add a little more insulation around your windows. One of the best ways to insulate your RV for winter is by using DIY window foamboards. 

You can get pieces of foamboard insulation at any hardware store. Then just cut them to fit your RV windows. 

I did a cool DIY window blackout project to make blackout and insulating panels that actually look cool! Check out this article to see how I did it.

diy window insulation

28. Use a portable space heater (SAFELY!)

Your RV’s little furnace can really struggle to keep up on blustery winter days. That’s why it’s nice to have a little space heater around that you can run when needed to help your camper stay warm enough. 

Just BEWARE! Space heaters can be dangerous, especially in the small space of an RV. 

  • It gets tipped over and catches something on fire.
  • Fuel burning ones can use up oxygen and replace it with carbon monoxide which can be deadly.

So make sure to get a heater with plenty of safety features like the Mr. Heater Indoor-Safe Portable RV Radiant Heater.

  • Approved for indoor use
  • If it gets tipped over it’ll automatically shut off
  • It shuts off if it detects low oxygen levels
  • Uses a small propane cylinder
  • Easy-carry handle
  • Just turn the knob to light it
mr heater
Source: Amazon

Check the current Mr. Heater price.

29. Keep your black tank from freezing

The last thing you want to worry about while camping in cold weather is a freezing pile a’ poo. 😲. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to avoid that. 

  • Add some RV antifreeze to your black tank. Start by pouring about a gallon down the commode. Then add a cup every time you do #2. 
  • Install a black tank heater pad. You might need some help to wire it into your RV’s power, but it beats having to mess with antifreeze. Facon makes a bunch of different RV tank heaters. Just get the size that’ll fit on your tank.

30. Cover the vent fans

In the summer, vents with fans are a great way to keep the RV cool, but in the winter, they can allow gusts of cold air or even snow inside. The solution? Get a vent cover! 

Vent covers allow you to keep the vents open for ventilation when needed while still protecting against the elements. 

Check out the Camco RV Roof Vent Cover.

vent cover to keep in warmth
Source: Amazon

Yes, Cold Weather Camping Can Be Fun!

Camping fun doesn’t have to stop in the winter. Yes, it does take some extra effort to prepare for winter camping. 

When it comes to camping in the cold months, I like to think of it like this…there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad preparation

Prepare well enough with RV insulation, the right clothes, plenty of fuel to keep you warm and winter camping can be a blast!

Check out these other articles to make the most of your family camping adventures!

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