What is Winter Camping?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 January 2020
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Winter camping is camping which takes place in winter weather; most people are talking specifically about snow camping when they mention winter camping, although it can also refer more generally to camping in cooler conditions. There are a number of reasons to go winter camping, and many people find it quite enjoyable, especially if they are already experienced hikers, backpackers, or campers. The colder weather can make a camping trip more dangerous, however, and it is important to fully prepare before going out on a winter camping trip.

Just like summer camping, winter camping offers a number of activities in addition to the camping itself. In areas with snow, campers can go skiing, climbing, snowshoeing, or ice skating, and some people enjoy constructing insulating structures from snow, or just horsing around in the snow. A camping trip is often accompanied by hiking, although campers generally travel less far than they do in the summer, since conditions like the amount of daylight available and the weather can cut down on travel distances.

For people who enjoy camping without distractions, popular recreation areas are much less crowded in the winter, and often winter campers find themselves alone. Views are also unobstructed by leaves and plants in areas with deciduous vegetation, and some people find winter weather itself enjoyable and fun to be out in. Winter campers also do not contend with insect visitors.


Colder weather means more preparation. Winter campers should be sure that they have layers of material which will wick body moisture away while keeping them warm; cotton is a poor choice for winter camping, since it absorbs moisture. Winter campers also need sleeping bags which are rated for extremely cold weather, along with well insulated tents and ample food supplies. Other basic camping tools like cookstoves, lanterns, and so forth are also necessary.

While winter backpacking and camping can be quite enjoyable, unpredictable weather conditions are also very dangerous. Winter hikers and campers should always check on weather reports before they leave, and a small weather radio is an excellent tool to bring along. If possible, campers should also register their plans with a ranger and leave an itinerary behind with friends, in case something happens. Some people find a guided winter camping trip more enjoyable for their first expedition, so that they can get tips from an experienced guide before adventuring on their own.


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Post 5

Winter camping can often occur at the same places you summer camp depending on access and how far you want to walk or ski. In Oregon I try to go wherever there is snow.

Post 4

@gardenturtle: Here’s another suggestion for you and your family: Yosemite National Park. It is just as great in the wintertime as it is in the summertime. There may not be quite as much hiking available during the wintertime but there are a smaller amount of tourists during the winter. Their lodging options are available year-round. They have non-heated tent cabins in Curry Village.

Only a few of their actual campgrounds are open during the winter. Some of them are Yosemite Valley’s Upperpine Campground, Camp 4, Wawona Campground, and Hodgdon Meadow Campground. Many of the upper roads are closed during the wintertime but are open for snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing.

Post 3

@gardenturtle: I can give you a few good suggestions for winter camping. We try to go at least once a year. South Dakota has some excellent places to camp during the winter (or all year, for that matter). Some of the places in South Dakota are Newton Hills State Park, Black Hills Snowmobile Trail Systems and Oakwood Lakes State Park. There is information online about each location and you can decide if any of those are what you are looking for.

Colorado is also a great place to visit during the winter. It is absolutely beautiful. The mountains are usually snow-capped all winter long. Some places in Colorado for camping are Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Parry Peak, Mueller State Park, Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center, and Meadow Ridge.

Post 2

My husband and children want to do our yearly vacation in the winter and go camping. We have plenty of winter camping gear but I don't even know where to start as far as where to go. Does anyone have any suggestions on locations for great winter camping?

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