Winter Camping | Tips for Comfort and Safety

Posted on: December 9, 2019

If you feel a little bummed out every September when most campgrounds close up for the winter, why not get brave and try winter camping? It’s fun, we promise. Make sure you check the weather forecast before you leave as you don’t want to winter camp during a cold snap when temperatures can reach -40 C for several days in a row, but during a warmer time of the winter, camping is a ton of fun for everyone. 

We’ve put together a list of some really awesome tips and tricks to make your first winter camping experience a good one. So disconnect from work (and the Wifi) and head out on your first snowy camping trip. 

Find your perfect campsite 

Not all campsites are open all year. Some places offer cabin rentals for the winter, but that’s not the kind of winter camping we’re talking about here. We’re talking about putting up a tent in the backcountry type of camping. The Alberta Parks website is the perfect place to find a backcountry campground that allows you to pitch a tent in the snow. You don’t even need to travel far if you live in the Lakeland because we have a few backcountry sites right here. There is a huge bonus to this style of camping: backcountry sites are typically free. But please remember to respect the grounds and the wildlife that reside there. Take out what you bring in. 

Get the proper sleeping bags

winter sleeping bags

Tent camping in the summer usually means you’re never cold going to sleep. Tents warm up quickly under the hot summer sun and they hold onto that heat making it almost impossible to be cold at night. You won’t really run into this problem during the winter, so invest in a proper winter sleeping bag. They are specially designed to trap your body heat keeping you warm and toasty all night long. Some brands will keep you so warm that it’s recommended you sleep in your undergarments to prevent your body from overheating.  Winter sleeping bags are typically made of lightweight materials that make them easy and light for carrying around in your backpack. Pay attention to the temperature rating on the bag before you purchase it and make sure you’ve got one that will keep you plenty warm.

*Bonus Tip* Put your clothes for the next day at the bottom of your sleeping bag. Not only does it keep you warmer at night, but it keeps your clothes warm and dry for the morning. 


Dress in layers and leave the cotton clothing at home

You might be surprised at how warm you can get while winter camping. If you’re out hiking, skiing or snowshoeing you’ll have no issues keeping warm. Dressing in layers is an important factor in staying comfortable during your trip. Make sure your first layer is something that wicks moisture away to prevent you from getting wet and cold. Avoid cotton for this reason. Next, you want to have a mid-layer that will keep you warm when you’re being active but won’t be too hot. Your top layer should be something thick and warm like a down-filled winter coat to protect you from the elements. Of course, don’t forget a proper hat, snow pants, gloves, boots and socks (lots and lots of socks). The more water-proof items you can wear the better. 

Build a snow fort 

Not only is this entertaining for all ages, but it’s also a super helpful winter camping trick. The area you’re in might not have a lot of shelter from the winter wind and if you’re near a big open space like a lake, the wind can make even a mild winter day a lot colder. Build up a snow fort around your tent and eating area to block out the wind. It also doubles as the perfect fort for a snowball fight. 

Be fire smart

fire smart
Being fire smart is more than just your basic fire safety stuff. When you’re camping in the winter, your fire is your most important tool. Before heading to your chosen site, be sure to call the campground and ask about firewood. Is there wood at the campground available to use or do you have to bring/chop your own? Keep all your firestarters in a waterproof container. There’s probably no chance of rain, but melted snow can also ruin a lighter or match and you’ll be stuck rubbing sticks together. Before you build your fire, dig a huge hole in the snow down to the ground. This will stop the fire from melting all the surrounding snow and falling in on itself. 

Be wildlife smart

The bears might not be a bother this time of year, but there is still plenty of other wildlife out there that you might encounter on a snowy camping trip. Be sure to keep all food and waste locked up in air-tight containers and never store food or garbage inside your tent. Dispose of trash in the proper campground bins and keep your food outside and away from your tent. Most backcountry sites will also offer bear poles to hoist your food up high to deter wildlife from coming into your site. 

Bring activities and have fun


winter activities

If you can stay warm and dry, we promise winter camping will become a new favourite outdoor adventure. There is no shortage of great outdoor activities to do while camping in the snow; you can snowshoe, cross-country ski, hike, bird watch, take photos, ice fish or sing songs around the fire. You can even pack some travel board games and play them in the tent.

There is something so calming and peaceful about a quiet winter forest, so get out there this year, live adveturefully and experience winter camping in the Lakeland.

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